Should you do a post-breakup exit interview?


WORDS BY Alexandra English

Here’s how – and why – you can use this corporate technique to get closure after heartbreak.

Modern dating is much like the modern workforce: unpredictable, full of disappointment and misleading claims, too much mental energy spent trying to remember whether what you’re wearing this Wednesday is the same as what you wore last Wednesday, questions about where you want to eat today, and the constant threat of being made redundant.

You’ve already heard about people who treat first dates like job interviews and dating in general like a second full-time job. But there’s a new corporate-turned-romantic technique hitting relationships: the post-breakup exit interview. It makes sense: an exit interview exists for the sole purpose of letting both parties air their grievances and offer feedback in a mature conversation.

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The idea is that both people will leave the conversation, not having pointed fingers, but with greater clarity about the other party’s experience. Applying that technique to a romantic context (or, more accurately, a formerly romantic context) can not only save arguments and the frustration of unanswered texts (or the opposite: too many texts demanding answers), it can also provide the kind of healthy, clean closure that you and your ex need to be able to move on and thrive in your next relationship.

Life and relationship coach Megan Luscombe happily recommends giving it a go. “A post-breakup exit interview is a great opportunity to get feedback on the obstacles or even challenges the other person faced while dating you,” she says. “[It could uncover] ways they think the relationship went wrong due to personality differences or value misalignments.”

There are myriad ways in which we think we can do no wrong. Having someone who knows you intimately point out (gently) that that is absolutely one hundred per cent not true, could be the greatest gift they’ve ever given you — even if your immediate reaction is to send it back (right in their face). This brings us to the most important thing to consider before initiating a post-breakup exit interview: it must – must – only take place once the mourning period is over and the anger has dissipated.

Make sure the ice cream and wine have long been finished before even approaching your ex with the idea. Both parties must be ready to be amicable and ready to own their mistakes and really listen to the other person. This isn’t about blame, this is about helping the other person better understand your feelings, and helping you to understand what you could work on for your next relationship (and vice versa).

As for what to ask? It’s a good idea to have your questions planned, so you can refer back to them if you feel you’re getting carried away with your emotions. Written on a piece of paper is also a good idea, so you have something to do with your hands. “Keep in mind that these questions can only be asked if you’re sure they’re going to be responded to in a kind and caring manner, without judgement,” says Luscombe. “You can ask: ‘In a few words, what was it like dating me?’ and ‘What were the things about me that you found most challenging?’”.

It’s also a good idea to prepare some helpful comments for your former partner. If they ask you what they could have done differently and you start arguing like old times, the whole thing is ruined. If you have some carefully considered answers, it will show that you care about this process. You can also ask them to put some thought into what they would like to tell you before you meet up. And yes, this must be done in person.

If you’re ready to give it a go, here are some corporate exit interview questions adapted for heartbreak, closure and self-love.

Questions to ask your ex

  • Did the relationship turn out to be what you expected? Why/why not?
  • What aspects of our relationship did you enjoy most? Least?
  • Is there anything I could have done sooner to prevent the breakup? Is there anything you think you could have done sooner?
  • Can you suggest any changes that could make our next relationships happier?

If you’re not ready to open up the dialogue with your former partner just yet, you can hold an exit interview with yourself. “It’s crucial we ask these questions of ourselves when a relationship ends; it’s the only way we can self-develop and become better versions of ourselves,” says Luscombe. Grab a notepad and a mirror (optional), and sit down for a deep conversation with yourself. Here are some starters:

Questions to ask yourself

  • Was the relationship really as good as you’re remembering?
  • Did you ignore any red flags early on, and if so, what were they?
  • Do you miss them or do you miss having company?
  • What did you need more or less of in the relationship, and why didn’t you get that?
  • What could you have given more or less of in the relationship, and what was stopping you?

All in all, this is not an exercise in trying to turn yourself into your former partner’s ideal partner. Nor is it about twisting and carving yourself into something shiny so you can attract someone new. This is an exercise in self-awareness, maturity, healing and closure. You’re not doing this for anyone but you: the most important relationship of all.

For more information on post-breakup exit interviews, head here.

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