Like any good gay navigating a break-up, you’ve already done your research. You’ve pored over The Best Break-Up Advice You’ll Ever Get, How To Navigate a Social Event with Your Ex, and even Texting Your Ex-Girlfriend in Five Easy Steps. Because your sh*t is so on point, maybe you’ve even set up a iCal-coordinated trade-off of personal belongings. After all, you are a grown-ass woman, and you like your break-ups to be of the grown-ass woman variety.
Yet there’s still a third party which needs addressing: Your ex’s family. You were never just dating a cute woman. You were dating a cute woman who is also someone’s daughter, granddaughter, bubeleh, mija, etc.
If you were lucky to date someone whose family was 100% embracing of her alternative lifestyle haircut, well-worn A-Camp tee and your presence: Kudos! You’re lucky. That sort of unconditional acceptance is still pretty rare. Her parents deserve a Very Special Award from PFLAG or something.
But the progressive familial sword cuts both ways. By calling it off with her, you are also calling it off with her folks. If you’re from a background dotted with intolerant relatives, then you know that the time spent with your former girlfriend’s accepting siblings and parents was invaluable. Those family dinners were not just about dinner — they were about community and actually belonging somewhere for once.
Losing that can cause an entirely different — but equally painful — heartache. It sucks. Luckily, we’re here to help you deal.+
Communicate With Your Ex
This probs goes against all the break-up advice that you’ve ever been given, including that from your mama and WikiHow. While clean breaks truly are the best things ever, it’s important to handle unfinished business before fully severing contact.
Keep things as short and sweet as possible. Text if necessary. Ask her if her family knows that you two have broken up. Under all circumstances, refrain from asking if her Nana hates you. Try to not make this about you, but her family. Listen for clues to how her parents might be feeling about the relationship’s end.
It is so much easier to have this conversation early in a break-up, as opposed to two months later when you call her up, yelling, “Please tell your f*cking adorable brother to stop sending me texts inviting me to his Little League games.” Not that I speak from experience or anything.
If she has yet to break the news, make it clear that her family needs to know. After all, they are the ones who will always be there for her.
Make a Decision
What if you’re really close — adopt-me-already close — to your ex’s family? Is there a way to have your break-up cake and still enjoy these peripheral relationships too? Is it necessary to terminate these meaningful connections just because your relationship has ended?
This largely depends on whether your break-up was amicable or tempestuous. In some cases, it might be possible to maintain a relationship with her family. However, know that your role within the family may change, and it’ll be your responsibility to roll with it. Also, there will inevitably be shiny new girlfriends for her family to fawn over.
Some other questions to ask yourself are:
- Am I disrupting my ex’s main support system by maintaining contact with her relative(s)?
- Is my time with my ex’s family going to consist entirely of me complaining about my ex?
- Is this an attempt to manipulate my way back into my ex’s life?
- What would be the harm in waiting a few months before contacting her [relative]?
Social Networking Boundaries 2.0
Chances are good that you’ve already performed some variant of the impulsive, post-relationship Facebook friends purge consisting of your ex, friends of your ex and the terrible post-punk revival bands your ex encouraged you to ‘like.’
Often, an ex’s family is an entirely different creature — particularly if it consists of older folks whose respect has been hard-won.
There are two ways to navigate this:
- Delete and block all of the relatives while silently hoping that they’re not versed enough in Facebook to notice and/or take these actions personally.
- Place them all on a restricted setting which prevents them from seeing all of your melancholy statuses and those loosely referencing post-relationship one-night stands.
If you go with the former, refrain from sending messages that say something along the lines of, “I’m sorry, I really like you and I hate to defriend you, but I’m going to anyway.” Be swift and unapologetic in your social networking sweep.
Say It in a Letter
You’re probably having a lot of feelings right now. What better place to put those feelings than on paper? Write a letter to the family member that is on your mind. It’ll be much appreciated over those aforementioned mixed Facebook messages or a hasty email. Assuming that you’re writing about your relationship with that relative and not the one with your ex, a letter is guaranteed to say, “I’ve taken the time to think sh*t through.”
Whether we like it or not, each person we encounter shakes our lives up a little bit. Let the relative know that you valued your time together, even if it is drawing to a close.
No matter how many times you assured her otherwise, your ex was not perfect. Neither was her family. Remember that time her stepdad shrank your favorite holiday sweater in the dryer? What about that other time that her aunt misgendered you 12 times over the course of Thanksgiving dinner, or the time her little sister spilled grape Kool-Aid over your white suede oxfords?
The memory alone is enough to make you want to pull a whiskey kitten.
And you certainly should be drinking, or exercising, or your preferred method of self-care — just not in the name of memory erasure but celebration.
Because is the silver lining to this two-fold break-up: Along with the girl and her family, all of those little hellish experiences are also in the past.