Written by Sanford Begley
Breakup counseling, should it be a thing? A young couple I know is going through a breakup. Not quite a divorce because they never married and were only together for a few years, but a hell of a lot more than the typical date for a few weeks or months and give up on it. I like these kids, and neither of them is entirely innocent in the breakup. What I am seeing is the sniping at each other that comes when people feel strongly about someone. I know they originally intended to remain friends for a lot of good reasons, and I know they are starting to fail at that.
Now I am pretty good at retaining the good things when a relationship goes bad. These kids know that if they think about it. They have seen me interacting with my ex who is family to them. We get along well enough that we would have taken her along with us on our anniversary outing had she been free. Then again, maybe that we didn’t is a good thing, no need to shove it in her face how well my marriage is working out. OK she knows how well it is going, she is a welcome guest in our home. It is probably still better that we don’t shove it in her face too hard.
So these kids know that I am good at the breakup thing, would they listen? One of the things I have seen about breakups is that they are hard on everyone involved. Including those who you wouldn’t even think are involved. The pains that come with breaking up tend to make rational thought difficult. The best intentions can be destroyed by allowing that pain to make a minor boo boo into a major issue. Something that would be ignored or forgiven with a little teasing under other circumstances becomes an attack on the other person. Maybe unintentionally, sometimes when we are hurting we forget that the other person is hurting too and don’t think about the way they will read what we say.
The un-meant infliction of pain is made worse by social media. What would in person be a gentle tweaking of your former lover about forgetfulness becomes a slam about their lack of responsibility through the distorting lens of social media. “Yeah, you returned my yahtzee game, dice cup, score pads, and box, but forgot to put the dice in” said with a smile and a chuckle in real life sounds like “You are too stupid to do anything right” on social media.
Now, when you add in the fact that all your friends are either Team Ironman or Team Captain America after a breakup it gets even worse. This is especially true if the couples they were friends with were mostly friends of one or the other, and they usually are. When your friends are being supportive they never say “Yeah, sad that you broke up, maybe you should work on still being good with him, he is a great guy and that hasn’t changed because you can’t live together.” What they do say is “Good thing you got rid of that skanky ho, she was doing nothing but destroying your life”. Your friends are not a good thing during a breakup.
If you share a child you will always be connected. This is usually worst on the child. He really doesn’t understand that Daddy was drinking with his buddies when he should have been romancing with mama. Nor does he understand that Mama was romancing with the mailman when she should have been drinking with Daddy. What he will come to understand is that he is a weapon to be used against the other parent, and that he can play one off against the other to get anything he wants. The only times I have seen this problem fixed is if the ones who broke up stay friends and work together against the natural enemy of parents everywhere, the children.
What applies to breakups also applies to divorces except that divorces are usually more intense. I honestly think Breakup and Divorce counselors would be a better thing for our society that marriage counselors. Everyone that ever got married had at least one friend urging counseling or an escape to Texas. Breakups never get the voice of reason applied.
Will I try to counsel the couple I have in mind? Probably not, I am a couple of generations older than they are, and obviously too old to understand what life is really like. And the contact with one of them is too important to me to destroy trying to help. Besides, while I know how to manage breakups well, I’m not at all sure of my ability to teach it. I do think we as a people should look at something to help those fracturing, for the children’s sake if nothing else.