How to Break Up With Someone Without Hurting Them?
Many women ask me how to break up with someone without hurting them, in the following article we will digest the issue and find out how. For example, Gabriel wanted to ease the pain of his breakup with his partner Martin, and told her he was leaving her because of another woman. Did Gabriel’s excuse really ease Martin or did it only intensify her pain? And also – what kind of rejection leaves greater hope for a possible reconciliation – rejection due to infidelity or rejection caused by incompatibility?
“I told Martin I was leaving her because of another woman, but I lied. I left Martin because of Martin. When you leave someone else it’s just an excuse, alibi. Leaving people because of who they are, you should not look beyond that. Of course I’ll never tell her that. Certainly not. Today”. Gabriel, a character in Valerie Perrin’s book, is responsible for this quote, “replacing the water of the flowers.” Gabriel wanted to ease his pain of parting from his partner Martin and told her he was leaving her not because of her, but because of another woman.
Did Gabriel relieve Martin or just intensify her pain? Romantic rejection always hurts, but are there rejections that hurt more? And also – what kind of rejection leaves greater hope for a possible reconciliation?
Comparative and non-comparative romantic rejection
Two main types of romantic rejection can be distinguished: rejection because of someone else, which is fundamentally comparative rejection, and rejection because they are no longer interested in the particular person, which is fundamentally absolute and not comparative.
Which rejection is more painful? Psychologist Mark Leary argues that non-comparative rejection is more painful, because while comparative rejection puts rejection in a relatively inferior position, absolute rejection sees it as inferior anyway, and the chances of the two reuniting are quite slim.
The message of such rejection is that the relationship is so bad that the spouse prefers to be alone, as long as not staying in the relationship. A later study, conducted by psychologists Sebastian Derry and Emily Citek, points to opposite findings – people who experienced, remembered or imagined a romantic departure against the background of preferring someone else felt much worse than outright rejection. Who’s right?
The immediate blow seems to be more painful in the case of comparative rejection. Comparing with others often evokes negative emotions. For example, when others are more successful than us, jealousy is created. More than that, the comparative rejection is very concrete and personal, and the harm is most tangible.
The immoral nature of the novel, which is often the basis of comparative rejection, also increases the pain of rejection that has a kind of humiliation in it. In contrast, total and unequal rejection is a type of incompatibility that could hardly have been avoided as it stemmed from basic aspects of the couple’s personality.
On infidelity versus incompatibility
“I kept telling myself he did not want to marry, but the truth is he did not want to marry me!” Sally tells Harry, as she weeps bitterly over the boyfriend who dumped her and married another. From the movie: “When Harry Met Sally”.
“Most rejection fears stem from a desire to get approval from other people. Do not base your self-esteem on the opinions of others.” Harvey Mackay
The comparative rejection is usually based on a very painful infidelity, partly because it puts the abandoned person in an inferior position where he feels that the departure happened because of his shortcomings and in light of the fact that it was often unexpected.
Underlying total rejection is personal incompatibility: spouses are incompatible with each other in terms of their character and values, and there are usually many quarrels and a lack of mutual sympathy. Such rejection usually does not come as a surprise, and is the result of bad relationships over time.
In leaving because of the background of incompatibility, the “blame” is shared between the two spouses, and it is easier to accept it because the person does not see himself as a rejected victim. In most cases, he understands the situation as a proper parting that allows the opening of a new page.
On the other hand, in rejection on the grounds of infidelity, there is a chance of reunification, since when the initial enthusiasm for the new spouse disappears and his shortcomings are also revealed, doubts may arise that will make the person want to return to the previous spouse.
In a relationship there are different degrees of matching. When the degree of matching is low, there is a greater incentive to find and develop an intimate relationship with someone else. When the match is high, the incentive is almost non-existent and there is even a negative incentive. In light of this, the question of pain also depends on the degree of fit.
The greater pain seems to be when there is a departure for someone else, despite the high degree of fit. Another type of mismatch relates to life circumstances. Here the relationship between the couple can be excellent, but life circumstances, such as physical distance, significant age differences or serious impairment in the personal prosperity of one of them, prevent the development of the relationship and sometimes even its continuation.
This is the case of “I love you, but I leave you”. In this type of breakup there is no romantic rejection but only a romantic non-fulfillment, which is also quite painful because it may make me feel that I am not good enough for the partner to make the effort for me and overcome the complex life circumstances.
Who is to blame for the divorce?
“At first I wanted to kill him for leaving me. After a year I felt like buying him flowers for the great favor he had done me.” Divorced woman
There are many reasons that explain divorce. For example, in the gender context it has been found that women are more likely than men to initiate divorce and provide longer and more complex explanations for this. Both women and men tended to attribute the cause of divorce to the spouse and not to them, but this tendency was stronger in women.
Paul Amato and Dennis Parviti, in their study of the reasons men give for their divorce, found that women tended to report problematic behavior of their partners (infidelity, drug or alcohol use, mental and physical abuse), while men were more likely to say they did not know what caused the divorce.
People who perceive the mismatch in the relationship as the main factor in the divorce have less hostility to the abandoned spouse, and less remorse and self-blame, and they also adapt better to the new reality, while building a new life unrelated to the failed marriage.
This is why the point of view we adopt during rejection is so important. When your self-image relies on constant comparison with others, romantic rejection has a devastating effect that is often linked to self-rejection. On the other hand, when self-image is built on what you do, the effect of rejection is much smaller.