Breaking Up When You Are Emotionally Invested
What if you want to leave but you are too emotionally invested and don't want to feel that pain?
This question hits home for me in multiple ways.
First, in my relationship with my ex-girlfriend Sarah*, we were emotionally invested in each other for quite some time. We knew one another for around three years, and we dated for a year and a month. Because we had this emotional bond, I wanted to maintain our relationship despite various warning signs that she was contemplating leaving me - which she unknowingly showed me: she grew distant from me, became annoyed by my presence, gossiped to her other friends and family about me, and actively sought attention from other guys. My reaction to all of this was to fight to make our relationship better. I sought opportunities to be with her more often, which meant visiting her every week, if I could. It even inspired me to maintain our relationship and try and work out some differences. I wanted to avoid the very pain from a break up that you anticipate. In the end, Sarah made her choice to leave me, for her own reasons.
Trust me, I know from a first-hand experience that break ups hurt, and they suck. Your fear of experiencing this pain is legitimate. In any breakup, we may feel that we have been wronged. We may feel betrayed by someone we cared for - someone we believed cared for us. In this case, we may feel resentment of the other person after the relationship has ended. We may even feel stronger emotions of hate or dislike. In my case, I felt some strong emotions. After the break up, I felt broken. I harbored so much resentment, feelings of being rejected, afraid, angry, depressed, and heartbroken.
After she broke up with me, I’ve gone through moments of self-accusation and feelings of not liking myself anymore. This caused me to isolate myself from my family and friends. It was also difficult for me to trust new friends. Essentially, I began building around me my own prison.
The hard part for me to deal with was realizing that she has the privilege to make decisions regarding her own life just as much as I do. Granted, some decisions we make can be influenced by fear, or they can be influenced by a desire to make a good life for one’s self. I want to wish that Sarah made her decision out a desire for good in both our lives. Sadly, years after we have split up, I can see evidence that her decision was based solely on fear itself. I may not know the specifics of why she decided to leave me, neither do I know how she is doing now.
I hope that you aware that your partner is a human being like you. If you are considering ending this relationship that you’ve both built and invested in, it may cause the other person to feel a tremendous amount of pain. They may or may not experience hurt, feelings of rejection, and/or anger. The list of emotional baggage could go on and on. I recognize that every person is different, but that is no excuse to think of the other person as anything less than a soul with emotions. If you genuinely care about this person, I hope you consider their feelings in your decision.
I also want to share some tips on how to break up with someone if you truly are considering this option. These are suggestions – I want to give you an opportunity to end your relationship in a healthy way, which may benefit you both.
DON’T break up…
- In a note
- Over the phone
- On social media (Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.)
- By telling a friend or family member to tell your significant other
- In front of other people
- On their birthday or other holiday
Your “To do” list-
- Give him/her time to work through their feelings.
- Share some stuff about your relationship that was good.
- Share some stuff about themselves that is encouraging.
- Take responsibility for the break up (use statements beginning with, “I/me,” but please, don’t ever say, “It’s not you, it’s me.”)
- Spell out the rules of separation (no more hanging out at each other’s house, etc.)
- Be honest, yet firm
Some things you also should NOT do…
- Don’t ever offer to, “just be friends,” ever!
- Don’t get critical and blame them for the breakup.
- Don’t let them guilt you into changing your mind; their feelings are their responsibility, not yours.
- Don’t let them make you out to be the bad guy; you have a right to your own choices.
- Don’t expect it to go easy. Be prepared for them to fight your decision, but stand your ground.†
If Sarah had dumped me in a different way, it could’ve benefitted me in various ways. For one, she broke up with me at a party with her relatives and friends present. This setting made it difficult to effectively process my emotions at that time. It also made it difficult to share my emotions calmly and clearly. She broke up with me while I was traveling, far from my friends and mentors; this prevented me from asking them for wisdom and help. If she had encouraged me to seek trusted friends and counselors after our breakup, it could’ve helped me begin my healing process at an earlier time.
Break ups, sadly, are a part of our lives. This doesn’t make them easy, and it may not be painless.
I want to remind you all that your personal worth is tremendous, although the person you like may not see it. Who knows? You may find someone in the future that will see how valuable you are… someone that will respect you and care for you as much as you do for them.
I also want to share that if you find yourself waiting for this person, instead of simply waiting for them, identify what qualities and values you’d want in the other person. It could be things like integrity, loyalty, patience, or others. Seek to build those qualities in yourself, because you never know - you may attract someone that wants those same qualities, too.
*to protect her identity, we have changed her name in our blog
†Breakup tips from The Dirt on Breaking Up by Hayley DiMarco & Justin Lookadoo. Some readers may find this resource to be helpful.