The Classy Way To End A Relationship
I don't know about you, but when I stop to think about the guys that I was actually in a relationship with—meaning, we weren't just sex buddies and the fact that we were exclusively together was a mutual decision—when it comes to the ones who make me purse my lips and roll my eyes, it's not really due to the relationship itself. It's mostly because the break-up was insensitive, a complete blindside or handled very immaturely. It was like no honor or respect was given, and that's what made it hard to heal and at least be at peace with those jokers…I mean, men.
I can't do anything about how badly those break-ups went. The best I can do about the past is forward this along to my exes in hopes that they'll "learn better, do better" (and yeah, that's probably not gonna happen). But what I can do in the present, in honor of all of those who have a break-up coming (hey, it happens), is offer up a few suggestions on what you can do to make the ending of your journey with someone as kind, respectful and maybe-just-maybe-we-can-be-friends-or-at-least-friendly-someday as possible.
Think About If You Want a Friendship or Not
Granted, if you're about to break up with someone because they treat you like dirt or refuse to meet your needs, there's probably not much of a friendship to salvage (shoot, there may not have been much of a friendship there to begin with). But if you think it's time to go separate ways on the romantic tip simply because the timing isn't right, you both want different things or you don't see much of a future, you may want to end things on a super amicable tip.
If this is the case, come at them in a way that would make them not want to block you on social media or ignore your calls. Try and avoid the whole "It's not you, it's me" or "I still want to be friends" line, even if that's the truth because it's too cliché to be taken seriously. But do come at them open, kindly and real. Let them know that you value them and, even if they need time to think it over, you still want them in your life; you just don't want to stand in their way of getting what they really want in a relationship.
I can speak from personal experience that when my relationships ended with dignity, friendship—even if it was "friendly-ship"—was able to manifest. Eventually.
It's my personal opinion that ghosting is cowardly. Oh, it's mad disrespectful too. Maybe I feel that way because a childhood best friend did it to me. Maybe because I'm a communicator (some might even say an over-communicator). Whatever the case is, I don't like it.
If you were man enough to talk yourself into the relationship, please be man enough to verbalize your way out.
Besides, unless someone is low-key loco, I can't think of one good reason to think that going radio silent is a wise or compassionate thing to do to anyone you once cared about. Unless you didn't, which would be another article for another time.
Give Them a Bit of a Heads Up
The only thing I hate more than ghosting is blindsiding. That said, it's so not a good look to call someone you're dating and be like, "Hey! How about we meet up for dinner?" sounding all happy 'n stuff, only to drop the bomb on them once they arrive. A heads up of what's to come is uncomfortable but it's the right thing to do. Something along the lines of, "Do you have some time this weekend? I really need to talk about our relationship" is good. If they follow it up with "What's wrong?", be honest but not super-detailed. "I've been doing some thinking about where this is going, but I think it's better to discuss it all in person." If they've got an IQ in the triple digits, they're gonna get the gist. They might even push to do it over the phone but don't agree to that. This brings me to the next point.
Do It in Person
There's a guy I know who is in his 40s and completely notorious for breaking things off with women in text. It doesn't matter if she was his girlfriend for two years or a jump-off for five (he's quite the "recycler" too), according to him, when he's done, he's done and the courtesy (?!) of a text should be enough. When I gave him push back on that, he said, "Shellie, my showing up at their house to look them in the eye isn't gonna change things. I'll just stand on their porch, read the text verbatim and leave." Ugh. Sounds to me like 1) he doesn't want to deal with the fallout of break-ups (which is why he's texting in the first place) and 2) at the very least, he is super-emotionally immature and/or narcissistic.
OK. So that look that you're giving your monitor as you read about ole' boy. Uh-huh, keep that same energy if you're even close to considering breaking up with someone in text, via email or over the phone. Yes, it's insensitive. Yes, it's rude. And yes, you are no better than the guy I just told you about if you up and decide to do it. Unless they were abusive to you, they deserve your presence. Give it to them.
Be Honest. And Empathetic.
You aren't doing anyone any favors by sugarcoating, or worse, withholding reasons for why you want to end your relationship. Remember, if we're all doing this relationship thing right, each one teaches us lessons that can make us better for the next one that we decide to get into. If you're unhappy, tell him why. If the intimacy (any kind of intimacy) was unfulfilling, put that on record. If you don't see a future, share that too. Is it mean? That doesn't depend on what you're saying but how you say it. That brings me to the next part of this point.
I don't think that a lot of us have a hard time hearing someone's truth. It's their delivery that can put us on the defensive. I still think that honesty is important, just so everyone is crystal clear, moving forward. At the same time, it's a sign of emotional maturity and intelligence to take a moment to process in your head what you are about to say and think about how you would feel if it was delivered in a harsh, flippant or totally insensitive manner. Empathy is a close friend of honesty. Make sure that they both show up in your break-up conversation.
Encourage Them to Fully Express Themselves
It's not right or fair that you're able to get everything that you need to say off of your chest, but you won't allow your soon-to-be ex to do the same. Although you might be the one who's officially calling things off, don't be so delusional, presumptuous or (worse) arrogant as to think that everything on their end was blissful or that you didn't have a few missteps that they tolerated along the way as well.
Yes, when someone is getting broken up with, sometimes pettiness can come into play, simply because their feelings are/may be hurt. But so long as he is being respectful, be willing to hear him out. If you really want to grow as a person, take it a step further and ask him what his thoughts are. Just by offering this kind of platform for him to share, it can soften the blow and help things to end in a more loving way.
Back It Up with a LetterGiphy
Although this might seem a little odd, this is where I'm coming from. There's a pretty good chance that at least one of the reasons why you're ready to end your relationship is that you don't feel as connected as you once did or as you think you should be at this stage in the game. That usually happens because somewhere along the line, there was a breakdown in communication. As far as poor communication goes, if there's one time when all kinds of things can get misconstrued, it's when you're letting someone go.
