6 Expert Tips on Healthy Breakups in the Digital Age

PHOTO: Expert tips for coping with breakups in a digital age.Noel Hendrickson/Getty Images
Expert tips for coping with breakups in a digital age.

There's plenty of ways to meet someone online, but there are few concrete rules on what kind of online behavior is acceptable once a relationship ends.

Add in the fact that much of our lives -- and our recent exes lives' -- play out in real-time on social media, making it harder than ever to truly close the book on a defunct romance.

Robert Weiss, Director of Intimacy and Sexual Disorders Programs for Elements Behavioral Health -- has six tips for breaking up "healthy" in a digital world.

But long before the breakup that's the inevitable end of every romance before "the one," there's a simple rul of romance Weiss reccomends: Don’t put every detail of your current relationship online in the first place. "Doing so is often problematic for two primary reasons. First, after a breakup people tend to ruminate on what happened and what was lost," he said. "If your entire relationship history is right there on your Facebook page, this depressing process is greatly facilitated.

"Second, when you start dating someone new you probably want a clean slate, and if your entire dating history is online for your new partner to read, you won’t get that. In fact, you’re likely to be pre-judged as a potential love interest based on your last - failed - relationship."

Tips for healthy breakups in today’s digital world:

1. Don’t break up via social media or text (unless your relationship was primarily digital to begin with): Yes, it’s an online world, but if a person was important enough to you that you dated them and were emotionally and perhaps physically intimate with them, then they’re important enough to merit a face-to-face conversation when you’re breaking it off.

2. After a breakup, even if you hope to remain friends with your ex, time apart is a good idea: In the pre-Internet world, therapists would advise clients to box up all the pictures and mementos and hide them in the garage for six months or more, and to stay away from their ex as much as possible. In the digital world this may mean unfriending your ex on social media, and possibly even blocking his or her calls and texts for a while. If you’re worried about how the other person will react, you can explain that it’s a temporary hiatus that you need in order to clear your head and move on. You might even schedule a conversation over coffee in three or six months, after you’ve both had time to think, at which time you can discuss goals and boundaries for your friendship (or non-friendship) moving forward.

3. If you want to be friends with your ex, but your ex wants total separation, you need to respect that, not just in-person but online: There is actually a not-so-nice word for people who don’t respect breakup boundaries: That word is stalker.

4. Do not post nasty comments about your breakup: That is bad form, and it nearly always makes you rather than your ex look bad. In fact, as a general rule you should never post anything on social media that you wouldn’t want to see on the evening news. In short, you need to remember that social media is a public forum. If you’re going through a breakup, conduct yourself as if your family and friends—grandma included—are watching. Because in a social media world, those people actually are monitoring your behavior. If you find that need to talk about the dirty little details of your relationship and its end, do so in private with a close friend or your therapist.

5. If you’ve broken up with someone, it is perfectly OK to update your social media stats from “in a relationship” to “single”: There may well be someone out there—perhaps the person that’s right for you—who has been waiting and hoping that you might someday be available. There is no reason that person should be kept in the dark about your new status.

6. If you continue to be friends, in-person or online, with an ex, do not keep this a secret from the new people you date: If you’re in touch with an ex and keeping it a secret, you’re probably not over that person and therefore you’re probably not ready to begin a healthy relationship with someone new. If you are in touch with a recent ex and your new dating partner is jealous about or uncomfortable with that, you need to recognize that fact and adjust accordingly.

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