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May 9, 2011

How not to break up with someone

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 7:52 am

Predicament of the Week from June 29, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

After three years together and two years of friendship my girlfriend broke up with me…over the phone. She informed me that she did not want a relationship and then refused to talk to me about it because she was late for a movie! I tried calling her later that evening and once more she refused to talk about the breakup, only saying she enjoyed being single, and hung up on me. A few days later she sent me an e-mail saying that she never said goodbye and that she needed time; our time together, she went on, was important to her, and she would never give up all the gifts and stuffed toys I had given her over the years. She told me she would call me on Thursday — well, Thursday came and went and she did not call. I worried, so I called her and her first words were, “I’m going out with someone else now and there is no chance of us getting back together.”

She then informed me that her new boyfriend could provide for her financially and emotionally in a way I could not. She needed a “real man” who could go wherever he liked. You see, he has a $45,000 job and a $35,000 jeep and I am a graduate student on a very fixed income. I sent her an e-mail later that night saying goodbye and asking her to drop the money, books, and CD’s off at school. A day later I recieved an e-mail from her new boyfriend; it was her writing to tell me he was her soulmate, that she loved him and wanted to spend the rest of her life with him and that she never wanted to see or hear from me again. It doesn’t end here, though: she called me again a few days later asking if she could drop my stuff off at my place because she had some free time before she and her “soulmate” went off on a roadtrip with their friends. I refused pointing out that she knew where to drop the stuff off. I was extremely hurt and told her that she had used me. She responded, how could she have used me: I had no money and no car. She then told me she would hurt me more and told me she and her new boyfriend were having a “physical relationship.”

That Friday I came into school and was informed there was a package waiting for me. I was shocked: it was a packing box in which she had placed every gift I had ever given her in three years. In the enclosed letter she informed me that she had given my stuffed animals to charity that morning. I was devastated and had to leave to get control of myself. A few days later she called with a weak excuse about me having a paperback of hers. When I asked her how could she return all those things she told me she had done me a favour, I could give them to my next girlfriend! She continued to tell me that she couldn’t have used me because I had nothing to be used for. I don’t understand what has happened. I was always kind, caring and understanding to her and then she ended the relationship in such a callous manner. What was she thinking? I can’t understand how she could continue saying I love you till the end, then two days after breaking up with me jump into a new relationship claiming this person as a soulmate. All I know is that I am really hurt and confused.

— Confused

Dear Confused,

If this week’s theme were Breaking Up: A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing the Deed (don’t worry, it’ll come), this letter — that is, your ex’s behavior — would serve as the DON’T example. She has violated just about every breakup rule there is:

1. Phone breakups, while underrated as feelings- and scene-sparers, are not allowed in three-year relationships.

2. While it doesn’t work to talk your dumpee through a breakup, you at least owe them talking to them about it. Time-management tip: If you’re going to be late for the movies, dump themafterwards.

3. No passive-aggressive mind-gaming follow-up calls about how much that person and his/her stuffed animals mean to you. Especially if your next conversation (two days later) is a downright mean announcement that involves the words “new boyfriend,” “real man,” and any actual dollar amounts.

4. No fair dumping someone and then acting as if you’re the one who’s been hurt and wronged.

5. Go ahead and return gifts and other memorabilia if you deem it to be part of a necessary purging/healing process. But only if you attach a note that says something like, “I’m really sorry, but it will be easier for me to move on without these.”

She may have donated the stuffed animals to charity; it otherwise appears, however, that she has donated the “compassion” (not to mention “rational behavior”) lobe of her brain to science (perhaps to the nice young men inBG’s latest adventure). But you knew that. And Breakup Girl is not in the business of making people feel better by saying, “You’re right, s/he is very very bad and wrong!” and leaving it at that. Plus, that wasn’t what you were asking.

What was she thinking? I can’t imagine. But I can take some stabs as to what was and is really going on. None of which is pretty. One possibility is that she and Mr. Soulmate were having an affair before and she finally got tired of all of the complicated scheduling. Or, she knew she wanted a way out — for whatever reason — but really (obviously) didn’t know what to do or say to you … and then all of a sudden she sees this guy in a Jeep with a big red neon EXIT sign over his head.

None of which really explains why so callous. Well…sometimes, I guess, callous is easier than careful. You behave badly, you don’t have to make the time or effort to deal. You rationalize twistedly: “Well, maybe if I’m a huge troll, s/he’ll be glad to see/let me go.” Of course, some people use this as a reason to leave a “Hate you, hate Kansas, taking the dog” note and vanish without a trace, rather than to hang around and inflict bizarre torture. Then again — and I don’t mean to sound terribly flip/facile, or at all justify this way of thinking/leaving — knowing what you know now, well, yeah: Good riddance.

That hardly makes you feel better right now — the “I thought I knew her” thing really, really smarts — but in the big picture/long run, it will. So will this: if he really makes $45,000 and spent $35,000 on a Jeep, he has only $10,000 — well, $6600 after taxes — left for everything else, like food, clothing, and … rent. She says he takes her on “road trips;” I say he lives in his car.

Breakup Girl


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