As what was once a loving relationship starts to fade to nothing, coping with the impending doom of your love life can feel impossible. Something’s just not right, and yet knowing you need to end a relationship and doing it are two entirely separate things. You lie awake at night next to a person you respect but no longer love. How can you end it?
The way you call it quits could matter more than you think. In fact, according to one study from Indiana University, how you choose to break up with someone is one of the most memorable aspects of the event. This little scene will play out time and time again for both of you after it’s over, whether you like it or not. That’s why it’s so very important that you get it right. Here’s what you need to know.
Avoid Letting the Relationship Drag On
You know when a relationship is past its sell-by date. You might kid yourself that you’re holding out for things to get better, but let’s be real here. You’re just too afraid to say it aloud. While you may think that staying with your partner out of pity is the nice thing to do, it’s not doing either of you any favors.
The last thing you want is for your partner to feel as though you’ve deceived them and stayed with them when the feelings had long gone. If they get an inkling that you’ve been holding onto this for longer than you’re letting on, it will make moving on nigh impossible. They will begin to question everything about the relationship, since they will no longer know what was “real” or “fake.” When it’s over, bite the bullet and break up.
Choose the Right Time and Place
The setting for your breakup has to be right. Your home together, for example, might not the best place; there’s nowhere for either of you to go after the deed is done, which will make things awkward. It’s far better to meet somewhere neutral. For example, you could meet at a quiet cafe, where you can talk without being disturbed. That way, once you’ve spoken, you can part ways and have some time to think.
Perhaps equally important is the time you broach the news. If you see your partner is busy and their stress bucket is overflowing, it may not be the best time to add more to it.
Be Open and Honest
The idea of confronting the issue may make your stomach do somersaults, and yet it could be the kindest way to end the relationship. Taking a direct approach — speaking to your partner face-to-face — will mean that you’re most likely to remain friends, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Research in Personality. What’s more, the same research found that honesty and openness could help soften the blow of the news.
So, while the idea of sending a quick “Sorry, it’s over” text may be appealing, it could spell out trouble for both of you in the future. You want to ensure both you and your ex are able to move on and heal after the breakup is over. The gesture of having a real, honest conversation about the situation is the very least you can do.
Really Listen to What Your Ex Wants
If you want things to be amicable, don’t just say your piece and disappear. Stick around and listen to what your partner has to say too. Now, you obviously want to avoid an argument. Make it clear that you’ve made your decision and that things are not going to change, regardless of what your now-ex says. The key is to be firm, and yet kind and patient.
Note that, if you can’t do this immediately, it may be worth meeting up after the initial wounds have healed to do so. Ask your ex what they want for the future; would they like to stay friends with you or not? This is just as much their decision as it is yours. You need to make sure you’re both on the same page so you know what the future holds for your relationship, or lack thereof.
Have an Exit Strategy Ready
You’ve pulled the trigger and kissed the relationship goodbye once and for all. What do you do now? Your post-breakup self may be a tad confused about how to carry on as normal. This rings particularly true if you’ve been with your partner for years and years or, perhaps worse, if you lived with your partner.
It’s worth having an exit strategy in place beforehand. If you live with your partner, consider where you will stay or perhaps look for a new place to live. You should also think about how the breakup will affect your social groups and your families. Will you be forced to see your ex time and time again? Consider these issues and figure out what will work best for both of you.
Use the Placebo Effect to Move On
There’s a common misconception that the one who does the breaking up magically gets over the relationship in an instant. In reality, though, both parties are likely to find it difficult to move on, especially if the relationship was long-term. So that you don’t make the mistake of going back, against your best judgement, you absolutely need to work on moving on and finding your path as a singleton.
A rather surprising way that you can feel better here is simply by telling yourself it’s so. According to a study by the University of Colorado, using the placebo effect, i.e. faking it until you make it, when it comes to healing a broken heart can work wonders. Simply believing that you’re recovering from the breakup could be the answer to actually doing so. Slap on a big old smile, and act like you’ve over it (because you soon will be).