Breaking up is hard to do


To increase the young person’s awareness of their own personal responsibility when breaking a relationship with a member of the opposite sex.

* To encourage the ability to identify danger signals in relationships that should be broken.

* To increase their awareness of the impact on self-worth when a break up occurs.

* To assist the young person in coping with the pain following a break up.

* To encourage the use of more positive skills when a break up occurs.

“Breaking Up Is Hard to Do” is lesson three of six lessons I present in THE COMPLEAT COURTSHIP SEMINAR. Lesson one is “Making Friends with Yourself”; Two is “The Dating Game” followed by the Break Up lesson; Four is “How to Tell the Difference Between Love and Infatuation”; Five is “Touchy Situations”; and six is “Close Encounters of a Dangerous Kind.” It is not a lesson that stands well alone; but could be added to any existing series of lessons on dating and courtship.

The subject of Breaking Up is usually only mentioned in passing when the subject of dating is taught. Yet life time trauma can result from poorly handled break ups. As a result of break ups young people can suffer from hurt that can go on for weeks, months and sometimes even years. It can also result in suicide or attempted suicide. Many teen suicides are the result of romance gone sour.

I have found that young people take this lesson very seriously. The joking and nervous behavior noted when speaking about dating and sex falls to a low level. For the most part they listen thoughtfully and carefully to this subject.

Here are some hints to assist you in the presentation of this material:

* This lesson can be taught to both large or small groups. It can be presented in lecture format allowing time for discussion and assignments at the close. Or it can be presented more as a guided discussion.

* Encouraging young people to role play the wrong way and the right way to break up draws them immediately into the subject and increases the probability of learning and retention.

* Some suggested role play activities, case studies and other assignments are included at the close of the lesson.

* At the close of the presentation and discussion ask each young person to write a break up letter. It can involve real people or be entirely make believe. Stress that you want them to include the three points as outlined to make the break up more positive and less negative. At a later time ask several students to read their letters aloud. Discuss whether the three points were adequately covered in each letter. Make sure the students understand that if they saw the person they were breaking up with frequently they should not break up in letter form. This method is only used as a teaching tool in order to help them learn skills that will assist them in handling real life situations.

Depending on the individuality of the students involved, you may likely note a difference between the type of letters written. Generally speaking, boys are more likely to present in Reader’s Digest form making it brief and to the point. Girls, generally speaking again, are more likely to write lengthier letters which describe more detail and feelings.


He’s been acting strange and your insides are sloshing around like laundry in a Maytag. You can’t exactly put your finger on it, but he’s not himself. Last night when he dropped you off he said he had to get right home. So how come you saw him head off in the opposite direction from home? And last week when he kissed you good night, he didn’t seem to pay much attention. Sometimes he moves away if you touch him and lately, it seems you’ve been calling him more than he’s been calling you. When you mention it he shrugs his shoulders and changes the subject. Is it all in your head? Or is something really wrong?

When he’s with you, he doesn’t look happy anymore. No laughs, no jokes just between the two of you like there used to be–not even a tickle. You touch his hand, but it’s like holding a damp cloth. Then panic starts to rise inside you.

“What’s the matter?” you whisper, afraid to hear the answer.

“I dunno,” he says, stuffing his hands into his pockets and staring intently at the Big Dipper. “I just think we should start dating around.”

Breaking up is hard to do. It hurts. Sometimes we think it is the worst thing that could happen. At first you can’t believe it is happening. Then you play the past over and over again like an old tape. You try to remember every minute of your time together trying to figure out what went wrong.

Next you play the “if-only game.” If only I hadn’t complained about him wanting to spend more time with his friends. If only I hadn’t been so possessive. . .If only I had done this. . .If only. . .If only. . .If only.

Dating forms a cycle–dating around–going steady–breaking up. Dating around–going steady–breaking up etc. With the exception of the person you eventually marry, you will break up every time you go steady. But how you handle it when the time comes is crucial.


There are times when it is better to break off than to keep a relationship going. But some couples are too wrapped up in each other to understand this. They fail to see the danger signals that could wreck their future. Here are a few signs that indicate you should break off.


