Relationship Advice

Six rules for ending a relationship



There is no ‘good’ way to end a relationship, especially a long-term one. But there are ways to do it causing minimal hurt to your partner – and yourself.If you’re in the unfortunate position where you feel you should end your current relationship, it can be hard to gain a clear head to think about things properly. But try not to rush into anything – by not thinking things through, and making the break in the heat of the moment, it’s most likely you’ll hurt your partner. Think about it – people know Phil Collins best for his soft rock, but many also know him (rightly or wrongly) as the man who dumped his wife by fax. No one wants to be that person. There’s no way to stop a break-up being painful but our simple rules should smooth the way a little.

When you are sure

This might seem obvious, but how many times have you heard about a friend who’s ended a relationship only to change their mind and rekindle it a few weeks later? And how many times has that second attempt stayed the course? The point is, if you’re going to end it, be sure in your own mind. If there’s doubt, ask yourself what that doubt is. If it’s because you’re worried about being alone, that’s not a reason to stay with someone. On the other hand, if it’s because part of you feel you can save the relationship then you should talk to your partner about your concerns, rather than just ending the relationship.

> Find our more about when to end a relationship.

When you are calm

This really goes hand in hand with being sure. Carefully think through how you will break the news to your partner – don’t just throw it at them in the midst of an argument. It will be hurtful for them and you won’t be able to get across your true feelings about the relationship. Even though you are ending a relationship you still have an obligation to the other person to treat them as you would expect to be treated.

When your partner is calm

If your partner is very stressed about an upcoming event, or has had a particularly bad day, then try to hold off from making your announcement. We know that there is no good time to end a relationship, and sitting on your decision for too long also isn’t a good idea. But by throwing your announcement into the mix at moment of high stress, your partner’s reaction will be ten times more extreme than if you wait for a calmer moment.

In the right way

What’s the right way? Well, it’s certainly not by text. And it’s not by email either. And, after a quick poll of our office (men and women) it’s probably not by phone. Of course, these elements depend on how long you’ve been seeing someone. If your ‘relationship’ is just a few dates old, and you’ve barely spoken on the phone, then you might feel it’s better for you to let them down by text or email. However, if you’ve been together for months or years, any kind of written communication is cowardly. It doesn’t allow for your partner to ask you all the questions they’ll have, or let you know how they feel about your decision. Unless it’s completely unavoidable, try to end it in person. Your partner will probably have more respect for you in the long-term – and think how you’d feel if the boot was on the other foot.

In the right place
If you’ve reached a decision about your relationship, where should you break the news? Again, this goes along with being as considered as possible. Any situation where alcohol is involved isn’t a good idea. Also, any time when there are other people around – friends, family, diners in a restaurant – will make the whole situation even more awkward. So, if you find your need to end your relationship escalating during a large family dinner, bite your tongue, it’s not worth the embarrassment and hurt.

Don’t go back

Depending on the reasons why you broke up with your partner, it may be tempting to keep in touch with them after you broke up. And it’s hardly unheard of for a couple that have recently broken up to find themselves back in bed together. You don’t need us to tell you that this is a bad idea. It generally leads to one of two scenarios: 1) embarrassment and hurt feelings on either side, 2) a misguided decision that it’s a good idea to have a second stab at the relationship. If you can, after you break up, have a good few months without contact. Of course if there are children involved, or other dependants, this isn’t realistic. In these cases, be as amicable as possible, without using the children as reasons to see each other.

> What have you learnt from past break-ups? We want to hear your stories (good and bad) and your tips for the future, below.

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16 thoughts on “Six rules for ending a relationship

  1. trouble is i love a married woman we seen each other two years She moved house to be nearer me but husband moved with her after he said he was going to leave He disloated her jaw two year ago but she wont stand against him I am 25 years older than her but we get on so well together i dont know what to do.

  2. John- get her to contact Relate, or contact them yourself. She might be staying in a dangerous situation because she has you to help unburden herself and relieve the stress. Or she may be seeing you as a protector, however unrealistic/impractical that is (how can you protect her if she’s not with you?) Talking to another woman could be the catalyst to get her out of the situation.
    Don’t be surprised if she goes cold on you once she’s out, though. After the trauma is over, it’s really hard not to lump all men into a ‘dangerous’ category and steer clear. Stick it out. Good luck!

  3. I was seeing someone for 5 months, sometimes he said he loved me and sometimes he said he did’nt, he just could’nt make up his mind. I met his three sons and their girlfriends and he met my two sons and their girlfriends. He chose to end our relationship just after christmas by phone, It was the best thing that happened to me I met wonderful guy through eharmany and I am now very, very happy.

