Dear Prudence

Dear Prudence Uncensored: The Breakup

Every week, Danny M. Lavery and Nicole Cliffe discuss a Prudie letter. This week: the breakup.

Daniel Lavery: I want to focus on two issues that I think we should keep really separate

The first is that your ex was unable or unwilling to support you as a Black woman dealing with racism on both a personal and a national scale

which is really important, and I don’t wonder that the LW felt isolated in that relationship/relieved when she realized they wouldn’t be able to move ahead with their wedding

Nicole Cliffe: Absolutely

She needs to think hard about the future of that relationship

Daniel Lavery: and the other issue is whether it’s reasonable to say to someone, “Let’s break up for a month, but don’t go anywhere,” and expect them to cheerfully agree

Nicole Cliffe: but the break thing is ridiculous

how on earth do you live together during a break

Daniel Lavery: because that part just doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t understand why she would say “space is the last thing I need right now” after saying “I need to take a break from this relationship for a month”

Nicole Cliffe: it’s absolutely wild to me

and again, absolutely you may not want to marry this person, but I bet he is CONFUSED AS HELL that you are furious about the break

Daniel Lavery: yeah, it’s one thing to say to your partner, “I hope even if we break up someday that we’ll stay friends”

Nicole Cliffe: I could not sit across from my FIANCÉE while eating EGGS pretending we’re “friends” for a month


Daniel Lavery: but most people don’t mean “if I tell you I want to break up for a month, you’ll be cool just hanging out in the living room as friends, right?”

yeah I would describe that expectation as “naive” at BEST

Nicole Cliffe: if you call the break, you need to get your support from literally anyone you didn’t just call the break on

Daniel Lavery: and this whole back and forth now of like — “Well, I wouldn’t have left if I thought that meant we were *really* broken up” just feels like wasted energy

Nicole Cliffe: I think his suggestion to see a couple’s counselor is great

Daniel Lavery: say more! My first inclination was to suggest individual therapy and to treat this as a real breakup, but I’m always suggesting that

so I want to explore this idea, just as a change of pace

Nicole Cliffe: I think it’s going to offer clarity

like, don’t get me wrong, they should prob break up

but since they are actually engaged

I think it’s worth sitting down and processing it through

people get a lot of emotional relief from “well, I tried”

Daniel Lavery: that makes sense to me! I think going to a few sessions not necessarily with the expectation that you’re going to get back together, but if you’re both interested in trying to figure out why you had such different expectations and figuring out how to part ways on better terms, that could be useful

Nicole Cliffe: Yes! I have friends who went into couples counseling with the plan of breaking up cleanly

and it was really good for them

I also want this guy to have his feelings about the break thing validated, he did not need to apologize

And also I want him to hear about how he dropped the ball on racial turmoil and the toll it’s been taking on her

So everyone can walk away feeling heard

Daniel Lavery: yes, and even if not feeling heard, at least feeling like, “I was able to put a longstanding resentment into words”

Nicole Cliffe: RIGHT

helpful stuff to take into your next relationship

Daniel Lavery: the line about staying with him through stressful medical crises has me slightly worried — like she thinks she “earned” a certain number of ultimatums by doing so

and I think the issue there is basically — your problem was that you had a partner who wasn’t there for you in pretty significant and ongoing ways

Nicole Cliffe: keeping score is rarely a good idea

Daniel Lavery: which is real, and painful

Nicole Cliffe: Totally

Daniel Lavery: but yes, that you thought keeping score or “earning” future points was the best way to deal with that

and that’s not actually how relationships work

or if it does “work,” it’s not a healthy approach to relationships

Nicole Cliffe: I think both parties sound a little young

So ideally this will be helpful for them in the future

Daniel Lavery: Yeah, ideally, you would be be able to say some important truths in these therapy sessions (if you go) and part ways feeling less resentful and misunderstood

and then in the future you can look for different things in a partner

Nicole Cliffe: I think we’re good here!

Daniel Lavery: it does sound like the best outcome here is for these two to break up

Nicole Cliffe: damn imagine living together on a break

Daniel Lavery: breaking up! It’s often a lot better than going through with a wedding with someone who can’t or won’t give you what you need!

oh man, I have so rarely heard of a couple who broke up and then kept living together for a while and felt great about it

every so often it happens but more often than not it’s just way too much proximity way too soon

Nicole Cliffe: Absolutely not