12 Steps to Break a Heart
By Brent Persun
Illustration by Dan Gray
1. Be more interested in a relationship than in a person. Tell yourself that you’re not desperate, just ready for the next phase of your life. With the false conviction that you aren’t desperate, you will judge someone not based on your feelings, but on his “relationship potential.”
2. Find someone who looks good on paper. Online dating is an excellent option as you can evaluate potentials and begin conversation without meeting in person. By doing so, you can create your own version of said person without the intrusion of reality. Some variety of emotional vulnerability is always a bonus: abandonment issues, depression, and lack of self-worth are all ideal.
3. Start to date. Dates should be as cliché as possible. Pizza and a Sandra Bullock marathon. A Subway picnic and a hike that turns into a cuddle in the woods. Anything that reminds you of a Katherine Heigl movie. Such dates bypass the need to discover each other’s true personality. These should take place soon and move quickly from the first date to consistent dating.
4. Fulfill dating roles. Rather than create any sort of deep and meaningful connection, simply live out what you expect a relationship to look like. Subtly encourage him to do likewise. Don’t worry about discerning your true emotions. Such thoughts will only complicate the matter. Instead follow landmarks of a good relationship:
One week – after initial date, communicate daily
Two weeks – go from dating to “in a relationship,” making it Facebook official preferred
Three weeks – have sex
Four weeks – tentatively say “I love you” (not necessary to believe it yourself)
5. Keep the relationship separate from your pre-existing life. Don’t allow the relationship to get tangled up in your friends, family, career, or home. Introduction to a few select friends is allowed. You must act out the established dating roles (see Step 4) when around others. As the relationship now has an audience, create a convincing show of intimacy by holding hands, sharing looks, exchanging whispers, etc.
6. Make sex a priority. Each time spent together should involve some type of physical interaction, preferably one from which you derive pleasure. Plan dates around this activity. Always choose sexual intimacy over emotional intimacy.
7. Avoid deep and meaningful conversation. Public dates should be at a minimum by this point, so token conversation is rendered unnecessary. Spending more time together in a private setting does present the risk of deep connection; avoid such a connection at all cost. Focus instead on furthering your dating roles. Shared TV series or movies are a great help. These offer the illusion of connection without the need to offer up personal information. If challenged, explain that the relationship is comfortable and established enough not to require conversation.
8. Admit your negative emotions and stop trying to convince yourself otherwise. At this point, realize that something doesn’t quite feel right. Even as you whisper sweet nothings into his ear, they ring false. Dates become burdensome. Any semblance of emotional intimacy brings a grimace to your face. This is normal. Try to keep these feelings hidden, as they will not fit with the façade of a relationship you have created.
9. Decrease time spent together. Begin slowly by prolonging time between dates and/or visits. Reduce daily contact. As he has no real idea of what your life entails (see Step 5), you can easily use the excuse that you are busy. When necessary – likely he will want to discuss this distance – take more overt measures. Claim to need alone time to figure things out. This surefire reasoning will allow you the solitary time you crave while cutting off any objections. He will see any act to impinge on alone time as selfish and ultimately unhealthy to the continued state of the relationship.
10. Resist emotional pleas. At this point, he will sense the inherent weakness of the relationship. Rather than feeling discouraged, he will be emboldened to take more direct action toward strengthening the perceived bond between you. His attempts will come in the form of relationship-defining conversations. Keep your answers vague, rephrasing the essential idea of “it’s not you; it’s me.” Imply or state that you may not be ready for commitment. If you have established a consistent level of sex (see Step 6), you can use physical intimacy as a way to delay such conversations.
11. End the relationship. This step may take a series of smaller actions. Begin by requesting some time apart from the relationship, offering self- deprecation and the previously established need for alone time. Ignore texts, phone calls, and any other contact. Do not establish a set timetable. If pressured, simply state that you will let him know when you’re ready. Wait for him to approach you during the time apart. At this point, you must officially declare the relationship over. Continue to offer vague reasoning: you have stuff to figure out, you’re scared, it doesn’t feel like the right time, etc. Sever all ties and avoid him at all costs.
12. Realize what you have done when the day comes that someone breaks your heart.
Brent Persun lives in Boston where he works as an editorial assistant for a research publisher. He likes to write about emotional stuff in an unemotional way to help us think. But you should probably laugh too.
Daniel Gray is an illustrator, Australian and currently based in Sydney. Self-taught, he studied Medical Science at the University of Sydney before swapping his microscope for pencils when he realized illustration had a much lower patient mortality rate. His clients include: The Boston Globe, Sydney Opera House, The New York Times, Warner Music and Hello Mr.