I can't tell you how many times something that I said in the heat of the moment was either quoted back to me incorrectly or was totally taken out of context. That's why I'm known for backing up deep convos with a letter or follow-up email. That way, we both have a copy of what I said, it can be processed and, if needed, clarified later on—whether that's next week, next month or a couple of years from now.
Again, this is not a "mandate recommendation", but when I tell you that it can spare all kinds of potential future drama, I ain't neva lied.
Commit to a Clean Break—at Least for a Season
On the surface, it might seem odd to say that clean breaking with someone is classy but look at this from my perspective. When you know someone isn't right for you (even if that means they aren't right for you right now), it only complicates things—which is a nice way of saying it's super-duper messy—to keep talking on the phone, flirting online or (worst of all) having sex. There needs to be a season when the two of you are completely apart so that you both can process, heal and know what you truly want and need from each other (if anything) up the road.
So yeah, if you really want to be a grown-and-classy woman in your break-up, BREAK UP. Completely up. Saying what you mean and meaning what you say may hurt him for a while, but after the dust settles, you'll gain (or maintain) his respect. Which is a nice thing to have once a relationship finally comes to an end.
Featured image by Getty Images
Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:
Why You Need To Grieve Your Past Relationship
The Signs Of A Truly Intimate Relationship
Here's How To NOT Lose Yourself In A Relationship
- 7 (Nice) Ways to Break Up With Someone ›
- 5 Ways to End a Friendship in a Friendly Way | HuffPost Life ›
- In defense of the slow fade: Ending a casual relationship by failing to ... ›
- Five expert-approved break-up texts to send instead of ghosting ... ›
- 11 Women Reveal the Best Ways to Break Up With Your Girlfriend ... ›
- A Better Way To Break Up - 20 Ways To End Your Relationship | Goop ›
- The Best Way To End A Casual Relationship ›
- How to Say Goodbye: The Art of Ending Relationships Well | Inc.com ›
- 3 Keys to Ending a Relationship With Dignity | Psychology Today ›
- How to End a Relationship the Right Way ›
After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (email@example.com) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
Director of Content: Jasmine Grant
Campaign Manager: Chantal Gainous
Managing Editor: Sheriden Garrett
Creative Director/Executive Producer: Tracey Woods
Cover Designer: Tierra Taylor
Photographer: Ally Green
Photo Assistant: Avery Mulally
Digital Tech: Kim Tran
Video by Third and Sunset
DP & Editor: Sam Akinyele
2nd Camera: Skylar Smith
Camera Assistant: Charles Belcher
Stylist: Casey Billingsley
Hairstylist: DaVonte Blanton
Makeup Artist: Drini Marie
Production Assistants: Gade De Santana, Apu Gomes
Powered by: European Wax Center
Janelle Monáe's Reveals The Real Reason Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Tuxedos
Singer and actress Janelle Monáe exemplifies how change can be a powerful catalyst for growth and transformation.
Monáe, who rose to fame in 2010 following the release of her debut album, The ArchAndroid, captivated fans' hearts with her powerful vocals, catchy tunes, and style. Around that time period, when various female artists were known to wear provocative ensembles on stage, the "Tightrope" songstress set herself apart by wearing her signature black and white suits and continued to do so for almost a decade.
In the later years of her career, after the release of her studio albums The Electric Lady in 2013 and 2018's Dirty Computer, many began to notice the shift in Monáe's artistry and fashion, which some widely praised.
Although the now 37-year-old rarely addressed the reason behind the transformation over the years, that would all change when Monáe sat down with radio personality Angie Martinez on her IRL podcast earlier this month.
During the interview, Monáe --who was promoting her latest album, "The Age of Pleasure"-- opened up about her mental health struggles, how she would cope, and why she chose to live in freedom.
Janelle On Why She Stopped Wearing Her Signature Suits All the Time
Photo by Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images
In the May discussion, the "I Like That" vocalist revealed she suffers from anxiety, which she claimed would occur around "winter to spring."
Monáe added that when she has her bouts with anxiety, she tends to turn to food as a coping mechanism. Further in the interview, the "Lipstick Lover" singer disclosed that her emotional eating habits caused a weight fluctuation and that she could no longer fit into the suits she once wore earlier in her career.
Monáe explained that even though she tried to diet and exercise to return to her smaller figure, she ultimately stopped and made peace with herself with the help of therapy because she acknowledged that she isn't the same person she was nearly a decade ago and shouldn't try to be even if it was a highly "celebrated" version.
"I'm petite, but it can get thick... When I couldn't fit them suits anymore, and I was like, 'Oh my God, what is going on?' I would be dieting, running, or exercising, trying to fit into [it]. I'm just like, 'No. No, we're here. This is where we are.' We [are] not about to be utilizing life trying to be an old version of ourselves. No matter how celebrated that version of me was. I'm here. I'm here," she said.
Janelle On Freedom
As the topic shifted to freedom and what that meant to Monáe, the "Primetime" vocalist shared that in this new era of her life, she enjoys it because she can boldly express herself however she wants and honor who she is as a person right now.
Monáe also revealed that she had found ways to become a better artist and the best version of herself because of her freedom.
"What is the new version of freedom? What does that feel like? That's usually when I feel the most free is when artistically, I can honor exactly who I am right now," she stated. "I feel most free as a human when I can honor exactly who I am right now."
Monáe's fourth studio album, The Age of Pleasure, is set to be released on June 9.
Let’s make things inbox official! Sign up for the xoNecole newsletter for daily love, wellness, career, and exclusive content delivered straight to your inbox.
Feature image by Rachpoot/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images