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 When You Are the One to End It

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When You Are the One to End It

Most of us know what it feels like to be dumped: the pain, humiliation, anger, and hurt. But the time may also come when you must do the dumping. Is it possible to minimize the other person's pain? Are there rules that govern breaking up?

Consider this scenario. As Paul described, "I've been dating Jill for a few months, and I really like her-- as a friend. I recently met a woman I feel passionately about. Jill is terrific, and I know she loves me. What can I say or do to let her down easy?" If you have ever been on the other side of the fence, like Paul, you will probably be sensitive to the following "Do's" and "Don'ts" for breaking up with someone:

  • DON'T break up over the phone (too impersonal).
  • DON'T break up before a major holiday, anniversary, or any day important to the "dumpee" or the two of you (birthday, anniversary, Valentine's Day, Christmas, death of a parent)-- an otherwise happy day will be tinged with pain, or an already painful day will become more unbearable.
  • DON'T criticize or blame the person for what he may or may not have done.
  • DON'T use one of the "Frightful Five" blow-offs, like "I love you, but I'm not in love with you" or "I never really loved you." These words tend to linger painfully.
  • DON'T get wrangled by guilt into changing your mind.
  • DON'T hit below the belt, with phrases like "I just don't find you very stimulating" or "You were awful in bed."
  • DON'T accept the "bad guy" label (both people lose when it's over).
  • DO talk about it as a mutual decision ("It's right for both of us") so the rejected party doesn't feel so out of control.
  • DO be respectful, giving the other person the opportunity to work through feelings.
  • DO reaffirm that there was something good between you, (The "dumpee" often feels invalidated, as if her feelings over mattered or weren't real. She may need reassurance that the relationship was real, and that she really was cared for).
  • DO remind the dumpee of wonderful aspects of himself (to boost his self-esteem).
  • DO point out your own resistance and responsibility ("I'm not ready for a commitment," "I can't be true to someone yet"). The "dumpee" may try to reassure you, but stick to your guns and say "You deserve better." This may help prevent her self-blame and depression.
  • DO spell out the terms of the separation clearly (We shouldn't call each other") so that there is no room for misunderstanding.
  • DO be firm. If you leave the door open even a crack, you are inviting the dumpee to try to change your mind.

REMEMBER THE GOLDEN RULE: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you." This is a good time to put that rule into action.


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