I was recently talking to one of my friends who just broke up with his long-term girlfriend. I asked him how it went breaking the news to her.
He said, “It went okay I guess… I mean, no one ever tells you how to break up with someone… so I just kinda fumbled through it. I just did the best I could, though I’m sure it could have gone better.”
I knew what he was saying was so true. People don’t know how to end a relationship with dignity and integrity.
I know from my own personal experience. My (now-ex) husband informed me that our marriage was ending over tea in a Starbucks. Another long-term relationship ended over Skype (neither were ideal, but the Starbucks one really takes the cake).
I get it. Sometimes we have done everything we can to try and work on a relationship, yet it just isn’t working out for us. Many people who have been with someone for a long time and still care about the person usually want to end the relationship in as pain-free a manner as possible.
They just don’t know how to do it (and they feel a little scared), so it comes stumbling out in this awkward, inopportune way.
So based on my experience (and my clients’ experiences) of being dumped in ways that were less than ideal, I’ve come up with five tips that I believe can support people in getting the job done with integrity, while minimizing the hurt as much as possible.
If we can walk out of a break-up session with the other person sad but still respecting us, don’t you think that’d be preferable? Here are five ideas to help make that happen:
1. Do it in person and in private if at all possible.
Breaking up with someone in public is the worst. I would say it is almost as bad as being broken up with over text. Don’t do either, as we go down in the books as the biggest D-Bag in history.
Doing it in public doesn’t keep anyone safe from the crying, yelling and screaming. It just makes us look like more of a jerk. It’s best to wait to have a conversation with them privately and in person (if possible) to give our soon-to-be-ex the dignity of their process as they find out that we are breaking their heart.
2. Give them a reason why.
If we are going to end a relationship with our significant other, it’s important to be honest and explain why this is happening and where we’re coming from. Ending a relationship is hard for us both, yet being able to communicate why it isn’t working for us is crucial.
Our now-ex might not understand it immediately, but giving them a real reason is so much better than leaving them high and dry with no explanation at all. Telling them it’s over and walking away just isn’t fair.
3. Be vulnerable.
Unless we really don’t care about that person and just want to get away, we don’t have to be guarded. This isn’t working for us, fine, but we don’t have to be mean about it.
Being shut down and cold during this process is not stepping into integrity, it’s practicing avoidance and only makes the other person feel worse about the whole situation. Try to keep an open heart, listen deeply and speak openly and honestly. This will help avoid many questions of “but I just don’t understand!” that may come bombarding our way in the future if we don’t.
4. Don’t continue to lead them on.
If we are super clear that we no longer want to be in this relationship, then don’t continue to lead the other person on and give them hope. It creates a lot of confusion and pain on the other side. Perhaps we think that we are being nice by giving them some hope, but really it just draws the pain out even longer and makes it harder for them to get over things.
So if we are clear that it is over, then we need to be clear about that in our communication with them.
5. Take care of yourself.
While we are the one doing the dirty deed of dumping our ex, the change to being single again may ultimately be hard at times. We have to find ways to take care of ourselves and fill ourselves up with things that we loved doing alone prior to being in a relationship. Take time to really find ourselves again and become strong in us. Figure out what we want and who we are before diving head first into another relationship again.
By taking this time now, we set ourselves up to be a better partner in the future.
I hope these ideas help. Breaking up and being broken up with are never fun, no matter the situation. But by taking the above tips into consideration, we could prevent a bad situation from getting worse, and we can walk away with our dignity intact.
Author: Elsie Storm
Assistant Editor: Brook Bentley // Editor: Toby Israel