Introduction: How to Break Up

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Breaking up isn't easy, right? They wrote a whole song about it.

Nonetheless, break-ups are an inevitable part of growing into the people we want to become, living the lives we want to lead.

Break-ups can happen for limitless reasons. But you can handle this event with dignity and sensitivity for the other person's experience.

The following are my suggestions for staging a respectful, honest break-up, while leaving room for a potential friendship in the future. Even if future contact isn't your goal, you'll be a happier person for handling a break-up responsibly, with grace and dignity.

I am not a professional counselor, but I have sought the advice of one in the writing of this Instructable.

special thanks to all of those who put creative commons licensing on their photos which allowed me to illustrate this instructable.

Step 1: Know Why You Want to Break Up

Your partner's going to want to know what the heck is going on. It's best for both of you if you are prepared to face this question.

If you're mad, that's one thing. Don't act on it just yet. It's really important that you take some time and consider exactly what it is that's made you mad.

If you're sad, or feeling some kind of hard-to-explain or unclear (even to you) emotion, you need to identify that too. It might not seem easy (perhaps you've been avoiding it?), but now's the time.

Is there someone else? Has another prospect drawn your eye? Have you already acted on these feelings? Whether or not you have, you need to get to the bottom of why this is happening - why you're attracted to someone else right now. Working this out now will help prevent a long series of making the same mistakes in the future.

Get some paper. Write down everything you're feeling.

It doesn't have to make sense. It doesn't need punctuation or good spelling or even legible handwriting. This is for your eyes only!

While you're writing, ask yourself some questions:

  • Does the relationship make you feel good?
  • Does the relationship allow you to evolve and grow in your own directions?
  • Does your partner accept you exactly the way you are?
  • Do you communicate well?
  • Can you resolve conflicts together?
  • Do you feel safe?
  • What do you feel you're missing?

Step 2: Talk It Over

Now that you have your list, you have some "actionable" items! Before you take the leap into singledom, see what you can do to resolve some of these issues.

You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by engaging in an open and honest discussion with your partner.

Agh. But how?!?

Try telling your partner you haven't been feeling like the relationship is everything it could be. Talk about the things you discovered while you were writing.

  • Don't make accusations. What you feel comes from within you.Example: replace "You make me feel. . . " with "I feel. . . "
  • Discuss alternatives to your current ways of operating that might make you feel more fulfilled.
  • If you feel unappreciated or unaccepted, voice your concerns. It could be that your partner really digs you, but doesn't express it in the way you're accustomed to recognizing it!

Whatever results from this discussion is your doorway to what happens next.

You may find that talking about it without being afraid of hurting each other's feelings is all you needed to set you on the right path!

Depending on the depth of your relationship, you may consider speaking with a counselor, either as an individual, or as a couple.

Many couples see a counselor when they are uncertain whether or not to continue on with their relationship, long before they've even reached the stage of breaking up! Therapy is a safe place to explore concerns you're both having. It's common to find that you're both able to understand each other more deeply when you have a professional moderating!

Whatever you decide to do, this conversation should make that clear to you both, making the ensuing steps infinitely easier on you both.

You and your partner both deserve to have this conversation.

Step 3: Take a Break

If you've decided it is indeed time to break up, you may want to take a few days to yourself. This will allow you to gain some emotional distance, helping to ensure that the break-up won't turn ugly.

Use this time to plan how you're going to handle the break-up.

Consider what you'll say, and envision some possible reactions so you're prepared a little better to handle the situation without losing control.

This time away should also be a warning sign to your partner.

Hopefully they'll realize you're retreating, and considering the conversation you've already had by now, they'll be using this time to emotionally prepare themselves for what's to come.

Step 4: Make a Plan

Decide how much time you're willing to spend breaking up.

It's probably going to go on longer than you'd like. But by now, you know what you want, so don't let it drag on. The time you spend should be proportional to how long you've been together and the intensity of the relationship.

Be respectful of how much time your partner needs to digest this information, but make sure you prepare an exit strategy. It's ok to say, "I've said everything I can, and I can't talk about this more right now."

Prepare your discussion as much as you can.

It's obviously not going to go exactly as you plan, no matter how many contingencies you anticipate. Help yourself by remaining honest and staying on topic.

  • Stick to the truth
  • Avoid statements like "always" or "never"
  • Don't nitpick
  • Be respectful, but don't mince your words to spare your partner's feelings
  • Be prepared for a strong emotional response
  • Be sober

Step 5: Location and Timing

You must do this in person.

