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(Questions have been modified for space and clarity.)
Past flame reaches out. AGAIN. How do I get her to stop?
–Sykogin19; Denham Springs, LA
I don’t ask for much. The Google form through which you submit questions has just three fields, two of which are for your name and hometown.
In the third, I only request you include your question and any relevant context, so I can provide as thorough and applicable an answer as possible.
Sykogin19 did not provide context. But that doesn’t mean he leaves empty-handed.
The post-breakup world is a wasteland of emotions. While I believe communication between the two parties should cease as soon as possible, I concede a certain amount is necessary, so each person can process his or her feelings and gain closure.
But there’s an etiquette to these exchanges — what you can say, how often you can say it and how long you can say it for — and whether you got dumped or did the dumping dictates how you are to conduct yourself.
We don’t know on which side of the equation Sykogin19 falls, so let’s examine both…
IF YOU DID THE DUMPING:
When people get rejected, they don’t know what to do with themselves. And it takes a while before they figure it out.
Even when they sense a breakup is imminent, it still catches them off-guard, leaving them to navigate a minefield of rejection, resentment and “Where do I go from here?”
Which is why if you broke up with your ex, and your ex keeps contacting you, I’d recommend cutting her some slack. At least for a little bit.
Getting over a relationship is similar to getting over a death. Both are a loss, and both require the person to endure the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance.
As a survivor of some brutal breakups, I always had the most trouble with bargaining. It was the stage that took the longest to get through, because it presented my last bastion of hope.
I was convinced that if I could just keep the lines of communication open, and profess my love just a little more eloquently, it’d only be a matter of time until my ex saw the light and took me back.
That never happened for me, and it seldom happens in real life. But thanks to Hollywood’s rom-com propaganda, we’re reluctant to relinquish our final shot at a fairytale ending.
Which has led to too many people doing too many things to try to win back the person who dumped them. Cards on anniversaries. Texts about inside jokes. Emails regaling the good times together.
Yes, this gets annoying, and yes, it likely illustrates why you broke up with this girl in the first place.
But unless your ex is crossing the line, showing up at your house or sabotaging your current relationship, why not give her time to say what she wants/needs to say?
You don’t have to read or respond to it; just don’t call her out for it. She’ll exhaust herself eventually, and your biggest inconvenience will be hitting the Delete button.
Consider your compassion a parting gift for breaking her heart.
IF YOU GOT DUMPED:
The pain people feel when dumping someone should not be undersold. After all, only a sociopath feels no fallout from hurting somebody else.
Still, because the breakup was their idea, they must adhere to a different set of rules when it comes to post-relationship communication. Their bar is higher, and unfortunately few are able to clear it.
This failure is on display every season on ABC’s The Bachelor. Each week, the bachelor dismisses unworthy admirers. The later in the game it gets, the harder it gets for him to say goodbye.
The contestants who get rejected are always in disbelief. Sometimes they cry. Sometimes they get angry. Sometimes they fake it, so they can secure a slot on Bachelor In Paradise.
Considering these people just got humiliated, in front of a national TV audience and Chris Harrison, they have the right to react however they want.
The bachelor, on the other hand, does not. Yet he almost always commits the same breakup crimes, saying things like, “I didn’t want to hurt you,” and “You’re an amazing person who deserves an amazing love story.”
While it comes off as compassion — and to an extent it is — it’s also coming from a selfish place. He’s trying to make himself feel better for making someone else feel bad.
If your old flame is reaching out to you to do this, you have every right to stop her.
When a girl breaks up with you, she forsakes her right to talk to you. It’s not her job to see if you’re OK or convince you you’re worthy of happiness. Communication is no longer a two-way street.
She created this situation, and she has to deal with it on her own — without using you as a chew toy.
You owe her nothing. Block her, ignore her, (respectfully) tell her to lose your number, whatever. Do what you need to do to move on.
What do you think? What advice would you give this reader? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Need more advice? Check out the most recent installments:
How Do I Save My Marriage?
Beauty And The Eye Of The Beholder
How To Get Over A Broken Heart
How To Achieve Work-Life Balance
My Girlfriend Cheated On Me
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