In a cruel twist of fate, just as my contract with Harper Collins to write my latest book on dating and relationships was finalised, so too was I finalising the end of what had been an incredibly important partnership with a man I had deeply loved.
Although I had to end this relationship, this doesn’t mean the decision had been easy. In fact, making the decision that a relationship isn’t working anymore can be almost as heartbreaking as when someone breaks up with you. The sense of lost opportunities and dreams can leave you just as raw.
Me? I spent that first week after I broke up with this man in tears. I was quite committed to this! I cried with gusto and pride! I became an Olympic crier! The advice I was tempted to give to young girls during this stage? “Run! Guard your hearts!”
But instead, I literally began at the end and started my book by researching and exploring how to deal with heartbreak. Physician heal thyself.
Since then, I have dated a few men and have had to make the choice to end some of these relationships too.
So what have I now learnt about being the bearer of bad news?
1. If you feel like crying – let the tears flow. Tears may feel pointless, but a dear friend Ella, who is a nurse, wrote to me after my cry-fest to say what I was doing was actually vital work: “In nursing, we use normal saline for almost everything. Normal saline is the artificially made version of tears.
We use normal saline for a lot of things, the two most striking are to rehydrate patients and to clean out wounds… Normal saline is the best way to clean out a wound because it gets rid of the crap and stimulates the healing process.
I was told some time ago that tears are the ‘normal saline’ for the wounds that we can’t see. Just like a vial of normal saline will clean out a cut or a scratch, shedding tears helps heal our heart. It stings at first (as does cleaning out a wound) but when the pain is over, there’s relief.” Wise words.
2. Breaking up is meant to be (at least a little) hard to do. When I was a teen girl, it was considered OK to send your bestie across the playground to break the news; “You’re dropped.” Today, according to research, over 25 per cent of people think it is fine to simply send a text. It’s not. If you consider yourself old enough to be in an adult relationship, you need to be mature enough to face your partner and speak your truth (unless of course you fear they may get violent, in which case all bets are off. Get out. Now).
3. There is no easy way out. Yes, the grown-up approach may be to break the news face-to-face but this won’t necessarily be smooth-sailing. You cannot predict exactly how the other person will respond. Recently, I had just started seeing a man who seemed truly kind and affectionate.
Alas, despite me working hard to make something that seemed so good on paper translate for me into an emotional connection, I just couldn’t quite get there. I had expected him to understand, as it was obvious I’d tried, and I had voiced my concerns along the way. The reality? He seemed genuinely crushed, ignored me and then finally resorted to saying some very hurtful and unnecessary things.