Monday, 11 February 2013

Dear father, brother, cousin, male friend

I feel a conversation between us is long overdue. You see a friend came to me in tears the other day having just received a text message from her boyfriend of three years to say he was breaking up with her. I know you're probably wondering what on earth this has to do with you, because of course you would never do something so cowardly, but just bear with me for a second will you. You see it suddenly dawned on me that the reason why so many women I speak with have very few positive things to say about their ex-boyfriends/husbands is because things more often than not end ugly. Once again I see you scrunching up your face mouthing "how is this my problem?" Once again just hang in there for a minute or two, all will be revealed. I get that breaking up with someone is never going to be easy. In fact I'm reminded of my ex boss's hilarious story of his break up with his first girlfriend. He told her he no longer wanted to see her one morning and came home that evening to find his parents and her parents having a conference about this 'terrible decision this foolish boy had made'. I imagine that's every man's worst nightmare especially when there are no wedding vows or kids involved. After all we all have the right to choose who we want to be with, and falling out of love with someone most certainly isn't a crime. But here's the thing that I think you and other men are missing, there is such a thing as breaking-up etiquette and it can be the difference between an ex who still has fond memories of your relationship, even though it ended (perhaps too soon in her mind) and one who wants to boil your rabbit (in the unlikely event that you have one) and serve it to you in peppe soup.

To come back to my friend, she's a beautiful ambitious twenty-something year old who was contemplating giving up her promising career in order to be with the man she loved and who she thought loved her. It's easy for the cynics out there to argue that she must have been delusional or read the signs wrong but objectively speaking, what signs are you supposed to read when your boyfriend invites you to his home country to meet his parents, suggests that you could move back to said country, plans a trip to a romantic city for the two of you complete with messages of "I can't wait to see you" and "I miss and love you so much". Wouldn't you need to be a clairvoyant to read something else from words and actions like that? Which brings me to another thing, why is there always an assumption that women are at fault when a break up happens because they didn't read the signs? I always thought the beauty of men is that they don't do subtlety- that they're plain speaking. So why is it too much to ask that when a man wants to break up with a woman he "says what he means and means what he says". I agree that initially there may be some name-calling and plate-smashing but I can assure you we'll respect you for it in the long run. I have friends (and can speak from personal experience) who have had boyfriends introduce them to their mothers one week and break up with them the next; profess undying love in one breath and call later to say "I don't think it's working out between us ". To which our dumbfounded response is usually "wha'..whe'" There are times when I've wanted to do an 'Arnold from Different Strokes' and go "whatchyoutalkin' bout Willis". On many occasions we get stone cold silence - so there isn't even the possibility of asking the "how..why...what went wrong?" Believe me when I say your actions sometimes baffle us. So in an effort to move forward and help you, brother, cousin, father, friend...I've come up with the following tick list which I'm hoping will serve as a useful tool for you when you decide you've had enough with whoever 'she' is:

1. If you're having doubts, tell her.
2. Don't whatever you do, plan and go on that romantic holiday/weekend break if you think you might be ready to exit stage left.
3. Don't, please for goodness sakes, don't introduce her to your mum/ dad/ sibling/ granny if you think it's about to end.
4. Don't tell her you love her when you know deep down inside you're not committed or committing - it's like saying " I love you so I want to get as far away from you as possible".
5. Don't buy her a ring/roses in fact any gift that might make her think you're at the pinacle of your relationship when infact you're heading for the gutter.
6. Don't break up with her by text - it's cowardly and cheap.
7. If you hate confrontation which I know you do, call her and be honest - well as honest as you can be without being heartless. Say "sorry but I met someone else" not "damn my new girlfriend's doing her Phd thesis on the Kama Sutra".
8. Don't refuse to provide an explanation especially if you've been together for a while (a year or more) or were married or have kids. You owe her that much!
9. Don't try and break her spirit. If you're happy in your new relationship then it should give you no pleasure to see her unhappy.
10. Man Up!!! Own it, you don't have to stay with someone you don't want to but don't hide behind clich├ęs and text messages that say "It's not you, it's me" (that's just stating the obvious).

In short don't burn your bridges by creating unhappy memories at the end of an otherwise beautiful relationship.

Signed your daughter, sister, cousin, friend.

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