Say what you want about The Bachelor and The Bachelorette franchises in general (which we have) and the controversial Nick Viall season, specifically. As the current season came to a close last night, we have one thing to happily report, and it's not about his engagement to Vanessa. This whirlwind season was a lesson in how to break up—whether or not you are on national television.
Traditionally, the Bachelor convenes his suitors at the end of each episode for a rose ceremony. At this point, he'll offer red long-stems to the women he wants to continue getting to know; meanwhile the flowerless contestants are whisked away. The most interesting aspect of this season was how Viall took it upon himself in the later half of the episodes to eschew most of the ceremonies in favor of sitting each woman down and actually “breaking up with” her rather than passively dismissing her with no real explanation. (Poor Chris Harrison must be so bored, right?)
No matter who you thought should take home the final rose or what you thought of that turtleneck (you know what I'm talking about), there are some important breakup lessons—both good and not—we can all learn from Viall and his women.
Don't...beat around the bush.
I’ve never been the star of a reality television show, so I don’t know exactly what it’s like to be under the constant glare of cameras and lights, expected to speak intelligently about romantic relationships that have only existed for a few weeks. And as much as I applaud Viall’s skirting of the traditional format of the show, it’s clear he has a lot of difficulty saying what he means when it matters most.
When you’re watching him on the show, you get the gist of what’s happening, and it appears that there are some genuine feelings at play (he’s usually crying). However, if you listen closely to the words Viall says in the midst of these breakups, they don’t make a lot of sense. As an example, here’s what he said to Whitney when he broke up with her on a beach:
“With you and I, I feel like, like, I said, every time I'm with you you always have this amazing quality about you that, for me, always—there's this want and desire to make it great, and so, knowing how important this rose is to me, and knowing what's on the line, I feel like as much as I really want to give it to you, I feel like in my heart, I just feel like I can't. I don't know.”
Yikes. That's about 70 percent nonsense to me. He endlessly meanders simply to say, “I can’t.” When it comes to breakups, generic compliments, vague reasoning and the stand-alone phrase “I don’t know” should be avoided. If confrontational conversations make you uneasy, practice. Sit down with a trusted friend and explain the situation to them out loud. Accept feedback, work on your responses. Take notes if you need to! (Just don’t bring them along when the time comes.)
Breakup conversations are tricky, and we are all bound to fumble over our words at times. However, ending a relationship is a decisive choice that necessitates clear and genuine communication. You can do it, I promise.
Don’t...pepper your breakup with vague platitudes.
“I have so much love for you.”
“I think you’re one of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.”
Anyone who’s been through a breakup will recognize phrases like these—thrown into the mix right along side, “I can’t do this anymore” and “This isn’t working out.” In this way, Viall is just like the rest of us. He feels bad, naturally, and wants to be gentle with the news. When things get sad and uncomfortable and we’re in the power position, we try to soften the blow by reminding this person (that we are actively crushing) how great and wonderful and special they are.
Even if those things are true, they are not all that meaningful when the point of the conversation is that you do not wish to see this person romantically anymore. When this happens, the natural response from the other party is usually, “If I’m so great, why are you doing this?”
And, truly, why are you doing this? Breakups that aren’t fights—born out of anger and mistreatment—are challenging to explain. Sometimes an amazing, lovely, handsome, kind, smart, funny, and sensitive person just isn’t right for you. You feel it in your bones. You feel it in the place where sparks and butterflies and the hearts-for-eyes emoji should be. The kindest way you can make your exit is by communicating what you feel (but not what you “feel like”), what you know, and what you want—and sticking to it. Leave the other person’s personality out of it as much as you can (and leave single red roses out of it to). I know it sounds crazy, but the why is more important than the who. All we can really do is try our best to be kind without being disingenuous, and to be honest without being cruel. Which brings me to Viall's big success.
Do...break it off face-to-face.
Despite his reputation as “one of the most controversial bachelors of all time,” I give Viall a lot of credit for his direct dealings with the women on the show. Once the mass cuts of the early episodes had concluded, he began to forego the dramatic rose ceremonies and instead sit each woman down to explain his decision one-on-one. He knows better than anyone how impersonal and cut-throat a rose ceremony can feel when you’re on the other side, waiting to know if your relationship is moving forward or not. (After all, he’d been the runner-up on The Bachelorette—twice.)
In the real world, we often put off tough conversations like breakups because they’re so difficult. The dread, the guilt, and the inevitable sadness make it easy to opt to do the deed over email or on the phone or even just ghost. That approach is cruel and cowardly. When you’re sure it's not a match, it’s time to act, face-to-face. If Viall, who had the very real option to simply duck and run, can sit someone down and say he doesn't think it's going to work, so can you.
Photo Credit: ABC