Some arguing and fighting during a steady relationship is normal and is not cause for great concern. If you never argued you probably would not be being your real selves. But too many disagreements, especially if they are loud or long or continuous is bad news.

One couple had several rather serious quarrels which started over trivial matters. But each quarrel was emotionally packed and included sarcasm and bitter verbal attacks on her by him. She could not even understand what triggered the trouble.

As she got to know him better she discovered a pattern of events. Very often their quarrels followed a defeat in a sporting event. He was a highly competitive person and the pressure built up to the point where he exploded. He would hold his feelings in until she would mention something about what she accomplished and this would spark a fight. He would take exception to something she said, and then he would criticize her unmercifully. She reacted with shock at what she considered totally unreasonable attacks from him.

Whatever her own weaknesses in the relationship might be she decided she could not go steady with a guy who would take out his frustrations on her. If they had married they would have had little chance for success with so many “lover’s quarrels” happening prior to marriage.

Repeat, a well-matched couple may have a series of misunderstandings, but if your fights outnumber your peaceful time, you have something to worry about.


Fred and Claudia can hardly wait to be alone so they can make out. The sum total of their relationship revolves around the physical thrills they receive from one another. Their time together is based purely on physical attraction and includes few participation activities and little or no verbal communication.

When a couple becomes this physically involved, there is no time for growth in other areas of their relationship. The tendency is to “neck their way” out of problems rather than talk them out or squarely face them. Sex play tends to mask areas of concern until after marriage. When there is little foundation for a relationship other than physical excitement, the ardor soon cools unless the couple stay together for sex.

For instance, sometimes a girl will continue with sex so she can keep him as a boyfriend. Sometimes a guy will use a girl he barely likes just for sexual pleasure. Once a couple becomes sexually involved, they may stay together for the sex and not because they share common interests, goals, and values. Studies show that a sexual relationship, if that’s all they have going, may hold a couple together for three to five years, but no longer.

Furthermore, research shows that couples who engage in sex before marriage are more likely to break up than those who do not. Even engaged couples who have intercourse are more likely to break their engagements. Break ups are almost always painful experiences. But when a couple has become sexually intimate, the pain goes much deeper.

If you are too involved physically, it is time to break up and begin fresh in a new relationship where you can balance the emotional, physical and spiritual involvement.


Phil and Penny think they are compatible. They both enjoy basketball, country music, hamsters and pizza. But this only tells what they like to do in their spare time. Goals and values are the beliefs by which we run our lives. Values dictate our behavior even though we are hardly conscious of it. So if one values education, and the other is a high school drop out, if one values saving for the future and the other spending, if one values art, flowers and museums while the other values sporting events, some major conflicts will occur.

When a couple differs on values, it can be considered a serious danger signal, regardless of how much they profess to love each other. Such couples will clash every time an issue concerning values surfaces if they don’t mask it. The will make up and love and pray and still fight and not even know what they are fighting over–or ever tackle the all-important WHY.


Dear Nancy Van Pelt: Jerry and I have been dating steady for seven months. Jerry is very handsome and I love him dearly, but one thing bothers me. He seems to enjoy hurting me. He is forever poking, pinching and hitting me. When I tell him to stop, he laughs and tells me he’s only playing.

And when we get into a fight, watch out! The last time he twisted my arm and punched my shoulder. I had a bruise for three weeks. Other times he says he’s sorry. He really seems to mean it so I believe him. But he always does it again. Otherwise he is a really nice guy and I truly do love him. What would you advise? Signed, Black and Blue.

(Note to the Presenter: You could ask all students to write a response to Black and Blue in Dear Abby style or allow them to discuss the advantages and disadvantages to breaking up.)

One survey showed that 52 percent surveyed said they had experienced abuse in their dating relationships including–constant criticism, blame for all problems, repeated insults, isolation, extreme ignoring and destruction of possessions as well as threats of physical harm. Three quarters of these kids were age l4 to l6. Thirty-three percent had been threatened with physical violence while in a dating relationship yet very few ever told anyone. When they did tell someone it was a friend rather than a parent, teacher or authority figure.

Mind games that relegate others to the land of the stupid, intentional public embarrassment that makes you look like a fool in front of others can be termed mental abuse. It indicates that the person has low self esteem and a need to devaluate others in order to build him or herself up.

