This came up on three separate occasions today, so it seems the fates want me to post about it:
To end a relationship, you really must have no contact.
Because remember attachment? Breaking up is about breaking the attachment, which… well it hurts. That’s just true and there’s not a lot to do about it. Because as infants our lives quite literally depended on our object of attachment, as adults we experience the abandonment of our attachment object with extreme distress. Our lives no longer depend on our attachment, but it sure can feel like it.
Research on attachment in puppies illustrates the problem inherent in breaking up: puppies who are attached to the experimenter were then scientifically kicked by the experimenter. Result? The puppies ran to the experimenter for protection. Remember the object of attachment is your safe haven, where you go when things go wrong. When your relationship goes wrong… you run to your object of attachment. Which will only serve to reinforce the attachment, not to gentle the ending.
I think there is no gentling the ending. Breaking up is hard, it hurts, and the natural inclination is to ease the pain by connecting with the attachment object. Fighting this urge requires discipline, supportive friends, and possibly the entire opus of “West Wing” (for when you need to distract yourself).
No contact. One month is a good start. Three is better.