Breakups are trite, so it helps to have a form letter. I use a simple, clear response that establishes my boundaries and identifies unacceptable behavior. It keeps me from getting emotionally re-involved with someone who needs to stay out of my life.
To be clear, my form letter is the last communication I have with an ex — after politeness and kindness fail. This letter is my final “no,” delivered in response to escalating attempts to violate my boundaries. I start out civil. Often, I have to end with this. It works every time.
I believe that when I tell someone “no,” I see their true colors. This last breakup was no exception. Part of me was hoping that this person would be different — that his behavior would be honorable, respectful, and decent. I hoped that my “no” would be respected. It was not.
So, in honor of my recent split, here is my all-purpose breakup letter. This is a letter I wrote in 2011, after exiting yet another long, unsatisfying relationship. I didn’t plan it at the time, but I’ve ended up sending this letter to every subsequent person I’ve decided I didn’t want in my life.
The form letter works because all of my breakups are essentially the same. They hurt. They bring out the absolute worst in people. Even when I can keep a muzzle on myself, I can’t count on the other person to do the same. The form letter keeps me from saying something I will regret later. It also reminds me that I don’t owe the other person anything, anymore. I’m done.
Breaking up erodes anything I loved about the relationship. I emerge wondering what the hell I was thinking in the first place. The form letter releases me, and the other person, from the dysfunctional shit we were doing to each other. I don’t need to say “I don’t love you anymore.” The letter says that for me.
I’ve never been one of those people who stays friends with their exes, for this reason. If any magic survived to the end of our relationship, the breakup destroys it completely. I leave each time feeling like I’m made of stone. Cold. Hard. Awful.
As unique as my former sweeties seemed when I was dating them, as soon as they became “exes,” they turn bitter. Hateful. Creepy. They stop being the special person I cared for: in fact, it’s impossible to distinguish them from one another. They’re uniformly repellent. In every breakup, they’ve each felt entitled to retaliate in some way — to invade my space, trample my boundaries, destroy something I cared about, and behave inappropriately. Sometimes, this continues for years after we’ve formally parted ways.
Yes, 98 percent of these people are straight-presenting, white men.
I’ve shared this letter with friends in the past, and let them use it or adapt it to their own breakup needs. It works. Here is the original version from 2011, which is just as relevant seven years after it was written. People don’t change; my response probably won’t, either.
- I’m not sure why you think you have any authority to tell me where I can or can’t go. If you want to control another person, start with yourself.
- Your feelings about me are none of my business. Keep them to yourself.
- Since we broke up, you’ve sent me many unsolicited emails and letters, and even waited for me on my porch. This is unacceptable. I don’t want to be part of your emotional process. I haven’t forced my feelings on you in any way; you could at least return the favor.
- Our relationship has been over for more than a year. If you’re having trouble accepting that, I suggest you get professional help, if you haven’t already.
[Your Latest Ex]