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Online Dating Magazine > Columns > Office Hours with Dr. Jim > After the Breakup

Office Hours With Dr. Jim
by James Houran, Ph.D

In this column, "Dr. Jim" honestly and candidly answers your questions about dating, love and sexuality. He doesn’t tell you what you want to hear – he tells you what you need to hear. Dr. Jim is committed to offering you guidance based on responsible clinical practice and hard data from the latest scientific studies. Send Dr. Jim your questions today for consideration in an upcoming issue.


After the Breakup - Part 1

In the next two installments I’m going to address two questions with a common theme -- the break up. Please email me with your breakup experiences, and perhaps you’ll see your anonymous story featured in a future column!  Sharing your personal accounts can help other people find perspective and heal faster. Thanks in advance for your assistance!  Now on to the first question…

I met a guy online about a month ago and after a few weeks we were in an exclusive relationship. The other day I received an email from him breaking up with me. Is it now acceptable these days to break up via email? What does that say about him… or me?


First, it says a lot about you both that you started an exclusive relationship after just a few weeks. While everyone has their pace and comfort zone, that speed sure seems overly fast for a move like that. Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that the relationship also ended quickly. Use this as a valuable lesson to pace things more slowly and carefully next time.

Now back to the main question…breaking up via email. I’m sure there might be situations where it is acceptable and understandable, but none come immediately to mind. My opinion is that email break ups (or texting over cell phones) are slimy. The best closure -- although it can be awkward or downright uncomfortable -- usually comes from making a clean break in person. It shows class and respect. And at the very least, strive to leave a relationship with the other person being able to respect you.

My sense is that your ex chose the email method for one of two reasons. Only you would know which one seems more likely:

Reason #1
He could be a player or womanizer with no sense of decency or class. In this scenario, he probably broke up via email to save himself a headache -- that is, it was convenient and relatively stress-free. This would say a lot about him.

Reason #2
He might have split because of issues you had -- such as being overly needy or possessive. In this scenario, he probably broke up to avoid a major conflict with you or even to protect himself against being manipulated to stay in the relationship. This would say a lot about you.

I suggest you contemplate what lead up to the exclusive relationship, what happened during it and what he said over email to break things off. The whole picture should spell out more clearly which scenario is more plausible. More importantly, and apologies for sounding like a broken record, use the exercise to make better decisions next time.

Let me close by passing along some tips on saying goodbye. These might come in handy as you work through this breakup.

After the Breakup Tips:

1) Accept that you will take some time to get over the split. Make a list of all the support systems you have, including friends and family. Talk to them about how they can help you through a tough time – this may include lots of listening but they can also help you get back into other activities or assist with practical problems such as finance and child care. But try not to over use one or to talk about your ex all the time.

2) Accept some of the blame for what went wrong. Some people find it hard to accept the part they played.

3) In the same vein don't blame yourself for everything. Be willing to see what you contributed to the break-up. This may help you to move on and not stay stuck in difficult feelings.

4) Look after yourself physically and emotionally. Don't think you don't matter any more because your relationship has broken up. Why not take up a new activity or arrange to do something you've always wanted but never got around to. Arrange a regular keep fit night with a friend. An appointment that takes you out of the house can help lift your spirits.

5) If you have children, do your best to keep them out of any mudslinging and don't use them to get at your partner. Try also not to make them take sides or choose between you and your partner. Remember, even if you separate you can still be a good mother or father.

6) Hold on to what was good in the relationship. Don't pretend it was all bad.

7) If you can talk to each other about what when wrong, do. See if you can meet socially on neutral territory to address unanswered questions. You need to keep the lines of communication open in order to sort out the practicalities of separating such as selling the house or dividing possessions.

After the Breakup - Part 2


Dr. James Houran's "Office Hours with Dr. Jim" column is published every Monday.

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