Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Dear Carolyn: I’m a late bloomer weathering my first breakup, and am genuinely curious to know your take on breakup etiquette, not for the dumper, but for the dumpee. What constitutes good dumpee conduct in terms of what is expressed to the dumper, and when it’s expressed? Is the question even relevant when (sometimes justifiably) hurt or angry feelings are involved?
The question is at its most relevant when there are hurt or angry feelings involved, since we need far fewer civility guidelines when we’re feeling calm and at peace.
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It’s hard for me to say what “good dumpee conduct” (a fine dark horse for a band-naming contest) looks like for your situation when I don’t know what happened between you. But, I think you’ll be OK with these general guidelines: saying thank you for any candor that isn’t plainly intended to wound; not trying to score points (including but not limited to lashing out, trashing Dumper to anyone who will listen, seeking vengeance); not begging to reconcile; and for the love of bloomers late, prompt or bunched, never drunk-dialing. Accept the breakup as fact, and gracefully look forward from there.
Re: Dumped: The best advice I ever got on this was from my best friend’s mother: You can act in a way that makes them glad you are gone, or you can act in a way that makes them think of you fondly. Stake out your ground on the high road, and do not let it go.
Re: Dumped: It is OK, though, to calmly call bull on them if it is justified. For example, the “It’s not fair to you”/”I don’t have enough time for you”/”You are too good for me” type-lines. It is totally OK to say, “I’m happy in this relationship; if you are not, that is on you. Don’t put it on me.”
For what it’s worth, I was almost always the dumper. The first time I was the dumpee was the greatest, most freeing, least painful breakup I’d ever experienced. It was awesome. I’ll take being dumped any day.
Understandable, since getting hurt can be far easier to live down than hurting someone else, but it’s definitely a your-mileage-may-vary proposition.
Re: Dumpee: Facebook makes the temptation for bad dumpee conduct much greater. If you can, take a break from FB for a couple months, or at least make use of the “I don’t want to see this” feature.
Whenever you’re feeling raw and/or impulse-control-challenged, going on a social-media diet makes sense – unless, yes, you make good use of filters.
Re: Dumpee: I would avoid looking to the dumper for validation and closure. Sometimes, a dumper does help you feel like matters are settled. Sometimes — most times, I find — the relationship doesn’t feel like it ends with finality. It just stops. Sometimes you have to get closure all by yourself, and I think it’s healthy to do so.
Also avoid asking “Why?” That never ends well, and usually it’s just a mix of things, not One Big Thing.
“Why” = other person didn’t get what he or she needed and stopped wanting to try. Details merely distract. Thanks, everybody.
Email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow her on Facebook at facebook.com/carolyn.hax or chat with her online at noon Eastern time each Friday at washingtonpost.com.