‘Breaking-up’ scenarios offer options

by Colleen Winters

A young couple stands face-to-face. They stare into each other’s eyes, whispering and laughing. And after a lingering hug, they part.
What’s taking place isn’t a personal conversation, but rather a break-up dramatized for an audience of about 50 students.
A number of University services, with the help of a grant from the Andrew G. Strom Suicide Prevention Fund, helped to coordinate and sponsor the program “Breaking up is hard to do” Wednesday afternoon at the Coffman Memorial Union’s Theatre Lecture Hall.
Sarah Young, a College of Liberal Arts junior, said she decided to attend the program because “it was timely.” She had recently experienced the end of a three-year relationship. “I just hope that other people have the same feelings I do,” she said.
Three different break-up scenarios were acted out by University students Megan Anderson and Dan Simon. After each scene, the actors remained in character while the audience members asked questions and made comments about what they saw.
In addition, representatives from several University services such as Boynton Health Service, University Counseling and Consulting Services and the Program Against Sexual Violence fielded questions from the audience and made some comments of their own.
The first scenario acted out was that of “Steve and Rachel.” The two were going their separate ways — Steve, who was questioning his sexuality, wanted to pursue an acting career in New York and Rachel wanted to stay in Minnesota.
After sharing some memories, they parted amicably. “That brought back memories,” one audience member said.
Because it was a friendly break-up (Steve told Rachel to “e-mail me” before he left), one audience member asked about how the couple’s families would react to the split. “My mom’s going to freak,” Rachel said. “She loves Steve.”
Family Social Science Professor David Olson, a counselor from the Suicide Task Force who works with couples, recognized that when a break-up occurs, “You’re breaking up with a bunch of people.”
Olson also suggested that couples take the time to recover after the relationship ends.
“There’s a temptation to get hooked up with someone else right away. But that’s the last thing you should do,” Olson said.
The second scenario depicted the violent and co-dependent relationship of “Bob and Jenny.”
Bob is a jealous boyfriend who yells at Jenny for talking to another man. He almost hits her, but tells her he “won’t do that anymore.”
When this scene ended and the audience got a chance to speak, someone shouted “Get out!” to Jenny.
Jenny’s response? “I don’t have anywhere else to go. I don’t want to be alone.”
Bob didn’t want any advice either. “I think I can figure this out myself,” he said with his arms folded across his chest.
Tom Beaumont, a social worker for Boynton and the mediator of the program, called Bob and Jenny’s relationship a “circle of extremes.”
“They’re either clinging to each other or beating each other and they can’t seem to separate,” Beaumont said.
Olson had suggestions for the couple that included the observation that Bob’s jealousy and Jenny’s dependency come from their insecurity. “People need to be secure with themselves before they enter a relationship,” Olson said.
The last couple the audience met was “Faith and Tony.”
Faith had met someone else and was moving out, but Tony had other ideas.
“If you go, I’m gonna kill myself,” he said.
When the scene ended, Ralph Rickgarn, an executive assistant for Housing and Residential Life asked, “Do you have a plan?” Tony answered that he had purchased a gun.
Rickgarn stressed to the audience the importance of finding out if the suicidal person has a plan worked out. That way, he said, you can tell how quickly you have to act.
Rickgarn also said the suicidal feelings could be the result of previous bad break-ups. “(The suicidal person) might be thinking ‘I don’t want to feel that way again,'” he said. So they try to prevent it in any way possible.