Thursday, March 4, 2021
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Breaking Up and Breaking Down

Brad, the “dad”

The Valkyrie, newly 18 years old (Happy Birthday, kid!), has been dating for about six months now. I think I’ve done pretty well with it so far: after years of threatening to answer the door while cleaning my gun, or simply staring wordlessly and growling at any boy who so much as crosses the property line, I’ve actually been friendly and polite and non-violent with her Gentleman Callers. It isn’t a long list and they seem like good guys so far. She’s made some good decisions and I’m proud of her…

But she just had her first break-up. She called in tears in the middle of this week because Bruno (not his real name, I’m sorry to say) had been “pressuring” her and she didn’t have the time or the interest in “getting more serious,” especially not in the middle of her first year of college. So she called it off. And he apparently said something that hurt her. And now, of course, I want to kill him.

The homicidal tendencies I can handle – probably. But more to the point…how do I help her? I have a whole brain full of Useful Advice, and of course, I want to hear every single detail of what happened. What kind of “pressure” did he exert? What does “more serious” mean? What did that little creep say to her, and where does he live? But…is any of this really any of my business? Does she really need my advice, or want it? (And no, she hasn’t asked…but when has that ever stopped me from ‘helping’ before?) So far she’s given us precious few details, but clearly, she’s hurt…and here I am, completely unable to help and not sure what I could do if she wanted me to.

Being a “good listener” in this situation is completely unsatisfying…even more so because she’s not saying anything to listen to. Am I doing the right thing by just letting her deal with this herself – as she says she wants to – or am I falling short at a truly important time: not her first boyfriend, but her first break-up?

I could use some advice, “Mom” and “Daughter.”

Rach, the “older teen”

Breakups suck.

The first boy (and so far the only) who broke my heart, broke it over the internet. We’d been together for a few months, and I was really into him. Apparently, he wasn’t as into me. Needless to say, I slammed my laptop shut and started crying so loudly that my parents ran into the room, thinking something fell on me.

We lived a few minutes from each other, and we took the same bus to school. And we saw each other between most classes in high school. So my parents and I decided that it would be best if I stayed home and cried for the next two days (to recover from the trauma of an internet breakup).

All in all, breakups can be the hardest thing teens experience. My parents were there for me, and they let me cry at them for two solid days. They treated me like a princess until I was done crying because they knew how much he meant to me. After the crying stopped, everything went back to normal. Except, they have never asked what caused the breakup, and they never threatened him, or even spoken of him again. It worked well for me, I never spoke to him again, and never had any reason to.

So, “Dad”, it’s good to see that your daughter handled her really sucky situation well, she knew that she was being pressured and she knows where her limits are. So, tell her that. Tell her that she will always be strong and that she does not need a boy who treats her badly (as we can assume he did if he was pressuring). But, most of all, “Dad”, tell her she’s way too good for anyone. And once the crying stops, let it stop. Don’t ask about it, unless she brings it up. I know it’s unsatisfying, but it’s better for her if you don’t push it.

Mary, the “mom”

Poor Valkyrie!

Rach is right, breakups suck.

We haven’t gone through this with our kids yet and it’s been a quarter century since I went through a breakup myself (although I really do remember how awful it felt). A friend of mine just went through this with her daughter, but she was so much younger (13) and the boy had been such a part of the family, that the situation was quite different.

So, I am going to have to defer to Rach on this. I think her advice is excellent. I do think the situation of the Valkyrie being away at school makes it even harder for you to just “be supportive”, but maybe she’ll come home this weekend and you can pamper her without asking questions. (Remember, chocolate is always good for pampering.) For now, you’ll just have to convey that support over the phone.

Good luck!

Lauren, the “younger teen”

This is a little out of my playing field, but I do have some advice. I know when I’m really upset about something, I don’t want to talk about it at first. So I would say be supportive to start without trying to discuss the break-up. Call her, maybe go visit her or have her come home this weekend. Let her think it over herself to start – she may be able to handle it on her own. If she does come home over the weekend, do some things as a family and then maybe send the girls out to do something. She may want to talk to her mom and/or sister first – girl to girl or woman to woman (since she’s somewhere in between).

After a little bit of time has passed, I would try to talk to her about it. Once she has a bit of a handle on it she may be more willing to talk about the break-up and what happened leading up to it. For now, try to be there if she is ready to talk but don’t push it, let her think on her own.

This may be a little off topic but when reading your post I thought of a Gilmore Girls episode in which Rory, the daughter, breaks up with her first boyfriend. Her mother wants to hear what happened and she keeps pushing her to talk about it, but Rory doesn’t want to yet. She runs away to her grandparent’s house just so she can think it out herself first but by the end of the episode, she is comfortable talking to her mom about it.

So here’s my advice, but Rach is probably more informed in this area since she herself has been through it.

David Scott is the head writer at TRI PR. He better part of his college life as a journalist for the college magazine. He still writes and he loves it.