When the excitement of a new relationship fades into frustration, hurt and disappointment you know you may be crossing into break up territory. Or when you are just, for lack of better words, icked out by your partner it may be time to break up. But when you’re living these types of situations, it’s just so much harder to figure out if it’s really the right time and to actually bring yourself to say the words “we’re over”. So read on to learn how to break up.
Unfortunately an inevitable part of dating is breaking up. Unless you are just completely over the relationship, there tend to be common worries when thinking about a break up like: What if I’m making a huge mistake? What if he/she will really change? What if I don’t find anyone else? I have already put so much time into this! But he/she really loves me? And there’s so much I do like! The list goes on and on, but the fact is that anyone who dates will, most likely, have to face a break up. So in this post I am going to focus on two of the most common questions about breaking up…1) how do you know it’s time to break up? and 2) how do you do it?
How do you know it’s time to break up?*
One of the most telling signs that it’s time to break up is that you continue to have the same gripe about your partner over and over again. Don’t misunderstand this as saying that the relationship must be perfect, but if you notice a reoccurring theme in the relationship that continues to cause you some negative emotions like pain, hurt, broken trust, frustration, or anger then this is a telltale sign that the end should be near!
So if you notice that there is a reoccurring gripe and you are considering ending your relationship, take a moment to reflect on (and write down if you find that helpful) the arguments you have had with and complaints you have about your partner. Look to see if you can identify themes and patterns. Then, think about how you have tried to address these issues with your partner. Have you even let them know that you have these issues? Make sure that you have been clear with your partner (and more than once) about what upsets you. If you haven’t, then it’s time for a sit down. If you have, reflect on what your partner has done to try to make these things better. Do you see real promise of change (hint: insight, new information, effort, and practice over time)? Or do the efforts tend to fizzle out and the problem reoccurs? If you see reoccurring themes, you’ve addressed it (at least more than once, like a hundred times is not so good though in case it needs to be said), and they are not putting efforts into changing then you have entered break up territory.
I want to make a quick side-note statement. Sometimes we love someone but should still break up with him or her. I know I really suck, but it’s true. We don’t always love the healthiest of people or even love people who are a great match for us. So these are the hardest relationships to end, but please know that loving someone is not the only requirement for a happy and healthy relationship and sometimes we are so blinded by our strong feelings that we are really minimizing some major issues.
How do you break up?
Each situation is a little different, but here are some pretty straightforward tips for handling a break up.
- Keep it simple.
When you have decided that it is time for the relationship to be over, decide on your break up statement to your partner and then keep it simple. Explain some of what happened, obviously you don’t want to be a jerk and not offer some explanation, but don’t spend too much time rehashing an issue that’s been an issue for a long time and that you’ve already discussed multiple times. So something like, “you know that I’ve brought up XXX five times now and it’s just not getting any better and XXX is really important to me, so this isn’t going to work out.” The reason you don’t want to discuss things too much is that it leaves room for negotiation, pleading for more chances and promises of change. When you’ve decided it’s over, go in strong, swift and unwavering.
- Set your boundaries.
So this part is important because after you’ve called it off there is usually a period of time where you are especially vulnerable to taking him or her back; it’s like a little distance causes a sort of amnesia to things that were wrong in the relationship. Sooooo state your boundaries up front during the break up conversation. Maybe you like to stay friends with your exes (maybe that should be another post, no?!), if that’s the case you still need to set boundaries and it goes like this, “I would like us to be able to be friends at some point, but for a while I will not be in communication with you. So if you text or call or message or whatever, you won’t hear back from me.” If you don’t like to remain friends then this is a bit easier, you just say, “even though this has been a really hard decision, I am not going to change my mind, but talking to you makes it harder to stay strong so I am cutting off all communication between us. I just wanted you to know that in case you reach out.” This is hard, but trust me, oh so necessary. So turn your phone off, sit on your hands, do whatever it takes but respect this boundary. You’ll thank me later.
- Take some time.
After a break up it’s really important to take a moment and catch your breath. No matter the circumstances, breaking up is so hard and is a major loss of a relationship so please do yourself a favor and give yourself some time to recover and reflect. Think about how your relationship developed; do you want to do anything differently next time? What attracted you to this person, anything you should avoid or look for next time? Any mistakes you made in the relationship that you would not like to repeat in future relationships? These are all important questions to think about. Another thing to do that can be helpful during this time is to talk to people who knew you and your partner, did they see anything you missed and can they offer any new insights? It is really common for people to jump right back into another relationship, but it’s likely that a whole new set of issues will crop up because of that. Please take a sec so that you can be better prepared the next time around.
There is a reason that there are so many songs and movies written about breaking up, it is an incredibly difficult thing to do and it usually hurts. But remember that breaking up with the wrong person is opening you up to meet the right one. Be strong and resolute and don’t forget to take time to recover and reflect on what you want the next time around.
*So I want to put this out there. If you are in an abusive (i.e. physical, verbal and/or emotional) it’s time to break up NOW! Get help, get support, do what you need to do but get OUT. I wrote a bit more on this topic here