At the oh-so-tender age of 12, I dated the president of my student council and the class’ top athlete.
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We held hands, spent recess together, and made out by the monkey bars after school. For the entire span of our two-week relationship, things were, as far as Grade 7 love can be, great.
That is until I became obsessed with his horrid habit of spitting when he talked. I knew I would have to end it.
So, I did the most mature thing I could think of: Avoided him for a few weeks and waited for him to stop calling me.
Although my take on relationships has matured since those days, breakups, no matter what age, are still as messy and awkward as ever.
Cheryl Bartlett would be the first to agree. She once had a man try to commit suicide after she broke up with him. “It was very upsetting,” says Bartlett, “but that was all about power, not about love.”
Several relationships and one happy marriage later, Bartlett and her daughter, Maria, now have a talk show, called Straight Talk (www.cherylandmaria.com), where they field questions on life, love and relationships, drawing partially from their own experiences. The two will soon parlay their insights into a book by the same name, due out by the end of this year.
“If you really want to break up with someone, do it quickly and cleanly,” says Bartlett. “I think our egos work against us and we tend to want to make (breaking up) a bigger deal than it needs to be. We drag it out ... We want to feel like someone will miss us if we’re not there.”
If we really want to end it, Bartlett suggests setting some ground rules to avoid this past relationship from haunting our future. Some of those ground rules include cutting all contact after the breakup and reigning in our libidos to avoid the break-up sex — no matter how good we think it might be.
“Break-up sex just makes it seem like you’re not really sure you want to break up,” says Bartlett. “You have to be sure.
“I think it helps to give examples of why it’s not working, and they can’t be as simple as ‘you leave the toilet seat up.’ It has to be more the overarching reason on why it’s not going to be a long-term deal.”
She says some signs she has seen that a relationship is heading for a rocky derailment is it’s too much too fast (“Your partner is in love with you two weeks into the relationship”); it’s too physical; and your partner thrives on turbulence, drama and gossip.
But most important, says Bartlett, “Your partner shouldn’t say you matter, you should feel like you matter.”
And if you don’t, then it’s time to make that clean break, preferably with a little more grace than hiding out in the girls’ bathroom until your boyfriend realizes the relationship is over.
After all, when we do decide to dump the dating spreadsheets and palm pilots for one stable relationship, it’s best to start it off on honest ground.