The case for knowing it’s over but holding off until they fuck up
Breaking up only as a real-time response to bad behavior
It’s like punishing a dog only as he’s actively being bad — never hours afterwards. The latter only confuses and scares him, and breaks trust.
It’s surprisingly the same with people — men and women alike. If you break up with someone asynchronous of what they did wrong, they struggle to connect the two in their mind. Though, tbh, they struggle regardless.
Even though we have communication capacities beyond animals, the emotions surrounding breakups (and the white noise in place of your partner’s side of the story afterwards) cause people to disconnect what they did and what happened. (Ask most people why their last relationship ended and you’ll almost always get a story focused on what the other person did wrong — even if they were the ones who got dumped.)
People will always make up a story either way, but sometimes you want to make it as clear as possible: “it’s you — not me.”
“…and you’ve been fucking up for a while.”
The issues are there long before
The people who say breakups come “out of nowhere” are bullshitting themselves, because the problems are always there if you look. They pop up like saplings in the early days, but they’re still “cute” and “too small” to warrant real concern.
One of my exes was always a little too conservative; a little too risk-averse. Another always lacked ambition; a third spent the first six months of our relationship largely oblivious of who I was. He never did care to learn.
And one, he played emotional war games. From start to finish.
He was a codependent and a relationship sadist. He pulled every move in the book (and probably invented some of his own), but one of his faves was breaking up with me — or threatening to — any time he wanted to end a fight or play the upper hand.
The first time, I took him seriously — packing a bag the next day only to have him rush home from work and “talk it out.” And I realized this was part of his play. After that, each time he threw this grenade (which was a few times a year), I’d just wake up the next morning and go about my day, business as usual. And so would he, satiated that this time I’d “behave.”
But I told him that if he kept playing this card, one day I would eventually call his bluff, force his hand, and “let him.”
And eventually I did.
Why wait? Act now!
You don’t know how it goes until it’s you. Maybe I’m a sadist too. Maybe I’m a masochist. Maybe I was scared, or insecure — or maybe I just didn’t care enough because I’m a half-invested asshole. Honestly, it doesn’t matter.
We tell ourselves any number of stories to rationalize our actions, and mine is:
“Because I want the cause and effect as clear as possible.”
One of the things he struggled with most was taking responsibility, and he did this beyond the end.
After we broke up and he found out I was moving, he accused me of not understanding myself — or life — and shouted, “you know, your problems are just going to follow you wherever you go.”
And I thought, “How so? I’m not even telling you where I’m going.”
And then he told his friends and family we broke up because I hated the city.
We do our best
I still have the satisfaction of trying to make it clear to him. Most people are good people who yearn to make things work, but every once in a while you have one for whom the only resolution is being dragged out back and shot.
But hey, you tried.
It’s for us and not them
Ultimately, we’re all cause-and-effect dogs. I locked down the reason for our breakup as being directly tied back to his actions for me.
I wrote the details in a way that supported my own story, and I solidified that version in my mind.
Because we all prefer our own reality, and do shit to suit and satisfy ourselves.