The Art of the Break-Up


Breaking up is hard to do, but if you do it for the right reasons – like knowing in your heart it’s the right thing for you – the only way to go is up.

Breaking up relationship advice

wave break media / 123RF Photo

My Dear Singularians,

Yes, the song title is right. Breaking up is hard to do, whether we’re the “breaker” or the “breakee.” We’re hurting or in guilt mode because we were the hurter. The baggage we lug is hard on our heart and worse, affects our future relationships — and our self-image. “Was it me?” we wonder. “Should I have stayed?” we ask, even if our ex is featured on America’s Most Wanted. With recriminations, fears, anxieties about our lovability still wafting, we venture forth, often re-defined, mostly wrongly and we feel torn – by our ex and our choice to stay or leave.


Dear Marnie: Well, it happened again. Last night I had to sit through dinner with another lousy date! I’m a 41-year-old female who could string my dates from hell across America. You’d think with all of my experience, my “personal strategy” would be to get rid of these guys fast. Well, I haven’t learned how to do it “nicely.” What would you do? – Loser at Losing Losers from L.A.

MARNIE SAYS: My lovely lady, to send them off, you must prepare like a horde of Brownies before a cookie drive, with the tact of “The Bachelorette” kicking off the guy she vowed to share her DNA with the night before. And no, I won’t suggest “my-gramma-is-in-the-emergency-room” phone call. A groin kick is less obvious.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* Quit breaking all that bread with these blokes. Think bar, as in a drink from 5:30 to 7 p.m. as you have a meeting at 6 a.m. the next morning. You can always “make an exception” if he eats the pretzels with his mouth shut.

* The During the Date Ditch: He’s 50, lives with “mommy” and collects frogs. Start ditching during the date. Memorize the following: “I’m on overload, lately;” “I’m crazed the next few weeks;” “I promised myself I wouldn’t make any plans till I finish (fill in the blank).” Pepper your conversation with these phrases. Then, excuse yourself as you’re on “deadline.”

* The Doorknob Deploy: Continue the above at your door if necessary. If he continues to suggest dates into the next millennium (which is why he’s a yutz), you now have my “permission” to say, “Thanks for tonight. But, I’m feeling very pushed right now.” Then slip behind your door and chain it.

* There’s one statement on a date I call “The Terminator.” If all else fails, turn to him tenderly and say, “I’m falling in love with you and want you to be the father of my children.” He’ll hop a cab to Tijuana.

SPECIAL NOTE: The clean break: Should the fellow be obdurate, foul, nasty, offensive, obscene or just plain scary, forget manners. Evacuate!


Dear Marnie: I am a divorced male, 45, who has started dating again. My ex has some fine qualities, but others that can drive you crazy. She’s very impulsive and some of her decisions will change overnight or she’ll bend our agreements. I know this won’t change, it’s just the way she is. Her family is the exactly the same. What I can’t understand is how she can run hot and cold and doesn’t see our history clearly and that’s only a small part of it! Anyway, since the divorce I’ve dated a few women. Some have wound down, but the last few ended strangely. I thought everything was fine, then they suddenly said it wasn’t working out. The only clue I had was when one told me she didn’t feel I was giving her enough attention. Is it them? Is it me? — Without a Clue.

MARNIE SAYS: Read the letter you wrote. Out loud. Go on, I’ll wait. See it? All we need is a financial backer and we could submit it to Lifetime as movie of the week. If this letter is any indication of your date-chatter, well … it’s you, Clue.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* First, you need a skycap to carry all your baggage. Worse, something stinks in there and it’s leaking all over these nice, new ladies. My Rule of DDC (Divorced Dating Chatter): ExTalk Kills SexTalk. Zip it. Offer no explanations.

* If dates ask and appear “fine” when you autopsy your ex like a rabid Dr. Maura Isles — don’t buy it. They’re fishing. They want to find out whether they’ve got a salmon or a lox on their line, especially (sorry) since you’ve been thrown back. And there you are, squirming, jabbering, and making a fuss about your ex-wife on their time. Not attractive. Worse, it suggests you’re still dangling or hooked on your ex. Keep your answers short, gentle, and general. “Things didn’t work out. Now, about you…”

* Fix you. You need to move on. Pour out your pain and fury at someone who deserves it: a therapist. We’re paid to listen and help you unshackle.

