Breaking up is among the most painful experiences in modern life, one of the few that nearly everyone on the planet has experienced. The sadness, the rejection (or guilt), the loneliness in the immediate aftermath — it’s brutal, no matter who you are or where you live. So the concept of a “great breakup” may seem like the ultimate oxymoron. Non-devastating, maybe. Amicable, perhaps. But great?
It’s true that you rarely hear about the breakup that Just Went Great, with both parties emerging unscathed, fulfilled, and even happy about the outcome. These unicorns of the breakup world are rare, but they do exist. Sometimes a breakup can be so stress-free and lovely for both parties that no one would mind going through it again.
We fettered out a few of these great-breakup rarities and asked the participants to tell us their stories, in the hope that they can serve as role models for the rest of us.
We had been dating for five years. One night we went to the opera, a first for both of us. On the train ride home we looked at one another and almost said at the same time, “I don’t want to do this anymore.” We both knew we were just friends. We held hands for the rest of the train ride. Then his brother picked us up at the train station and took us for late night pizza. It was over after that. We’re still friends. - Leslie, 29
By the middle of our Puerto Rican vacation, my girlfriend and I knew it wouldn’t work. It was a make-or-break vacation and we both knew it. The thing was, by the time we knew it was time to break up, things started going really well. Two days before we were set to come home, we had a long talk and then we pretty much just had sex for the next 48 hours. Then we got off the plane and said goodbye after customs. - Max, 34
My ex and I broke up over Gchat, which sounds impersonal and cruel, but in reality it let us avoid the horrible face-to-face confrontation and tears and fight about who has to leave whose apartment. We chatted for about four hours online. We each asked questions about our breakup that we never would have asked in person. It was like an exit interview. It was the most fulfilling split I have ever had. - Ryan 26
My ex-boyfriend from college and I were a bit silly with the whole thing. Halfway through our breakup talk, we got off on this tangent about what breakup song would help us get over the breakup. Then we got into a mini-argument about what was the best breakup song of all time. Then we created a March Madness-style bracket to come up with the greatest breakup song of all time. By the time we decided it was Phil Collins’ “Against All Odds,” we felt great. - Sara, 24
My ex-girlfriend broke up with me for a woman. I don’t know if that made it easier or what, but she sat me down, cooked me a four-course meal, and broke it to me over dessert. I’m going to their wedding next month. - Scott, 32
Roger, my ex, was doing PhD research in the Peruvian Amazon. He had no phone and no Internet, and was going to be there for twelve months. We thought we could make it work. That was absurd. Two months in, he wrote me a heart-wrenchingly beautiful 12-page letter explaining how much he loved me, but he just had to let me go because the situation was ridiculous. It sucked to break up, but it made me feel incredibly loved. It was also the first time I have ever gotten real life mail from a significant other. It was so meaningful, it made me leave the relationship with happy memories instead of crappy ones. - Ellie, 25