The BreakUp Text
Updated: Jan 28
I’d woken up at 3.30am to begin my usual morning routine consisting of a 10km jog, followed by a long walk with my puppy and then preparing for a day of work and study and kid stuff. It was 7.30pm when I began my last cardio adventure of the day, thinking this would be it and after a nice long shower I’d retire to bed. I wasn’t super excited for the night time run. It had been a hot day, I hadn’t sat down much and had spent a large part of the day outdoors. I was tired, unmotivated and kinda just wanted a beer. My feet hit the pavement, my mind screamed to turn around and go home then 20 seconds later my phone rang. Heck yes!!! Jog slowed to a walk and I picked up a call from a dear friend.
He was upset. My delight at his timely interruption was short lived. Someone he had been dating had just ended their 14 month relationship via text and was refusing to talk to him.
I’ve had calls like this before; a devastated friend trying to process a traumatic experience they don’t understand. I’ve been there before and the pain he was in I empathised with keenly.
We spoke about his particular situation and soon expanded and spoke about it generally. The breakup text, what I coined in that conversation as The Brext (purely accidental, I tripped over my words and combined them by mistake. I like I though...sticking with it!)
Why do some people do it via text? Even those who have had it done to them and know the pain that accompanies the coldness of this form of communication. Surely they don’t wish to cause their now ex any more pain than they’re already experiencing on purpose. You’d like to think they aren’t going “I know what will really drive the knife in, a heartless message and then not answering calls or agreeing to meet face to face, yeah that sounds sweet”.
Look, maybe some do have that attitude, possibly relating directly to the reason they wish to break up. Maybe it is retaliation to infidelity, anger over words or actions or a finale to an ongoing heated exchange. But in my friends case, and many others, breakups for the sake of wishing to move on without that other person, where there’s no animosity, the Brext is confusing and utterly soul destroying.
The end of our conversation resulted in us agreeing that those who do this are selfish and cowardly, unable to empathise or at least actively trying not to in this particular situation so as to alleviate their own guilt. We felt they were taking what was to them an easy way out, where they could avoid facing the emotions their decision was inspiring in their partner.
There’s more to it than that though.
My friend was seeing a lovely girl who had lived a life. She’d been overseas working as a teacher for most of her twenties, in and out of abusive relationships when she came back to Australia. In one relationship she tried to leave multiple times, only to be manipulated into coming back through false promises of change. She found her strength came from ceasing all contact, not agreeing to 'one last catch up', blocking and deleting on every platform she could. In another relationship she walked away from, her partner told her he would kill himself unless he took her back. Again, the only way she got through that was by eliminating him from her life in every way possible and refusing to see him. For her, face to face conversations resulted in emotional manipulation and coercive control. At 42 she met my friend and they immediately hit it off. Love was declared, tentative plans were made for their future together, and there was talk about moving in together. Three months in (I have a theory about the three month mark and it has NEVER failed me!) she started to pull away a little bit and they navigated through this with a brief breakup and lots of talks about commitment and what they were after. She seemed to come back, for a while any way, but it was not the same. The declarations of love stopped from her around 6 months in and toward the end her life appeared to be heading away from talks of moving in together and settling down. My friend was smitten so he couldn't identify any of this in the moment. Like with a lot of things it becomes clear in hindsight. He thought she was tired, missing her overseas adventures, struggling with work place conflict. Then two nights ago she sent my friend a message that bought his world crashing down.
“Hey I’ve been thinking a lot about us and I don’t think we are going to work. I’m so sorry, I know you’ll find someone amazing, all the best”.
And that was it. He rang her. She didn’t answer. He requested to see her, she replied with “no, I think it’s best we just move on”.
I can imagine from her end, from most Brexter’s end, that there was no love. Her emotional connection to my friend was gone and may have been gone for a while before the Brext, making sending this message slightly easier. This isn't always the case of course, sometimes love is still present, with the need to break up resulting from incompatibility or some other factor.
You are given a strangers child’s favourite toy and you break it, causing that child to cry and be extremely upset. The parents can fix it, in time, but they need you to return the pieces and you’re given two options. Hand it to the child personally or leave it on his doorstep where you avoid meeting this kid face to face. You’ll either be the person that goes to the kids house so you can apologise and try and make amends, or you’ll drop it off discreetly so you can leave the situation in the past and your connection to that event ceases. Or you’ll throw the pieces on an open fire and laugh at the child’s misery while drinking whiskey and listening to Metallica. But let’s assume the third option isn’t one you’d take.
Brexter’s send their message because they don’t have to face the person they’re breaking up with. They don’t have to witness the tears, hear the painful expressions of emotion, provide answers or closure. They can press the send button and, usually feeling no love or any form of emotional connection, they can leave their partner in the past and move on.
I am making out like this is easy for all Brexter’s, that all of them are identical. That’s absolutely not true. I’ve spoken to many people who have broken up with a partner via text and they have suffered with guilt and remorse for a long time after the fact. Some opted for the Brext because their partner displayed threatening behaviours and it was out of the question that a face to face breakup was a safe option. But those who simply took the easier way out not only acknowledge that this was exactly what they did but have confessed to feeling really shitty about doing it.
There are conflicting opinions around the Brext and the time it occurs. Most agree that after only a few weeks or a month that a Brext is fine, and I side with them on this one. I’m not a believer in love at first sight and I also don’t believe that deep emotions can be established until many months into a relationship, so a Brext at this point, and this is my opinion, is ok. I know people who would fight me viciously on this and argue that if you establish any form of relationship, no matter for how long, that it is courtesy to communicate decisions, emotions and thoughts through a better, more inclusive, medium than text.
After 14 months of dating a girl he cherished and adored my friend was heartbroken. Not only with the pain of her loss, but with all the unanswered questions he knows he will never have answered. Why? What was going on for you?
He rang me sad and lost, angry and desolate.
It isn’t always easy for the person calling the relationship quits. They know their partner is invested in them, they're aware they're dealing with a thinking, feeling, emotion driven human being. Their past may affect their emotional availability, their present situation may change so much so that they no longer see their partner in their life going forward. For whatever reason someone seeks to end a relationship it's never an 'easy' decision. The guilt they’re feeling often lingers for a while after the relationship ends.
On top of these emotions you then add the delivery of that decision. Bringing pain into someone else's life. No decent person enjoys hurting another.
He says he won’t forgive her. That she’s evil and sinister and cruel. I believe her actions may have been questionable, cruel yes, but the breakup text doesn't indicate the true nature of an individual. It more so indicates they're emotionally immature, poor communicators, but there is almost always a deeper, underlying issue that drives them to this course of action.
Able to relate to what they may be feeling I genuinely empathise with what they had to process, more often alone, in the lead up to the text.
I have almost been a Brexter. Technically I have been one, but only in situations where I have felt a face to face would have posed a threat to my safety. There have been many men that I have almost gone to breakup with by text because the very thought of seeing them and doing it in person made me physically ill. I don’t want to see their face fall, hear the ‘but why? Was it something I did?’ Or even sometimes ‘please, don’t do this’. But I did. I'm no saint, just because I can face the consequences of my decisions, that does not mean I am claiming to be the perfect human. I am flawed and in possession of weaknesses that have effected relationships in the past. But by having this conversation in person not only was I providing them with what they were asking of me, I was allowing myself to move forward knowing I made a decision that was best for me, in a transparent, honest and open way. The times I really didn’t want to, the times I picked up my phone and wrote the message, only to delete it before I sent it…I get it. It’s easier.