With a lighter load, you’ll be free to meet and mate anew without the stale stench of yesterday permeating your potentials.


Dear Marnie: In May, my boyfriend of two months broke up with me. We’re both 22 and in seniors at UCLA. He claimed it got too boring, we were too “different” and he needed his space. Since then, he’s made very few attempts to speak to me. I made many more, all unsuccessful. Then he saw me out with another guy and I thought his attitude changed. Whenever I saw him at school he would compliment me, say hi and “I miss you in bed” — but never when his friends were around. I thought he was attempting to get back together, but then he started ignoring me again for no reason. I am… Totally Confused

MARNIE SAYS: You want to know the truth? Can you handle the truth? Because here it is. The fellow didn’t stop talking to you for no reason. He had a bunch of them.

“He wants his space.”
“He’s bored.”
“He feels you two are too different.”

How do you know? He said so. He’s also very young. Pay attention. Whether his reasons are right, rotten, sniveling, or demented, they are his. Whether you agree, like or loathe them, these are the facts.

* Hanging around hoping will scar your soul.

* And … you scare him. Something about the way you sweat has him worried that one smile from him and you’ll hang his tie on your bedpost.

* Speaking of which, why in the name of dumb moves are you letting this guy into your bed? Morals aside (they’re your business), the Energizer Bunny can sustain a commitment longer than the young male who is programmed for the Great Chase. Allowing easy access to your private portals is not smart.

I say this to you not to be cruel but because I have to.

MARNIE’S RULE: You can do better by you — for longer — if you keep your hatches battened with beanie boys. And muffin, isn’t it time you did better by you?


Dear Marnie: I am newly single. I just broke up with my boyfriend, and I’m starting to panic. My last two fix-ups were jerks. I’m starting to wonder if I did the right thing in breaking up. Despite the fact that we had our problems, I’m wondering if all the other guys are even worse. Tell me, Marnie, what am I doing wrong and where can I find someone?? — Striking Out in San Diego.

MARNIE SAYS: Smell it…? That wafting stench? That’s the odor of frenzy. The chemical compound consists of one part “he’s gone!” and two parts “I’m sweating!!” and it has amazing properties. It attaches to you like static cling, and one whiff drives the average male downwind — to Tijuana. Let’s get to the real issue: cleaning up the air around you.

Getting It! Your Personal Strategy:

* Tell yourself this is not about finding a human with upper lip hair. I could send you to the YMCA and, sweetie, you’d come up with an empty towel. Missing him is driving you to scramble for stand-ins to ease the pain. Quit it or be jerk-doomed!

* Finish your break-up. You’re not done. You broke up for a reason(s). Get them clear. Write them down, along with what those reasons cost you. Break brioche with pals. Ask them to help. Even good reasons hurt. Mourn. Be mad. Be sad. Than congratulate yourself. Breaking up for good cause is a good thing. It leaves you free to renew your relationship — with you.

* Renew. Kick things up! Get a pen. Ready? Remember all those terrific things and people you gave up because-he-didn’t-like-it (or “them”)? You don’t have to anymore. That’s a big upside about being un-partnered. Make a list of what you missed doing — woodwork, spa, a course in aromatherapy, a Bridges of Madison County marathon with pals you back-burnered — whatever. Then do.

* Now, where to meet men… hmmm. Write me in three months. But, you won’t. If you do the above you won’t need to. You see, when you’re so self-filled, so happily un-joined that the air around you smells like a mixture of lavender and confidence in you — you’ll find what you’re ready for when you are. Not in a “place,” but in life. A life filled not with “looking” but living. A place others find so enticing, they can’t help but drop in.

Copyright © Marnie Macauley / 2014 Singular Communications, LLC

Marnie MacauleyAdvice guru Marnie Winston-Macauley — therapist, author, speaker — has been a radio, TV, and syndicated advice columnist and counselor for over 20 years. Witty, wise and totally irreverent with a self-professed loathing for psychobabble, she’s written over 20 books and calendars, along with  hundreds of relationship columns and features for prominent publications.  She has her MS degree from the Columbia University School of Social Work.  In media, her work has garnered her Emmy and Writer’s Guild Best Writing nominations. She is widowed and now living single. For personal advice, you can also find Marnie Macauley on or on Presto Experts. She invites you to join her on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. 
Leave a Comment on Facebook



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.