Getting dumped is one of those life events that, depressing as it feels at the time, is also comfortingly universal. There are few experiences more totally ego-obliterating, and also foundational to human development, than being broken up with. So when we saw a recent tweet that mused, “No one has ever dumped my husband and I honestly wonder if you can be a full human without that experience,” we wondered it, too.
If you’ve never been dumped, can you really relate to the raw pain of Kate Winslet and Jim Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind? How do you comprehend the soul-crushing angst of Bella from Twilight when Edward decides to leave her, or the revenge that motivates Elle Woods to enter Harvard Law School in Legally Blonde? To answer all these questions and more, I spoke to an anonymous woman who has indeed Never Been Dumped.
This interview has been condensed for length and clarity.
Rachelle Hampton: How many relationships have you been in over the course of your life?
I’ve been in four serious relationships longer than a year. A handful of shorter ones where I still called the guy my boyfriend, or at least saw him regularly for a few months.
What was the dynamic like in each of these breakups?
The first was my high school boyfriend, but we kept dating into college. He was a nice guy I had met in church, but it was obvious to me at a certain point we wanted different things. We had said “I love you” and talked about marriage (we were church kids), and I remember at one point going to see a counselor because I had this sick feeling in my stomach about it. I broke up with him in the car outside my dorm, and it was pretty rough.
I dated casually a bit after that, and then my next big relationship was my college boyfriend, who I was desperately in love with. He had a crush on me from afar in a big lecture class, but we didn’t meet and start dating until after he graduated. We had a very intense relationship that felt very “one true and eternal love.” When I graduated, he was heading to grad school, and it was a messy, drawn-out situation but not a dumping per se for either of us.
After that, I dated casually that summer, including a hot older bartender at the restaurant I was working at. Then I dated a waiter there more seriously and kept dating him when he started law school in the fall. He was really sweet and cute, but I had just always known we were not going to be together long-term. I broke up with him when I moved away to a bigger city. I think he cried.
In the city, I dated an older musician for a little over a year. It was “serious” in that we were exclusive, spent most of our nights together, traveled together, and so on. My parents were worried about it. But I was confident it was not going to last that long. I broke up with him in his extremely cool car, and he also cried.
Almost immediately afterward, I started dating a guy I’d met through a friend, who was working for a local political campaign. We ended up dating for four years. In this case, I was eventually ready to get married or at least start moving seriously in that direction. I thought that was more than fair after four years of a really solid and happy relationship. My boyfriend wasn’t ready, but he really wanted to stay together even though he was getting ready to move to another state. I eventually became exhausted by that dynamic, and I broke up with him. It was pretty dramatic: I had taken some time to think, and he ended up flying across the country as a surprise to try to win me back. But by that point I had made up my mind. I ended up breaking up with him over the phone a few weeks later.
I still thought about my old college boyfriend a lot over all these years, and we went through periods where we wrote each other letters and G-chatted a lot. To make a long story short, we eventually got married! So my dumping years are over now.
Wow, that’s a lot of dumping. Did you keep in contact with any of your other exes?
I am a total sucker for “staying friends,” but I realize that was just a way of preventing myself from feeling the full pain of a breakup. As far as I can recall, they all went along with that, but naturally we drifted apart as we moved on. I haven’t been in touch with any of them for years. As far as I know, there’s no ill will. They’re all married or in serious relationships.
How does it feel to have never been dumped?
I had never thought about it before now! I don’t think not being stone-cold dumped means you haven’t experienced heartbreak. The first time that my college boyfriend and I broke up, it was devastating even though it was complicated. And in these other relationships, there were things that were hurtful or agonizing in different ways. It’s not like pain only occurs at the precise moment of the official breakup.
What is your working definition of “dumped”?
I think of it as one person in the relationship unilaterally saying, “This relationship is over.”
So, in general that person has been you. Have you ever bailed from relationships earlier than you might’ve because you expected you were going to be dumped but wanted to keep the streak going?
Ha, no. I never thought of it as a streak! And actually, I would never say IRL, “I dumped him.” I say, “I broke up with him.” There’s something really cold about “dumped.”
Do you feel like you’re missing out on some seminal life experience?
Not really. If I had sailed through all those years of dating without experiencing any rejection or heartbreak or bad feelings, then yes, but in that case I would also be a sociopath.
Dumpings figure so prominently in pop culture. When you, say, watch a movie about a breakup, do you truly feel like you can relate? How do you process such depictions as a Never Been Dumped?
I guess I just empathize with whomever I’m meant to empathize with in the scene? I mean, I’m not a monster. I get why it would be painful to be dumped, in part because I have seen that pain in multiple men’s faces, caused by me.
Do you have any theories as to why you’ve never been dumped yourself?
I think I was a good girlfriend! And I also had a good track record of only dating people who were actually interested in me. I’ve never been cheated on, either, as far as I know. I just never got into the game of dating someone who was only half-interested, who was going to string me along and torture me. Those people are potential dumpers, I suppose, and I just naturally weeded them out.
Do you worry about giving breakup advice to your friends because of your lack of experience? Do they ever roll their eyes because they see you as too invulnerable?
Well, I can’t guarantee they’re not rolling their eyes privately. But I do like giving advice when it seems wanted. I think of myself as a successful dater, but it’s not because I’ve never been dumped. I don’t see getting dumped as failure.