The most mortifying moment in my life was when my ex-husband finally agreed to see a couples therapist with me. Our relationship was falling apart and he wanted out. After 40 minutes of grievance airing and hysterical crying, the therapist said she saw absolutely no chance of us staying together and that we should go ahead with our divorce. It was truly a waste of time and money, and to top it off, a dose of public humiliation – and not the kind I enjoy. Thing is, I already knew the relationship was past its expiration date. But I couldn’t quite bring myself to add it to the pile of failed relationships behind me.
We all know, deep down, when our relationships are dying. It could be happening because the arguments are constant and outweigh the fun times. Or because you’re stuck in boring monotony and the endless discussions about resolving it haven’t gone anywhere. Sometimes, you might have simply outgrown each other and are on different paths. Worst of all, your partner might be cheating. In any case, knowing it’s the end is one thing – summoning up the energy to break up with someone is quite another.
Breaking up with someone often means reorganising your entire world, depending on how long and involved your relationship was. You might need to move house, take on new or different financial burdens, or even deal with awkwardness with mutual friends.
So even if your relationship was short-lived, gathering up the courage to end things can be really emotionally draining. But carrying on in an unhappy relationship is ultimately is bad for everyone involved. The longer it goes on, the unhappier you will be. No matter how scary the thought of being single seems, it’s always better than two people being miserable together.
Once you’ve made the decision to break free, how exactly do you end things without drama? A lot of advice around breaking up suggests that you should always do it in person. Now, when this advice was first given, I don’t think people ever imagined what our current online world would be like: cycling through the same three apps daily and communicating with our friends and family via text messages and DMs. With that in mind, I believe that if your relationship was pretty casual and doesn’t require a full autopsy or division of belongings, then a text or phone call explaining why things haven’t worked out is fine. But if you were regularly sharing more than just your bed, you do have to do things face-to-face.
Dumping someone in public is generally the absolute worst thing someone can do to another human without breaking the law. Not only is it humiliating, but it’s also impossible to have an honest conversation so you can both move on having learned something. That being said, doing it at home doesn’t mean you should have breakup sex either. It might (read: will) feel good at the time, but it’ll likely confuse things. Good sex is never enough to sustain a relationship.
Explaining why things haven’t worked out and how you feel is important. Sometimes preparing what you want to say before having the talk can be helpful. Make sure you are honest and to the point, so there’s no ambiguity. Explaining how and why you have come to these conclusions, while putting the onus on yourself, stops any slanging matches. It also affords your partner some respect and helps to bring closure. Be sure to also listen to them without being too defensive. They’re the ones being dumped, after all.
It’s natural to want to smooth things over as quickly as possible after a breakup. The amount of times I’ve said “please can we still be friends” is ridiculous. In that moment, it’s hard to comprehend that person not being in your life anymore, so clinging on to them under the guise of friendship seems like the best thing to do. But downgrading your relationship to something ambiguous means you both never really move on.
Offering any kind of false hope is also actually really unkind. Leaving someone with thoughts such as “they might come back, if only I prove to them I can change” or “I’ll give it some time” only longs out the inevitable.
As hard as it sounds, putting some space between you and your partner after breaking up is the best thing for you both. Cutting contact, at least for a little while, always seems harsh, but it allows both of you to move on and shows that you were really serious about ending things.
Breaking up is hard and horrible, no matter the reasons behind the split. The least you can do is try and not be a dick.