Friday, January 25, 2013

Dumping Etiquette. Or, How to Avoid Relationship Roadkill.

Relationships: when they are good, they are great; when they are bad, they are horrid.  To this we can all attest, but huzzah, yahoo, chocs away, cut the cord, thank God we live in a day, an age and a society, when we can choose who we want to be with, and, if it is not working out as we would like, we can say "Adieu."  

What is tough, is when the cord is wrenched, ripped untimely and we are left, bleeding, bruising from beneath, battered by implosions of hope; when we have been driven to the edge—sometimes thinking that we are going on a nice little road trip--only to be pushed from the speeding vehicle and thrust off the Scenic Look Out Point.  So long cosy town called Relationship. Welcome to Rejection, Population 1.

It’s an ugly state, none of your friends understand why you visit; you are perennially beaten when you go there, after all; you hate yourself for not reading the map, seeing the signs; you always proclaim that NO ONE will ever take you to that rotten fucking place again... and yet, here you are!  Ta dah!

 Whether expected or not, being dumped and left for dead in the town called Rejection, is one of the brutal aspects of dating.  It’s inevitable.  Or is it?  I think when one or other parts ways and drives away, there is a way to do it without relationship roadkill.  

I was reminded of this recently as I watched, in glorious technicolour and bioluminescence, Yann Martel's The Life of Pi brought to life by the superb Ang Lee.  The screenplay is slightly different phrasing from the novel--the novel verbose, the script succinct--I think both are valid here.  
"What a terrible thing it is to botch a farewell...It is important in life to conclude things properly.  Only then can you let go.  Otherwise, you are left with words you should have said, but never did, and your heart is heavy with remorse."
From the movie--typed furiously undercover in the black out of the movie theatre: "Life is made up of acts of letting go.  What hurts is not taking a moment to say goodbye."

The Face to Face Goodbye
This is the bravest form of relationship termination, because the reaction is always unpredictable.  It takes a steady, even, well-brought up Dumpee to keep his or her cool.  It takes a thoughtful, kind Dumper to tactfully put forth all the many and varied reasons why their journey is over.  The Dumper knows that he or she may be on the receiving end of a melt down, perhaps a few “But Why(s)?”  But then it is done.  Hollywood, Jerry Springer, or Taylor Swift autobio-songs may spice it up a bit with an ice-pick, some suit alterations with a pair of sharp pinking shears, or boiling poor innocent bunnies, but REALLY, REALLY, don't most intelligent people just take it on the chin and walk away?

The F-to-F break-up can be honourable.  It can be kind.  In this disappointment in person, face to face, voice to voice, there can be a finality between former fond friends, flames, lovers or partners.  A final look, an acknowledgement of what was, perhaps a kiss, a last embrace, one last glance of what could have been.  And perhaps then both can take heart that once they shared a closeness: memories, comedy lines, pet names, songs and jokes that will never mean the same when explained to anyone else.  

The Telephone Goodbye
Alexander Graham Bell, has a lot to answer for: namely, inventing the conduit that facilitated my own 17 year-old heart to be pulverized, pummeled and pulped; when Tom Long told me that “he just wasn’t into relationships.”
I clenched the receiver in my right hand, my knuckles so taut they went white; I curled the twirly cord around the fingers of my left until they pulsed purple.
“Oh.  That’s okay.  That’s fine.  Fine!  You know, I’m not really a relationship type person either.” Came the voice from the pole-axed teen, desperate to save face while her heart was imploding.  I could hardly believe it was my own, so calm, so at odds with the voice inside screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!
 I don’t know what he said after that.  Maybe that he’d see me at army cadets on Friday, or that he hoped I’d make it to the rugby match on Saturday.  I only know Mum had to wrestle the receiver from my grip, the handset blaring audibly from the hall to the kitchen, that it was off the hook.  He was off the hook.  My poor pulmonary was not.

In spite of this early telephonic rejection, I generally think telephone dumping is good for all involved, because, as Dumpee, you can retain your pride if you want, (and hopefully not cut off your circulation); and if you are the Dumper, you can save yourself the risk of being stabbed in the eye with a fork.  However, it is kind in its way because it means you care enough to listen to the Dumpee’s response.  That’s important folks.  Everyone wants to feel special.  Everyone wants to have their opinion count, to mean something.  If you have any common decency, as a Dumper, you have to give the Dumpee a chance to say their piece too.  It is considerate.  It doesn’t mean you are going to like what they say, but suck it up, Buttercup!

