Feb 182010

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.

Emily Nagoski

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  1. So… the fact that I aggressively cut all my exes out of my life and completely and totally attempt to villify them (just with thought, I want to specify; I’m not keying their cars) for a year or more is more or less a good idea? I always thought that confrontation, not literal ‘Goodbye *leaves*’, was the more mature thing to do.

    Then again, I’ve never broken up with someone for any other reason than ‘You’ve abused me’ or ‘You’re dangerously insane’… so I have NO IDEA how to fathom breaking up with someone who isn’t those things.

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