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Millennial Love 3: Dealing with break-ups in an age of shared timelines

sex and relationships Updated: Sep 18, 2016 16:06 IST
Riddhi Doshi
Riddhi Doshi
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

(HT Illustration: Siddhant Jumde)

The problem used to be that you’d break up, realise you still loved the person and then have a hard time figuring out where they’d moved on to. They might have changed addresses, moved towns, got a new phone number.

It would take the good offices of friends and loved ones to bring you two back together.

Then came the cellphone. That first ‘uncoupling’ became harder when the still-loved one was just an SMS away. So you got friends to help you stick with the plan; you appointed a bestie who would be on call day or night to make sure you didn’t dial or text.

It would take an army of besties on 24x7 rotation to keep your ex out of your life today.

If it’s not WhatsApp and Instagram, it’s Facebook or Twitter. If you’ve decided to block each other, it’s a repost by one of your common friends.

“I am trying hard to focus on work and forget my ex,” says Radha Digadhi*, 22, a finance executive from Mumbai. “But it’s not easy. He keeps popping up on Facebook and Snapchat, bringing back all the good and bad memories.”

She broke up with her boyfriend of four years, six months ago. “We were college sweethearts. I loved him and had a fun, secure relationship with him. We called it quits because he is moving to Australia and thinks that long-distance relationship doesn’t work. I was willing too give it a shot...” she trails off.

So, with Radha, as with so many other millennials, there is no closure.

“Closure is important because it helps people accept a situation and move on. But today, even the nature of the breakup -- messages via WhatsApp, Snapchat, Facebook etc -- adds to the problem of lack of closure,” says Neha Patel, clinical psychologist and relationship counsellor.

THE UNMERRY-GO-ROUND

It’s also the mode of break-up that has changed, and often that can come in the way of closure too. As Drew Barrymore put it in one of her many desperate roles as the sad, lovelorn single – ‘There are just so many ways for a guy to not call you back’.

Pratap Jagat*, 28, for instance, woke up one morning to find that his girlfriend of two years had changed her Facebook status to ‘Single’, from being in a relationship with him. “That’s how I knew we had broken up,” says Jagat, a student from Bangalore now pursuing an MBA in the US. “I was shocked.”

He remembers spending all day trying to contact her, via Skype, WhatsApp, Facebook and phone. “She didn’t respond. That evening I got an apology text saying she couldn’t be with me any longer. That’s it,” he says. “I didn’t push it any further because I think what she did was just wrong. By that point, we had been in a long-distance relationship for six months, but even now, six months after the breakup, I still wonder what suddenly went so wrong.”

Read: Part 1 of the millennial love series - Finding a date

From having break-up parties like the one Meera (Deepika Padukone) and Jai (Saif Ali Khan) hosted in Love Aaj Kal (2009) to being dumped through a changed Facebook status -- the change says a lot about how the relationship was viewed too, at least by one of the two people involved.

This spin-cycle attitude of whooshing into and then out of relationships is what Ananya Chetiya puts her most recent break-up down to. The 29-year-old travel executive from Assam met a corporate lawyer from Delhi on Tinder a year ago. They chatted online and over the phone for six months.

Then, unbidden, he travelled to her city to meet her. “I took the week off so we could hang out every day. We went on long drives, lunches and dinners,” she says. “I hadn’t asked him to come see me. He wanted to. I was obviously feeling special, happy and loved. Then, a week after he returned home, over a casual phone conversation, he suddenly said that he wasn’t interested and didn’t want to see me any longer. I was shocked and disappointed and sad. I have no idea what changed in a week’s time, and I’m too proud to ask him. But what happened still troubles me,” Chetiya says.

Read Part 2 of the millennial love series: Navigating a relationship

Chetiya is still on Tinder, but is wary of meeting people in person. “For now, phone conversations are good,” she says. “I have decided that I will meet a person only when I really want to and not otherwise. Things get complicated after meeting a person face to face and heartbreaks or feeling bad about suddenly being neglected are unavoidable.”

The one thing that hasn’t changed about the break-up is the pain.

“Breakups are still painful,” says Patel. “But people tend to bottle up their feelings now more than before, because heartache doesn’t go well with their ‘cool, happy, blessed’ online image.”

This spells trouble. “Trying to camouflage your emotions can lead to a fractured identity and a lack of closure, making it difficult for the person to move on,” says psychologist Patel. “Millenial love stories are more complicated because these youngsters are often missing the strong network of offline support — friends and family — with whom the burden of real problems can be shared. This is troubling because this support makes it easier to cope, to move on, to stay stable and to remain in check with reality.”

(* Last names changed on request)

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