Breaking up – A Gentleman’s Guide

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At the risk of stating the blatantly obvious, breaking up is never easy or fun. Whatever the reasons or circumstances, the end of a relationship is painful.

People are often hurt, angry and upset. They say, and do things, they wouldn’t normally do.

Breaking up – A Gentleman’s Guide is inspired by events in my own life, as well as breakups I have witnessed. Not all of the ideas presented will appeal to, or work for, everyone. That’s OK. These ideas are intended to stimulate thought, and in some small way, help someone who may be going through a breakup at the moment.


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Be A Man of Your Word

During the course of your relationship, you may have had the ‘What happens if we were to break up’ conversation. Or maybe you didn’t. There may still have been unspoken rules and understandings, such as ‘I had this house before we met, it stays mine’, that sort of thing. While the demise of a relationship can be because of broken promises (‘You said you”d keep it in your pants, but you didn’t’), it’s important to be a man of your word during your break up.

It has nothing to do with him. It’s about you. There are so many emotions flying around at the time of a break-up. A lot of things may feel out of your control. Staying true to your word is one thing you can control. It may not be easy, or even seem fair, but ultimately, it’s a test of character that shows you what you’re really made of. And what you’re made of is good stuff, right?

End Things Gracefully…And Quickly

He may not deserve to be treated well. You might be fuming and ready to explode at the sight of him. You might be tempted to act out any number of appealing revenge scenarios…Don’t. Act gracefully instead.

Acting gracefully empowers you because it frees you from him. Your ex-partner probably knows what buttons to push to get a response out of you. He’s probably doing a lot of button pushing. His goal is to get what he thinks is a pre-determined response out of you. Don’t give it to him. If you have to engage with him at all, do it on your terms. With grace, kindness – and brevity.

Don’t prolong the end of the relationship. Keep things moving towards resolution. This applies to both real life and cyberspace too. Delete, un-like, un-follow your ex on all your social media networks. Remember the old days (like 2006) when breaking up meant never seeing each other again? That’s what’s meant to happen when you break up.

Be Kind To Yourself

Acting gentlemany can be tough at the best of times. During a break up, you deserve an award for it. So, be kind to yourself. Do one small thing each day just for you. Go somewhere nice for lunch, call a friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with, have a long bath, indulge in a little comfort food. It doesn’t have to be anything big, but a small amount of time each day focusing on whatever your heart desires, helps.


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Have Compassion, Even Empathy

Having compassion is not the same as justifying or even defending another person’s actions. It’s about trying to understand them. If you’re breaking up because your partner cheated, and you know this is the third relationship he’s had that’s broken up for this very reason, then have some empathy. Clearly, the guy’s got fidelity issues. It doesn’t make it right, but it must be hell for him, going though this – again.

However awful the situation may be for you at the moment, you will be able to move on from it. He might not be able to. As they say, past actions are the best predictor of future behaviour.

Having compassion, empathy and awareness, can help you see things in a different light. You don’t have to be or do anything different. This is a technique to help get you out of the immediacy of any negative emotions, into a more neutral and maybe even positive place.

Write It Out

Like many of you, I’ve often heard that writing a letter that you don’t intend to send to the intended recipient is a good idea to express bottled up emotions. Personally, I’ve always thought this sounded, well kinda lame. (Spoiler alert – I can assure you, you will not find the word ‘closure’ in this section.) It’s safe to read on.

But one day, I actually did write a letter. It wasn’t a relationship breakup, but the demise of a good friendship. I went to the beach that we often went to and wrote a four page letter. At first, it was weird and I felt completely lame. But towards the end of the first page, something strange happened. The goofiness I was feeling faded, and was replaced by some of the feelings I was experiencing about the end of our friendship.

I started writing faster to try and keep up with the thoughts and feelings going through my head. It was strange because as I finished writing out one thought, another one came up and I wrote that one down. As quickly as the thoughts came, they also went.

At the end of it, I looked down at the letter and re-read it. I read it slowly and deliberately, pausing as often as I needed to. I then tore it up, went for a swim and left.

Since then, I’ve felt completely differently about my ex-friend. The best thing about writing that letter is that it gave me a chance to ‘see’ my emotions. For the first time, I wasn’t just feeling things on the inside, I was looking at my emotions in a letter. Feelings became words. There were outside of me. Looking at them changed my relationship to them. I no longer felt them the same way. I guess that’s the first step of moving on.

Like I said, this idea may sound weird. Hey, it probably is, but just try it. What have you got to lose?


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Think Long Term – Not Short Term

When you’re in the midst of a breakup, it can feel overwhelming and all-consuming. That’s because well, it probably is. There’s nothing wrong with going through it, and all the emotions associated with it, in a way that works for you. But when you start to feel like it’s too much, it might be a good idea to disconnect from the present. Think to the future.

After all, one day you will be looking back on all of this. It will be a distant memory. Try to think of what (and who) ‘future you’ will be like. Where will you be living? What will you be doing? Focusing on the long-term can be a great way to briefly escape the short-term. It’s not a permanent measure, but in can provide some breathing space when the present feels more like a hassle, than a gift.

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183 thoughts on “Breaking up – A Gentleman’s Guide

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