Is it always best to make a clean break, no matter how long or serious the relationship? The reason I ask is because most of the serious relationships I’ve been in have been drawn out in the form of “friendships,” which have all ended terribly because I’m not able to let the relationship go.
It seems to me that learning to make a clean break is all part of getting older and since most of the women I’ve dated in recent years have been younger, I think they may have had a hard time seeing that it’s not all that easy to maintain a friendship when one person still has feelings for the other. In my most recent relationship, the other person decided it wasn’t working but insisted on being friends even after she’d begun dating someone else. Just as I expected they would, things ended horribly between us. I was made to feel like the villain because I wanted to end ties and just move on, but now I’m starting to think I was just being mature and realistic.
What do you think? This is an age-old question, but I feel like social media makes it even more difficult to be friends with someone after a relationship ends.
Mr. Clean Break
Dear Mr. Clean Break,
Recently, my eight year-old cousin Charlie broke his arm after his attempt to leap off his bunk bed and knock out his unsuspecting little brother with a signature WWE wrestling move called the Leapfrog Body Guillotine failed. His father found Charlie on the floor out cold. His arm looked like a “W”. His brother was hiding under the bed, thinking he’d killed his brother.
When his father referred to the incident, he used the exact same phrase to describe what happened as you did in your query. He said Charlie was lucky because it was a “clean break.”
This got me thinking about the biology of broken bones and how the fact remains that if Charlie had been stranded on that floor with his W-shaped arm for days or even weeks something very interesting would have started to happen. The broken bone would’ve begun to heal and grow back together – without a doctor’s intervention, without a cast so hard it could withstand a missile attack, and without Campbell’s chicken soup and Full House reruns. It might’ve grow back together crooked or then again, it might not have. The body naturally wants to heal and will do so with or without our meddling. Just as there’s no one-size-fits-all cast for a broken bone, there’s no template for healing a broken heart. Each situation is different than the next.
After my very first girlfriend slept with my best friend, I remained her friend. I was but a young butterbean (barely twenty-two) and still under the healthy dysfunctional illusion that love needed to hurt. She then went on to cheat on me with the entire Nags Head North Carolina Ocean Rescue staff which included 32 lifeguards in tight red Birdwell Beach Britches who looked like David Hasselhoff. I grew up fast, deciding that love no longer needed to hurt in quite the same way. My next girlfriend and I parted amicably when we discovered every time we kissed we felt like brother and sister and we’ve been friends for over 18 years. But, after what I endured with my last girlfriend, I’m under the impression that remaining friends with an ex is sort of like sending a Bundt cake and a Christmas gift to the man who kidnapped you when you were a child.
From my vast experience (over 114 broken hearts to date and counting), heartbreaks (clean or otherwise) come in 31 sizes. It would do you some good, Mr. Clean Break, to learn to recognize them all: newborn, infant, size zero, small, small fry, short, shorter-than-average, tall, taller-than-average, narrow, regular, grande, young junior, junior petite, miss petite, misses, missy, medium, venti, doubleshot, double LL, big and tall, plus size, half-pounder, big gulp, double gulp, XL, Rustica, oversized Belgium, soprano plus size, hour glass shaped, apple shaped and Extra Large 18″ (8 slices, serves 4-5).
Remember, despite the size of your heartbreak you’re going to feel things. It’s unavoidable. It’s inescapable. It’s what love is all about.