I can count the number of good reasons to call on one hand. Although it may seem a cold and inhuman reaction to dealing with a complex connection, my gripe with post-breakup communication isn’t ubiquitous or paranoid. There really are good reasons to call, but chances are ours isn’t one of them.
- The breakup was amicable and you are mutually hellbent on salvaging the core value of friendship (without using “friendship” as a masquerade for not losing hope).
- Communication serves a purely practical purpose. Sometimes things just need to get done irrespective of the emotional quagmire. If you do really want those clothes back, and it isn’t a gimmick aimed at getting a few words in, do it.
- You’ve been asked to, or are expected to. Most long-term relationships end with a whimper, not a bang. Schedules and time-frames to ease out of co-dependency are established, or more simply just to test the waters of singledom before taking a dive. If you are operating within a clearly defined communicative framework, you have a communicative passport.
- Learning from mistakes. It isn’t about bargaining, we’ve been through that now, it’s about learning about what we can improve (even if it’s coming clean about irritating habits), it’s about turning trauma and grief into opportunity.
In any case, our underlying intention is what we have to look out for, because when it comes to post-breakup communication, our pattern seeking tendencies make us our own worst enemies.
Case in point…
Trying To Tie Loose Ends
For some, “tying loose ends” means granting the past the dignity it deserves. To others, it means one last shot at making the pain less personal, less senseless.
Everyone has their insecurities and pain tailored to their experiences, which unfortunately means that tying loose ends means something different for everyone. Which in turn means that tying a knot around one type of insecurity often loosens others.
For what it’s worth, because it won’t stop us from picking up the phone anyway (guilty as charged here — on multiple accounts), we’re probably better off realizing that the relationship itself will not be defined by a turbulent parting of ways, but as a whole, and that the loose ends are merely strands of insecurity that will come to cement themselves once we find a degree of acceptance (ironically attempting to find acceptance through tying loose ends has the opposite effect, it will only lead to more questions).
Just One Last Thing
Let’s not fool ourselves here, there will always be one last thing to show, convey or impress upon our ex.
How certain are we that this one last belated gesture will simplify the complexity of the breakup? Because if that isn’t our goal, then we really do need to question what our motive is.
Most of the time the desire to reach out is prompted by an impulsive emotional need; anger, insecurity, hope or an attempt at bargaining. The problem here is that almost all of these states are temporary, and what we convey in the present may not reflect how we feel tomorrow (another fantastic way to confuse and lead to resentment over peace).
I’m Doing Great Without You (No Really)
If you were, you certainly wouldn’t feel the need to reach out to the past, but would be far too busy reveling in the present.
The unfortunate consequence of attempting to convey security in this way is that of showing just how broken we are, or at least give the appearance of being insecure (even if we are, in fact, doing well).
While your ex may very well deserve a ship-load of resentment, attempting a little post-breakup justice is a little like swallowing poison and hoping they die from it. It’s not worth holding on to, for our sake.
This Isn’t The Ex I Know!
As humans with an ego, our natural reaction to judgment and criticism is usually that of making our decision not only firmer, but more flamboyant.
If we hold onto our hope of reconciliation, we’re better served by accepting the breakup at face value (even if only on the exterior) than by attempting to argue our ex’s out of their decision. Obviously, stating clearly what our position is does not violate this rule because it leads to clarity rather than more confusion.
Not only does unconditionally accepting their decision makes us look stronger, it also — and more importantly — demonstrates respect. Experience may well teach them that they made a mistake, but unless we have impulsively burned all our bridges, and if we’ve played our cards right, they should feel relatively comfortable reaching out to us.
If pride or fear prevent them from doing so, it says a lot about the strength of the emotions involved. Would it stop you?
In The Name Of The Past
Everyone has the right to seek greener pastures, and once the rift has been proclaimed, co-responsibility is ultimately severed, even if the result is dizzying and incomprehensible to us in the present.
While we know that we can’t demand or control, our sense of co-responsibility is still ingrained in us and so we use the only tool we have to reduce emotional friction. We play on the past by manipulating “in the name of”.
- If you care about me…
- You owe me this much…
- What happened to you…
To be clear, I’m not making a moral statement, you may well deserve that much (morally speaking), the point is you can’t demand it. And from the dumper’s perspective, most of the time, demanding it is an empty threat.
So, if the intent is to communicate and our choice of weaponry is limited to manipulation, I would urge either not calling, or reformulating the communication in a way that excludes the guilt games (again, this isn’t a moral standpoint, merely one of improved effect).
Don’t You, Forget About Me…
Any behavior that is ultimately a hollow, desperate plea for attention will tend to work against us (if we’re looking to heal or reconcile). For instance:
- Posting new exciting, risqué pictures on a constant basis to our Facebook profile will probably get us blocked.
- Using mutual acquaintances will risk jeopardizing friendships and lead to a web of resentment and confusion that transcends the breakup itself.
- Showing up at their doorstep at 2 a.m (Hollywood style) may well land you with a restraining order if the lines were clearly drawn.
In short, attempting to show our exes how they are missing out will only convince them that we are, quite rightly, projecting and venting our insecurity onto them. There’s no two ways about it, we are literally attempting to bring them down in order to prop ourselves up. Not a pretty picture!
The good news is that if you fear the strands of time erasing the memory of you, think again. While the relationship may fade into darkness, the memory of what you had will endure (along with its frame of judgments). There is no need to dance around the fire here, if anything, future interactions and experiences will only serve to feed the ghost.
My point here is that silence speaks loudly (I’m resisting the urge to write the notorious cliché here), and by resisting the urge to leap into the cross hairs we minimize damage to other aspects of our lives that have just become even more important.
Image courtesy of scottchan at FreeDigitalPhotos.net