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Now Reading: How Do I Break Up With Someone? 11 Important Tips

How Do I Break Up With Someone? 11 Important Tips

There are few areas of life where I’d consider myself a “veteran,” but bad breakups are one of them.

One time, on my way to break up with a girl, I messaged a friend telling him what I planned to do and asking for moral support. I was surprised when the response I received was “What the HELL???” Until, that is, I realised I’d accidentally messaged my girlfriend.

Another time, I had to break up with someone via video call, because she had gone home to a different city for Christmas (did I mention I was breaking up with her at Christmas?!). Right in the middle of delivering my breakup spiel, the video froze.

Nothing, however, will beat the breakup I call The Overstayer. A few years ago, I made the mistake of breaking up with a girl at my house. We talked through the breakup for about an hour, there were a lot of tears, and we reached what I hoped was a place of closure. Then, she refused to leave. Just flat out would not depart from the property. It took another hour of cajoling and the eventual threat of calling the police before she finally departed.

If there’s one positive thing about a bad breakup, it’s that it makes you never want to go through another one. After more than my fair share of “unconscious uncoupling” disasters, here are the 11 tips I’d share for ensuring a breakup goes as well as possible.

1. DO IT IN PERSON

 If you’ve been dating for any significant period of time, it’s a basic display of respect and care for the other person to break up with them in person.

There are only two exceptions. The first is if you’re in a long-distance relationship, but you should still try to do it via video call or at least by phone. The second is if you’re in an abusive relationship, in which case do whatever you need to do to minimise the other person’s ability to inflict further damage.

2. DO IT PRIVATELY

Being out in public can stop people from saying what they want to say or expressing the emotions they want to express. No one likes crying into their latte while they’re surrounded by strangers. So, try to break up somewhere with a bit of privacy.

The one caveat I would add is to breakup some place that you’re able to leave when you’re ready. AKA, not your house (see The Overstayer above). Sometimes break ups can degenerate into a lot of negative remarks or just going in conversational circles. If that starts happening, you want to be able to make your exit.

3. COMMUNICATE WHY

Think beforehand about how you can clearly and concisely communicate why you’re breaking up with your significant other. The goal here is to give them enough clarity to understand and hopefully reach some sense of closure.

For example, if you were breaking up because your partner was constantly lying to you, you could say something along the lines of “the big reason I’m ending this relationship is because of your dishonesty.”

But you don’t need to hammer them by reciting every instance of dishonesty over the last three months. If they ask for further explanation and you’re happy to give it, then fine, but otherwise, don’t go overboard with the details.

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4. DON’T TRY TO MAKE THE OTHER PERSON FEEL BETTER

Your goal during a breakup should be to end the relationship as respectfully as possible. Your goal shouldn’t be to protect the other person’s feelings at all cost, to console them, or to give them an inspirational pep talk.

As Mark Manson points out, once a relationship is severed, the other person’s emotions are no longer your responsibility. Not only are they not your responsibility, trying to comfort the other person can often make them feel worse.

Say what you need to say, listen to what they need to say, and then move on. No one wants to sit through being told that they’re “such a great person, and the right girl/guy is out there waiting for them” right after they’ve been told they aren’t the right girl/guy in this particular instance.

5. BE CLEAR THAT YOU’RE BREAKING UP

One time I was 20 minutes into a breakup before I realised that I was, in fact, being broken up with. I thought we just resolving some conflict until she mentioned something about “still being friends” and I blurted out, “wait, are you breaking up with me?!”

Out of a desire to avoid confrontation or a fear of hurting the other person, we can be reluctant to use language that feels harsh. However, the best thing you can do for the other person is be direct. Expressly say “I’m breaking up with you” or words to that effect.

6. BREAK UP TO END THE RELATIONSHIP 

This may sound like the most obvious rule in the world. However, it’s important to recognise that breaking up isn’t a strategy for conflict resolution or a way to scare your significant other into being a better boyfriend/girlfriend. Only break up with someone if you want to permanently end your relationship with them.

7. NO TAKE BACKS

Before you break up with someone, firmly establish in your mind that you will not be getting back together in the following weeks. It doesn’t matter how much you miss them. It doesn’t matter if they tell you they’ve changed. No take backs.

