Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Psychology of a Breakup (Part 1)

I think the psychology of a breakup is fascinating.

It starts with frustration.  I'm all about giving people chances to change.  I've been told that I'm a little too lenient and patient with girls this aspect.  I won't break up with a girl at the first sign of trouble.  I'll let them know that whatever is going on isn't ok with me (in a very nice, calm way.  Emotional explosions aren't really my thing).  If they're willing to change it, great.  If not, then I bail.  So when they say that they'll change it and then they don't, I end up waiting for something that probably isn't going to happen.

When I finally start to realize that things won't change, I start to pay less attention to the girl.  This isn't out of punishment or anything like that.  I'm a strong believer that it isn't my job to punish people and try to teach them a lesson.  That's what parents and natural consequences (read: Universe) are for.  Me paying less attention to her is just a natural consequence of me realizing that if I keep investing in something that isn't paying out, I'm gonna get a bruised romantic ego.  So I start texting less, talking to her less, touching her less.  Normally, the girl realizes that she has begun to receive less attention and starts to do things that will get attention.  She'll text more, talk more, and touch more.  This re-grabs my attention so I start thinking, "Well there we go.  She's made the change.  All systems go."  Once she realizes that the normal amount of attention has been restored, she goes back to acting like she was before.

So I have to tell myself that this change is likely not going to happen because the conversation took place X amount of days/weeks/months ago and it hasn't happened yet.  When I bring it up, she doesn't say much about it.  That's when I completely withdraw.  It's a pretty noticeable withdrawal and they usually call me on it.  That's when I tell them what's been going on.  They usually say they didn't realize it (which is untrue because I told them several times and was very clear about it).  Then I give them one more chance (after letting them know that this is it).  The change isn't made, so I end up breaking up with them.

I've found that I'm pretty ruthless with my breakups.  I've found that unless I really lay into them, it'll be too easy for me to come back for more.  So I've started making "the conversation" as painful and jarring as possible.  I've only been dumped once (technically I ended it, but it was while she was making out with another guy, so I'm pretty sure I'm the one that got dumped), so I have some experience with it.

My latest breakup took place last Thursday.  My exact words (completely taken out of context) were, "I think I'm done with you.  Goodbye [Girl's Name]."  And that was it.  She kept trying to talk to me, to which I responded with nothing more than "good night."  After a few rounds of her lashing out and me responding with "good night", she said that she really enjoyed getting to know me and all of the stuff that she should have been saying several weeks ago.

Then the psychology of a breakup really starts.

I think to myself, "I'm glad that's over.  Now I'll be able to find someone better for me."

Then I think, "But she was really cute..."

Then I think, "Yeah, but she never really got it"

"But she was pretty funny."

"Yeah, but I never really felt emotionally secure."

"But she was really cute."

It's like a game of emotional ping pong with me playing on both sides.  For some reason, I feel lonely even though things had pretty much phased out by the end.  Her and I spent maybe an hour a week with each other at the end.  This breakup really doesn't alter my normal schedule at all and I'm just as lonely now as I was before.  But I feel more lonely now.  It doesn't make sense, but so goes the psychology of a breakup.

As stated above, I've learned that harsh breakups are the way to go.  When they ask, "Can we still be friends?" I'm pretty sure I'm the only person out there that responds with a straight, "No."  Most other people say yes, but know in the back of their mind that it won't really work like that.  Not me.  "Why can't we just be friends?"  "Because I don't need more friends.  I have plenty of those and I don't really have a tough time finding more if I want more.  I want a girlfriend.  Not just another friend.  If you fail at one, you don't get to be the other."

Then I feel bad.  I think to myself, "I should do something nice for her - something slightly more than friendly so that she keeps that hope in her mind.  If we're "good" friends, I can still keep her in a position so that if I feel like I want to, I'll be able to quickly patch things up and go back to having a girlfriend."  Then I realize that's a bad idea and I have to force myself to remember why I broke things off in the first place.

So that brings us to right now.  My past tactic has been to completely delete the person from my life -- their phone number, their Facebook, pictures, notes, texts, anything.  I haven't been able to bring myself to do that this time.  I "hid" her status updates on my Facebook so that nothing by or about her will show up on my wall, but that's all I've been able to accomplish (and I still check anyway).  It'll come.  I just have to go through the emotional withdrawal that happens when a person severs a tie with another person.

