On Saturday I was at a birthday lunch for my oldest friend with 5 other women. I had known her the longest, since we were 13, so I thought it would be fun to do a little of "this is your life". One of the areas I covered was her old boyfriends, and there were many, eight starting from her first boyfriend in 7th grade, JL. But it was her 9th grade boyfriend that caused the biggest stir for her as she recounted the "break-up". AB was her first serious, starry eyed, thought about him 24 hours a day kind of boyfriend. It was a "long-distance" relationship. He lived several towns away not easily reached by the T. Though only miles apart, it felt like cross-country. They spent hours talking, yes talking, on the phone each night, and had their parents drive them to visit and go out for a Saturday night date. It was love, pure and simple. but as teen romances go, she got "the dear M letter" in the mail. I remember getting the call from her, barely being able to understand her she was sobbing so hard.
As my friend reminisced about this time in her life, she recalled feeling like she wanted to die. The pain, she said was so acute she couldn't imagine it ever going away. As girls do, we spent hours, and I mean hours and hours rereading this letter, and every other letter he had ever written her, pulled apart conversations they had had, and tried to figure where it had all gone wrong. Of course, being adults with perspective and experience, we now know that nothing really went wrong, it was just inexplicably time for him to move on. But for a 15 year old girl, experiencing her first real feelings of love, there was no solace, just pain.
M's mom is a wonderful, caring and sensitive person. But with two other teens at the time, she just wanted M to get over it already and move on. Her mom was tired of the tears, the hours of phone time logged in with her friends giving her support, and longed for her chirpy, carefree daughter back. So my friend just stopped telling her anything. And that set the stage for the remainder of her adolescence.
Fast forward to 2012. Break up letters now turn into break-up texts, and hurt and angry spurned boy/girlfriends turn to facebook for pay back. Imagine dealing with the torturous pain and loss of a break up and then add to that some very public, very humiliating facebook post about your ex-relationship. Today, breaking up for teens is a two tiered process. It's not just dealing with the emotional piece, it's the public piece as well. In the olden days, an ex could be dealt with by telling your brother/sister mom or dad to say you weren't home, or you couldn't come to the phone when the ex called, at least providing you with some protected time to try to get over it. These days, you get broken up with or break up with someone, you can be getting or sending a barrage of text messages, or have to view terrible things being said about you on facebook by your ex to "get back" at you for breaking up.
This prolongs the ending of a relationship, and because teens love the drama, "getting in" on the break-up feels like living an episode of the Kardasians. When your teen is faced with this situation it can try a parents patience. Perhaps you are secretly glad since this was not the boy/girlfriend of your dreams. Thinking that you are providing comfort, you might make the mistake of bad-mouthing the ex and do a little "see I told you so." Please refrain. Your teen needs your support, your empathy, but not your opinion or advice. except when they ask for it. Remember that your teen may be experiencing this type of pain for the first time in their life. No life experience to draw on, no idea that indeed it will get better. Don't set yourself up to be shut-out! Romance is not like it was in the good ole days, it is wayyyyyy more complicated.