Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Breaking up with people is hard.

I follow a strange pattern when it comes to ending relationships or friendships. I can’t remember ever breaking up with someone and then regretting it later. There have been many, many times when I’ve broken up with people and wished it hadn’t been the right decision, but by the time I’ve decided I need to break up with someone, I’m usually sure.

There’s usually a moment. After a period of stress and worrying and wondering what I should do, something happens and suddenly the dike breaks — a kind of intuitive critical mass is reached, and apprehension and uncertainty transmute into diamond-like clarity. It’s like hearing the chink of a shovel on metal when you’re digging for something – it isn’ t so much making a decision as discovering a decision that was already there, already made. It just had to be found, and now that it has been all that’s left to do is follow the directions on the card.

Once, when I was in college, I was venting to a friend about the relationship I was in at the time, and she said something like “Well, it’s okay if you don’t know what you want to do.”, and for some reason, in that moment, I did know. There was something about her putting in just that way, and suddenly I knew I didn’t want to be in that relationship anymore.

I’m not sure I will ever know what it was about her saying that particular thing at that particular time, but I know that was the moment. That one statement was the eight ball in the corner pocket in the chaotic system of my brain. After that moment, I knew how the story ended, and all that was left was to deliver the news.

You would think that sort of clarity would help in the aftermath, but I’m not sure it does. Maybe my experiences of breakups would have been worse if I hadn’t been sure about them, but when I’m in the middle of the aftermath, the difference between wondering if I was really sure and wishing that I wasn’t really sure doesn’t feel all that important. No matter how the cards fell, it’s just different ways of wishing things had been different.