Some people come into our lives and impact us in such a profound way that we commit to spending the rest of our lives together. Unfortunately, love doesn’t always last forever. Over time, many couples begin to grow in different directions, discovering they have less and less in common. And considering that the average human lifespan has gone from about 39 years in the late 1800s to nearly 80 years today, it is no surprise that so many individuals feel compelled to make the choice to end unhappy, unfulfilling relationships.
There may come a time when you realize that it is best to end a relationship with someone you love rather than stay together and destroy one another indefinitely, becoming your worst selves in the process. Ending a relationship can be devastating. But it is possible to initiate a healthy breakup in a way that helps you keep the peace and retain your sanity.
Break-up in person and be civil
First and foremost, have the break-up conversation in person. Your willingness to be physically present sends a clear message that the relationship had value and was important to you. Keep your conversation civil and be certain your words are concise and to the point. At a minimum, demonstrate the same level of civility you would display to the person standing in line in front of you at the supermarket or the post office – common courtesy. As the one who initiates the breakup, you’re more likely to feel emotionally prepared for the exit compared to your partner. You may even feel a sense of relief now that you’re ready to go. But be prepared for your partner to respond with absolute shock and become rather emotional when you express your intention to end the relationship.
Hard as it may be, try to remain conscious of the deep love you once felt for this person. Spend some time reflecting on the positive attributes that made you want to connect with your partner in the first place. Although the relationship is coming to an end, the good times which occurred between you deserve to remain in your memory bank, enabling you to walk away with the positive experiences still intact.
Don’t bad mouth your ex post-breakup
You may feel compelled to share the nitty gritty details of your breakup with friends and family. Consider confiding in only one or two close friends. Better yet, enlist the support of a therapist instead. Bad mouthing and/or criticizing your partner post-breakup publicizes a disparaging message about you, the relationship, and your ability to make good choices.
You are likely to experience a whole host of conflicting emotions once you separate. Expect them to come and go. In addition to relief, you may also feel shame, sadness, resentment, grief, anxiety. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling awful as you rock between your past and your future. This is a normal and necessary stage you must pass through to regain your footing and recover. What you choose to put your energy into going forward is what matters. Processing and releasing negative feelings are the only ways to extinguish toxic energy and move on, feeling free and unburdened by the past. Work to keep your negative emotions in check and do the work to process them – not for your partner’s sake but for your own. The last thing you want to do is drag your old “baggage” with you into a future relationship. No one else deserves to experience your residual pain, resentment, or vindictiveness from a past partner. Don’t let anyone “live” in your head rent-free. Your mind is the most valuable piece of real estate you will ever own. Keep it clean!
Preserving your partner’s humanity as you grieve their absence is a delicate dance but doing so will enable you to shed your negative, uncomfortable feelings for good. Anger and revenge feel good in the short term because they seem to justify feeling hurt and wronged but in no time, you will notice that holding onto anger makes you feel bad mentally, emotionally, and even physically. You’ll begin to feel weighed down by an obligation to stay angry and this feeling of heaviness will keep you stuck, preventing you from making any progress. Being able to see shades of gray (and not just black and white) is a sign of your ability to engage in good critical thinking. It also means that you have truly begun to heal.
Cut all contact with your ex – at least in the short-term
Except for communication related to legal separation matters, consider having limited contact with your ex for at least a couple of months post-breakup. This does not have to be permanent, but most couples find it beneficial in the short term. The bulk of the process of uncoupling must be done individually. If you are sincere in showing respect and care for your former partner, you must allow them the space to process their own emotions and recover according to their own timeline, and you must do the same. Shedding the old stuff is what gives you the best chance of creating an amicable relationship in the future.
The most important thing to remember as you unravel a relationship with someone you once loved is that the pain and discomfort you are feeling is temporary. You will not feel this bad forever but the cold, hard reality is that the only way out is through. You cannot bypass grief and loss. If you do, it will show up with a vengeance when you least expect it. The legendary Paul McCartney once wrote, “. . . in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make.” The way back is through showering yourself with the unconditional love and respect you deserve.
I urge you to become a regular visitor to this site. Here, you will find the information, support, and inspiration you need to launch into your uncharted future with strength and confidence.