Incurably Curious

Let’s Talk Breakup Strategy


My good friend El has one piece of advice she always gives to the recently lovelorn: dead-leg ’em. As in, cut them off, like a dead leg.

“I’m keeping him on Facebook, just to see what he’s up to,” someone might say.
“Why? Dead-leg him.”
“Well, this way he can see I’m doing fine without him.”
“Bollocks. Dead-leg him.”
“And also I did reply to a text the other day. But I didn’t put any Xs.”
“Dead. Leg. Him.”
“There’s no need for bad manners.”
“Fuck manners.”
“What i-”
“Deadddd. Leggggggg.”

She’s right though. If it’s over, it doesn’t matter whose fault it is. You’ve got to get your shit together and do some damage control. Put as much distance between you and the toxic waste as possible. I don’t buy into this idea of staying friends after a breakup. It always ends in tears, usually when one party finds a replacement partner. Sure, maybe one day you’ll be friends, once all romantic feelings are gone and the idea of them with somebody else doesn’t make you want to pop your eyeballs out, but for now you need to purge their every trace from your world.

Unfriend them, unfollow them. Block them, even, if you have many mutual friends, so their updates never make it to your feeds. Delete their number, screen their calls. If you are the kind of person to go through Facebook photos at 2am with a litre of uncooked brownie batter then untag all those too. Bin everything. Do you know anyone who has actually ever done this? Properly? Not in a film? If you do I bet they’re a fucking badass and everyone lives in awe of their iron self-control. This is how you get over someone.

Of course, even if the object of your raw emotion is the biggest arsehole this side of WWII, it can be very hard to bring yourself to let them go. But then, so is a leg. Imagine you’ve got some sort of infection in one and you’ll die if you keep it. You know that sawing that gammy bastard off is the only rational choice, but you still can’t do it. You scream. You cry. You try to rationalise keeping the leg. You question whether a crippled life without the leg is worth living at all. You doubt you’ll ever walk again. 

And then you just do it, because you have to. Like that bloke who had to hack off his own arm in 127 Hours. What a rock star. If you broke up with him he’d be out of there so fucking fast it’d make your head spin.

Of course, the problem with dead-legging someone is that it only sounds like a genius idea when you’re not the dead-legger. We’ve all had friends who’d rather make bad decisions than take good advice because they can’t let things go, but I’m also willing to bet everyone who reads this has done the very same themselves. When you are merely a concerned bystander on the edge of a swirling pool of emotional turmoil, it is easy to dole out such wisdom. When you’re in over your head, though, it can be hard to see.
“Poor sod,” the doctor probably thinks absently as he sends his gangrenous patient to the surgeon’s tent, “it’s for the best.” But it’s not his fucking leg, is it? The bloke being wheeled into surgery, meanwhile, is going absolutely mental because he thinks his life is over. And for a while afterwards, that’s how it’ll feel. 

But it’s rarely the end. Being alone can be wonderful, but even if that worries you, you’ll meet somebody else. Probably someone better, in fact, because you’ll have learned something from the last one. It’s sort of like losing a leg and then getting a hyper-realistic, fully sensory cyborg speed-blade (yeah, here the metaphor gets a bit shaky…)

What do you think? Are you a ruthless dead-legger or do you find it hard to let go?

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25 comments on “Let’s Talk Breakup Strategy

    February 6, 2014

    best break-up advice ever. your friend is a wise girl.
    but I’m biased, because that’s what I do anyway – I have no idea about my ex’es lives and have a hard time remembering their names (I’m not even kidding, my selective memory is a mystery to me but most certainly it helps me live happily ever after).
    oh, and what helps a lot: having no FB account at all. tooooootally helps. for break-ups, but also for job interviews, for child births, for everything. an iMessage quite does the trick and no douchebag can tag me on the worst picture ever made. ha.

    • CuriousEmily
      February 11, 2014

      You’re lucky you do it innately! I think not having Facebook is probably the real help here – I’d quite like to give it up but it is quite useful for events and things.

        February 11, 2014

        well, the road to hell is made of convenience, don’t they say so? ;)

  2. Jessica_E_Brown
    February 6, 2014

    I have to agree with your friend – dead leg. Unless you have kids together, then I guess it would be more like a dead arm – cut them off, but it only lasts for a week until you have to give him the kids. Okay, my metaphor’s a bit shaky, too!

    • CuriousEmily
      February 11, 2014

      Christ, I can’t imagine how difficult a breakup is when you have kids or pets or a shared mortgage. Especially as most relationships end a bit messily…I guess an unholy level of maturity is the key to ending a long-game without going completely insane!

  3. Leanne
    February 6, 2014

    Sounds like perfectly sound advice to me. The only ‘relationship’ breakdown I’ve ever experienced was at the pathetically naive age of 15 when I was dumped (after having my virginity ruthlessly stolen) by an a-hole of an 18 year old who I thought was some sort of rock god because he played the guitar (badly). He suggested still being friends and coming to see me a few days later, yet even through my heartbroken teenage tears I managed to perform a spectacular leg amputation by saying something along the lines of ‘no, I’d rather never lay eyes on you and your greasy hair again thanks’. GIRL POWER.

    Some months later I fell into the relationship I’m still in now, coming up for 6 years. God only knows how I’d manage to dead-leg this one if the time ever comes.

    • CuriousEmily
      February 11, 2014

      Who is that wise aged fifteen!? When that happened to me at the same age I threatened to throw myself under a bus and spent an ENTIRE DAY in the toilets like I’d been told I had only minutes to live. My friends still tease me about it to this day.

