We broke up: the worst case scenarios

As I explore the  various steps of  separation and divorce (see my blog “We broke up: now what?)in order to  better understand the dynamics involved in a break-up, here is what I find the most notable as a worst-case scenario for both roles, that of the dumper ( the one who leaves ),and that of the ‘dumpee’ ( the one who’s left behind).

Separation is painful even when both parties behave and stick to  good dumper’ and ‘good dumpee’ roles.

However, when a bad-dumpee is also a bad-dumper (roles alternate in some separations) all hell can break loose.  S/he wants out of the relationship but does not have the strength nor courage to be the dumper. S/he will make life miserable for their partner to force them to become the one who leaves. This is a form of abuse as the one who wants to make the relationship work finds themselves cornered into doing what they wanted to pre-empt.

At that point, the bad-dumpee not only enacts the rejection they provoked in the first place, but they also become a bad-dumper.  A bad-dumper is like a runaway kid.  They see the grass greener on the other side of the fence, and all that is needed for them to be happy is to get out of the relationship. There’s often a new love partner conveniently lined up. The bad-dumper avoids dealing with feelings, actions and attitudes that need to be changed and s/he does not provide closure to the dumpee; this is another form of abuse.

The ‘bad dumpee turned bad dumper’ is the partner most  likely to enact the anger that naturally follows  initial  feelings of guilt (dumper) and rejection (dumpee) as these feelings are strongly felt during the separation.

It is therefore essential, if you find yourself pushed into the role of reluctant dumper, that you take self-protective steps, by first carefully assessing the risk of abuse before doing so, and then ensuring your safety well before walking out. For instance, start describing the situation to relatives, friends and professionals and start collecting documentary and photographic evidence before you leave. You could well need it!

The following stories illustrate worst case scenarios involving a bad-dumpee who is also a bad-dumper.

A client discovered her partner’s series of infidelities and took time out after discussing with him her reasons for doing so; their daughter found him and his assistant in their bed a couple of days later. When she confronted him about it, he threatened to leave her penniless if they were to divorce. She filed a week later after breaking down, and was physically threatened soon after, with a gun no less.

Another person found himself denied access to his children until the courts produced an order. He didn’t see his children for 18 months.  He says, she asked him to leave and then changed her mind a few weeks later, after he’d moved out. He did not agree to a reconciliation. She felt dumped and she retaliated using access to the children as leverage.

Another person had counter-filing against her, when she reported to police that her broken arm was the consequence of him getting into a rage when she told him she wanted to separate. He did not like being the one left. He told her “then get out of my house” in no uncertain terms after shoving her . He had to now become the dumper, regain control, and did so by breaking her arm .  He had the economic power, and could afford to bring the matter to court. She spent much needed money defending herself.

Another person found all his clothes cut to pieces and his CD collection destroyed after telling her he wanted out. He succumbed to anger as a result, and smashed her vintage car in return.

And finally, one client walked out on her partner, and was threatened to be ‘ruined in court’ by him if she refused to sign a potentially reputation ruining blackmail letter – his reputation more than hers!!! – in exchange for monies he owed to her. The letter was squarely putting the responsibility of the breakup on her victimising him. She refused to sign the letter and cried wolf publicly. He retaliated by destroying her property and writing to acquaintances that “she was both mentally unstable and a thief, and he had to break off the relationship to distance himself from such a dangerous person.”

And so it goes. The rule of thumb is: beware of what you thought you knew about your mate. If you believe that you are placed in the role of the dumper, be cautious.  Separation may start well, but, just as there is a “honeymoon period” in any new relationship, there’s something called “a separation honeymoon” in a break up. Don’t trust it, because no matter how well behaved you are or you believe s/he will behave, once your ex-partner’s feelings of dumper guilt and dumpee rejection are exhausted, and the ‘deal is done’, anger will invariably follow, and may be enacted in devastating ways.

Will you or will your partner destroy property, blackmail,  threaten, break arms, produce a  gun, defame, refuse access to children?  Or instead, will you take time out with no contact for as long as it takes to exhaust the post break up rage?

Realise too that when a bad dumpee/dumper aggresses you, you have every right to ‘retaliate’ as you feel necessary to protect yourself, and that sometimes, rather than fight fire with water, it is best to fight fire with greater fire… A good lawyer should do.

And please, if you have lived through scenarios similar to the any of those described, it is possible that you have experienced trauma, even if you are not yet aware of it. In that case, it’s time to get professional help.


Author: Pascale Aline

Psychotherapist & Performance Coach, I specialize working with tools for self enhancement, growth, productivity and healing (Biofeedback, EMDR, Mindfulness training)

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