When It’s Time To Break Up


Being broken up with is one of the hardest things that a person can deal with.

Scratch that – it’s _the_ hardest thing a person can deal with. Losing a relationship isn’t like losing a parent or a child – it’s much worse. It’s not like having a limb amputated in a war – it’s much more painful. It’s something deeper and more impactful. It’s an emotional pain stronger than any physical pain one can imagine. It’s an emotional pain that only a select few know about, and if you’ve never had your heart broken, you really don’t know what it means to suffer. You don’t know what it means to struggle. You’re privileged and you should go think about what that means.

There’s a misconception that only those that are dumped feel emotional loss. For some reason, we assume that the dumper isn’t also heartbroken after a breakup, and that’s complete bullshit. The person that has to do the breaking up also feels a sense of loss, but were trained by the patriarchy and the media to see these people as the victimizers. We see them as the guilty party, when in reality, the dumpers are often the people who had the emotional strength to end something they knew wouldn’t work. They’re victims, and they’re also heroes. The bravery required to break up with someone isn’t met with medals and accolades. It’s not championed with holidays and discounts at restaurants and movie theaters. In many ways, the strong souls that end relationships are the real troops. They’re the real 9/11 firefighters. But we treat them like war criminals.

I’m an extremely attractive woman – it’s something that I know about myself and I’m proud of it. I’ve had a lot of men fall in love with me, and I’ve had to do a lot of heartbreaking in my life. Hurting someone never feels good – but you know what feels worse? Being hurt, and not being respected for that pain.

I recently had to break up with a guy that I really cared about. It wasn’t that we were having relationship problems per se, it was more of a timing thing. I was ready to get serious, and he was diagnosed with cancer.

I still remember the day he told me. I was in shock. I sat there looking at the man I used to love, and I stared at the melanoma on his forehead. I was overcome with empathy – that real, visceral empathy that makes your stomach turn and throw up in your mouth a little bit. It’s the kind of empathy that disgusts you, makes you turn away, and ask the person you’re feeling sorry for if they could leave the room or maybe cover their deformity with a towel or something.

“We have to break up,” I said to him.

“What? Why?”

“I can’t be with someone that has cancer. Especially a cancer that’s so visible. I can’t keep looking at it.”

“Nicole, it’s just skin cancer,” he chuckled. “I’m not going to die, they’ll remove it, I have a follow up in six months, and that’ll be that.”

As he rationalized his death, I couldn’t help but stare at the hideous mole on his face. Irregular and as purple as my prose, the eyesore stared back at me, as if it were saying, “Sorry, bitch. He’s mine now.”

Mustering what strength I could, I told him flat out, “Dennis, it’s really gross looking, and what happens if you have some kind of weird scar after? What happens if it spreads to your semen? Now I have to think about a disease inside of my body? I just can’t do this. I need you to be strong for me.”
I could see that his denial was wearing off. As reality set in, his laughter subsided and his smile turned to a frown. His scowl only made his gross sore more repugnant.

“You’re seriously breaking up with me because I have skin cancer?” he asked. I bit my lip and nodded. He shook his head.

“I can’t believe you, Nicole,” he said through his teeth. “Everyone said you were a cunt. I didn’t believe them, but this is ridiculous. Do you realize how awful of a person you are?”

The question was obviously rhetorical, so I didn’t answer, but it was also ironic, because actually, he was the one that was awful. He was awful for not understanding that it wasn’t just him that was diagnosed with cancer – ­_we­_ were diagnosed with cancer. Our relationship was diagnosed with cancer. If we were to continue dating, every time I went out with this man, people would think, oh, look at that girl. She’s dating a man who is dying. She must not have very many options. I sat there in silence and thought about things I would like to buy while he showered me with insults and his tears. At several points he tried to hug me and I had to push him away so I wouldn’t have to get to close to that thing on his head.

And, I tell this story to my friends – women I’ve known for years – and they side with Dennis. They side with the man who would rather insult me and put me down than accept the fact that I was brave enough to make a decision and save at least one of us from his cancer. I’m not a doctor, I’m only a soul. I’m only a heart that has so much to give, and I draw the line at things like emotional abuse or if you’re ugly suddenly.

I guess all I’m asking is that people respect me and understand that I did what I did because I had to. Breaking someone’s heart never feels good, but neither does lying. I was extremely brave that day, and no one will ever see it that way. This is the struggle of the heart broken. This is the struggle of our only real heroes. I am one of them.