Eh, there’s no time like the present sure—but sometimes the here-and-now, well, sucks. Knowing you’re ready to put an end to a relationship is a difficult realization, no matter how long or brief you’ve been paired up with your partner. Especially as we age, approaching the conversation with kindness and consideration is important since it’s never your intention to hurt someone you once deeply about—and likely, still do. That why it’s important to do the appropriate prep work before you slam on the brakes, for the sake of your heart, their spirit and because of #karma. It’s also emotionally healthy, according licensed marriage and family therapist and certified sex therapist, Courtney Geter, LMFT, CST. “Planning a break-up allows one to properly close a relationship and allows both parties to share thoughts about the relationship and experience,” she explains. “Be considerate and empathic of the information being provided to them and that their reaction may be different than yours.”
If you’re unsure on how to start this whole shebang, don’t worry. Here, experts provide the step-by-step process to appropriately—and generously—making it unofficial.
Step One: Pick the Appropriate Setting
If your relationship was mostly healthy and never abusive, there’s no reason to have the infamous talk in a public setting. In fact, that could be a big blow to what you share together, and discount the value of what you learned and shared together. Geter says though tempting as the easy way out, never, ever break up with someone via social media. Choose a place (and time) that’s calm and give you both the space to talk about your feelings and get through the tough discussion. “There is also no ‘good time’ to end a relationship, though be considerate of what your partner may be experiencing such as an important event coming up or increased stress at work,” she explains. “Suggest you going to that person since you’ve had time to process the breakup and it does not require them to leave the location or drive under distress or increased emotions.”
Step 2: Prepare Before You Do the Talking
While sometimes in a fit of frustration, you could feel as if it’s better to end it right-then and there, a pause can work wonders for your psyche. Geter says doing the soul work and the self-discovery to understand why you’re unhappy, what you’re missing and what isn’t working for you will help you come across confident and clear, rather than stumbling over your words. You’ll be able to discuss the bad, sure, but also the good—making for a more thoughtful breakup. “Although you are ending the relationship, reflect on positive experiences and positive traits of your partner to share. This allows you to end on positive notes while also providing comfort and care to your partner. Breakups don’t have to be dramatic or hostile,” she explains.
Step Three: Center the decision on yourself.
Love expert, educator, speaker and author Dr. Darren Pierre stresses the importance of word choice when ending a relationship. This is especially important if you don’t think your partner will be on board with the cutting of ties, or if they’ll get defensive. As he explains, the more you make it about you, what you’re feeling, what you think and so on, the less ground they have to protest. “If the relationship is not working for you, own that, and bring that to the conversation with your partner. When you allow the person to believe it is a shared space that you have made the decision, you also offer them the space to make the counter-argument as to why the relationship should continue,” he continues. “Consider your own feelings about the relationship and stand firm in your decision.”
Step Four: Set boundaries.
Once you’ve made it through the conversation, shed tears, argued, grown angry and gotten past it, the time to part ways has come. While every relationship will be different depending on if you live together or you’ve been a couple for so long your stuff is sprawled about your respective apartments, creating boundaries is key. As Dr. Pierre says, it’s important to be mindful of what’s next for you and for them, without stepping in one another’s way. And let us warn you, it could be tricky. “Often after a relationship ends, people move into a space of gray. That is, the commitment is gone, but perhaps physical intimacy or emotional intimacy remains,” he explains. He suggests treading carefully if you plan on remaining in contact. “A person’s heart is the great gift, one we have to hold with care, with honor, and with trust. Remembering, while the relationship with us has ended, there is a new beginning for the relationships of the future,” he explains. “Don’t let negligence in considering the next steps put you or your former love in undue emotional harm.”
It’s smart to shut down lines of communication for a while—at least a month or so—giving you both time to grieve and digest the breakup. Down the road, you could form a friendship, but only if you’re both in better headspaces.
Step Five: Reflect On Your Own
Even if you were ready for the relationship to come to a close and excited for what the future might hold, everyone feels pain during a break-up. Don’t be silly and discount whatever you’re nursing, since this is usually the time when you reap the most reward from the experiences you had from the couplehood. As Geter shares, give yourself permission to reflect on your needs, how and why they weren’t met, and your own shortcomings. “Some people stay in a relationship longer than needed because it’s hard for them to leave the relationship. Others desire to be in the relationship though became uncomfortable with certain elements of the relationship,” she continues. “It’s important to explore why this relationship dissatisfied you in order to create change for the next relationship.”