It’s two weeks after Valentine’s Day and, as so often happens, couples break up. This is the story of one such break up… ours. Lest your jaw drop into your lap, let me assure you right up front that my wife Kathy and I are still together and very happy. She’s planning birthday things for me, we’re pondering our next trip, and the home improvement project that we want to launch this spring is gaining traction by the day. We’re happy… very happy… I told her so just this morning, while she was sleeping peacefully. Our relationship is all good.

Kathy and I broke up with our TV provider yesterday. They were the first TV provider that we had in our new home, so the relationship was nearing the 3 year mark. I don’t want to mention the company, but I will say that I was very direct in my communication with their legal representative (read that as hourly employee if you will, but technically the person was legally representing the TV provider during the call).

I thought about doing this online. I’m sure that would have been possible and it seems like it would have been much quicker and less painful. It also felt like it would have been coldly impersonal; as I said, we have been together for almost 3 years. Breaking up via text message or social media post would have been a selfish act of blatant disregard for their feelings. I wanted to “be there for them” and assure them that I held no ill will or hard feelings. There was no real need to meet for coffee, but phone call was appropriate.

I tried my best to follow traditional break up protocol. First, I assured them that it was me, not them. I was happy with everything they brought to the table. Their service was dependable. Their programming was thought-provoking at times, entertaining at times, and comforting at times. I really liked the way they carried themselves and the fact that they had “grown” with us as time passed.

I was empathetic; I let them know that this was a difficult choice for me and that they would be missed. I had not come to the decision without much contemplation and, in retrospect, I would always cherish the memories of what they had meant to me in those almost 3 years. We had shared magical evenings and sometimes memorable afternoons together. I took no great pleasure in the decision, but I was certain that it was the right thing to do. We needed to go our separate ways.

As might be expected, my disclosure was met by disbelief and self-questioning. “Is there anything we can do to make things better going forward?” the legal representative asked. “We’ll change,” they said. Okay, they said they’d change my programming package and reduce my monthly rates, but you get the idea.

I was fully prepared for the impulsive reaction. I kept my emotions in check and stood my ground. I wanted them to know that my decision had not been reached lightly and there was no going back. I wasn’t going to be swayed by a temporary turnaround that would later just lapse back into the same repetitive default habits. Fighting back the desire to embrace the olive branch, I responded firmly, “Cinnamon, what you’re proposing sounds wonderful, but I’m afraid that I just don’t want to start wandering down Appeasement Lane.” I was proud of how my defenses were holding up.

The next proposal was that we take a break for a while. She referred to it as a “soft disconnect” and said that should I decide to renew the relationship after some time away, I would be welcome with open arms. Again, I stood resolute. “Cinnamon,” I said, “I appreciate everything you’re trying to do here, but I’m certain that this is what needs to be done. I’m not doing this because I need some space; I think we need to go our separate ways and see other people.”

Once I suggested we open ourselves up to seeing other people, the tenor changed. I could feel the tension through the phone as the legal claws came out. Cinnamon immediately asked for the ring back, I mean the equipment. I had expected this move and really didn’t want to have the reminder of what once was, hanging around the house. I agreed and promised to do so in a responsible manner. Even though I said okay right way, I was reminded that my failure to return the ring within a certain amount of time would result in actual legal action and additional fees for recovery.

The conversation got very short after that. I could sense the pain, the hurt, the anger starting to build. From this point, I just wanted to get off the phone as safely and quietly as possible.

That’s when she asked if there was anything else she could do for me today. There was a distinctive tone to the question that really didn’t seem like much of a question. I thought briefly, wanting to choose my words carefully, knowing that they may be used against me in the heat of the moment.

The silence, although only a few seconds, seemed lengthy and awkward. It was at this point that I was felt the first wave of “you’re a bad guy” wash over me. Emotions! No… no emotions. I had been true to Cinnamon. I had faithfully paid my billing statements each month via auto-pay and even spoke well of her services when the opportunity arose. What was done was done and it was the right thing. I needed to let it be.

“No, Cinnamon,” I said, “I believe we’ve said all that needs to be said. I wish you well.”

I probably should have left off that last part. At least I didn’t throw out the reactionary “Thank You” that would haunt me for months on end.

I’d like to report that she wished me well before we disconnected, but she didn’t; it was clear that my future well-being was of no concern. I’m sure she stared at her glass of wine last night, hoping that a bolt of lightning would fry all of my home electronics. The angst of painful break ups often brings such emotions to the surface. I do wish her well, but I’m at peace; breaking up was the right thing to do.

Quick Links to Mark’s Books on Amazon:

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