If you are in any kind of an abusive relationship get out now while you can. If you can’t do it alone, ask for help from an adult you trust!


Christy spends so much time with Dave that her friends hardly see her anymore. She just doesn’t have time for them. Her grades have dropped, and she seems to have lost interest in sports, school, friends, and church activities. She has lost interest in everything but Dave.

Love should expand Christy’s interests, not close her off. Love is a constructive force that helps you develop into the best kind of person you can be. It releases energies within you that should help you produce your best, not drop out from life. Relationships that crowd out friends, school, sports, and church should be terminated.


When distance separates a couple, two factors should be considered as to whether they should break up–their age and the distance between them. If a couple is l4 or l5 years of age, ten miles could make them cool their heels after a while. An older couple might be able to keep things going, however, even though a thousand miles separates them. But if you are in your midteens and your special friend moves away, don’t try to prolong the agony by swearing faithfulness to one another “forever and ever.” All the long-distance phone calls, love letters, and promises won’t hold it together for long. Young love only seems to survive in the “here and now.” “Out of sight, out of mind,” really applies to this age group.


If two people who are likeable, well-adjusted and outgoing when on their own, become selfish and bitter when combined as a couple, should not be a couple. You need to ask yourself, “Am I a better or a worse person when I am with my special friend?”


If you want to create an ugly scene, make people talk about you, and suffer more than is necessary, here are some things you can do:

(Note to the Presenter: This material can be presented in lecture format or you can have students come up with a list of hurtful ways to break off.)


Georgette is tired of Lance and knows it is time to break off but she feels guilty about hurting him. So she magnified his every negative trait in her mind until she can justify “telling him off.”: After Georgette unloads on Lance he is hurting and hurting bad. Not only has he been “dumped” but he has now been made to feel like an unworthy and unlikable person.


This is the cruelest way of all to deliver the “It’s over” message. Sometimes people choose this route as the easiest way of getting the message across–to appear in public with an affectionate new “friend” at their side.


If you and a steady are in the habit of meeting at a certain time in a certain place, please don’t just fail to show up with no word of explanation. This transmits questions to the other person’s mind like: “Did I say or do something to hurt his feelings last night?” “She’s probably been trying to ditch me for weeks and I’ve been too stupid to catch on!”


While you are making up your mind whether or not to break the relationship avoid the temptation to be nice one time and nasty the next.


Break ups are private affairs and should not be done in front of others or in a public place. This advice could save both of you some embarrassment. And you don’t have to do it just before a big test, a major holiday, or the major social event of the year.

NOTE; if you don’t want someone else doing it to you don’t do it to them!

Let’s look in on Mike and Betty. Mike thinks Betty is too friendly with other guys. Betty says she is always friendly to everyone and doesn’t plan to change now. Mike’s ego gets bruised. He gets mad at Betty. Betty says he is acting immature (That’s the worst possible thing to say to someone who is acting immature!) They really get into it from this point.

Mike loses his temper and Betty begins to cry. Then he says a few more hurtful things. They each go their separate ways and their last memory of each other is bitter which means they have to be enemies. The hurt stays for weeks, months and sometime even years. Since it takes time to get over a bad experience neither Mike or Betty is free to go on to a new relationship.

It doesn’t have to be this way. Let’s see if we can give Mike and Betty a few pointers so the experience could be less negative and more positive.


Avoid dragging up all the negatives about the other person. It is a devastating blow to self-esteem when someone breaks up with you. It hurts to be rejected. Instead of emphasizing all the bad, emphasize the good times you had together. Compliment the other person on at least one good quality or mention some way in which you have benefited from your friendship.


Sort out why things went sour and the part you played in it. Perhaps your ex does not have the character you thought he or she had. Admit your lack of insight. (Admit this to yourself even if you can’t bring yourself to admit it to the other person.) Accept responsibility for your own actions and mistakes. This takes maturity but you can grow through this.


You have a responsibility to tell the other person why you want to break up. All the young people I’ve talked with regarding this point agree that they want to know the reason even though it might hurt to find out. In the long run it will prove beneficial. Mature persons want to learn from their mistakes. Even though it hurts a lot, it is better to be told why than to continue wondering what was said or done to cause it.

