16 Apr The Right (and Wrong) Way to End a Relationship
Following last month’s blog on the 15 questions to ask yourself to see if it’s time to end your relationship, I received a number of requests to do a follow-up episode. So this week, I will be breaking down the right (and wrong) way to end a relationship.
The first step is to get clear on your decision. If you are still feeling unclear or confused about your relationship, be sure to check out the March 12 episode first.
Once you are certain that you’re ending your relationship, the next step is to ask yourself the 3 Q’s – specifically focusing on the relationship:
- Who does this person remind me of?
- Where have I felt like this before?
- Why is this behavioral dynamic or the way we’re interacting familiar to me?
It’s important before you actually initiate the break up (if that’s what you’re going to do) to understand what you might be repeating. We all have a psychological tendency to repeat things that were either stressful, dramatic or traumatic – even if we don’t want to. For example – if your parents fought a lot and you find the same thing happening in your own relationships, you could find yourself repeating that behavioral pattern over and over unless you get to the root of it – which is where the 3 Qs can help give you some insights.
The next step is to remember to be kind. You loved this person. You may still love them but not think the relationship is right for you, so remember that they don’t need to become your enemy.
Often we feel like we have to convince the other person that we have a right or good reason to break up with them. The truth is you don’t HAVE to prove anything. Sometimes we fall out of love with people, and sometimes feelings change. That’s hard to talk about and it’s also hard for someone else to accept – yet it may be the truth.
The next point you want to think about is doing it respectfully. Don’t tell people in your mutual circle before you actually break up with your partner. Don’t leave them vulnerable socially so other people know before they know. I’m not saying you can’t tell a trusted mentor, close friend or family member, but I am saying that it’s good to remember to treat them the way you would appreciate being treated, and no one wants to be the last to know.
The next thing to think about is to try to break up in person if you can. The only reason not to actually do it in person is if the person is violent, manipulative, or if you think it will be something that would be unsafe for you. Even though it’s a hard conversation, if those things are not in the mix, it’s a conversation that you owe that person and yourself. They’re going to want to know why, especially if you haven’t been honest along the way and they are not expecting it.
Although you are not required to give them a ‘reason’, speaking truthfully is recommended. Stay in your lane and get clear about what is not working and convey it clearly: “You initially said you also wanted children and have changed your mind. I still want a family so this is a real deal breaker for me”; “We do not have enough in common”; “I feel unsupported by you on my career path and am not willing to change my path” or other specific truths.
The thing that you want to avoid is being ambiguous. If you really know it’s over, you just have to honor the way that you feel, without making them wrong for it. It’s about you owning it. Saying “My feelings have changed” or “I’m not in love with you” may be very hard to say, but it’s way better than stringing someone along.
Another key thing is to avoid the “neverending ending.” Break-ups are hard, and sometimes we try to soften the blow by positioning it as ‘taking a break’, or we leave open the possibility for a reconciliation. The truth is that all of these things are just prolonging the misery for both of you, so it’s better to be really clear to end the relationship. Do it with clarity and allow each other time and space.
If you’re meant to be friends there will be time to be friends, but I do believe that at the beginning of a breakup, it’s best to have no contact for a period of time. Also – why be tortured by each other’s social media? It’s so avoidable and is another version of the “neverending ending.”
Going forward, it is important to be clear on the rules of engagement. Obviously, things are different depending on whether it’s a break-up, or you’re living together, or it’s a divorce. Some take longer than others, and so it’s essential to be clear on what the rules of engagement are – for both your sakes. If you have mutual friends, agree that you will communicate or text to ensure you don’t end up in awkward or painful situations – especially with other people.
None of this is easy, but staying in a situation that you know is the wrong situation, or staying with someone out of pity – that’s not the same as being in love and it’s really hard to build a life with someone who you pity because you’re not respecting them. Would you want someone to stay with you out of pity? If your partner threatens to hurt or kill themselves, you can alert mutual friends to help them. It cannot be you, and the harsh truth is that in the end, you are not responsible for the choices that the other person makes. We’re individual human beings who are interdependent in relationships, so stay on the right side of the light. Don’t get provoked into a fight but stay firm.
I hope that you found this week’s blog valuable. If you liked it, please share it on your social media outlets. I hope that you guys have an amazing week and if you are in this situation, I really do hope that this information helps you make a plan to get on with your one and only amazing life. As always, take care of you.