  4. Sixteen years ago my partner of 5 years ended our relationship in a phone call and we had no further communication. It was cowardly, cruel and left me without “closure” – hence why this article brings it all back after all this time.
    Relationships do run their course but I would like to think I would never treat anyone in this manner – everyone deserves more respect, so for me face to face, allowing for emotional outbursts and the fact that it won’t be easy, is part of the trade off.
    I know that if we had a meeting in a neutral area just to talk through the whys and wherefores I would have better coped with the fall out.

  5. Dianne Earley

    March 7, 2010 at 3:55 PM

    I recently broke up with a man i really loved and adored, and still do, we had a long distance relationship which meant we only saw each other a handful of times during the few months we were together, though spoke and emailed and texted all the time. But it got to a point that it needed to speed up if i was to be able to find out if i was close enough to him to have something more meaningful.So, I asked for more of his time to see if there was something more in it for us and he said he hadn’t found love with me yet and a load of other reasons which were about distance and family and work,so ended it after me initiating the end in that first conversation, it was very painful and he foudn it hard to communicate with me at first.
    However, after a couple of weeks,he sent me cards and has constantly been in touch so it has been really hard to have any closure at all and in fact i have found the whole experience really very painful.
    I think if we had discussed the issues at the right time, in peace and without our anxiety levels raised, it would have been easier for both.
    A clean break is what should have happened to give us time to get over it all.Staying friends is very hard and conversation is often difficult.

  6. My boyfriend of 16 months broke up with me 3 weeks ago saying he couldn’t give me want i want ie Love and commitment. He wants to stay friends though and has since cooked dinner for me and we still talk on the phone. I know I cant get over this while we are still in touch but I cant make myself stop contacting him. You can be friends but only after a gap otherwise you just prolonge the pain.

  7. Hoorah to a sensible article at last!! Treat with respect, communicate, dont do anything by text or email -we’re not 16 anymore(hopefully!). Breaking up, the hurt, the anguish is hard on both sides. Talk it through, allow closure and be respectful. Lifes too short to be unhappy but also its unnecessary to make others unhappy and more hurt by callousness.The most respect I have is for the man that dealt with this face to face. Yes it hurt but we’re friends now. Avoiding calls, putting to voicemail is cowardly and quite frankly pathetic. Show some respect. Dont lie.

  8. I had a serious relationship for 7years with my girlfriend.After that 7 years i become very ill.When i was getting a little better after 4months.My girlfriend text me and said she wanted our relationship to end.I know we always argue with each other now and again.And we have little tiffs almost every week,but nevertheless we always make it up when we in bed making love.After awhile she came over to visite me and we talk it over and she explained to me why she wanted to end the relationship.I then ask her why?She said to me she has been very unhappy with me for a long time and she couldn’t tell me why?I keep pushing her to talk to me.She keep saying leave it as that.I couldn’t get her to talk.After 1month we’ve been apart from each other.I managed to text her to ask if she was alright.Then she said she wanted to end it all because we didnot do anything together but every week we went out because i was a musician and i took her in every gigs i played.and aswell when i wasn’t gigging i took her out,We went out on different fucntion,We went on Holidays together almost every year.We did do lots of things together.I was very hurt because she could have told me that before.Why wait after so many years.She still haven’t told me the real truth.Can somebody help me on that please?I still love my girlfriend and care for her.

  9. I’ve just told my fella who I have been dating since end of April that I don’t think I can do it anymore. I told him by text which I know isn’t great. But we text each other as our main source of communication as he lives an hour away from me and we don’t see each other more than twice a week. I didn’t feel like we were connecting and it seems like he’s not that bothered if I am in his life or not. He hasn’t replied to the text or tried to get in touch, so I guess my feelings were right. I just wish guys weren’t so afraid to tell you what they are thnking, rather than letting you feel like they don’t care.

  10. One thing that’s been forgotten here; actually bother to end the relationship. I saw a guy for 11 months and he just didn’t bother to tell me he didn’t want to see me any more, he just broke off all communication, didn’t pick up his phone and never contacted me again. To do that is just plain cowardice and utterly disrespectful to the person you’ve been seeing.

  11. I totally relate to that Becky. My ex didn’t see me for 2 and a half months, and then emailed me to say that I was dumped. I had, of course, guessed that by then! But he’d had good excuses to start with and had carried on texting as usual so it took me a while to cotton on. He lived more than an hour away, so we only saw each other at weekends anyway. But so unnecessarily hurtful.

