by Zara Mohammed, Relationships Columnist
Published in Relationships on 11th August, 2018
Let's face it, there's never going to be a great way to break up with somebody. Someone is going to feel the pain, it's inevitable, and with pain comes defence mechanisms. Cue: resentment, hate, revenge, and all that ugly stuff. There are ways to initiate a breakup without being hated for it though, and here are some ideas to help you come up with an effective breakup strategy.
A good starting point is to sum up, to yourself, why you want to break up with this person. Be honest and write down in a list all of the things you absolutely hate about this person, which have contributed to you wanting to break up with them - Their breath stinks, they cheated on you, they have no respect, they are lazy, they have no idea about romance, they make you feel bad about yourself, they are terrible in bed.
If your list is full of horrible things like that, don't worry about it. Just keep writing until you get it all out onto the paper, because when you actually come to do the breaking up, you don't want all of this negativity to colour the way your breakup goes down. It is much better to get it out now where you can contain the potentially disastrous effects of your criticisms. If you need to carry on writing for pages and pages, no problem, if you feel the need to repeat certain things, or write them in capitals, go for it. Get all of that negative emotion out of your system and keep going until you are literally bored of writing about the person.
The next step is to write a new list, but this time it is time switch the tone around and focus on all of the positive reasons you want to end your relationship for yourself. I'm talking about the feel-good factor things like - I want to be more emotionally independent, I feel I need to discover more about myself and my potential, I want to meet someone I have lots in common with, I want to travel, I want to work on loving myself more.
By the time you have finished this second list, you will probably have let go of all the negative emotions you felt when compiling the first list and you're ready to leap forward into your newfound freedom and chase after your personal goals - Great stuff! But you have one more list to make, and this one will require you to take a few steps back and feels some empathy. This will be harder for some of you, especially if your relationship was neither an enjoyable one, nor your partner a good person to you.
This final list must contain all of the reasons that make you believe that breaking up is the best decision for both of you. This list will probably be a lot shorter and a bit more vague, because it can be difficult to feel good things about someone who has perhaps hurt you. This is a very important step though, and you don't want to miss it. Writing your second list is about finding compassion, being able to forgive, and wanting the best not only for yourself but also for your partner who you once loved, and maybe still do.
Everybody has the potential to grow and everyone deserves to be happy. Perhaps by letting go of a relationship that you don't want to be part of anymore, you are giving your partner the opportunity to find true happiness too. Breakups are always better when you genuinely want the best for the person you are breaking up with, despite any pain they have caused you.
Now that you have got a clear idea of what you want, for yourself and for your partner, you are ready to approach the breakup talk. Knowing what you want to say and how you want to say it can help to give you the confidence to go through with your breakup in the kindest and most productive way possible.
It's best to keep it simple, and not leave too much room for discussion and emotions to fly high. If you craft a breakup talk that is what it is, rather than an opportunity to discuss, analyse, argue or throw blame around, then you stay in control of the direction the conversation takes.
You don't have to memorise a script. You should feel like you are naturally communicating to your partner form the heart. Have a clear outcome in mind, and keep on track in that direction. If you want to ask your partner how they are feelings, try to steer the questions towards something specific so that it's not an opportunity for them to take over.
Also, don't feel like you have to apologise! There's no point in anybody feeling responsible for the breakdown of a relationship. It is usually a two-way thing. Relationships that don't work simply aren't meant to be. It could be that you were two different people who didn't see eye to eye, or perhaps one of you, or both of you weren't mature enough to deal with the issues that arose in your relationships. There is no point in trying to force something or feeling bad about giving up. At the end of the day your only responsibility is to make sure that you are happy and that you are being 100% honest and fair both to your partner and to yourself.
A good breakup talk contains a balance of why you want to breakup, what you want for yourself, and how the breakup could potentially be a positive thing for both of you. Don't forget to be kind. Breakups are horrible, and it is worse for the person on the receiving end. Try to understand how they are feeling and why they may react negatively to what you are saying. Don't blame them for being upset. But you don't have to apologise either, because you are not doing anything wrong by breaking up with them. You can say that you are sorry they are feeling hurt. This way you are showing empathy without taking responsibility for how they are feeling.
Inappropriate ways to break up with someone:
It's probably best not to make an event out of the occasion. Imagine how you would feel if your partner took you to the opera to tell you they wanted to break up. I mean dinner is bad enough!
The best way to come up with the perfect place to break up with your partner is to think about how you would want them to break up with you. Think about whether you would deal with the situation better in a more private place like your own home, or in a neutral public place that isn't overly populated, perhaps a park?
Think also about the kind of person they are and how they are likely to react. If you think they will be volatile, then a more public place is definitely better than behind closed doors, especially if it makes you feel safer. Public places also encourage people to behave in a calmer and more civilised manner, which could help the conversation to go the way you are hoping. On the other hand if you know they will be emotional and want to hide away and cry, then choose somewhere close to home so that they can escape back to a place they feel safe afterwards.
Choosing the right place for a breakup conversation is important, but the decision is individual, so try to think of what would be best for them.
Often the most painful part of a breakup is after it has taken place. It can be painful to see your partner moving on. Sometimes people end up spending more time together trying to help each other get through the painful part of the breakup, but this is often confusing and can end up causing even more pain.
If you truly want to move on, and you want to help your ex to move on, you need to give each other some space. This doesn't mean you can't be friends in the future, but you need to move on from your breakup first, otherwise you will never be able to establish a normal friendship.
Try to agree to give yourselves the space you both need to detach from what you are currently feeling. If you are able to reassure each other that friendship is something you both want in the future that's great. But the main thing at this point in time is to honour your breakup.
Try to make good decisions. If you know your ex is going to be somewhere, avoid going there for a little while. If you meet someone new, don't display the fact all over social media. If you have mutual friends ask them not to talk about you to them and vice versa.
In order to allow yourself and your ex to detach, you need to make space for new things to come into your life, and in order to make that space you both need to remove yourself from each other's life for a while, both physically and mentally.
There's not a lot you can do if your ex decides that the way they need to deal with their pain is to badmouth you and generally act out.
Just understand that they are going through a really tough time, and that it's not your fault, and even though you don't deserve what they are throwing at you, you don't have to involve yourself in the drama.
Surround yourself with people you trust, who make you feel good and support you. Separate yourself from your ex as much as possible, and focus on living and enjoying your life.
Make your three lists - get all the negative emotion out so that you can think clearly about what you want for yourself and your future, and then figure out what the positive results for both of you will be if you break up.
Work out what you want to say to them - Try not to leave too much room for dispute. Keep it simple and don't forget to be realistic but kind. Remember that you don't need to apologise, the breakup is not your fault, and honesty is always the best policy.
Choose the right place to have your breakup conversation - Don't be a coward, breakups should always take place face to face. Just make sure that you choose the right location, one that will help your partner to listen to you and not feel any worse than they will already be feeling.
After your breakup, make sure that you put space between you - The only thing that will help to heal wounds is time, and you won't give either of you the opportunity to detach and move on if you continue to remain a big part of each other's lives. Do the right thing. I know it's hard.
Don't blame your ex for hating you - You have done everything you can to try and make the breakup as fair and compassionate and real as possible. Now the rest is up to them. Let go of your guilt and move forward with your life.