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.