It hurts, but it don't last
"I was on my way home from work, when I got the text message. "I don't think I can come down this weekend. I'm not going to be around much from today. See you when I see you." I knew what this meant. It had been building for weeks. So there I was, dumped, by text, on a Friday afternoon."
Jon is relating a tale to me of how one relationship went sour. And it's a scenario we're all likely to be familiar with. The shock and pain, or sometimes the relief and closure, of being dumped.
There are many ways for a relationship to end. Some come to a full-stop overnight, never to be revisited. Some judder to a horrible train-wreck explosion. Some fall into to a slow, whirling, inexorable decline. Some simply fade away. Sometimes, in a sea of changing and shifting relationships, it's unclear whether there's a permanent relationship present at all.
And there are many means: the huge fight, the text message, the ever-lengthening silences which one day, unnoticed, become permanent. The best dumpings (if there can be such a thing) are clear, face-to-face, and upfront. Reasons will be given, but no blame or recriminations.
Bad dumpings occur through text, email, voicemail, or even worse, Twitter or Facebook message. Then there are passive-aggressive dumpings: silent treatment, not turning up for dates, or changing one's Facebook status to "single" all qualify.
One thing's for sure, the pain of being dumped is equal to the amount of emotional energy you have invested in the relationship. A Monday morning text from the guy you had a Saturday-night hookup with, saying "I don't want to see you again" is more likely to elicit laughter than tears. "What a tosser! As if!"
But the long-term relationship that comes to a sudden end, or (perhaps worse) a slow, spiralling death, is an experience that requires all the fightback we have in us. Somehow we have to muster our internal resources to deal with the pain of rejection, guilt (was it me?), suspicion, and confusion. Then in the maelstrom, there's the small matter of real life to cope with. It goes on day after day, work continues, family need attention, health - mental and physical - must be looked after too.
Karl, a radio technician from Liverpool, was dumped after five years of a close relationship: "I met Graham at Liverpool Uni. I had come up from London to study music. Gray was one year ahead of me at the time. We shared a flat together and things were going well, but he was suffering from various illnesses, which I supported him through. But then he graduated, and moved back to the suburbs where his family and friends were. I was kinda abandoned for a year, not really knowing what to do. I felt the relationship had all but ended. But when I came to graduate, he suggested moving in with him again back in his home town. By this time I was the one who needed support, and not really knowing what else to do, I agreed. Living in somebody else's territory, and being out of work, left me feeling vulnerable. When he ended it (he broke the news in the street one day as we were out shopping - broad daylight!) I lost so much more than a lover. I lost a friend, I lost contacts with the world around me, I lost any sense of purpose! Five years of effort and compromise were "thrown back in my face". At the same time I felt betrayed and frankly, conned, having moved away from my roots at his bequest. My whole world collapsed."
Being dumped brings a whirlwind of emotions. Pain, guilt, loneliness, fear for the future, betrayal, jealousy, suspicion to name a few. Most breaks are not "clean", so there is likely to be a period of uncertainty and fighting to get your man back. The most important thing to do is try to stay on top of all these feelings and not them completely overwhelm you. Taking some time out is a good idea. A day or two off work, some quiet space, some alone time, are all ways to create a sense of separation from the maelstrom that's just hit you.
Now is the time when friends and family come into their own. Those of us with supportive families know all about being dumped and will try to rally for you. Let them. It doesn't mean you have to tell them every excruciating detail, but just allow them in, and let them be there. Friends too can be lifesavers. But not all friends are good for you right now - many men can be rather brutal when it comes to other's ex-boyfriends. They may be pumped to tell you how much they hated your ex, all the things that were wrong about him, why he was no good for you. Perhaps they're right - but now is not really the time for recrimination, it's a time for healing, and negativity doesn't help. Ask for help from the friends you know will help you hurt and help you heal. They will be delighted to be valued.
Looking back on a past relationship, it can be tempting to dwell on every aspect of the "failure", and to obsess on blame. Blame and recrimination are wholly negative emotions. They only diminish your ability to function, and if allowed to fester, can get out of control and take over your life.
"The relationship with Gray went wrong. But looking back, I can see that perhaps it was never really right. We didn't wholly love each other, but found pleasure and comfort in each other's company. At different times we were both in need of some looking after. We cared for each other, but that was not really enough. When we broke up, it broke my heart, but I now see it as a something we both needed to go through."
Despite the heartache, there are often many positives to being dumped. Now is the time to try to see them. A sour relationship that is terminated is often better than one which staggers on without going anywhere. Relationships change as the people in them change. Breaking up can be the catalyst to move forward with your life and explore new territories. I'm not suggesting going out and shagging anything in a tight pair of jeans. I mean taking stock, looking forward, and moving on. There are new freedoms, new opportunities. And who knows, maybe that perfect guy is just around the corner.