So I end up making a list.  I literally have a folder on my computer labeled "breakup reasons" and each file in there is a girl's name.  The files have lists of things that they did that I didn't like, or things that I expected out of them that they didn't do.  In my opinion, all of the things listed are very reasonable.  I don't expect anything out of a girl that I wouldn't be willing to do myself (except gender-specific things).  I'll highlight some of them for you to give you an idea (these aren't necessarily from the just-ended relationship):

NOTE:  After writing this, I realize that I shift back and forth in tenses and addressing a girl in the third person with "her" and "she and in the second person with "you".  Basically, assume that when I say "you" I'm referring to a girl that would like to date me.

"She was fine with mediocrity" which means that she didn't have any desires to push me to become a better person.  I think that's important in a relationship - that you love each other, but understand that things can be improved on and encourage each other to improve.  If I don't like who I am when I'm around you, that's a problem.

I expect to score pretty high on the priorities list.  I expect to see a girlfriend every day for at least a couple of minutes.  I expect her to put effort into seeing me even if it's not totally convenient for her (I'll do the same).  If that can't be achieved, I expect some kind of mutual lament over it.

I expect to be invited along to things.  If you're going to see a movie or a play or whatever with friends (not as a girls only thing), I expect to be invited along (even if you know I'll say no or won't like it -- it's the thought that I'm looking for ).  I understand that couples don't always want to be around each other and that's fine.  But I'm not talking exceptions - I'm talking about what should be normal.

I expect to be chosen over friends.  Not every time.  I understand that a person needs to spend time with their friends.  You're allowed to have "girl's night" or whatever, but not every single night.  The question, "Why should I have to pick you over my friends" shouldn't be a difficult one to answer.  You're attracted to me.  Not your friends.

I don't do well without a nearly constant stream of affirmation and affection.  This one is a learned behavior and one that I would very much like to correct but haven't yet.  I basically need to know that you find me attractive and I need to be told/shown that a lot.  This one is actually kind of hard to meet, so I'm pretty lenient on it.  Just know that if you date me, if you want me to emotionally connect early or find out what makes me tick or hear stories from my past or anything like that, this definitely speeds things up.  Touch me, give me compliments (as simple as "I like that"), stare at me like you think I'm really attractive, etc.  Basically, this one is cruise control to love.

If I do something, I expect the girl to respond to it.  If I hold her hand, I expect her to hold it back rather than just let her hand be held limply.  If I put my arm around her, I expect her to lean into me (i.e. cuddle).  If I say that I miss you, I really want (but don't necessarily expect) it to be said back.  If I kiss her on the cheek (or lips or whatever), I expect a smile or a kiss back.  I'm willing to make 2/3 of the moves.  If you don't meet that 1/3, things aren't going to last long.

I expect that when I invite you over, you don't ask "why" or "what would we do"  I just want to be around you.  We don't need to do anything or even interact.  When you ask "what would we do," that tells me that you are more interested in the activity than in me.  That's bad and I'll often give up even if you did want to come over and just wanted to know what we were gonna do.  "Yes" before "What."  "Sure, what are we gonna do" is probably the best response.

When I call you and ask you on a date, I expect a "yes" and not "what would we do?"  This is like the point made above.

I expect to have alone time with you.  I don't want to always be with you around your friends.  People are very different in social settings vs. when they're alone.  Alone time doesn't mean makeout time.

I expect makeout time and I expect you to initiate it sometimes.

I expect some kind of response when I say something.  If we're talking about problems and I say that something bothers me, don't respond with an "okay..."  If I say that I care about you, don't respond with saying and doing nothing.

I expect you to remain calm in situations where we're talking about problems.  It's not "fighting" when we talk about things that can be improved upon.  There's no reason to have a hostile tone of voice or to ask me "what the hell has been up with you recently" or things like that.  Communication is a big thing for me, so expect it a lot.

I expect you to be aware of the things I do for you.  When you notice that I've done something just for you, acknowledge it with a "thank you" or a smile.  When I do something and ask you if you noticed, a blank stare or a "whaaaatt?" are probably the worst things you can possibly do.

This list is pretty much all-inclusive.  If you do these things, I'll be a happy camper.  I don't expect them all at once because relationships are a process.  If any of these are unreasonable, let me know.  Leave a comment or whatever along with the reason.

1 comment:

  1. You know... reading this made me happy. Not because you're single and unhappy. That's just a perk.
    Nope. This made me realize what a good girlfriend I was. And that I'm doing pretty well at being a wife.
    Thanks for that.

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