The other side of a breakup

It sucks just as much for us, breaking up with you

artist Christina Angelina


Heartbreak is the privilege of the person who’s broken up with, as though “broken-hearted” is a badge only they can wear.

The person doing the breaking up is vilified — made out to be some cruel, heartless monster who goes around ripping other people’s souls out and crushing them. And that’s just not the case.

I know that it’s hard to be rejected. It’s shitty as fuck being the one who’s left, and it sucks feeling as though you don’t have control.

But there’s also a difficulty in doing the leaving, too. In being the one who has to make a difficult decision that fundamentally has to be binary: yes or no.

Breaking up with someone is even worse than firing someone.

And firing someone is widely regarded as one of the worst parts of being a manager.

Anybody who thinks otherwise has never had to do it. Nobody with any amount of sanity likes firing people — or dumping them.

Because this isn’t just firing somebody. It’s like firing your right-hand man. It’s firing your VIP, your cofounder, the VP to your P (you being the VP to theirs.) On top of that, it’s like firing your best friend; your plus-one; your one and only. It’s looking at the person you probably cared most about, and maybe even cares about you, and saying to them “I’m out.” And there is no enjoyment in doing that for you.

Because you invest in people, you build rapport and trust. And most importantly, you fucking wanted it to work.

We were invested, too

That’s the thing I think people fail to realize — we wanted it, too. This ain’t nonchalant for us.

We hired you for a job just as much as you hired us for yours, and we both wanted this shit to gel. What happens is that it never did. Or the job changes and expands and you don’t grow with it. And if you don’t grow, neither can we.

And maybe now you’re reeling and waiting on us to change our minds? Boi, we spent time together waiting on you to change, too.

One of us had to do something and make a decision, and it became increasingly obvious it wasn’t going to be you.

We suffered, too

We will suffer as a result of the breakup, but we also suffered leading up to it. One might even argue we suffered more in the relationship than you did, given that it was us — not you — who ended it.

And so, we sort of suffer twice, first at the hands of the relationship and then again in our own.

A breakup frames feelings as “absolute” when they are anything but

Everything is anything but black and white. It’s all shades of fucking gray. But a breakup makes it all finite, which is part of why it leaves some of us reeling, “what the fuck just happened?”

I think if we really look, we both fucking know.

Things sort of weren’t working, and then things weren’t good. And then they got worse, and they weren’t getting any better, and maybe you were trying, maybe we were both trying, or, let’s be real fucking honest, maybe we were both kind of not.

But either way, it wasn’t getting any better and after a while one of you has to make a decision, now don’t you? You have to do something or go on living like that forever, and sometimes that something is “leaving.” And here, “leaving” means leaving me or leaving you.

But in the words of Robert Kinkaid,

“Don’t kid yourself, Francesca: you are anything but a simple woman.”

And this was anything but a simple choice.

We have to stand behind the decision

And we have to be strong for you and us both.

The person being left can reel and blame the other person and wonder “but what if?” The person doing the breaking up doesn’t have that luxury. You don’t have space to feel emotions. You don’t have space to express them. You don’t have space to do anything except rationalize and re-remind yourself the reasons why.

Because the only worse thing you can do than break up with someone is break up with them and then share your emotions but not change your mind.

Because you’re expected to back these things. You have to stand your ground or else be seen as a complete fuck-up; someone who toys with people; someone who doesn’t know what she wants; someone stringing someone out.

Also Robert Kinkaid:

“I don’t want to say goodbye right now. We don’t have to make that decision. Maybe you’ll change your mind. Maybe we’ll see each other and you’ll change your mind.”

To which Francesca cries,

“If that happens, you have to decide. Because I can’t.”

Because shit is hard as fuck, yo. It’s heartbreak through and through for us, too.

The exception

…to all of this, of course, is when someone is toxic AF. Because fuck those guys.

Walking from someone who’s shitty still isn’t fun, but firing someone who lies, cheats, steals, etc. certainly doesn’t carry the complexity of having to fire your VIP.

Why I left you

I know you liked me. I liked you too. But that’s not enough.

Look, I know you wanted to stay together.

I know this just like I knew all of your needs during our relationship — I know you wanted to be with me, I know you envisioned something closer to “never-ending.” I know you thought you could make me happy, and I know you thought you loved me.

