Whether it be a final text, the last phone conversation, or a well-written tome of an email – the final, parting words to an ex are often a difficult, drawn-out, and emotional experience. It’s not easy choosing those words, especially if the relationship ended poorly (which, come on, even when a relationship ends on the best of terms, it’s still not ideal. The relationship, you know, ended!).
I’ve been fortunate enough in my love-travels to’ve been the bearer of both the beautiful, heartfelt goodbye as well as the “fuck off you disgusting prick, I don’t ever want to hear from you again” screaming match (…what. He deserved it). I’ve received these letters and phone calls as well; and they’ve been sweet and sorrowful, desperate and upsetting, cruel and vindictive, and short and matter-of-fact. They’ve all been difficult to deal with (anyone who claims to’ve endured an easy breakup is lying to you and/or themselves. If it doesn’t hurt at all, then you really never fully committed. And if you didn’t really fully commit, you weren’t in a relationship… you were tolerating another human presence in your life). But they’ve all been eye-opening. They’ve forced me to be honest with myself and my decision-making. Which really, when it comes down to choosing a partner, the success of that relationship bears heavily on how much we know about ourselves and our values, which in turn clarifies what we seek out in others, and so on.
Now, while I did get a degree in counseling, I’m not a counselor; I have no access to studies and data to back this up, but I would venture to guess that there is one universal truth about those “final words” between ex’s. And that is: we always hope that they will reveal some profound understanding or epiphany about the relationship. We hope that the parting words will make the breakup more bearable. And we hope that in that moment, the pain and heartache will be at it’s worst, and that it will dissipate from there.
They never do, it never does, and it never is.
This can be explained partially by the old cliche “when God (or whomever) closes a door, he (or whomever) opens a window”. The “parting words” are an attempt to close the door, to end the chapter, to bandage the wound and other vapid cliches as well. But in blurting out your heart, your deepest emotions, your truths and your secrets as a last ditch effort to separate yourself from someone, you’ll likely end up opening a window – a window of “why the fuck did I wait until this whole thing was over before I said all that”?
This also explains why our “parting words” rarely ever truly are our parting words.
Though we wouldn’t like to admit it, most of us (myself very much included) have re-contacted the recipient of our “parting words” for another “parting conversation” or “clarifying conversation” or worse: the “I’ve been thinking a lot about what I/you said and maybe we would work things out if we give it a shot” conversation. And honestly? That’s fine! It’s normal (shit, it’s almost expected)! It’s part of the process of understanding ourselves and our decision-making. Why wouldn’t we seek more information, more clarity, and a better understanding of what happened so that we can learn, grow, and make more informed decisions in the future?
Why wouldn’t we? Why?
Because those realizations can really suck. They hurt. We almost KNOW that they’re going to hurt and yet we still venture out there and ask. We reach back into the pot and scramble around hoping to find anything left of any hope or happiness, so as not to feel like the time spent with this person was a waste.
And ultimately, THAT is the lesson to be gained from the whole experience. “Parting words” can feel like a funeral dirge. They can feel so wrong, so upsetting, so hopeless; and almost as though they negate any and all of the beautiful aspects of the relationship prior to that. But parting words are just a complicated goodbye. And while you can certainly learn a few things in that final process, MOST of what you will have gained from that relationship happened when you weren’t overthinking it; when you were just experiencing life with that person and exploring the relationship.
So… I say with reverent irreverence, let’s let leftovers be leftovers. Or at least acknowledge them for what they are: the crust crumbs on a pie pan a week after Thanksgiving; they’re simply not going to satisfy.