The Voicemail Goodbye
      On what planet is this acceptable?  It is the cheat.  The easy way out.  It is the medium that allows a one-sided conversation.  Not even a conversation, it's a con.  The rug pulled out from under your feet, landing you flat on your back, winded and breathless, with nothing but the ghost of your relationship ruffling the curtains and rippling the shutters on it's way out.
       The Dear John Goodbye Letter, Post it or Email
       A letter is hardly the popular method of communication these days, but I love to receive a handwritten epistle.  The last letter I received was from an ex-boyfriend thanking me for being such a lady during our sad break-up scene.  You know, that showed real class.  He acknowledge I had broken it off with reason and honour, but that when we had been together, he had "always felt like the luckiest man in the room."  I treasure his kind words and his acceptance and release.  He marked himself as a gentleman.  However, a letter written to break-up with someone?  A “Dear John, it’s not you, it’s me…” and then all the many reasons why it was not meant to be…?  Oh please!  And telling me that the Dumper has taken extra time and effort to unite pen with paper, is bullshit.  That’s like trying to convince me that all-natural, reduced-fat peanut butter tastes good.  It doesn’t, however you package it, whether it is healthier and took months to organically churn it, it still sucks.

      Email is, I expect, more popular a form of dismissal, but is no more thoughtful.  Less so, because it is more convenient.  At least the Writing Dumper has bought a stamp.

And a Post It?  A written one-sided goodbye, but without the effort of full sentences or monogrammed paper?  It’s all so effortless.  It's so disposal.  It’s the McDonalds break up choice: cheap, full of bloated lips and arseholes, that are swallowed fast, the wrapping balled up and thrown away.  Done.  Forgotten.

A text is almost as bad, but at least Dumpee can decide whether or not to reply.

"The Mother Fucker's concise."  Yes, Samantha, but sometimes, you deserve an explanation.

Slow Fade
Are we children?  Terminating relations simply by not responding leaves so much unresolved.  It is rather gutless not to tell someone it is over, isn't it?  I mean, the Dumper is just trying to avoid dealing with the shituation.  Man up!  I know it's not fun, but at least acknowledge the end.  There doesn't have to be tears and fanfares.  But disappearing without a bye or leave is just not cricket!

I have been the Dumper.  I have been the Dumpee.  Neither is easy.  Hurting someone, unless you are, in fact, Dr Crippin, is never, never nice.  I have cried more tears over hurting someone’s feeling than I have mourning my own.  Watching or hearing someone cry and look into your eyes and ask “why?” is probably the most awful, gut-wrenching, puppy-killing kind of experience. 

So Dumpers, People, be kind!  Don't fling your former flame from the moving vehicle, or push them out like the rubbish, to plummet from a great height.  Release them gently back into the Dating Sea, maybe a little breathless, and gaffed from the insides, but they will recover.  Allow your castaways to swim off like Esther Williams sans plastic swimming cap.  Do them the courtesy of watching them clamber out of the water in their polka dot bikini, bronzed legs slightly wobbly as they get to their feet; have the heart to appreciate them as they suck in their stomach, stick out their chest and sally forth, teeth-clenched into a smile as they wave to you from the other side. 

Don’t slink off like a spineless mutant.  Communicate.  End it with respect.  Do it in person, or pick up the phone.  Read the reply.  Return the call.  Whatever, but SAY GOODBYE!  She/he will think much better of you.   We are sentient beings--most of us--we cry, but we survive.  We are vertebrates—most of us--we are supposed to have a backbone, so show it.   Stand up straight and look people in the eye.  We are mammals, one of two species in the animal kingdom who mate face to face.  So, here’s my thought: if you fuck face to face, the least you can do is say a friendly “fuck off” face to face. OR, as Carrie says:

Now, where's my champagne?


