This is Dr. Liz from Sex-Positive Psych. Today I’m talking about a very important topic – how to not be a jerk when you’re in the middle of a breakup.
Now look, we’ve all been there. Someone has shattered your heart. You are hurting so deeply. Maybe they even did something really terrible. Now by really terrible, I want to caveat. I’m not talking about someone who violated your consent, someone who abused you, someone who like cheated with your brother maybe.
There is such a strong temptation when we break up with someone to just trash them. In fact, the mainstream monogamy mindset tells us that once we break up with someone, they must be dead to us forever. We can no longer be their friend. We can’t talk to them anymore. They must be a terrible human being because obviously they weren’t the one, which means they’re awful and we should just get rid of them forever.
The thing is most of our communities, most of our worlds are pretty darn small. It is harder and harder these days to never see an ex again, to never speak with an ex again. So wouldn’t it be better for all of us if we just learned how to be a little bit kinder in the middle of our breakups?
I get it. When things end, it’s really hard. But do you really want to be the person who goes on Facebook and trashes every person you’ve ever dated? What does that say about you?
For me, if I’m getting ready to date someone and the only things that they say about their exes are negative things or if they don’t speak or aren’t friends with any of their former partners, I’m going to be really worried about what’s going to happen if one day I don’t want to be in a relationship with them anymore.
Part of why this topic is important to me is because I’ve personally had someone be a really big jerk to me after we broke up. When my ex-husband and I split, he posted a public note on Facebook with his theories of everyone he thought I had had sex with, to cheat on him.
He then said to everyone, all of our mutual friends, that they all have to pick sides and if they said they weren’t choosing sides, he would know which side they had chosen.
As you can imagine, it was pretty awful for me. I was humiliated publicly. I lost a lot of people I thought were friends. My mother found that note and it felt terrible. It felt like the whole world was caving in.
While I’m sure that for him in that moment, it felt really great, I bet that if he looked back at that note today, he wouldn’t feel so good about that. When we act like a jerk in our breakups, we end up doing things that we’re later going to feel badly about.
So what do you do instead? Let’s say you’re in the middle of a breakup. You’re feeling really tempted to just post that story on social media. Here’s what I would say instead.
Step one, take a break. Give yourself a couple of days to just mull it over. Write whatever it is that you want to write. Save it as a draft and then just put it away. Sleep on it a couple of times. Give yourself some space. A lot of times when we act like really big jerks in the middle of a breakup, it’s because we’re in the middle of strong emotions. We haven’t given ourselves a pause to really get some distance from it, to see if that’s our best choice.
So give yourself that break. Take a couple of minutes. That is going to be just as mean and perfect on social media in two days as it is right now. So give yourself that space.
Number two, ask yourself, “What are my values?” What is it that’s important to me? For me, one of my values is about being the best person that I can be towards others, about showing caring and compassion for others.
If I have written something really nasty about someone who I had a breakup with and I’m thinking about posting it, if I remind myself that one of my values is caring and compassion, I’m probably going to see that that’s not actually in line with my values.
The more things we do that are out of line with what’s important to us, the more likely it is that we’re going to regret those things that we did.
If you remind yourself of what your values are before you act, you’re much less likely to feel badly about the things that you did afterwards and much less likely to be a jerk.
Number three, find some friends who will give it to you straight. So look, we all have friends who will totally be that devil on our shoulder and sometimes you need that person. Sometimes you need that person who’s going to encourage you to get up on the bar and do your own Coyote Ugly impression.
However, in the middle of a breakup, what you probably need are people who are going to love you and care about you enough to let you know if you’re fucking up.
If you do something and one of your friends come to you and says, “Hey, why did you do this thing? I’m really worried about you. Is this really who you are?” try to listen to them. Hear what they’re saying. Receive that feedback. I can almost guarantee that they’re giving it to you from a place of love and not a place of judgment or shaming.
So make sure that you have some friends who can check you. So again, how can you not be a jerk during a breakup?
Number one, give it some space. Let yourself think on it. Sleep on it. Take some time. Number two, remind yourself of what your values are. What is important to you? Is this in line with those values? Number three, have some friends who will give it to you straight.
I’m Dr. Liz from Sex-Positive Psych and I will see you next time. Do you have questions or comments? Type them on down below. Can’t wait to see them.