Breaking up? ‘Tis not the season! Or, as a pal of mine likes to intone: ‘Tis the season for diamonds and Dewar’s… and relationship-wise, no digs or downers.
At this Typically Romantic Time of Year, we’re excited to be a twosome, we’re planning our cozy get-togethers, we’re buying our last minute special gifts, and we’re readying the red dress and lipstick – and possibly arranging for sitters.
The last thing we’re considering (or expecting) is breaking up. But if we are thinking about it, shouldn’t we follow the proper etiquette?
I offer two perspectives on breaking up, the first of which is Joyce Wadler’s entertaining take on the approaching holidays in “Only Nine Breakup Days Left Till Christmas.” Unfortunately, the countdown is such that any (reasonable) window for breakup activity is, according to Ms. Wadler, already past.
It seems we are operating under the auspices of the application of the Three Week Rule, wherein it is gauche, graceless, and utterly unacceptable to break up once Christmas is three weeks away or less. So if you were toying with the idea of ending your most current Amorous Adventure this week or next – forget it!
Of course, I might suggest that dumping someone before New Year’s is equally egregious and likewise, the first fourteen days of February. Personally, I see no problem with dates approaching the wearing of the green (March 17) or Bastille Day (July 14), but that may depend on location, location, location.
One critical point: If you have been romantically linked long enough to be a conspicuous couple on Facebook, breaking up on a birthday is also ill advised, or prepare to incur the wrath of friends, friends of friends, faux friends, close friends and… well, you get the picture.
Should you be planning a breakup at this time, recognize that we are, of necessity, looking at January 2 through January 31. Additional recommendations by Ms. Wadler address optimal time of day and ideally, appropriate setting and context.
… if your soon-to-be ex takes tranquilizers or antidepressants, schedule your breakup for early in the day. Like brunch.
The Basics of Breakup Etiquette
One might think that breakup etiquette warrants an Idiot’s Guide, though it ought not to. Lest you not know the basics, here is my own set of fundamentals. Now, now. It’s not that difficult.
- DO break up in person or by phone, for any relationship in the one-month to twelve-month range. (In person only, if longer. Skype is acceptable if you’re in an LDR.)
- DO break up in person or by phone, if you slept with the person, and it was anything other than a one-night thing.
- DO exercise some kindness if you are the initiator (no name-calling, please).
- DO exercise a measure of self-control on the receiving end (dignity, dignity, dignity – especially if you have kids in the vicinity).
- Do NOT break up a relationship with kids in earshot.
- Do NOT break up a marriage by email.
- Do NOT break up on Facebook.
- Do NOT break up by text.
- Do NOT break up on national television. (Remember the movie, Hope Floats?)
- If you feel compelled to write your Dear John or Jane, DO be eloquent and do NOT take the “Berger Path” of jotting a few words on a sticky note.
Trust me. There’s more. For example, no burning of the breakup-initiator’s possessions (as tempting as it may be), no trashing him or her to the respective boss, no shit show through social media (please) – though we know for many that last is tempting.
Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce
With two episodes behind us, many are giving this entrée into more traditional ‘scripted’ fare a big thumbs up as a serio-comic take on the tumultuous process of ending a marriage. The dialog is sharp, the characters are quirky, but what has me riveted is the reality in this first non-reality show.
For those of us who have been through it, not only do we find explicit lines and situations that ring true, but they may bring us back to our own breakup tales of woe, wailing, and wanting – both something (or someone) different, and for all things to return to normal – whether “normal” is good or not.
What makes this new show a hit that packs a particular punch?
Let’s see. There’s the 40-something hubby in a long-term marriage who takes up with a woman some 22 years younger. There is the emotional affair that the wife engages in, which her spouse views as worse than his physical affair. There is the well-intentioned interference of family, the adversarial legal advice, the distancing of couple friends and the emergence of relationships with other divorced women.
And that’s just for starters.
Breakup Cocktail… of Emotions, That Is
Naturally, the scenarios in Girlfriend’s Guide won’t be familiar to all of us, but Abby, the delightfully flawed series protagonist, possesses the right mix of vulnerability, anger, sentimentality, fear, hostility, regret and situational stupidity to be recognizable to many of us.
When relationships end – especially long-term relationships – let’s not assume the one who does the “breaking” has an easy path, though it is generally easier, because he or she has the upper hand – at least initially. When it comes to marriage, most of us who are veterans know that it generally takes two for connubial bliss to wind up blissless. And when it is marriage with children that is being disassembled, there is no swift removal of a band-aid, much less on a schedule.
DO keep that in mind when considering the red dress she hung over the closet door or the Santa sweater he dug out of the dresser for the holidays. And remember – for the one who is caught off-guard by the downward spiral into divorce or the demise of any serious relationship, the cocktail of confusion is dizzying indeed.
Breaking up is painful.
Breaking up is messy.
Breaking up is hard to do.
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