Endings: The Myths of Avoiding Pain

A lot of my posts, including this one, are inspired by conversations I have with people I know.  This is not that conversation, but it could have been.

“I’m really unhappy,” he says to me.  “She’s being insanely controlling, and I’m either fighting with her or not fighting with her, and either way sucks.”

“Maybe you should break up,” I suggest.

“But I don’t want to hurt her.”

“You’re violating Wil Wheaton’s law.”

Okay, I didn’t actually say that.  In fact, I wasn’t talking to him at all, I was talking to another friend, who’s upset about what he sees as a bad relationship.  What I actually said was, “Not breaking up with someone because you don’t want to hurt them is a fallacy, and it’s insulting.”

I explained what I meant, and he told me I should make a post about it.  So here you all are, benefiting from his wisdom.

It’s a fallacy: You’re already hurting your partner.

If your relationship is in a position where you’re in constant conflict, both of you are being hurt. Neither of you are happy.  Neither of you feel safe.  If you are so miserable that you want to end the relationship, you’re not sparing your partner any pain by delaying it.  Breakups hurt, absolutely – but unless you’re committing to staying in the relationship for the rest of your life, it will be less hurtful to end it now, rather than going through months (or years) of fighting and then break up anyway.

It’s insulting: You’re not that awesome.

Really.  You want to break up with your partner, but you don’t want to hurt her?  Even if (somehow) your partner is perfectly happy in the relationship that’s making you miserable – which is difficult to accept even at face value – is it really better for her to stay in a relationship with someone who’s miserable than find someone who takes pleasure in making her happy?  Why are you so amazing that your partner is better off unhappy with you than looking for someone else?  Okay, you break up and it hurts her.  She spends some time alone.  Maybe she eats too much ice cream and watches tearjerker movies and complains to all her friends about what an unreasonable jackass you were – but she’ll get better.  She’ll find someone else, hopefully someone who will be a better match for her emotional needs.  By refusing to break up with her, you’re implying that she’s not capable of doing that, and that you’re a better steward for her emotional well-being (even if you’re unhappy!) than she could be alone.  By “protecting” her from pain, you’re also denying her potential happiness. This is pity, and you shouldn’t be giving your girlfriend a pity fuck.

It’s insulting: She probably knows.

Unless you’re a spectacular actor and you’ve been going out of your way to make sure she doesn’t have any idea how you really feel – and maybe even if you are – she knows you’re unhappy.  Pretending that you’re not is both lying and insulting her intelligence.  If you love her enough that you want to spare her pain, don’t you think she feels the same way?  Knowing that you’re unhappy is likely causing her pain.

Both of you deserve better.

Everyone deserves to be happy.  That means that you shouldn’t stay in a relationship that makes you unhappy, and you shouldn’t hold your partner hostage with your unhappiness.

And remember: ending a relationship is not failing.

Relationships are about lessons and growth.  Ending the relationship is moving on to new lessons and new growth.


~ by Amber on January 4, 2011.

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