When two people break-up, sometimes they leave questions unanswered, wounds unhealed—like spoiled food in the fridge left to curdle and ferment. Eventually, there’s the temptation to rip the lid off the foul-smelling food and expose its contents, as disgusting as they may be. While there’s a time and a place (and even the inherent need) for closure, there’s also a tactful way of going about getting closure at the end of a relationship. Here’s how not to do it.
Even if your ex gives you permission to be brutally honest, here are a few things you should never say.
[FOR THE DUMPED]:
“Maybe you haven’t realized it, but you’re a complete and total jerk.”
Apparently, calling someone a jerk (or something as equally offensive, such as a liar) causes him or her to become defensive and to view your subsequent arguments and points as less credible or valid. You’d be better off focusing on “I” statements instead of giving in to the tendency to be accusatory.
“Don’t you think you owe me an apology?”
Again, this puts the other person on the defensive and doesn’t provide him or her with a fair response. If he or she says, “No. I don’t owe you an apology,” you’ll only be more hurt. If he or she says yes, you won’t know if it was said simply out of obligation. Don’t enter a conversation with the mindset of “what does the other person owe me.” You can’t base your healing or closure on someone else’s actions or response to you.
“I drove by your house eleven times the other night.”
Can you say “creepy stalker”? This might cause your ex to consider relocating to Siberia. Even if you’re keeping tabs on your ex (which I don’t suggest you do), don’t tell him or her. What is your ex supposed to say when he or she finds out that Police’s hit song, “Every Breath You Take,” has become your new anthem? I think the answer begins with “re” and ends with “straining order.” Don’t stalk. Just don’t.
“I regret every minute I ever spent with you.”
Not only is this mean, but it’s probably also untrue. Every minute? Come on. There must have been some moments worth salvaging. What about the time the two of you fed the ducks at the lake, and your ex laughed at you when you stepped in duck poo? Or the time your ex made you laugh so hard that you shot diet coke out of both nostrils. Don’t throw away all the good memories just because they ended on a sour note. And finally …
“You look nothing like Jesus.”
Even if your ex hasn’t been his or her most Christ-like toward you— post break-up— to throw this statement in his or her face is a really low blow. There must be a more sensitive, less abrasive way of letting your ex know that you feel you are getting the shaft (if you think you should even let your ex know this). Unfortunately, I haven’t yet figured out what that way looks like, but I imagine it involves more “I” statements—statements that express how you are feeling and how you have also not been your most Christ-like.
[FOR THE DUMPER]:
“[Insert name of new girl or guy here] is everything I’ve ever wanted in a woman/man.”
If you have yet to re-establish a friendship with your ex, and you are therefore not certain that your ex no longer has feelings for you, don’t start talking about someone new. Don’t make your ex feel more insecure or inadequate than he or she may already be feeling. By gushing about how wonderful some new interest is, you’re setting yourself up to hurt your ex all over again.
“I just don’t have time for a relationship right now.”
This might be true on some level. You’ve got classes, a job or two and ten thousand other commitments. But the bottom line is this: if you really care and think the relationship is worth it, you’ll make time. Be honest with yourself and with your ex. It’s not that you don’t “have” time. It’s that you don’t want to “make” time.
“God told me I can never love you.”
Back the truck up. When did God start telling people they can’t love? Maybe you don’t feel that this is the person you should marry, but to say that God has spoken to you and revealed to you that you aren’t capable of loving this person is just craziness. Unless you have a clear indication from God about the course this relationship should take, don’t try to play the “God card.” Just plainly say, “I’m not going to love you,” or “I don’t love you.” It might be harsh at first, but don’t try to paint God as the bad guy when you’re the one who is breaking up.
“No other guy/girl will tell it like it is (like I’m giving you now).”
You can’t know what someone else down the road will or will not say to your ex. Avoid presenting yourself as high and mighty. Chances are, your ex will not be convinced of your generosity or your righteous status.
“I apologized 200 times to [someone I hurt in my past].”
Don’t tell your ex something about your past like this when you haven’t offered up an apology to him or her (especially if you don’t intend to apologize). It does not make you look any better.
If you’ve managed to avoid all of these pitfalls, keep some other basic things in mind. Don’t say anything in anger. Wait until you are calm and have some distance from the situation. Don’t say anything you would never want to hear from your ex. This can be a good way of gauging how insensitive your potential remarks can be. If it makes you cringe, don’t say it. And finally, it might sound trite, but don’t say anything that might be tough to swallow if you have to eat your words later.[Dottie Hutcherson is no expert in relationship sensitivity, but she’s working on it.]
READ MORE LIFE | POST COMMENTS BELOW