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Breaking Up Is Hard To Do

October 14, 2012

We’ve all GoodByebeen there.  Each of us has, at one point or another in our lives, experienced that excruciating moment of anguish when you realize: IT’S OVER.  It might be have been coming for some time (although you chose to ignore the signs); it could happen unexpectedly (but you know it is clearly final) but sometime, somewhere, you reach the point where you just KNOW that a relationship has run its course.  The joy has faded, the trust is gone, the end has come.  And no matter how often it happens, each time is as difficult as the first.

HousekeeperI’m not talking about the collapse of a romantic partnership here (although the grieving process is pretty much the same) but rather the dissolution of a relationship with any one of the other ‘important people’ you let into your home or your life and come to depend on: your hairdresser, housekeeper, auto mechanic, landscaper, contractor, etc.

It often takes years to form a trusting bond with the ‘service providers’ many of us engage. You might pick a name out of a phone book (because it’s the first one you see, you like the sound of it, or the ad appeals to your innate sense of design), ask a friend or colleague for a recommendation (because you love the way their house looks or their hair is styled, or their car performs), or you do your due diligence and conduct the necessary research, secure references, and ensure the individual in question is a member in good standing of the Chamber of Commerce or the Better Business Bureau before you make ‘first contact’, but make no mistake about it – you are looking for a long term relationship.

MechanicAnd occasionally you hit pay dirt.  The hairdresser your friend recommends understands exactly how you want to look; the housekeeper you found through the ad in the local paper leaves your house so clean you could eat off the kitchen floor; the auto mechanic your colleague swears by tunes your car to within an inch of its life; the landscaper your mother’s next-door neighbor’s brother uses is punctual and efficient; the contractor you selected from the yellow pages is a multi-talented genius – and he looks just like Brad Pitt!  More often than not, though, it takes repeated attempts and many frustrating months (or even years) to find a perfect match. And when that happens, you don’t EVER want to let that person out of your life!

Purple HairHowever, like any lengthy liaison, things often can – and do – begin to go wrong somewhere along the line.  You make an appointment for a quick cut and colour and end up with a purple Mohawk.  Your find crumbs wedged below the kitchen baseboard, dust bunnies under the bed, and one of your priceless Royal Doultons broken and hidden behind a stack of books on the living room shelf.  You pay for a 30 point tune-up and then discover you’re still down a quart of oil and your radiator cap is missing.  Your rhododendrons get decapitated by a mishandled whipper-snipper.  The closet doors you paid to have hung are cockeyed and the new kitchen tap you had installed is leaking.

DenialWhat do you do?  As with the beginning of the end of any lasting bond, you are going to start with the first of the five stages of grief: denial.  You’ll think, “This is just a fluke,” or “I’m sure it won’t happen again,” or even “This can’t be happening to me!” You might pay a little more attention the next time you engage the individual’s services, but you’ll (consciously or unconsciously) refuse to accept the fact that the person you’ve trusted all this time has let you down (some people remain in denial for a very long time).

AngerEventually (hopefully sooner rather than later, when the damage is minimal) you’ll move on to the second stage of grief: anger.  You’ll realize that you can’t ignore the problems anymore and you’ll either turn your rage inward (i.e., blame yourself) or outward (towards the provider).  You may think, “It’s not fair!” or “Why me?” or “What did I do to deserve this treatment?” or you might confront the individual and point out the oversights, the problems, the slip-ups and demand satisfaction. Occasionally, this works; more often than not, anger doesn’t resolve the situation.

BargainingThe third stage is bargaining. This is when you realize that things aren’t going to change, but you still can’t bring yourself to cut the ties completely. You beg, you plead, you offer to give them ‘one more chance’.  You justify your actions by saying (to yourself) things like, “I’ve already got so much invested in this person, I can’t let them go,” or “I think of them like family/a good friend/a confidante; I NEED them in my life,” or perhaps, “I can’t stand the idea of starting the process of finding a reliable person all over again.”  By the end of this phase, however, you generally come to the realization that the link is going to have to be severed, once and for all.

DepressionDepression (stage 4) sets in soon after you break it off.  Thoughts include, “How can I go on without them?”, “Where will I ever find someone else who can do what they did as well as they did it?”, and “What’s the point?” You mope around, pining for ‘the good old days’, wishing things had been different. You feel sadness, regret, fear, and uncertainty, but you gradually come to accept that it’s over and you need to move on (or your hair will look like a family of rats has moved into it, a family of mice WILL have moved into your dirty house, your car won’t start, your garden will turn into a jungle, and your not-so-handy husband [or wife] will attempt the building and maintenance tasks s/he is clearly not capable of handling!)

AcceptanceThe final stage, acceptance, occurs when you wake up one morning and realize that there are dozens of hairdressers, housekeepers, auto mechanics, landscapers, and contractors out there just waiting for you to call and book an appointment. Any one of them could turn out to be even better than the last one and, if not – well, there are plenty more where they came from.  You finally say to yourself, “It’s going to be okay,” “I can manage,” “I’m over it and I’m moving on.”

(Of course, if you can’t envision yourself coping with the five stages of grief, you can always just move in the middle of the night without leaving a forwarding address …)

I’m currently transitioning from stage 4 to stage 5 in a relationship that had lasted a little over fifteen years (I won’t say with whom or what kind of ‘service’ this person provided, but suffice it to say the shock of having to end it has been quite devastating).  Still, it’s something we all have to go through, I suppose.  I just hope I have fewer break ups ahead of me on … the other side of 55.

Breaking Up Cartoon

Breaking up is hard to do!

  1. October 15, 2012 4:00 pm

    It happened to me with my hairdresser. She was great to start and for years after. I followed her from shop to shop, and was very happy when she got her own shop. Then her service went downhill. I stayed with her for four more years and it took me moving 140 miles away to “break up” with her. I saw her in Hawaii two years later and we had dinner together. She died not long after that.

    • Margo Karolyi permalink
      October 15, 2012 9:32 pm

      At least you stayed friendly; that doesn’t always work.


  2. October 15, 2012 7:28 am

    Sad but true. I think you laid it out.

    • October 15, 2012 10:07 am

      I’ve felt less trauma over the loss of friends than certain ‘service providers’. I think from now on, I’m going with ‘one offs’ to avoid the pain down the road.


  3. October 14, 2012 7:26 pm

    I can relate to this…


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