The Worst and Best Ways to Tell Someone It’s Over – Free Ebook

The intensity and suffering exacted by a heartbreak
depends not only on the core fact that we’ve

been left; it also decisively depends on how
we’ve been left. Our hurt can be hugely

intensified when we’ve been left badly – just
as it may be rendered a great deal more bearable

when we are fortunate enough to have landed
on a lover who has learnt the psychologically-rich

art of mature break-ups. There are certain
things guaranteed to make a break up worse

than it ever needs to be: (i) Lingering: All
decisions around relationships should be taken

with the awareness that life is desperately
short for both parties. It therefore really

shouldn’t matter if the holiday has already
been booked or if preparations for our birthday

are – awkwardly – well under way. As soon
as the decision is taken, a courageous lover

will not dither out of a misplaced desire
not to upset pre-existing plans. They know

they must leave. They are ruining things,
of course, but they can see that the holiday

or restaurant meal would in any case be doomed
– and they are kind enough to know not to

waste any more of our precious time. (ii)
Collateral Accusations A wise departing lover

knows not to accuse the other of more sins
than they are guilty of. It is not, they know,

our fault that their career is going wrong
and we truly aren’t responsible for their

insomnia or the conflicts with their brother.
The wise lover keeps the list of accusations

down to the specific problems that necessitated
a break-up; they don’t use the parting as

an occasion to rehearse all that happens to
be a bit wrong with us – an inevitably far

longer but irrelevant charge sheet.(iii) Deceptive
Niceness The most harmful lovers are those

who labour under a misplaced impression that
they need to be nice – even when they are

firing us. But there is, in fact, no need
for honeyed words, we simply require the basic

information and then some privacy to put ourselves
back together again. Indeed, ongoing niceness

simply confuses us all the more. The tenderness
makes us ache to restart the relationship,

for there seems no reason why not, given how
they are behaving. (iv) Evasiveness Clumsy

lovers are so scared of the news they have
to share with us, they cannot bear to come

out with – and let it seep out in odd symptomatic
ways. They start drinking too much, or come

home very late, or advance odd-sounding theories
about relationships. They hope – through

their strange and harmful behaviour – to
be fired rather than have to resign. In sly

and unfair ways, they seek to push us to take
the agonising next step. On the other hand,

there is so much that can spare us excessive
pain at the end: (i) Directness Kind departing

lovers make a sharp break. Once they’ve
decided, they move swiftly to letting us know;

they clear off quickly; they don’t hold
out hints of reconciliation; they don’t

suggest that if we changed in certain ways,
they’d reconsider. It’s awful, of course,

but there’s a vein of mature kindness in
their brusque manner: in an obviously difficult

situation, they are sparing us the extended
torture of false hope. (ii) Reasons Good departing

lovers try to explain in convincing ways why
the relationship didn’t work out. They might

point out, for instance, that you are both
really quite anxious by nature – and therefore

struggle to soothe and calm each other. This
isn’t so much a complaint about you as on

observation about why the fit between you
as a couple wasn’t very helpful. Or they

may explore the ways in which the two of you
have powerfully divergent attitudes to money

– and hence are set on a serious collision
course. They’re not saying you are horrendous

or a fool – just that the two of you turn
out not to be very adept partners for each

other. (iii) Honesty about who they are Nice
departing lovers let us see and actively remind

us of what’s not so nice or good about them.
They admit that they brought a lot of difficult

things into the relationship. They admit,
perhaps, that they’re obsessed by work;

they may acknowledge they are bossy or very
controlling; they might be open about their

unfaithful nature. They are doing us the kindness
of showing us that life with them would be

seriously difficult in major ways. We’re
losing them, but we’re not losing the prospect

of a blissful or problem-free future.

Good departing lovers
know that the news they are breaking will,

inevitably, lead to them being hated for a
time. They are brave in the face

of this. They don’t suffer from the fateful
and sentimental desire to be loved by people

they no longer love. We’re gradually disentangling
two distinct sources of pain – which mean

very different things. There’s the sorrow
of losing someone we liked. But there may

well also be the suffering caused by the unfortunate
ways a lover acted at the end.

We
may not be able to escape the agony of broken

hearts but we can always strive to keep it
to a very basic minimum.

Our Reilience Cards are designed to help us become tougher in the face of adversity.

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