So proceed in the following manner: (l) Point out something good about the other person you have appreciated; (2) Admit your own failures in making a Go of the relationship; and (3) Give an honest reason for the break up.

Let’s do an instant replay on Mike and Betty. (This scene can be role played.)

Mike: Why do you always flirt with other guys?

Betty: I’m not flirting. I’m just a friendly person. You know that.

Mike: If you really cared about me, you wouldn’t flirt with other guys.

Betty: I told you, I am not flirting. I’m just being friendly.

Mike: You don’t see me doing that. What if I was as friendly to other girls as you are to the guys?

Betty: Actually, it might not be a bad idea. You could see that it really doesn’t mean anything.

Mike: But I don’t want to be ‘friendly’ with other girls. Why is it so important for you to be nice to all the other guys around school?

Betty: It’s just the kind of person I am.

Mike: Well I don’t like it.

Betty: Maybe we’re not ready for the kind of relationship we have. Maybe. . .

Mike: Maybe what? What are you implying? That there’s something wrong with me? Are you suggesting that we break up or something?

Betty: Are you happy, Mike? It doesn’t seem like it and I’m certainly not happy with the way things are. Why continue in a relationship that is making us both miserable? Maybe we should break up.

Mike: But I need you, Betty!

Betty: Mike, I’ve enjoyed our friendship. We’ve had some great times together. You taught me to water ski when I was afraid to learn. I will always appreciate that. But I’ve realized something about myself. I’m not ready for the commitment of going steady. I need to be free to talk to anyone I want to and go places without you. I’m not handling your possessive behavior well. Neither of us has been happy in the relationship for the last few weeks. Why stay together when we are making each other miserable? You want more from the relationship than I can give right now. I think we should call it off and learn to get to know ourselves better.

(Discuss whether Betty included all three points mentioned)

This still hurts. And it is worse for Mike than for Betty since he is the one being rejected. But it is better than getting angry, feeling bitter, and not speaking for months afterwards.

There are few gentle ways to break up. It will always hurt when two people have cared for each other. But there are a few things you can do to soften the blow.


If you have any doubts in your mind about whether or not you should break up with your friend, talk it over with a trusted friend. Many couples break up during the heat of an argument and regret it later on. Find someone you can unburden yourself to, a pastor, teacher, parent, or a good friend. It will clear your mind while giving you an objective opinion.


Rather than leading the other person on, take steps to end things after you have reasonable doubt. Don’t pretend to care about someone whom you have lost interest in. Once you have made the decision, stick with it. Don’t be conned by promises to change, compromise, or do things differently.


It’s over. Your steady wants to date someone else. What will you do? Check one:

l. Fall on your knees and beg him/her to take you back.

2. Make wild promises to become exactly what the person wants you to be. You PROMISE to change.

3. Look sorrowful and shed a few tears so he/she will feel sorry for you. If that doesn’t work, resort to open crying and let the sobs rack your body.

4. Threaten to climb to the top of the World Trade Center and jump off.

5. Thank him/her for the good times you have shared and part with your head up and your step light. Then fall apart in the privacy of your room.

Often the person who has just been dumped feels so hurt that he/she angrily lashes out at the other person, usually to justify the hurt. You, too, might be tempted to rant and rave about how stupid he was in the first place and how you should have broken up with him ages ago. But refuse to mend your broken self-esteem by slandering the other person. Try not to defend yourself by intimating, “When word gets around about what you’re really like, buddy, no one will want you either!”

Other times revenge takes form in a more direct attack. When Matt breaks off with Sue, she lashes out at him. “I always knew you would do this. I never should have gone with you in the first place. You love hurting people, don’t you? You’ve hurt me so many times I’ve lost count. Look at the way you’ve treated me. You were never good enough for me in the first place!” Sue wants to make Matt feel as terrible for dropping her as she does for getting dropped.

