“Tips for a clean breakup”
“How to make a breakup clean”
“Tips for clean breakups for guys”
I was doing internet research for a client on something entirely different, and the phrases above populated my screen. Enough people are apparently doing internet searches on “clean breakups” that it comes up in non-related searches. Which makes me believe that we might be tired of those old dirty, messy, difficult splits.
Breakups are hard enough; why make them more of a challenge? It’s like deciding “I’m going to climb that mountain,” then choosing to do it barefoot with a 100 lb pack on your back screaming the entire time when you could have traveled light.
What is a ‘clean breakup’?
It’s an agreement to keeping the ending of a relationship above board and/or to remove each other from your lives cleanly, with as little drama as possible. It’s an agreement to be the “better person” you always hoped you could be. It could be an agreement between the ‘breakees’; or it could just be an agreement you make with yourself. They’re both valid.
Using a sports metaphor helps clarify aspects of messy breakups, such as “unnecessary roughness” and “personal fouls” in football, or an illegal hit in other sports. There are some hits that are part of the game and legal, while others are considered below the belt. A clean breakup would be you agreeing not to go below the belt. No unnecessary roughness. No holding. And no late hits.
Why make your breakup clean?
It’s worth your sanity to have less negative stress and less drama in your life. A clean breakup allows you to spend more energy focusing on healing and less on the distraction of “The Other Person’s Life.” Part of a breakup means you’re breaking apart the section of yourself that used to be entwined with another person, and in a messy breakup it can become all about your ex. What they do, what they did, what they say, what they post on Facebook/Instagram/Snapchat/Twitter, and it’ll drive you crazy because you can’t control it. Much of the time, people in breakup mode post or tweet things they want their ex to see on social media, often to spur jealousy, so this material is not a real barometer of their lives. It’s often the carefully selected best parts. And comparing the edited version your ex’s life to the real version of your own will only make you miserable.
Can a clean breakup work?
Yes! I’ve gotten divorced, and it was done cleanly with a commitment not to become awful to each other. I’ve gone through two other breakups over the past 10 years, and they’ve also been done cleanly (much to the surprise of those men, there was no drama). No mudslinging, no name calling, and no hating. We parted as friends. I even coached my ex-husband and helped him through some difficult issues several years after our divorce. It is possible.
How can you deal with uncomfortable feelings, emphasize healing, and NOT create more drama?
Other writers for The Good Men Project I know have written about the idea of getting happily divorced.
Here are some things you can do—things completely under you control—to ensure a clean breakup.
- No blame. It happened. It sucks. And yes, it will suck for both of you even if the other person is putting on a happy face. It’s natural to want to blame someone or something else when things don’t go our way or we don’t get what we want. The problem becomes when you blame someone else, there’s no way to remedy a situation. You have no recourse, no potential for growth, and no way to learn. You just became a victim. Even if you didn’t want the breakup, it will not serve you to blame your partner and make them the bad guy. I’ve worked with assault and abuse victims that once they understood this, shift from victims to survivors and thrivers. They not only heal but they move far past traumatic events.
- Own your own part. A relationship is two people, and you are responsible for the part that’s yours that isn’t working. You could blame the other person for the breakup but there’s no power in feeling or making yourself a victim; it just sticks you in the Drama Triangle and you do not want to end up there.
- Know that it’s happening for the best for both of you, even if it wasn’t your idea. Maybe it wasn’t in your Life Plan to breakup; maybe you thought they were the One. What you don’t know is what you don’t know, and breakups are meant for a reason. Usually the reason is revealed to us later, and we’ll say, “I’m actually glad that happened.” It might take months or years but eventually you’ll get there. As long as you let yourself feel through the emotions of the breakup as it is now; deal with the hurt and the pain so that you can truly get to the other side.
- No name calling out loud. This is a biggie. Try to be as decent as you can to the other person. What often happens in breakups is that we’ll transform the other person into a thing “crazy, psycho, toxic, BPD, narcissist, etc.,” and we stop treating them humanely and with compassion. And yes, we all do these things in our heads or to our sacred circle, but do not do this to your ex or in front of your friends. Keep your head held up high, and don’t let poison come out of your mouth. Do not give into the hate or the anger (I write about that here); instead keep yourself clean by not descending into name-calling, insults, or sharing intimate and torrid details of your ex. You will be thankful later on that you did this, that you maintained good character even while going through a truly awful time.
- No stalking, even on social media. You’ve both got to move on, and to do that you leave things where they are. If you have kids, the same advice applies. You don’t look for details or information on your ex. In the old days (pre-FaceBook) they used to be called “drivebys,” and now that would be considered stalking. There’s a reason it’s a criminal offense, so do not let yourself fall into obsessive behavior patterns just to scratch that itch of keeping tabs on your ex. A part of your brain will beg you to do it, will tell you it’s “no big deal.” Do not listen. For your own sanity.
- Keep the breakup a breakup. You need distance. No fakeups (read this on fakeups and save yourself extra drama and heartache). Don’t confuse a difficult situation with the roller coaster of on again/off again. No booty calls. No makeup hook ups. Keep it clean. Heal yourself by helping yourself get back to center. Delete things, or at least put away pictures or items. Get them out of your space and your head. Find a way to come back to you without them; I write about healthy ways to heal here.
I’ve heard it said that “breakups are meant as wake-ups,” and I have to agree. Use this time to wake yourself back up to what brings you pleasure and who you want to be going forward. There’s a reason people want clean breakups; life is too short for all the anger, hate, despair, and awfulness that come with the drama of a difficult ending.
Photo courtesy of Jackmac34/Pixabay