“Ending Things”

October 2, 2013

A breaking up art form that falls somewhere between the truth and a hail Mary

itsover

You can rip off a Band-Aid two ways.

The first way is slowly, methodically and painfully. If you’re semi-masochistic, you can tilt your head sideways and watch your skin make pointed tents as its follicles are pulled upward by hair stuck to the tacky plastic. This way always leaves a bit of black residue behind in the outline of its original plot, eerily similar to the white chalk drawings left over after a crime scene.

The second way is obviously better but not easier — you rip that shit off like you’re a Clint Eastwood cowboy.

When talking about “ending things” in regards to the non-relationship relationship, I like to keep those words between quotation marks for a reason: in this day and age, where most people are “just hanging out” as opposed to dating, a full on Break Up (phone call or in person) seems pretty dramatic for someone you’re not even calling your boyfriend or girlfriend. But the elusiveness of our hook up culture — no titles allowed, ambiguous exclusivity rules — lends itself to extremely vague guidelines when it comes to putting the kibosh on whatever the situation was with that other person. So how are we supposed to do it?

It seems like we’ve got two options, and they feel a lot like removing those Band-Aids.

The first scenario is slow and dirty, I like to call it: The Phase Out. Other, more sensitive folk, or, you know, those with manners, tend to refer to the technique as ignoring someone. I prefer to think of it as a steady progression of missing one’s texts. You’ve got to do it slowly here — methodically. The responses become delayed, then fewer and far between, until the next thing you both know, you’re no longer “in a weird thing with that maple-syrup-conglomerate-guy from Vermont.”

The Phase Out hurts. It’s agonizing for both the recipient who doesn’t know what’s going on and for the Phaser who wants the relationship to end already. It’s awkward and messy, so what’s the point of doing it this way?

Well, aside from immaturity and an aversion toward confronting things head on, I’d say it’s because we live in a time where any act that’s decidedly not casual can freak out the desired sex — even when said act is one that was intended to end things.

I have a friend who has mastered the art of ripping off Band-Aids. Usually she’ll give the guy a fighting chance to prove her initial impression wrong, but when she’s made up her mind her phone comes out quicker than a broke-neck beer bottle at a high-noon duel. Her texts are well crafted, thoughtful and brief. They often look like this: “I had such a fantastic time getting to know you these past few weeks, but I’ve decided I’d rather do my own thing. Wish you all the best, see you around!”

And if she’s really feeling punchy then she’ll add in a joke like, “Hope the cake got home safely!”

From what I understand, she’s never received a troubling response. Her honesty is appreciated, they tell her, and yes, the cake made it to the fridge.

I know this is the right way to do it; we’re adults, we should be mature. So why is it that I still prefer to scrape around the bandage’s edges like an archeologist chipping away at a camp site, wincing every time I pluck a hair in the process, where the dull pain becomes so aggravating that I must leave the Band-Aid half on, its fabric curled back in horror at the unfinished business. I’d never advise anyone else to do this, and I don’t think I’m a masochist, so what gives?

I’m not sure.

But inevitably and predictably, the receiving end of my juvenile bad habit almost always spots my weak attempt. Before I even have the chance to finish the job myself, he’ll take his own two fingers and rip the rest of that Band-Aid right off for me.

  • Chloe

    The Phase Out will be for the more faint at heart, but you’ve neglected the group of martyrs who will be in doubt as to what is best to do, afraid to hurt the other person, scared to face their own heart’s wishes, and as such, will be reluctant to end a relationship that might or might not be working (they will never be sure) and when they do, they will make themselves believe that through this bloody experience they come out as murderers, or something as heartless and deluded.

  • Ritz

    Love the analogy… sometimes you want to tear it slowly just to make sure you don’t need it anymore!

    • Amelia Diamond

      now that is deep.

      • Dionne

        Very.

  • Raphaëlle Lavielle

    What about ending serious relationships? You can’t decently phase out when you’ve been living with someone for years… Ripping off the band aid may be painful hence masochistic but at least it isn’t sadistic.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Huh. Yea serious relationships are a wholeee other territory… I believe the best way to end a very serious relationship is having an honest conversation in person. You owe it to the other person — or they owe it to you depending on the situation. Takes a lot of balls to do this.

      There are occasions there where doing it over the phone is more appropriate — at least in that moment, but an in-person meeting afterword (oy the collecting of the things) is usually appreciated and I find brings closure.

      • Guest

        Yes that’s right, you need to meet at some point to get closure I thinl. Thanks for sharing your thoughts Amelia.

      • Raphaëlle Lavielle

        Yes meeting for real is essential to get closure, I agree. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Amelia.

      • Lilli

        my ex boyrfriend broke up with me via sleeping with 8 others girls… i’d say he ripped off the band-aid then stabbed the half healed cut underneath

      • Thamsa

        My exboyfriend broke up with me over the phone and mailed my things back to me. I got partial closure after he responded (rather vaguely and harshly) to a heartfelt letter I sent him a month later. I haven’t seen him since before the call and we have no plans to meet, so I sort of just have to deal with it and move on.

  • http://www.abstractorganza.blogspot.com/ Idalia

    The phase out is the worst. Le sigh. And it sucks to the point where I dont wish love anymore. But like a bandaid, the wound eventually heals. Its a slow process but in the end, a minor scar is left but nothing drastic.

    cheers,
    Idalia
    http://www.abstractorganza.blogspot.com

  • Rebecca

    I’ve received troubling responses sadly however yes, firm believer of just ripping it off like a band aid for both the giver and reciever. Really enjoyed this piece, well crafted yourself!

    http://www.yess-please.blogspot.co.uk

  • Sunday State

    Yep…. I’m in the slow ripping stage as we speak. Neither of us (ok…one less than other) wants to commit but we have been torturing each other with mean texts, jealousy and Facebook stalking for weeks… It’s exhausting!

