Teen Talk

Teen Talk: Text breakup causes rift with her English teacher (her ex’s mom)

Kelly Richardson
Kelly Richardson Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

DEAR KELLY: My ex-boyfriend’s mom teaches English at my high school, and it’s so awkward since he and I broke up. I’m in her class, and she was always so awesome and helpful to me when he and I were going out.

When I broke up with him (I did it in a nice way), she stopped talking to me. I asked her a homework question, and she said, “Why don’t you just text someone, since that’s how you communicate with people.” At first I didn’t understand why she said that, but I realized I had broken up with him over text and I think she was mad. It wasn’t a mean text or anything, more like, “I think we should be single and you’ve been a great boyfriend, but I’m not feeling it anymore.”

Later, I got really mad that she’s mad at me for breaking up with him. I texted my ex and said: “Sorry if I hurt your feelings when I broke up with you, but your mom has no right to be mean to me.” He texted me back that his mom has been nothing but nice to me and if I can’t handle the consequences of what I did, then that’s on me. Then we got into a total text war and things got mean.

How did this whole thing blow up? It’s so awkward in English, which used to be my favorite class. I’m scared she’s going to be mean on grading my essays or finals, and I don’t know what to do. Should I text her and say I’m sorry if she’s mad at me? One of my friends suggested getting back together with him until after school is over. Who’s the wrong one? Please help me. I’m so confused.

Stressed Student

DEAR STRESSED: Emotions have the ability to blow situations up, especially hurt or painful emotions. When people (including parents) feel rejected, they respond with anger and often try to hurt the other person so they hurt as well. By the way his mom responded to you, it sounds like he was really hurt and upset by the breakup and she struggled with seeing her son upset. The goal isn’t to figure out who is wrong, but rather to figure out how to resolve the situation.

Let’s start by owning your part. I don’t know how long you went out, but for future reference, avoid ending relationships by text. Even if you felt you used kind words, your tone can be misinterpreted. When you communicate face to face, the misinterpretation is reduced and people have a chance to express how they feel openly. You have a better chance for resolution when you address issues in person. Breaking up through text just seems disrespectful, even if you didn’t intend to do that. Learn from this and remember this important lesson next time. Just because it seems easy doesn’t mean it’s right.

Take what you learned from your breakup and initiate a face-to-face conversation with his mom. Either go before or after school and ask if you can talk for a few moments. Tell her that you regret how you broke up with him and you now realize how they might have felt it was disrespectful even though that was not you intention. Thank her for being so kind and supportive when you were going out with her son, and tell her you hope to remain friendly with her even though you aren’t dating her son. Hopefully she accepts your apology and you can move on.

If you feel like she is academically punishing you, you may need to enlist the help of your parents to know how to address the issue. Be cautious: She may not be punishing you the way you feel she is; she just might not be extra helpful like before. Perhaps you were getting the VIP treatment before and now you are getting the regular everyday-student treatment.

Whatever you do, don’t listen to your friends. Getting back together with him until school is over is bad advice. Trust me, you will regret that decision if you go down that road. It is a very slippery slope, and it is inevitable there will be hurt feelings.

They say heartache is a great teacher if you learn from it. You have learned a lot from this situation on how to resolve issues and that face-to-face communication is so much better than talking with your thumbs. You’ve learned that parents are very protective of their children, even if you didn’t maliciously try to hurt him. You learned that breakups equal rejection, and people can be very unfriendly after they feel hurt. Take all of this and move forward. Breakups are inevitable in teenage relationships. Don’t feel guilty for ending the relationship; it’s part of life, and time usually heals those wounds.