Sometimes when the emotional dependence on the relationship has been great, the reaction against the person initiating the break takes the form of threats, blackmail, or even violence. Threats to tell personal secrets, to get high or drunk, to commit suicide, or other wild statements usually are only desperate attempts to hold onto someone. Occasionally the rejected person will rush into a short but intense physical relationship with someone new, partly for revenge and partly to compensate for the lost love.

(Put the students in small groups and have each group discuss what they would and should do if their ex boy/girlfriend threatened to tell personal secrets, to get high or drunk, violence or suicide. They could also make a list of all the things they have heard their friends threaten to do after a break up.)


If you have never yet been through the experience of a broken romance, chances are very good that someday you will. How will you cope with it when someone you care about deeply indicates that he/she no longer wants a romantic relationship? If you handle it with a little class, it will do wonders for your self-esteem. Or it can be messy and create ugly memories that linger for a life time and decrease your self-esteem.

(You can put students in groups and have them compile tips for surviving a break up or you can teach the lesson as presented.)


If you still care for the person who initiates the breakup, how much better it would be to leave him/her wondering if he/she has made a terrible mistake in breaking up rather than creating a scene and removing all doubt from his/her mind. Try to leave the other person thinking, “He/she is really something,” rather than, “Whew! Am I ever glad I’m rid of that one!”

Bow out gracefully with your self-esteem intact. Tell the other person that knowing him/her has been good for you. Assure him/her that you want to be a friend. You may also say, if you care to, that you find it difficult to stop loving someone overnight and that he/she will likely be a part of you for a while. You may also ask the reason for the break up if you have not been told. But when all it said and done, accept the situation and use it to your advantage rather than looking and acting like your world has fallen apart. Carry your self respect away with you.


Sadness at the time of a breakup is to be expected. So if you feel like crying–cry. This goes for males as well as females. Crying relieves a lot of pressure. But don’t cry in front of the other person or anyone else. Do all your mourning privately.


It helps to talk over hurt with someone you trust and who understands. Find someone who cares about you and share your hurt. Through all of this remember that you are not a worthless person just because you have been dumped.


Time is a wonderful healer. For some it will take longer than others. The time it takes will be in direct proportion to the depth of the broken relationship. The longer the two of you have gone together and the more deeply in love you were, the worse the effects. While recuperating, take time to look at yourself. Who am I? What do I want from life? Again remember you are not worthless just because you have been rejected by the other person.


Don’t hibernate in your room brooding over your problems. As soon as the tears are dry enter into group activities. Get involved, but not with your ex. Hopefully at a future time the two of you will be able to be friends again, but it is too soon now and any efforts toward that end might be misconstrued.

Put reminders of the past away. And when you do begin dating again, date several persons rather than just one. This protects you from a steady relationship before you have had a chance to recover. (You don’t want to have a relapse!) Naturally your self worth hits rock bottom after a breakup, but dating someone on the rebound only intensifies an already confused situation.

If you are the victim of a breakup right now you may have a hard time believing that within a short period of time you will recover and give dating another try, but it will happen. Just give it a few weeks, maybe a few months.

You are attending a football game with a friend. And suddenly you see him enter the stadium. He’s with another gal–a redhead. You don’t know her but you have seen her around. You wait for the inevitable hurt to overtake and engulf you. You are surprised when only a twinge of pain comes and goes. You take another look at the redhead and wonder what she’s got that you don’t have. Naturally you wonder if he already feels the same toward her as he once said he felt toward you. You reflect for just a moment. Your home team scores a point. You cheer along with the others and give a big sigh of relief. It doesn’t hurt the way it used to. “At last,” you whisper under your breath. “I’ve finally put myself back together again!”

(This can be used as an overhead, as a hand out, or you can have the students create their own lists of positive and negative reactions to a breakup)


Write a letter to a friend

Make music–play a musical instrument


Play tennis or go for a swim

Ride your Bike

Clean your room

Talk it out with a friend

Go to church

Join a club


List all the things you’ve got going for you

Join a new and challenging group or hobby

Throw yourself into a great new hobby

Make a new friend

Surprise someone with a gift or a good deed

Work in the yard

Create something with your hands

Read a good book


Steal something

Withdraw into TV or videos

Take drugs

attempt suicide

Keep it bottled up inside

Threaten to hurt your ex

Throw something

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