by Liberty Stembridge, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 1st August, 2018
Breaking up with your partner is never easy, some even say it's one of the hardest things to do. It takes a lot of courage to break off a relationship, especially if it is a serious long-term commitment such as a marriage, or if kids are involved. Psychologically, breakups are particularly difficult for the human brain to deal with, and the more rocky or dramatic your relationship was, the more likely you are to have a harder time dealing with the emotional fallout from the breakup. Many experience feelings of disappointment in themselves for not being able to keep a relationship going, or extreme feelings of loss and isolation, especially when going through a break-up without a strong support system. The loss of routine, familiarity and companionship that accompanies a break-up is very difficult for the brain to deal with, no matter how bad the relationship was.
Ultimately however, break-ups are important, it's not possible that everyone can meet their first love and stay with them forever, most people will either be dumped or need to dump someone at some point in their life, which is a good thing! Break-ups can often be one of the most powerful catalysts for change in our lives, even when we don't realize it, and if you want to have a productive break-up, you need to start off on the right foot and learn to break-up with someone the right way.
So, how do you break-up with someone the right way, and what is the right way to break-up with someone? In truth, there is no universal method of breaking-up that is the "right" way, it will depend on your relationship - however, there are definitely some guidelines to follow that will hopefully make the process smoother and clearer for both parties involved. It's important to set clear boundaries, and try to keep the atmosphere non-critical and non-judgmental. While it's okay to talk about why you're unhappy in the relationship and want it to end, pointing fingers and getting angry probably isn't going to help. To make it easier, we've broken it down into six steps.
This step is crucial to any break-up as without it, you can easily stray off course and into the murky waters of "breaks" and "last try's". Sit down, alone at first, and then later perhaps with a friend and think hard about what it is exactly that is making you unhappy in the relationship and why you want to end it. Set your intentions for the break-up, for example, you could state that you want a smooth and respectful break-up, with no aggression, where you get to state why you want to end it. Setting these intentions will allow you to have a clear idea of what you want your break-up to look like, and hopefully keep you on track when it comes down to it.
If you're particularly nervous about breaking up with your partner, or even if you're not, it can be very beneficial to write down what you want to say. All you need is a few bullet points of why you're breaking up with them and how you want to phrase your words. Be very clear about this, you want to make the break-up as clean-cut as possible, so try to include the words "I'm breaking up with you" so that the other party has absolutely no doubt about your intentions.
It's important not to let your emotions get in the way too much when breaking-up with someone. This is especially important if there is a lot of drama or hurtful behavior involved in the relationship. While it can be very tempting to make hurtful jabs, petty remarks or passive-aggressive comments, remember that you are trying your best to make this break-up go as smoothly as possible. If possible, write a first draft and let it sit for a while, then re-write it with whatever perspective you've gained.
Before you go to your partner to inform them that you want to split-up, it's a good idea to set some personal boundaries that you could also communicate to the other person at a later date. These boundaries will help you stay firmly on track and preserve your moral integrity. Common boundaries include: no raised voices, no breaks and no sex.
Now it's time to figure out the where and when, no text break-ups here. Breaking up over text is not only pretty disrespectful, but it can sometimes lead to mixed-signals and misunderstandings. It's better to try and do it in person if you can, so long as you know that you'll be safe. Where and when you choose to break-up with someone is totally up to you, and will depend greatly on your relationship. A lot of people choose to break-up in a public place, as this can prevent major meltdowns and raised voices, as well as making it a lot less awkward. Of course, if you live together this might be different, as one of you at least will have to move out. As for when, pick a time as soon as possible - it's best not to drag out the relationship for any longer than absolutely necessary. As a guideline, after a date or a romantic night in is probably not a good time to break-up with someone.
When you're in an unhappy relationship, it can be easy to immediately assume that the break-up is going to be easy, but the truth is that they rarely ever are. Even if your relationship hasn't been working for a while, chances are that you will still experience feelings of loss, miss them and start to reminisce of good times that you had together. This is all totally natural, so it's best to be prepared for when those feelings do come up. Letting your closest friends and family know that you're going to break-up with your partner will mean that you don't have to explain yourself afterwards, and you can rely on them to be there. You could even ask a friend to come round once a week or so afterwards, to check up on you and make sure that you are on-track.
Learning to process a break-up is equally important - exercises to help you process and move on from the relationship can help you to heal much faster and cope much better with any emotions that do arise. Writing down the positives and negatives of your relationship, and looking through then packing away old memories are just two of many helpful exercises you could try. Finding new things to do after your break-up is also equally as important to signal to your brain that this is a new start. You could pick up a new hobby or start exercising more, anything that previously you didn't do that you've always wanted to.
Finally, you're ready to break-up, it's time to get it over and done with and immediately start no-contact. No-contact is a rule that states that once a relationship is over, you need to cut off any all contact with your ex as much as possible. This may sound extreme to some, especially those who are coming from an amicable break-up, but it's been shown to help you process and move on from a break-up. You don't have to keep it up forever, but most people recommend that you leave at least six months of no-contact before reaching out to your ex again. Of course, when you immediately break-up, it might not be possible to instantly go no-contact if you need to collect things from them, exchange money, attend the same school or workplace or move out of an apartment - in these scenarios you should limit contact as much as possible while still remaining respectful.
Focus on why you are doing this, and don't let old feelings get in the way only to confuse the situation. It's likely that your ex will be experiencing the same feelings of loss and heartbreak, but sticking to your guns and keeping firm boundaries will leave you both better off in the long-run.