But Did You Break Up Though?: The Games We Play or Why We Stay

Over the last two weeks, there has seemingly been a theme among my clients and friends. It seems that folk are ready to break up. But of course, there are lots of barriers in the way to doing it right, because people are usually scared of the process. For those who don’t know, breaking up does NOT mean ghosting, hitting someone with the slow fade, making them mad enough to break up with you, or talking about how you need time to grow and that one day you might come back. When we break up, we do it right, we do it clean, and don’t leave false hope, or tarnish our character in the process.

But this isn’t about how to break up, as much as it is about what keeps people from doing it and opting for ghosting, the slow fade, being a butthead, or leaving hope in their wake. The fact is folk are SCARED to break up with folk. Yeah, I said it. There seems to be a collective fear around what breaking up means about us, but there are 3 main reasons, still steeped in fear that seem to come up alot.

What If They’re The One

This is the one the truly gets me confused sometimes. I am not saying that this has not been, at some point, part of my own narrative, I am saying that it doesn’t make any damn sense. You are thinking about ending a relationship with someone. It’s not horrible, it’s been fine, but somehow it still doesn’t fit. In the words of some “nice guys,” the person you are with doesn't hit you, insult you maliciously, try to control you, and all around isn’t a (complete) dickhead. YAY! You got someone with the basics of human decency. However, people often use this as a measure of if they should remain with someone. Just because someone isn't abusive, doesn’t mean they are necessarily the person you WANT to be with!

However, women, especially Black women, have been taught that you have to “take what you can get” because we have been deemed undesirable. So folk stay in lackluster relationships thinking that this person could be the one, so you don’t want to leave though your every thought and fantasy is about how you don’t work and how you would only break up with them if you could. If, leaving someone who doesn’t abuse you, if leaving someone who was even marginally or entirely good to you, wouldn’t leave you looking silly. There may even be an anticipation of what people would say to you for leaving such a “nice” person. So you stay, OR you do one of those false hope break ups so that just in case you can’t find something better out there, you have left the door open for your possible return. Which leads us to how folk are, in the immortal words of Beyonce...

Scared of Lonely

Could you hear Beyonce singing that one? I could and TBH I almost always skip that song. Eh **shrugs** But in the end, the questioning of if the person you are wanting to leave is the one is based in being scared to be alone and lonely. That no one else could want you. This thought process has this underlying narrative like you somehow tricked them into seeing something in you, when you don’t think there is much to see at all. We have been taught that the pinnacle of relationships that matter are those which are romantic. We are seeking partner with unerring desperation. We aren’t sure that we are supposed to be alone and if we could do it. Which is why for me, Tracee Ellis Ross is such an inspiration. She is alone and HAPPY. A women of color, who CHOOSES not to be in a relationship. Who is choosing not to have kids, and what are we going to say? That her life won’t be fulfilled or fulfilling? That she is less of a woman? That no one wanted her Black ass anyway? Nah! I am sure she has many a person sliding into those IG DMs with promises of the life they could live together, if only she would just submit. And I bet you do, too. You get to choose if you want to be with YOU or share what you have to offer with someone else. You are worthy, as you are. Your worth as a person, is inherent.

But the point is that we are scared of being lonely. In the way this society is set up, it says something about you and your level of desirability to be alone. This is especially true for women of color and Black women in particular. We have been told that we are undesirable, that folk don’t want to marry us, not even the Black men heterosexual Black women often seek. We have been told that same-sex partnerships are less than, and still speak, to our morality on the one hand or whether or not we would have even been desirable enough for a heterosexual relationship on the other. People say the darndest things. The dumbest things, really. But in that relationship where we are and have been unhappy, or simply just “okay,” we think about leaving but weigh against it because we don’t want to end up alone. Because they COULD be “the one.” So, in this one, folk might hit the slow fade. Just moving slowly away from being fully committed in the relationship. Seeking to see if there might be something better out there for you, but feeling like there won’t be. You look but check in with this person every now and then to keep them on the hook. Wanting to make sure they don’t seriously start to move on with their lives while you try to see if you can find someone better suited to you.

To Be Or Not To Be...The Bad Guy

This one right here, takes the cake. Image seems to be everything. While people are now, in some ways obsessed with being “real” people still don’t want people to NOT like them! I know, in your head you’re probably saying that you don’t care what people think, that you simply “do you.” Well, please excuse me if I don’t believe you. I have seen many a person who says they don’t care what others think about this or that, but can be balling their eyes out a minute later regarding what someone said or did. But, I digress.

Folk don’t want to be seen in a negative light. It can even go back to thinking that this person could be the one or that you simply want the option to maybe come back. But either way, we are wary of hurting someone and being the asshole in their story and how it gets told to others. We don’t want a bad review. Not when we think of ourselves as being good and fair.

The fact is that for someone, you are going to be the bad guy. You are going to be the person who wronged them, who hurt them, who was an asshole that no one can figure out why the other person would even have given you the time of day. And what’s funny is, in your need to leave the relationship, you would probably make it worse by ghosting, slow fading, or tarnishing your name in the process by doing all manner of thing to get THEM to break up with YOU!

Let’s Break Up

Breaking up isn’t always easy. There aren’t always loud and obnoxious arguments and fights to indicate that you should leave. Sometimes things really are just fine. But if/when you are ready to go, I think you do yourself and the person you are in a relationship with a dishonor, but dragging out the process and wasting both of your time in the process. So, let’s work on making clean, clear breaks from relationships we don’t want.

  1. Know how you would like to proceed before you do a fake break up. Jerking people back and forth while you make up your mind isn’t okay.

  2. Set a time to talk. You don’t want interruptions because breaking up is hard enough without distractions.

  3. Communicate clearly. Make sure they know that you are breaking up with them. Make no references to the possibility of getting together in the future. Keep false promises to yourself. I.E. this is your termination letter, but for  relationship, not a job. Being clear and concise is key. (yes, they may ask why you are leaving, just like a job would. Be honest, but not hurtful).

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