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Lanie's Articles  |   Essays From M.H Borden

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

A dear friend of mine told me that whenever she goes out with a particular single girlfriend, they have to slink around Northampton. “ She’s dated a lot of men in this town and she doesn’t want to bump into any of them,” my friend explained.

As to her stepson, he has a different approach: he plays in a band with his ex-girlfriend while the new girlfriend comes and watches.

After the divorce or breakup, in fact, there seem to be as many ways to reconfigure as there are imaginations to figure them out.

There are, for example, the exceptional people who hang out with their exes and spouses. An acquaintance of mine used to vacation with her husband’s ex-wife and her husband. Seems so Noel Cowardish/British Theaterish/Woody Allenish.

I remember my stepdaughter’s college weekends where we, her four “parents,” attended together, and were introduced to some of her professors as the “All-American Family.”

I have a friend who had her ex-husband sleep over in the guest room when he came to visit the children, and another who sent her ex-husband a Father’s Day gift every year.

Another friend kibitzes every month with her high school/college sweetheart’s (the one we knew she would marry but didn’t) ex-wife.

And of course I’ve written about my Russian friends who all hang out together like characters in a Soap Opera. Not sure who was married at one time to whom.

I could go on and on and I bet you could too.

Just one more: the young woman who is going on a cruise with her ex-boyfriend and plans to sleep in the same bed. She hasn’t been on a vacation in years due to raising children, she says, and she feels safe with this fellow, not wanting to travel alone. They had booked this getaway before they broke up. Now that is willpower----and kind of nuts? Not my idea of a good way to go.

Not that any of these breakups or divorces were easy at the time, of course.

Can we remain friends? In fact, is a much-asked question.

If there was abuse of any kind the answer is unequivocally no.

In the case of divorce, as everyone knows, remaining at least civil if there are children involved is essential for the wellbeing of the children. Most people will not remain friends with their exes, as least most American people I know. But some do.

If we are talking about dating, though, the answer is: It depends.

Life is messier than we would like, so in the best of all possible worlds where there is a mutual parting of ways, no one person holding on to a grudge or worse, or hope or worse(obsession), then sure, why not?

In fact I know a man so evolved and new-agey he insists the only way to move ahead is to introduce his new flame to his old one. Over lunch. He read somewhere that that was the best way to move on in a healthy fashion.

But usually time has to pass and some emotional distance before the friendship thing can be contemplated. If someone still wants more than friendship, however secretly, it just isn’t going to work. You can’t move on and close that chapter as long as you are still enmeshed, if only in a fantasy. Every time you see that person you will reopen the wounds.

The new person in your life (and there will be one, with luck) needs to not feel threatened by the old relationship and the boundaries need to be clear and the discussion open.

As to how you break up ? First of all, breaking up means that you have had a relationship with someone, probably intimate and you both have been, by any one’s standards, in a relationship.

Regarding casually dating a few times, I often suggest a quick email such as “I enjoyed meeting you but don’t think we are a good match.” I certainly would have preferred that approach, when I was dating, to a phone call where, who knows, I might have sobbed uncontrollably and very un-Audrey Hepburn-like to an unsympathetic ear.

But real breaking up means in person. No phone calls. No post-its. No text messages. Sitting down, being kind, listening to them, only talking about your own feelings and not placing blame. In a private place -- making sure they get home all right. Don’t elaborate more than necessary.

Then give yourself the time you need to heal, depending on your reaction to the loss. Do all the things you know to do for your mental and spiritual health when going through any grief.

And then when you are ready call your friendly Matchmaker!

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