“I don’t want to look like a bad person or have them thinking that I’m immature. Won’t it look like I’m punishing them?” – Said by many a person who has wound up in even more pain.

Every breakup needs some space so each person can come to terms with what’s happened. The space allows us to grieve the loss of the hopes and expectations for the relationship. Sure, we could keep swinging out of one another, sleeping together, speaking every day, dipping in and out. Maybe we could continue negotiating, rehashing, poking around in each other’s lives, and yadda, yadda, yadda. We won’t get very far, though. We can keep up a front for our exes or for anybody who knows us, or even society at large. It begs the question, though, of what all of this image management is in aid of. It surely isn’t ourselves.

Each time we pretend that what’s happened hasn’t happened or we deny our feelings and thoughts, we ignore the very valuable and worthwhile people we are. And it’s all just so that we can preserve other people’s egos. It’s like we’re holding ourselves to some sort of gold-standard breakup.

There’s such a thing as boundaries. They’re our vital personal electric fence, letting us know our limits and what does and doesn’t work for us. Boundaries fit into our self-esteem. When we treat ourselves with love, care, trust, and respect, we then have an internal compass that puts a clear line between us and others. That compass also points us toward our own boundaries and values. We learn what to walk towards and walk away from.

If we base how we treat ourselves and our choices primarily on another person, a group of people, or even the world at large, that compass stops working and points us away from ourselves. And then we feel miserable.

Worrying about being a ‘bad person’ or that we’re ‘immature’ or ‘punishing’ an ex by accepting the breakup and trying to get ourselves together and move on with our lives, suggests that recognising ourselves in a healthy manner is wrong. We should just sit around and take what’s chucked our way. We should just suffer in silence or suffer with complaint but suffer we must continue. Hell, we should, in fact, devote ourselves to moving on with the exes in our lives. We have to try to figure out how to deal with them instead of, um, moving on and putting our energy into living our lives healthily and authentically. What the what now?

Let’s just be clear: Feeling bad about wanting to finalise your breakup or for needing space to process what’s happened suggests you’re guilty of wrongdoing.

What’s even more outrageous about this is that often the primary reason for needing the space is because you’re clearly not emotionally able to continue on with the status quo. You might also be dealing with somebody who, through their actions and expectations of you, shows you that you can’t continue down this course of action and have your self-esteem in tow.

Everybody handles things differently. Someone else not being as affected as us by a breakup doesn’t mean we’re under obligation to follow suit. The same goes for those who think we should ‘man (or woman) up’ and keep an ex in our life if they’re a Good Person,

When we try to appease people while overriding our own feelings and boundaries, we forget that we’re a separate person. What informs their perspective isn’t informing ours. Equally, they don’t know what’s informing our perspective or what we’ve been through. And even if they know, they may struggle to empathise. They might misguidedly feel entitled to expect us to let them drive our choices. It’s as if who we are and what we do needs sign-off even though we’re broken up.

It’s not a punishment to take space or to go No Contact (NC).

It would be a punishment if it were a passive-aggressive or aggressive move to force your ex to do what you originally wanted. You’re also not a ‘bad person’; that suggests that people who say no or opt out are ‘bad’, or that you don’t have a right to say no. It’s also not immature to recognise your own feelings, thoughts, boundaries, and values. It’s quite the opposite. Maybe it suits your ex to ignore theirs so that they don’t have to be honest with themselves. That’s something, though, that doesn’t need to be done on your time.

If you think you can slide out of a relationship with no pain and looking ‘perfect’, think again. Trying to slide out with pain and perfection may actually be why your ex is against your taking space. I’m yet to meet one person who has said, “Oh such-and-such is so lovely. They give really good breakup.” Breakups hurt, even when they’re done nicely.

If you keep trying to out-nice your ex or silencing your inner voice with ‘shoulds’, you will be at your ex’s mercy. Possibly, you’ll be at the mercy of everyone. You’ll worry more about how you look instead of concerning yourself with how you treat yourself or are treated by others. Don’t judge yourself for making a healthy decision based on judging the situation and knowing your own line.

If a friendship with your ex is on the cards, it won’t be because it’s coerced or guilted out of you. It can wait until you feel emotionally ready. Somebody who generally has your best interests at heart won’t have an agenda that benefits from you overriding yourself.

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