If you are breaking up with someone, it’s because there is a very good reason why your relationship can’t continue. Whatever that reason is, it almost certainly won’t be fixed in a two weeks’ time.

I’m not saying you can’t ever get back together. Renée and I are happily married today because we got back together after a breakup. But we got back together a couple of years after the breakup, when it was abundantly clear that the original reason for our breakup would no longer be an issue if we got back together.

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8. RESPECTFULLY LIMIT ALL CONTACT

Mark Manson points out that a lot of people get hung up on remaining friends with their ex, even when it’s causing them emotional stress.

If you want to be friends, that comes later. The best thing you can do in the short term is limit your contact with the other person. They’ve actually done research on this, which found that people who limit contact with one another emotionally recover much faster.

Ideally you want to cut all contact with your ex after the breakup for at least a month; longer if you’ve been in a serious relationship. If you can’t totally avoid them, because you go to the same church, have the same friends, can’t say no to social table tennis on Tuesdays, etc. etc, then try to limit contact with them as much as possible.

If you hope to eventually be friends, it needs to happen organically. Don’t force the friendship because you’re afraid to “lose them” or you’re worried you’ll be perceived as cold-hearted if you don’t make the effort.

Trying to force a friendship too soon is one of the best ways to sabotage the possibility of an actual friendship in the long run. In my experience, it takes a fair bit of time (12 months+) and/or you both clearly moving on (e.g. by dating other people) for the tension to ease enough that you can be friends again.

9. TALK TO SOMEONE

There can be a lot to process after a breakup and you shouldn’t deal with it all in isolation. Make sure you talk to a trusted friend, family member, or a professional (counsellor, psychologist, etc.).

Not only can this person help you to work through whatever you’re feeling, they will also see the situation with an objectivity you lack. It can be easy to lie to ourself about a relationship. We can lie about who was responsible for what. We can believe lies that were first spoken to us by our ex. Someone we trust can help us to cut through the lies.

10. TAKE TIME TO PROCESS

What is the usual advice after a breakup? Keep busy. Go out with friends, start a new hobby, do whatever you have to do to keep your mind off of your ex.

It’s not bad advice. At a certain point we have to get off our couch, put the trip choc fudge ice-cream back in the freezer, and carry on with our life. But don’t let keeping busy prevent you from processing the breakup. Whatever you’re feeling, give yourself permission to feel it.

Remember, there’s no right way to feel after a breakup. Common emotions are sadness, anger and a sense of loss, but I remember at the end of one particularly toxic relationship, the overwhelming emotion I felt was relief.

Reflect on the relationship, recognising where it went wrong and the part you each played. Be honest about your ex’s faults and the ways he/she hurt you. Be honest about your own faults and how you could have been a better partner.

Manson points out that understanding what went wrong in your relationship can go a long way towards helping you move on, and it can prevent you from making the same mistakes in future.

11. FORGIVE THEM

Even when a relationship ends on good terms, people can be left hurting. You probably blame the other party for certain things, something might have been left unsaid, or maybe you’re just grappling with failed expectations.

Regardless of how badly your ex was in the wrong, one of the best things you can do after breaking up is forgive them.

Forgiveness is a decision to let go of any grievance you’re holding against that person. It means letting go of any feelings of bitterness, resentment, and vengeance you hold towards that person.

Forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. That’s denial. Forgiving doesn’t mean excusing the wrong or saying it doesn’t matter. It just means letting go of the resentment. Forgiveness says, “I know what you did. It hurt. But I’m not going to hold it against you.”

Finally, forgiveness is an act of the will, not an emotion. You don’t have to feel forgiving to forgive. Heck, most of the time you probably won’t, and the hurt you’re feeling probably won’t just disappear. But regardless of how you’re feeling, forgiving will be a massive step on the road to healing.

CONCLUSION

Like going to the dentist or gluten-free baking, breakups are one of those things that are inherently a bad time. Nothing I write is going to change that.

But breakups are also a necessary part of life. If you’re in a relationship with someone and you decide that this isn’t the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, the best thing you can do is breakup. Don’t view this as a failure.

Your goal should be to end the relationship respectfully and in a way that equips both parties to move on. These 11 tips will help you achieve that.

Are there any other tips you would share to help someone navigate a breakup? I’d love for you to write them in the comment section.



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