*Originally published on Huffington Post*
Sunday night, part one of the Bachelor in Paradise finale aired on ABC. It elicited the strongest emotional reaction from me that I’ve had in the 13 years (dear God) I’ve watched The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, and Bachelor in Paradise.
Bachelor in Paradise is stupidly complicated to explain, but basically a bunch of former Bachelor and Bachelorette contestants go to a Mexican resort for a month, where they try to find love with one another. Contestants come in and out, complicating things as they do, taking each other on dates and handing out roses to signify commitment. Some couples change a lot, but from the very first episode of this season, we’ve had two couples to root for—Kirk & Carly and Jade & Tanner.
In this episode, the remaining couples were told it was time to think seriously about their future together; Kirk unexpectedly decided to dump Carly. Carly was so excited about their future (she talked about kids, as many women are wont to do, a little too early) and didn’t see it coming it all. When she heard he had been leaning towards ending it for a week without letting on, she responded in a way I wish all women did when being dumped.
She was uninterested in letting him talk to her, or touch her, or do anything else to make himself feel better. And it was the very best in the “you go, girl” type of way. It was also heartbreaking. I’m a pretty regular crier and yet, I’d never been moved to tears watching this show until last night.
This show constantly demonstrates how bad most people are at breakups. Most of my breakups, each of them horrible, have consisted of me seeing it coming and throwing a fit to surprisingly ineffective results. No one expects them to be anything less than miserable. But some people could use a strict talking to about how to dump someone without being a complete monster.
In thinking through the hundreds of breakups I’ve seen on this show, I’ve learned so much about how to dump someone. And listen, take your, “but they aren’t even real relationships on this show” nonsense elsewhere; everyone is allowed to feel deeply in any setting where they make themselves vulnerable for a love interest.
So let’s discuss what I’ve learned.
Don’t expect it to not be horrible.
It’s very nice to try to make it a pleasant conversation for all, but sorry, that is not going to happen. So when whoever you’re dumping starts freaking out, don’t act shocked. Don’t act like that person is just crazy and definitely do not say that. We all have strong emotions and while belittling the person you’re hurting may make you feel better, it will just make things worse.
Don’t feel bad for yourself while you’re dumping someone.
Breakups are hard on both people and you are both entitled to feel heartbroken. But if you’re the one ending it, then you need to suck it up during the conversation. Keep all of the “this is so hard for me,” nonsense to yourself. Afterwards, you can go get support from a friend, but not from the person you’re dumping.
Don’t ask the person you’re dumping for support in any way.
Okay, I can’t even when the women on the Bachelorette cry as they dump men. Like, stop it right now. I get that you’re sad but pull it together. Crying, looking for validation, or saying you don’t know what’s wrong with you are just plain rude. Stop implicitly asking the person you are breaking up with to care about your emotional well-being. Save it for your mom or your best friend.
If they’re done talking, you’re done talking.
We all want to feel understood and we all hate feeling like the bad guy. I get why you want to explain everything to the person you’re letting go, but if they don’t want to hear it, you don’t get to say it. You’re probably going to be the bad guy in their mind and that’s fine.
Don’t talk about staying friends.
Hopefully, you’ll get there someday, but the breakup conversation is not the time to discuss it. They’re sad right now—they don’t want to think about just being friends quite yet.
Be prepared to answer his or her questions.
Everyone takes breakups differently. Some people want you out of their sight the second you tell them it’s over. Others want to ask you 100 questions about what went wrong. If you’re able to answer these questions during the breakup, it will keep things less messy in the weeks to come.
The worst thing you can do when you’re ending something is to disappear. Whether you actually disappear or you just stop being emotionally available for conversations, hoping that he or she will pick up on it, you’re going to make the other person go crazy. Ignoring a problem sounds easy, but first of all, you’re a grown up—deal with it. And second of all, I guarantee it will explode into something much worse down the line.
Try to be honest enough throughout the relationship so it’s not out of the blue.
A lot of the breakups in the real world are way less dramatic than those on this show, because usually, the feeling is somewhat mutual. But when it’s not, be honest about your feelings throughout your time together, so if and when it ends it’s not such a shock.
Minimize the pain.
Breakups suck. Most of us are just doing our best to make it through a breakup with a little dignity. Next time you have to execute one, think through what little changes and sacrifices you can make to make it a little easier on you both.