James and Carly were like many millennial couples: They shared everything on social media, from their travels to their selfies. But after seven years, the New York-based pair began to drift apart and decided to part ways. To “bring the narrative to a close,” James said, it seemed only right that they publicize their breakup, too.
But their posts weren’t a scathing game of he-said-she-said. They each drafted a Facebook status outlining why and how they were breaking up, tagged each other to provide both contexts, and posted them at the same time. “Part of the process was not making an enemy of the ex,” James said (names have been changed). The response was overwhelmingly positive, and a chance for those who cared about the couple to process the breakup, too.
When our feeds are saturated with engagement announcements and elaborate wedding receptions, prompting anxiety and comparison, showcasing a breakup might actually enable us to find support, and collectively feel better.
What helped James and Carly amicably part ways was the book Conscious Uncoupling: 5 Steps to Living Happily Ever After. The idea of “conscious uncoupling” became popular in 2014 when Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin used it to describe their harmonious breakup. For them, the goal was to mitigate as much trauma as possible for their children. But there are all sorts of reasons why someone would process a breakup thoughtfully, and publicly. Dr. Michelle Drouin, a technology and relationship expert, says it’s a way for couples to either set the record straight or seek emotional support.
There’s nothing more frustrating than having to repeatedly update people in your life about painful transitions. Posting about the breakup in one shot means enjoying family reunions without having to fake a story about how a partner is “out of town.” As Drouin says, “It’s become the social norm to update our identity online in a way that’s going to get a message across to people on the outskirts of our lives. It makes interactions easier with people who are not that close to us.” Just as we rush to post ring pics, eager to create connection, the breakup post might just be another—albeit more vulnerable—opportunity to bond anew.
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