  1. We often think of breakups as painful because of the obvious rejection. But why do breakups (in many instances) cause pain for Dumpee as well? I'd like to propose the idea that breakups are a triple whammy. #1, there's the rejection(no elaboration needed). #2, a breakup also means the end. The end of hope, the end of our fantasies of what "could have been", the end of our idealized fairy tale of this other person. Our illusions of a future house/dinner parties/kids/gorgeous weddings on the beach in Bermuda have all been shattered. The rush of ecstasy when we first met and built up stories of this other person's magical qualities is gone. Which leads us to #3.
    #3, we're back to square one. Square one can be terrifying. Just like Rejection-ville, Square One, with it's population of "I'm the ONLY ONE TO EVER BE ALONE" is a lonely, scary, bleak place. Kind of like The Badlands in South Dakota, only colder. NO ONE has ever felt this way and has had to start over, left only with a gaping hole in their heart, a tiny little tenacious shark gnawing away at the pit of their stomach, and broken fragments of self-esteem. Yep, it's a lonely place. Isolated from the rest of the world.
    However, it's from this place where we can slowly rebuild. We realize that "all alone" is better than the exhaustion of "why the hell am I dating (or married to) this bastard?". We can lick our wounds, bandage our pride, hammer out the dents in our armor, and gradually begin to see "alone" as a place of empowerment. We can emerge stronger, wiser, with a deeper trusting of our own intuition, a stronger "dicktard radar", and a renewed sense of hope that one day, maybe one lucky day, we'll get it right, and fall in love with "the one".
    At least, that's what I keep telling myself.

  2. This is spot on. The Three Steps of Rejection. Actually, there may be four, might there not? Or maybe a Step 2, part b. BITTERNESS and anger that the offending party mis-sold their bill of goods. That they came in as one person, shiny, sparkling, proffering charm and good humor and flexibility; then eroded to a dull base of effortlessness and rigidity. Largely, I think we women blame ourselves. "What did I do to affect this change in him? Was it something I said? My soup-slurping? That mis-judged reference to his mother, ex-girlfriend, the amount of product he used in the shower? WHAT DID I DOOOOOOO?" We torture ourselves with this question. The fact is, very often, we didn't do a thing. It's not us it's them! One has to be willing, nay delighted to, put themselves out for the other person for longer than a month. It's like Survivor. Not trying? Not helping? Stubborn and unwilling? Guess what? The tribe has spoken. ;)

    1. Amen to this! How could I have forgotten the BITTERNESS stage that is only now beginning to loosen its grasp. Good call. So right you are that we blame ourselves for falling for the charm and sales pitch, some of which are expertly delivered with a "too-good-to-be true" kind of practice and expertise that now, thanks to this chap, we'll be able to spot.

      I couldn't agree more - Adieu, blame and self-torture! Onward and upward!

  3. I have lived through all 4 methods but mostly as the Dumper-I have little tolerance for nonsense, BS, or being taken for granted. I also realize I share 50% of the blame no matter what the situation is, was or has become, it takes two. I'm only looking for a 50-50 relationship, which currently seems impossible. I know this feeling will pass but at the moment it’s not a good feeling but don’t we all live in the moment when it’s our emotions? People say I'm cold and indifferent but I view it differently, I'm liberating both of us from a life of misery and sadness. Who has time to waste in a bad relationship? I prefer Face-to Face. It’s the only way to go but it’s never easy or good. Today I posted a quote I saw on Facebook which I think is the best one I have ever seen and it’s about this topic Its says, "What you allow, is what will Continue"---Great blog "E"

    1. I agree with you Doug. I can't ever imagine you cold or indifferent; but I do see how how trying to distance oneself is necessary for some. I think that is sometimes misconstrued as being cold and selfish, but ultimately it is helping the two concerned parties rebuild.
      I learned about this new concept to me: idiotic compassion. It's a mix of not being able to say 'no' and of not having the right motives. ie: "I don't want to hurt her"--you'd think is compassion, but really it is idiotic compassion, because it's really that you don't want the aggro of dealing/you are going to hurt her further down the line, often worse, due to the length of time.
      A close dear friend of yours and mine, and fellow Rangers fan--I think you know the one I mean--used to always tell me in matters of confrontation, "Do it quick, like ripping off a band aid." I think he was right. He was full of great advice like that.

  4. but its never easy no matter how fast :(,,,,,love your blog,,,,you ain't bad either:)