Adapted from a recent online discussion.
When in doubt, just accept the breakup without question
Columbus: How do you know when to just accept a breakup or press for more answers? My girlfriend very suddenly and abruptly ended things without much explanation. While we had our issues, I don't feel that things were perfect, they were not that bad either . . .
Carolyn: "Without much explanation" means there was some explanation, right? It's tough to answer you without knowing what she said — i.e., without knowing whether she stinted on the explanation, or whether you just didn't hear what you wanted to hear. In the latter case, it's not unusual for people to keep hounding their exes till they get satisfaction — which is futile and unfair.
So I'm loath to say something that might be used (if not by you, then by others) as justification to start hounding.
Even without knowing anyone's exact words, I will say that in most cases (99.99 percent), it's best just to accept the breakup as an explanation unto itself. There's often a gap between the truth and what you're told anyway, and even where there's no gap — when you get the full 2-by-4 to the ego — there's a limit to how useful that information will ultimately be. There's always some element of this: Some people fit together, some don't.
In the 0.01 percent of cases where details would be useful, you still need to accept the breakup. But you are entitled to ask, "Just for my own peace of mind, after which I promise never to bother you again, was there something I could have done differently? If I mistreated or aggravated you, I'd like not to do the same thing to somebody else."
Again, a generic answer, but to be more specific, I'd have to, ah, press for more information . . .
Anonymous: What are the rules when there is NO explanation?
Carolyn: No explanation is pretty cold stuff. For someone to cut you off without so much as a crumb of information, and for you to be surprised by that, one of a few things has happened:
(1) You totally missed that you were dating someone with major maturity and communication issues, and so you may have a few of your own that need attention;
(2) You have just been awakened from a state of acute, chronic wishful thinking about the other person and/or the relationship;
(3) You were blinkered by someone very manipulative, which could have happened to anybody, but good luck getting details;
(4) You were abusive and the other person fled for safety.
If I missed one, jump in.
Anonymous 2: Re: No explanation: (5) You were told already, on multiple occasions, and just didn't listen!
Carolyn: It seems to me that when you dump someone in exasperation like this, you say, "I have tried several times to explain X and Y, and it doesn't seem to get through, so I'm leaving. Goodbye." I guess some people can be obtuse or willful enough to convert that very clear statement into "My girlfriend abruptly ended things without much explanation."
But in that case, I'd put it this way: (5) You're delusional.