Mastering the Romantic Goodbye

It’s a Thursday night, and a girl is sitting like a flimsy plush doll on the filthy ceramic washroom floor of a college bar. She is wearing a revealing red dress with the straps slipping off her shoulders, her mascara is running down from her eyes, and her girlfriend holding Kleenex attempts to wipe her heavily intoxicated friend’s makeup, tears and nose at the same time. Upon seeing this, my friend gives the weeping girl a sympathetic glance and whispers to me, “You always know when a girl is crying over a guy.”

As university students, it’s safe to say most men and women our age have experienced the hardships of enduring a breakup and perhaps it’s about time to master the art of romantic goodbyes — if that’s even possible.

Vanessa*, a Ryerson business student, ended her relationship with her boyfriend one month before their third anniversary back in 2012. During the weeks leading to the break up, her boyfriend acted distant and even went missing for two weeks. “The first month or so [after the break up] was hell,” she said. “I lost my appetite, it was hard to sleep, and I didn’t want to hangout with anyone.” Instead, when she wasn’t crying or drinking excessively and becoming that girl at the bar washroom, she confided with a fellow friend named Prisca*, only to find out months later that the same friend had started dating her boyfriend even before they broke up.

“I lost some weight, and [the breakup] took a toll on my grades for all of my classes,” Vanessa said, admitting that she still has to make up for that drop in GPA in her final year now.

Photo: Natasha Gan

Photo: Natasha Gan

According to an article in Psychology Today, a breakup is considered “good” when the individual can manage to accept and “minimize psychic wreckage” so the pain doesn’t overwhelm the happy memories of the romantic relationship. Rutgers University anthropologist Helen Fisher compared breakups with the withdrawal syndrome that a drug addict usually suffers from, as it triggers the same parts of the brain. While it is realistic to live with despair after a harsh breakup, the best you can do for yourself, according to psychologist Phillip Shaver from the University of California, is to express this hurt in a “reasonable degree” and attempt to heal. It also helps if you have a self-esteem that allows you to deter you from devaluing and blaming everything on yourself.

Another business student at Ryerson, Bill*, also had to face a breakup just days after Vanessa’s. Only this time, it was his girlfriend that decided to end the two-year relationship through electronic means. Soon after, he found out his girlfriend had feelings for his roommate, who was Vanessa’s then boyfriend. When Bill’s ex wasn’t at their place, she would be Skyping his roommate. When it started to get overwhelmingly awkward for Bill, he would not come home and would instead sleep in a computer lab in Kerr Hall. In contrast to Vanessa’s break up, the change was generally beneficial for Bill. “I just hung out with friends and that helped me a lot. I think it was good for my grades because I had more time to focus after the breakup,” Bill said positively.

As much as it is easier said than done, some relationships may not be worth saving and you’ll be surprised how much good a goodbye actually does. Remember to take some time to heal before eventually starting the search for someone new. “I’m not going to downplay how bad I felt during those days but at least I can say I’m more cautious now,” said Bill, who has remained single. “And forgiving.”

*Name changed for privacy reasons