  12. My ex-boyfriend and I were together for 15 months. We were so good together however had the problem of my families disapproval. However since we were both in university we stayed together. we broke up once after 3 months and when I wanted to get back together he didn’t want to, but we still kept in touch and in simple terms did the wrong things without being in a relationship. When I couldn’t keep hurting myself anymore I moved off to date someone new, however since we both kept in touch he confessed at that time that his life felt empty and I did the most horrible thing to the guy who I just started dating, left him and got back with my Ex. We stayed together knowing that his plan was go abroad for his future career, however I believed that he would change his mind. We lived together for 3 months and then we broke up. he ended it and I didn’t want to. I remember the sleepless nights and the crying, depression and the loneliness I went through. However since he moved with his friends he was having a great time partying and etc. He visited me 2 weeks ago to give some of my things back and for a casual lunch at his place, however since my feelings for him never went away we did the wrong thing again. when I asked him to make it work he simply didn’t want to. And I know him so well enough to say that he is indeed talking to loads of other women, not in a bad way but in an attempt to move on. He confessed that he was scared to loose me but didn’t want me. I eventually got fed up of looking at myself look so depressed, spoke to a few of my friends and properly ended the relationship. We do not talk to each other. This I thought would be very difficult however I was proved wrong. I would not deny about the fact of the several temptations I got to send him a text, but I decided to stand my ground and carry on. Its been nearly a month and a half now since we broke up, I could say that still have strong feelings for him, miss him and in fact probably still love him. But this was the right decision for both of us.
    I just wanted to share it as this was a huge life lesson for me. Trying to be friends is extremely difficult, I tried and failed. I do not ever want to be in a situation where I have a physical relationship with absolutely no mental relationship.

  13. My “partner” of six months recently decided he needed “two weeks space” as he wasn’t sure how he felt about me any more. In the beginning he was too much – said he loved me after only a couple of weeks! I held back my feelings, but then I fell in love with him. Unfortunately, I am quite argumentative and am told I have a “volatile” temper – quick to blow but soon calm down. He couldn’t handle these outbursts and I suppose it must have killed his love for me – if he ever DID love me? When his “two weeks” had elapsed, he didn’t even have the guts to contact me and tell me it was definitely over. I think he was afraid I would persuade him to come back, as had happened so many times in the past. But I shall always think he was a coward for not contacting me. I miss him so much but now think our relationship was just based on the physical side rather than personalities. You would think I would know better – I am 58 !!! Relationships don’t get any easier.

  14. I met someone on eharmony and we went out for 4 months. He stopped communicating. We had had a couple of weeks before that of him being really hard to talk to, to keep a conversation going – it felt like pulling teeth. So I emailed and said ‘do you still want to go out?’ and he replied and said ‘I think we should knock this on the head.’ Such a nice way to put it! I wish he’d read this article – he dumped me by email AND stopped communicating. I felt like he was acting like a teenager – he’s 36!

  15. I was with my first love for 5 years. We were 16 when we started dating and 20 when I gave birth to our daughter. The last two years of our relationship he cheated on me with a friend of mine but we couldn’t let one another go. They also have a child together, our babies were born two weeks apart (crazy, I know).
    He tried to keep us a secret for a long time though we were together so long. He’d show up once a month to visit and would never look forward only back. I ended everything over the phone. I felt horrible for a long time but got a chance to learn a lot about myself.
    Its been two years now… I saw him last week and we talked for a bit, he still seems very sad though he’s moved on in his relationship. I to remain positive and look forward but I find myself wanting to hold onto him, not for a relationship, but so that my daughter can know her dad.
    Our situation was a big mess, it left me with a low self image, embarrassed and sometimes I still feel like I’m not good enough, I stopped socializing completely. I’m just becoming social again.. And it’s so hard for me to fully put my heart into my relationship right now… If someone can hurt you so bad after five years what is a year?

    I know exactly what I want… I want him to call me. I want to give him closure and I want mine too.
    I want him to see how awesome our daughter is turning out.

    I’ve been so emotional since I spoke to maybe it’s a good thing he hasn’t called.
    Maybe he doesn’t want this do disrupt what he has going and I can understand that too.
    Am I over reacting?

  16. I am currently in a relationship for 5 1/2 years. We have a 3year old together. Im not happy and havent for at least a year. We have ‘split’ 3 times but he always says hes nothing without me and then proceeds to ignore me for days on end. We dont live together from a massive bust up when our child was 5months. Ignoring us wouldnt particularly bother me but i have to consider our child and they have a close bond which affects her when we argue. I dont want to be stuck in a relationship for the sake of a child but i always end up going back out of sheer emotional blackmail. What i worry about is i need to end this for good but dont know where to start without being callous and dropping it unexpectedly. He knows im not happy and always promises to be more open and do thing together but it never happens. Also ignoring his child so he knows i give in and go back. I gave up ecerything for him and now i need to start rebuilding my life again. Any advice on how this can end permanently without him taking it out on our child. He wont do counselling and ive tried everything to get him to open up more. The decision to break up has been made for 5months but now i need to put it into action before this goes on any longer. Hes 33, im 28

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