  • Audrey

    Ya gotta rip it off! It’s fairer to both parties.

  • Millie Cotton

    I curse social media and the internet every day for their role in the demise of proper dating as such but then come along gems like this and I’m torn! Wonderful piece.

    It’s a LDN Thing

  • s

    Love this! My friends always tell me I’m too brutal sometimes, and by brutal they mean straightforward. Beating around the bush is agonizing! Tell it how it is, add a smiley face, and it’s over!

    xx

    http://spoonfulofdiamonds.com

    http://www.facebook.com/SpoonfulOfDiamonds

  • Blackenedblog
  • jaclyn

    What if they dont let you phase out OR rip off?!?!

  • Clairefaints

    great writing as usual

    • Clairefaints

      wait that sounded sarcastic. . . . I meant it! Great piece.

  • Alejandra Moran

    This is highly relevant in today’s day and age. I much prefer ending things with a quick rip of the band-aid, when dealing with non-proficient suitors, but its harder to do that with the nice guys you want to let down easy. I would rather phase them out; however, that is just as excruciating for me to do that because then I have to deal with ignoring their texts, creating an over all uncomfortable situation because I know I’m not being direct and honest which is what I prefer from any human being. The slow and painful method drives me insane, but I can’t say I avoid it 100% in my strategic maneuvers either. It’s a tough call.

  • http://mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr/ Mafalda

    Dating is so different in France, but the hurt is just the same… I hate the silent treatment though, it can really be devastating! Love the picture.
    Mafalda ❤
    http://www.mafaldadotzero.blogspot.fr

  • nica

    Clint Eastwood works for me !

    Love this article ; you nailed it !
    Nica

  • Sinéad

    Hah, I’m normally on the opposite side of this.

    Once I was “phased out”, and it was so confusing! I had absolutely no idea why or what was happening. I had no idea what I’d done, or if I’d even done anything.

    Much later, like months later, one of my friends told me it was because he found out I was Catholic, and didn’t really want anything to do with that. I really wish he’d told me a lot earlier – it would have saved so much confusion!

    In comparison, another guy just told me straight up that he wasn’t really interested after a few weeks. It was so much better and not awkward at all. I really appreciated the honesty, and it left both of us free to move on without any awkward “so… what exactly happened there??” thoughts between us.

  • http://glitterandblush.blogspot.in/ Rupsha B

    I like that ‘ripping off band-aid’ process more. Kind of saves you all that trouble and time.

    Ru|Glitter & Blush

  • Gabriella R.

    Love this!

  • bma

    For me the trouble relies on the fact that maybe you don’t where you’re standing at. And when you try and “finish” or be direct- like your aforementioned friend- perhaps the guy goes “who said we were dating? I just enjoyed hanging out with you like friends”
    And that makes you feel… mmm… like desperate ’cause you thought it was serious.

  • yo

    my question for the phase out method is.. what happens when you run into the person at some point? how do you react, having been on the receiving end of ignoring? i literally am terrified of the day that this happens. i dont want to act as though i was completely heartbroken but on the other hand, i do want to display my disapproval with such a bullshit, immature way of “ending things”.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I get wanting to display your disapproval but the absolute BEST thing you can do is smile genuinely, wave hello, then carry on with your kick ass life (if you can time this so you have a friend next to you who is telling a HILARIOUS joke just as you see said person, that’s ideal). As far as this person needs to know you completely forgot you were expecting a text at all because you were very, very busy with so many other dates and what not. (then you can go home after and call your best friend and be like OH MY GOD WHY ME?!?)

  • slyonthewall.wordpress.com

    Great post! I like your friend’s method of separation; closing with a ‘friendly’ joke. She’s got style…

  • Michelle Marais

    The ‘phase out’ is selfish which is ironic as one usually try to prevent hurting the other person’s feelings.

    We all want the same basic things – being loved and respected among others – we just want them at different times in our lives. I think it’s important to be aware of this fact and to communicate it to the other party. It’s no one’s fault if things didn’t work [except if one person behaved like a dick], it’s life.

    We’re on earth and there’s no cure for that.

  • Britt

    my state right now: i thought I was fully mature, honest, not emotinally involved and ripped it of. just to find the wound bleeding underneath. and believe me, no matter how hard you try to fix it, the band aid will never stick as before!

  • Jen

    The phase-out is a bullshit move for any adult. Being direct is always best for everyone.

  • Alison

    I’m impressed your friend’s honesty is always appreciated. I take the same approach but I’ve had some less-than-kind responses. Regardless, I really value being upfront with someone because it makes me feel more in control / level headed. Unfortunately, when the situation is reversed I’ve rarely found people who are as honest with me.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lydia.bishop Lydia Bishop

    phase outs are the worst..
    http://www.herlux.blogspot.com

  • Rachel

    I think the phase out actually has less to do with not wanting to be direct, and more to do with not wanting to put a definitive end to something. You’ll never hang out with a guy again if you tell him you’d rather do your own thing, but if you drunk text the guy who you “forgot” to text back a few times, it’s no big deal.

    http://cargocollective.com/theelectricgirl/

  • raquela maria santa bichina

    wtf is wrong with people? i had never heard of the phase out until it happened to me a few weeks ago. he acted like he was crazy about me for 4 weeks, we texted on the daily, and then all the sudden.. he completely ignored me. fuck you asshole. a straight forward ‘not interested’ would have been prefered. yeah it would have still hurt but when did it become okay to fucking ignore someone you have been involved with for a month?