I know all about you.

But I’m not sure you knew much about me beyond what you projected — the way you saw me, albeit good and bad, and the fact that it differed from the way I saw myself and what I needed.

I know you don’t agree. I know you think “loving” me is the same as seeing and knowing and satisfying me, but it’s not. You saw what you wanted and gave what you could get by giving within the parameters of your own needs, foremost being “love.” You would’ve done “anything” to stay together, and that’s the point: it still starts and ends with you.

You thought you loved me, sure, but that doesn’t mean you recognized that it was your definition of “love” and not mine. We couldn’t go on forever both focused on your needs and pretending that your needs are mine — that we will somehow want and think exactly the same things (those being yours) and that by satisfying you, we were somehow getting me, too.

You wanted the white picket fence and I didn’t. Frankly, there are tons of others who’d be happy to give it to you.

Or you didn’t want the white picket fence but didn’t want anything else, either. And I do.

You wanted things that were entirely different to what I wanted, and we couldn’t build a life that supported both.

You were willing to silence your dreams to support mine, and I wanted someone who wouldn’t have to.

You wanted a “girlfriend” (or “boyfriend” or “husband” or “wife”) and I just looked a lot like someone who fit that bill.

Or you didn’t know what you wanted, and I was a stand-in.

You liked to take things “the way people do them” and “as they are.” Pioneering excites me.

You have a timeline. I don’t.

You saw me differently than I see myself, and I didn’t want to be that person.

Or you saw me smaller than I see myself, and I knew I would do more. Called me things like “beautiful” like it was the end all be all of what I was.

You wanted regular reassurance and continuous communication. I wanted someone who could stand on their own.

You want to devote your life to a partner, and I don’t want to carry the weight of that role.

You didn’t care about my sexual needs, plain and simple, and instead prioritized your own libido over mine.

You violated the only 2.5 things I need in a partner, and dropped the ball on promises made.

You demanded I make myself vulnerable and open up, but then overrode or dismissed the things I shared.

You wanted what you wanted, and you wanted me to just want the same things.

You think your needs were “right” because they look and sound a lot like “love,” but fail to realize that love is internalizing your partner’s (real and actual) needs above your own.

In the end, you tried to hold on to me with pleas of “but I love you!” and all I could hear was “my interests matter more than yours!” Just like they always have and always would.

No relationship ends because of “cheating”

It isn’t over because they cheated. They cheated because it was over.

Infidelity is an effect, not a cause.

Ask people why their last or biggest relationship ended, and “my partner cheated” is one of the most common answers.

But this is a head-in-the-sand answer; an omission of the truth, a denial of causes leading up to it, in which they were likely personally involved. It’s pressing “play” on their relationship history only at the point where things came visibly unhinged — pointing only to that moment in time when their partner stepped out of line, but never at the moments (many) leading up to it.

As though people cheat in a vacuum. As though they were in totally happy relationships but lost their minds one day and decided to throw it all away.

Notice, however, that when “cheating” is cited as the answer for why things ended, it’s always that “they” cheated — never that “I” did. Because people actually doing the cheating don’t cite “cheating” as the cause — they cite the reason before the infidelity, which was the real one.

Why it really ended (i.e., exactly the same as “why people cheat”)

Look, okay. On the one hand: it’s many reasons.

There are a million and a half explanations as to why things fall apart — countless, infinite rationalizations people offer themselves and others when they do this.

But there’s also only one. And it is, simply: because one or more needs weren’t being met.

Boredom, maybe. Novelty, put differently. Ego-stroking, or conquest, for the insecure. Gray-area line-blurring subjectivity, like massage happy endings or strip clubs, perhaps. Heavy drinking and loss of judgment, maybe. They felt undesired, or unseen; unimportant to their loved ones. They feel young again, or respected. They laugh for the first time in years. They’re narcissistic. Or just lack empathy.

Whatever. The specifics go on and on.

But the real reason relationships end in cheating — and the real reason anybody cheats —is because they weren’t happy.

This is to say nothing about the legitimacy of that “unhappiness,” let alone the effectiveness of cheating for dealing with it, but it is the truth.

Your relationship didn’t end because they cheated. They cheated because your relationship was already over.