How To Get Over A Breakup When You’re The One Doing The Dumping

Was Berger such a bad guy really? Doing the dumping isn't always easy, as Cara Croke knows.

You’ve heard the break-up story a million times. You’ve seen the movies and you’ve read the books. Someone’s been dumped and had their heart broken. They’re devastated and you can’t help but feel sympathy for the wounded soldier who has lost their battle with love.

However, a perspective I’ve always felt gets swept under the rug is that of the dumper. But who cares about this person? They’ve chosen to throw in the towel on the relationship, decided their former other half just didn’t fit the bill anymore and have broken their heart just as quickly as they stole it, right? Wrong.

Well, I can only speak from my own experiences, but I can honestly say that my experience of being the dumper outweighed the pain of being the dumpee by a long shot. Is there any worse feeling than the realisation that the relationship you put months or years of effort and time into just doesn’t work anymore? And what’s actually harder than the pain of that realisation is the process of coming to it. So how do you know when it’s time to stop trying to make it work and salvage what’s left of the relationship, and just move on?

I was in a relationship with a guy, we’ll call him Greg, for the best part of two and a half
years before we called it quits. The last year or so of our relationship was full of ups and downs. We’d broken up a handful of times, always for the same reasons, until one day I realised that I was no longer content being in a relationship that was more hard work than it was fun.

We wanted different things. I was 20 at the time, coming to the end of my third year in college and all I wanted was to be rid of the stress of constantly worrying about someone else and not enough about myself. I realised that although I could write a list of the things I loved about Greg, there was no longer enough things I loved about us, and that’s when I knew it was over.

One thing I struggled with when coming to terms with deciding to break up with Greg was
the fact that he was a really great guy. He got on with my family, my friends loved him, and more importantly, he didn’t do anything wrong. He never cheated, he always made me feel important and all round treated me great. All these things led me to question if it was actually me who was the problem. Would I ever find someone who I wouldn’t get bored of or grow apart from?

Stories like Trisha’s, 32, give me reassurance that all is not lost.

I knew my relationship with my ex was stone dead for about 18 months before we actually broke up. Our lives were so intertwined after six years together, we lived together, had a car loan, I was the breadwinner, we even had a dog! So I didn’t know how to go about ending it and just trundled on hoping it would get better, thinking I’d got this far and I should just cop on and keep going. I knew in my heart it was over, though.

“Then I met a guy through friends, and developed a humongous crush on him. Nothing happened, but I knew if I had feelings like that for another man – and that there were actually amazing single guys out there – that I needed to end things. It gave me the push I needed.

It was a long process breaking up, because I felt so guilty. It was actually cruel, because I kept chopping and changing my mind, but I was so worried about him. In the end, it became clear that I was going to have to woman up and be the bad gal, so I asked him to pack his stuff and go. I stayed in our apartment with the dog, mainly because I could afford to.

“It was really tough, and the guilt and fear didn’t leave me for ages, but I also felt totally relieved, like a weight had been lifted and like I could live my life properly. We don’t speak anymore, but I heard he’s happy in a new relationship and I know it was definitely the right thing to do.”

The fact of the matter is that it’s a lot easier to stay in a bad relationship than it is to leave one. It’s easy to fall into a routine with another person, especially if you’ve spent a number of years together. They already know all of your flaws, you’ve probably already met their friends and family. The difficult parts that have to happen at the beginning of a relationship have already been overcome. It takes a strong person to acknowledge that a relationship is no longer making them happy and to take action to change things.

Clinical Manager and Systemic Psychotherapist at the Clanwilliam Institute Alice Kelly says that it’s normal for the person ending a relationship to be just as distraught as the person on the receiving end of the breakup. “Just because you’re the one who has come to this decision first, doesn’t mean it’s an easier thing to go through.

You will still experience the loss of future plans with that person and the presence of that person in your life. You may be sad at the thought of not being part of their life anymore or scared of a future by yourself for the next while.”

Even if things ended badly in the relationship and if the time leading up to making the decision to end it was quite an unhappy time, you did at one time in the past make a decision to be with this person because you cared about them. There were elements of them that made you feel safe and secure, you wanted to spend time with them and learn more about them, you were perhaps excited about a future with them. Processing the changes in those feelings can be quite difficult and the senses of loss for ‘what could have been’ can be all too powerful.

People often spend weeks, or even months, dwelling on ending a relationship, putting it off for as long as possible to avoid hurting the other person. I avoided Greg for two whole weeks before putting an end to our relationship, mainly because I was worried about him, but also because I wasn’t ready to face the fact that it was over.

Alice says this is a common trait among people who are planning a breakup. “Ending a relationship is generally not a spur of the moment decision and for the person initiating the ending, they have often thought about it for a long, long time prior to speaking it out loud to their partner.

“When the words are said out loud, this makes the whole process more real and also perhaps scarier to that person who, up to now, more than likely only had their own inner voice and thoughts to counter or enforce their current thinking patterns about the relationship.”


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