In no way are you allowed to break up via text, chat, facebook status, email, or letter.

You're not allowed to just disappear either. The lack of closure can be psychologically damaging to you both.

Choose somewhere safe.

If there's any chance whatsoever of this discussion becoming physical, or if you and your partner are prone to screaming fights, choose a public venue for this event to keep you both on your best behavior.

If this isn't case, choose a place where your partner can be free to express his/her emotions. You might wish to avoid this, but they deserve the ability to do this in front of you.

Make sure it's a place you can walk away from

If you do it at your house, they choose when to leave. Baaaaad idea.

If you live together. . . ouch. This is hard. Be prepared to leave and stay somewhere else for a while. If you don't have the time to pack and move entirely before having this conversation, be prepared to stay away long enough for the heat to die down. Then find a time when your partner is away and finish the job.

Step 6: The Break Up

This is anything but easy. But you're prepared! You know your reasons, and you know what to expect.

Stay calm.

"We need to talk" is a completely acceptable lead-in. It's a clear signal that this is serious, and something unpleasant is going to follow.

Sit your partner down and let them know that it's time to end the relationship. Don't mince words. Let them know that you think you've both done everything that you can, and he/she is a great person, but this is just not the right "fit."

Hopefully you know your partner and the state of the relationship well enough to know what to expect. You might, however, be surprised. Try to stay calm, no matter what happens.

Expect a reaction.

This include (but not be limited to!):

  • Questioning - He or she will want to know why, and what they could have done to prevent the break-up. Answer as honestly as possible.
  • Crying - The other person will likely be upset. You can comfort him or her, but don't be manipulated into changing your mind!
  • Bargaining or begging - Your partner may offer to change, or do whatever you want to preserve the relationship. Know that if the person hasn't been able to change in the past, they won't be able to now.
  • Lashing out - The other person may be hurting now, and may want you to hurt too. Whether it's as simple as "You'll never find anyone as good as me," or as scary as "If I can't have you, no one can," he or she is usually just trying to make themselves feel better by hurting you. However, threats of physical harm are serious, and should not be ignored.
  • Arguing - He or she may dispute anything you've said at this point, even debating examples you've used in your reasons for breaking up. Don't get dragged into a fight. Don't split hairs - it doesn't matter now. Let your partner know that arguing isn't going to change your mind.

If you can't avoid a fight, be ready to leave, acknowledging to your partner that you will continue this discussion when you both have calmed down.

Step 7: How to Behave

Ending a relationship is a humbling experience.

Most of us don't handle rejection well.

Sometimes our reactions can be a surprise even to ourselves. Don't allow yourself to be taken in by the other person's reactions.

  • Always be understanding
  • Say that you are sorry things didn't work out
  • Be confident, even if you haven't been so in the relationship in the past
  • Control your emotions to send a clear signal
  • If you do still love the person, you can let them know how important they are to you and that you want them to stay in your life. Make it clear that this will not be in a romantic way.

Make it stick.

Be clear that the romantic relationship is over. If you don't want to have a platonic relationship with them, be clear about that too.

The sooner the other person can understand that you are not going to change their mind, the sooner they'll be able to get over your sorry a** begin the healing.

Step 8: Closure

Both you and the other person will now need time to digest the break-up. Your lives are now changed. Give it time! You both need time away from each other to get on with your lives.

Don't call. Don't text. Don't email. Don't be where they're going to be.

This "no contact" rule is essential to the healing process. But sometimes the urge to make contact can be too hard to resist!

  • Get your friends to help you. If you're going out for drinks, give them your cell.
  • If you find yourself up late at night writing an email, send it to yourself. You can delete it tomorrow.
  • If the other person is trying to contact you, help them out by not responding.

Though you may be able to be BFF in the future, you'll both need plenty of time and space before you can make that happen.

The sooner you accept this, the sooner you can move on!

Step 9: Moving On

So. That sucked. But you handled it with grace and dignity! Good for you.

A bad relationship is a stalemate. It's not only stopping you both from living a fulfilling life, it can also harm your self-esteem and confidence.

Remember, breaking up is a normal part of life.

It happens to most everyone at some point in their lives.

We all have heartbreak, but we can survive it.

Take care of yourself now.

  • Eat well, exercise, allow yourself plenty of sleep.
  • Spend more time doing things you might not have done otherwise!
  • Pamper yourself for no reason.

You've accomplished a painful and arduous task, and you are now one step closer to happiness.