      Hopefully you’ll never have to dead-leg your current boyfriend. :) Nice work!

  4. Daile
    February 6, 2014

    This is exactly what I do (and suggest to friends) it can be so difficult and you don’t want to seem like you care by being the one to cut them off but it works. It really works. No matter how much they were a part of your life, no matter how many mutual friends you have. It’s best to cut them off like a dead leg!

    • CuriousEmily
      February 11, 2014

      I’m so glad you agree! Obviously it’s easier said than done, especially if even one molecule thinks (and hopes!) you’ll get back together.

  5. Leanne
    February 6, 2014

    I think this is probably easier in short-term relationships rather than long ones where you’ve built up a mutual life with mutual friends etc as well as your separate lives. I’m actually still friends with three out of four of my exes but we did need some time apart to be able to get to that stage.

    • CuriousEmily
      February 11, 2014

      Absolutely, I don’t think this is really doable in very long-term relationships, especially with extra factors like shared property or children.

      How long did it take you to revert to being mates with your exes? I find it only works if you were friends before you got together; if you’ve only ever known anyone as a boyfriend I think it’s probably harder to go ‘back’.

      • Leanne
        February 11, 2014

        The first moved to America so I didn’t have any “real” contact with him and we’ve stayed in touch for the last 10 years (!) via Facebook, the second it took about 6 months of meeting up occassionally before I didn’t cry every time I said goodbye and the most recent was probably the weirdest, we were long distance but have basically been best friends (or frexes as we call it) ever since our breakup. We see more of each other now than we ever did. I wasn’t friends with any of the guys before dating either! Guess I’m just an anomaly lol

  6. charlotteyasis
    February 6, 2014

    What is your advice for getting the fuck rid of waste of space cling ons which have somehow wormed there way into your daily affairs?

    • CuriousEmily
      February 11, 2014

      Urgh! What’s happened there? Obviously you don’t want to sacrifice your social life or make mutual friends take sides…it’s a shame if this person won’t give you your space. :/

  7. El
    February 7, 2014

    Best advice ever! Better to see how you can live without them and spend your time with people that actually care about you. The same goes for ex’s mothers who inexplicably think they can continue to text/call/email/make you remember your breakup every time they contact you. Don’t reply. Deeeaaaaadddd leeeeeggggg.

    • CuriousEmily
      February 11, 2014

      Haha, I’m so glad I took your advice! I think you can still stay friends with family members to an extent, but certainly not of that disgusting greaseball who shall not be named (Tony).

  8. Sherbet and Sparkles
    February 9, 2014

    Great advice…but sadly that’s not what I did this time. It would have been too hard to do that, since our breakup was more like “meh, this isn’t working, is it?” kind of thing. It’s his first breakup though so I let him be drama queeny about it and gave him space but now I’m going back to parties where I know he’ll be there because I am not giving up my social life for him to feel better.

    • CuriousEmily
      February 11, 2014

      What a shitty situation. It’s always sad when a relationship just fizzles out; much more difficult to dead-leg than an explosive ending when one or both partners have really fucked up. It sounds like he has a bigger problem than you though, so if he needs his space then it’s him who needs to dead-leg you, not the other way around.

      • Sherbet and Sparkles
        February 11, 2014

        Yeah I hope he does. We’ve not really talked so it’s ok I guess.

  9. jk
    February 14, 2014

    This. This. Absolutely this.

    It can be incredibly difficult. I can do it if I’m dating someone or in an actual relationship and it goes wrong. If I’ve ended it, I try to be nice but firm. If she’s ended it, my innate intense embarrassment makes me stay the hell away.
    However, if it’s one of those grey areas (which I have been caught up in all too often) it can be unspeakably hard. Therefore, from my own personal experience, I know very well that if someone is being evasive or non-committal, it’s better to simply ask whether it’s going anywhere.

    And answers like “maybe”, “I don’t know”, “let’s just see what happens” or “I can’t answer that right now” are clear signals to limp away with a dead leg.

    I haven’t taken them as such in the past, but I’ll try to in the future.

    • CuriousEmily
      February 21, 2014

      It’s much easier said that done. But yeah, the fear of humiliation and paranoia that everyone is pitying you is enough incentive for me to do the dead leg thing. I’ve never asked anyone if something is going somewhere though, that takes balls!

      • jk
        February 26, 2014

        Did it on Sunday. I don’t think I can say it took balls.

        I’d made a new friend and we kept doing stuff together, but I wasn’t sure how she felt and had got to the point of really needing to know because, you know, I knew how I felt.

        So I told her, and had the sweetest and most caring rejection ever. She was honest, kind, listened to me and talked with me about it.

        Sort of makes it worse, knowing she’s an even nicer person than I thought, but in this case – when I get over how much it damn hurts – I hope we can be friends. And good ones at that.

  10. Pingback: I is for… Incurably Curious | Broke in the Big Smoke

  11. nlanders
    May 10, 2014

    Great idea… if only I could follow it! I’m the type who can give out the great ‘dead-leg them’ type advice to friends but end up doing the complete opposite when it comes to myself. why is that!?! It’s like I know what I should do,… but then I do the opposite

  12. Nancy
    October 29, 2014

    I have been re-reading (stalking) your blog for most of this evening whilst avoiding writing a very important essay. I miss your posts! They speak to me on a certain level even I was not aware of. Mostly level ‘thank fuck for this, I thought I was the only one acting like a dick’. Thanking you very muchly so sir for providing me with these posts.

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This entry was posted on February 6, 2014 by in Dating & Sex and tagged , , , , , , , , , .


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