The Post-Break-Up Confession: Honesty is the Worst Policy

Love and Sex

The Post-Break-Up Confession: Honesty is the Worst Policy

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Amutual break up is a lot like the queer characters in JK  Rowling’s books – imaginary, and a product of abject hearsay. The fact that break ups can never be mutual is also one of those life-altering, indispensable insights that you learn the hard way – after never-ending stages of optimism coupled with some more doses of denial.

Like many victims fooled by this preposterous idea, I too believed that two people could “cordially” part ways for not being good enough for each other despite liking each other. So last year, when I parted with someone I loved for almost three years, I was confident of our transition into friendly acquaintances, instead of instant strangers who unfriended each other when the time of death on the relationship was called. The fact that we weren’t doing one of those overnight break ups but one of those well-discussed things that had been in the offing for a few months, further elevated our chances of being those exes every couple envied. Promises of being frank were made and declarations of not losing touch were sincerely repeated and we parted ways.

In the initial days ensuing our formal break up, the pretence of things being fine between us were at its peak. We kept texting intermittently suddenly discovering a penchant for small talk, and went to bed thinking we’d made it.

Except, I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Over days, the flaws multiplied — both in number and in the hurt that the reveal caused.

What followed during this knotty period of stilted conversations, is a round of post-break up confessions. What could be wrong with a dose of straightforward honesty from the person who deeply cared about us? Turns out, a lot.

What no one tells you about a confessional game that looks as harmless as this, is how it can startlingly escalate to levels beyond your slightest comprehension. In this seemingly friendly break-up match, no one wins, and most importantly you lose the hardest. It’s like attempting to jump off a building for no reason whatsoever and naively hoping that the crash might just offer you redemption. Films may sugarcoat this confessional exercise, making it look fun, aspirational, and even healing; having the nerve to top it off with a damn break-up party. But life is hardly as cinematic as an Imtiaz Ali movie.

Our confessions started with minor behavioural transgressions; I complained he wouldn’t ever make an effort and he’d amiably point out how my overactive mind always assumed the worst. Over days, the flaws multiplied — both in number and in the hurt that the reveal caused. Before we could put a finger to it, the mood had tensed up and any semblance of camaraderie had gone out of the window.

I hurled at him lumps of his personality I didn’t just tolerate, but also secretly judged and despised: The way he trivialised my feelings, how his indifference and absence became a dagger of hurt, and how punishing it got to be on the same page as him. It felt good to finally let it all hang. He returned the favour in the same scathing, personal attack. How I pushed him away, shut down whenever we had a disagreement, and let my resentment build inside instead of fixing our problems. There we were, both of us hit with the shit we had stirred up by going down this rocky road.

There’s no can of worms that can be as self-destructive as the decision to undertake this confessional exercise, especially with the person who knew you best. It’s the same as a waxing session – no matter how many appointments you might have taken, every assault will still sting the hardest.

At first, I zoned out his complaints labelling them as petty insults meant to get back at me. I found myself mad at him for overstepping the boundaries of what was supposed to be a frank and harmless exchange between two people who valued the other’s friendship. The misfortune was that he was labouring under the same impression as me. But reality was harsh enough to force us to be the worst versions of ourselves, unclothing the worst in each other as well.

After a point, neither of us were keeping score of the fight, but were instead hoping for a time machine. I knew I was. We had not only fucked up our break up, but also our three-year relationship by throwing these truth bombs. Sure some of them may have hit home but was it worth the wreckage?

You spend years in a relationship and the least each of us should get after the break up is bunch of lovely memories we can recall to curious grandchildren who will one day ask us the story of our great loves. I would like him to feature on that list – and for that it was important that we stop the confession game. And so we did. We chose good old cold silence and deleted each others’ numbers. We’d have to become strangers so that one day we’d become friends. Ok maybe not friends, but at least fond memories.

And so that years down the line, it might feel a lot like love.