Sometimes people do not pair up very well. One person puts more effort and emotion into the relationship than the other. Maybe the other person is simply negligent or is unaware of his or her self-centered behavior.
Sometimes the problem is obvious, like substance abuse, or domestic abuse. For other couples, it might be basic inconsideration. No matter how much pleading and compensating, the offensive partner just doesn’t respond positively. The partner isn’t just inconsiderate, he or she is awful. The spouse or lover is simply a jerk.
There are plenty of articles and books written about how to stay together, but what do we do when there are major irreconcilable differences? It’s not that the two of you are merely incompatitable, the relationship is actually harmful. You’ve known in your heart for a very long time that it’s time for the relationship to end. You want to leave your significant jerk.
Fortunately for people who are stuck in relationships with jerks there is a commemorative week for just such a situation. The week before Valentine’s Day is Dump Your Significant Jerk Week. Of course there had to be a week devoted to this purpose–there are plenty of jerks out there, of all genders.
I’ve never been the one to dump the other partner in a relationship. I’ve always been the one who was dumped. That fact has made me wonder if I was the jerk, if he was the jerk, or if both of us were the jerks. When you’re the one who is being left behind, these thoughts pop up frequently afterwards.
After many hours, days, weeks, and months of introspection, I determined that I was probably the jerk in the first relationship, but in the subsequent ones the others were most at fault.
What made all the break-ups worse was the dithering. The end often began with the silent treatment. There was some perceived need to punish the other partner. The silent treatment was dished out by both of us at different times. When the silent treatment didn’t work, things went back to default mode and we carried on. Eventually, the relationships went south.
Being on the receiving end, taught me a few things about how to break up. I’ll contribute my non-expert observations and you can take them or leave them for what they might be worth.
When the other person said, “I just need a break” or “Maybe we can start over someday”, the break-up was just more difficult and drawn out. Although the initial shock was more severe, when the break was clean and final, the healing process was smoother and less traumatic.
Keep in mind the reasons you want to end the relationship. Don’t be too afraid of change. It’s time to bite the bullet and deal honestly and decisively with the matter at hand.
Do NOT avoid your partner before the break-up. Even though he or she may be a jerk, the partner still deserves to know your feelings and why you want to break up. Don’t avoid the conversation. Meet at a neutral location and have the talk.
When you have that conversation, avoid tossing out accusations. Bringing up accusations won’t enable a good parting. Resentments by both parties will simmer away for years afterwards.
Keep it brief and to the point. Share a final hug and make a formal good bye. Then get on with the hard business of healing. Don’t call or text the partner, that will only prolong the inevitable.
The worst thing to do is just abandon the other partner with no announcement or formal good bye. This happened to me. The relationship seemed to be on even footing and we meshed very well and I thought we were both quite happy. One day, he was gone. I searched all of his usual haunts and found no trace of him. I called his employer. His boss said that he failed to show up at work that day and had become worried. Eventually, we found out that my partner had packed up his personal belongings and moved two states away. The abandonment happened 17 years ago, and it still haunts me.
The time the shoe was on the other foot, I did my best to keep us together even though I knew the relationship was doomed. Was I only angry with my partner because of a recent dispute or are the problems deep-seated and chronic? Once I honestly assessed the situation, I asked myself, if he wanted a second chance, would I be willing to take him back? Would I have the guts to turn him down, or would I change my mind in the middle of the conversation? The hard question was, “I will miss him but will he miss me?”
The thing to remember is that breaking up with someone nice or with a jerk is never easy.