Breakup Conversation: Not the End, the Beginning

By Anna Mitchael

We’re all supposed to fear the “Breakup Conversation.” It makes no difference if you’re a regular gal like me or a virtual Venus like Angelina Jolie. When The Breakup Conversation comes up, inevitably someone goes down, and the fear can be paralyzing.

Let’s say you fall in love with a book in the beginning pages but then you grow more sick of it with every page you turn. (If that’s how you feel about this book, that’s fine, but just don’t say it out loud.)

You don’t want to give up on the story, because really, you thought you loved it in the beginning, and maybe you can rediscover what interested you at the start. By the end, you are reading into every word, wondering if you can return to the fabulous feeling of the first few chapters.

Single women of marrying and birthing age are supposed to do more than hold on to every word, we’re supposed to turn the book upside down, see if studying the letters from a different angle gives a new perspective on how to reignite the passion. Under no circumstances are we supposed to put down the book, let alone walk away without a fight. It only takes a few late night infomercials to remind us that we’re not getting any younger, and neither are our breasts.

I know the fear that arrives in the five minutes after The Breakup Conversation. I know walking away from the telephone, or your favorite booth at an Italian restaurant where the two of you always went on Saturday nights, or an email on the computer, as the realization hits you that your life has just changed in a big way.

When you’re in the throes of the conversation that ends a relationship, it’s difficult to remind yourself that this change is probably for the best. It’s much easier to imagine yourself in twenty years with sixty-two cats feeding off a couple cans of tuna fish in your living room, the woman who qualifies for AARP membership yet still gives her mother’s name as an emergency contact at the doctor’s office.

In the past this fear would reach into my throat and press pause on The Breakup Conversation. I would be able to spy potential I’d never before seen in the man across from me. I’d be able to imagine what the two of us might be, if only we weren’t, well, us. I’d convince myself to put off this horrible and awkward talk because what if he was more than The One to go bowling with or The One to enjoy martinis with and was actually The One to burp in front of for the rest of my life without shame, and I just hadn’t found the right way to look at him.

Maybe his moodiness was a phase.

Maybe if we tried again in a new way, perhaps after some feng shui in his living room.

Maybe I could make myself into the woman he wanted, and he could just cut down on that habit he had of cupping his testicles while he watched TV.

Maybe he could pretend to be someone he’s not, and I could be someone I’m not. And together our fake selves could live fake happily ever after.

So the dreamer in me would create a fake ending that would never have anything to do with reality, and try to turn The Breakup Conversation into The Let’s Give It One More Try Conversation. If he stood his ground I would use my sharpest verbal tools to dull his arguments and twist the truth. I would blindly ignore the little ping in my belly suggesting this end actually was a beginning.

I would think cats.

I would think mother as emergency contact.

But I didn’t have to follow that script anymore. Now that I could start speaking my own mind, The Breakup Conversation didn’t have to be something to fear.

Instead of picturing myself as a quinquagenarian cat lady, I saw myself choosing what I wanted to do on a Saturday night, and never again having to explain why it made good fashion sense for him to walk away from the sweaters his mother knit every Christmas.

Maybe my breasts were getting older, but that also meant my brain could be wiser. I would no longer paint rosy clouds over the gray horizon of the relationship—nine out of ten men who hold their testicles while watching TV will never give up the habit. The best thing was for me to get out before I committed in front of God as a witness to share a couch with that habit forever.

There would be no begging or crying or saying things that I didn’t mean in an attempt to re-create the attraction we had felt in the prologue of the relationship. When I amicably agreed to The Breakup Conversation, I would be agreeing that sometimes things in life break, and not even the most fabulous feng shui can put them back together again.

The road had not dead-ended. It had just taken an unexpected curve. If only I could have seen then that it was taking a much-needed turn in the right direction.

Excerpted from Anna Mitchael’s book, Just Don’t Call Me Ma’am, Anna chronicles her daily life in Texas (with a side of extra-spicy jalapenos, please) on annamitchael.com/happinessproject.

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