shadow image

How to Break Up with Someone

Aw, amour, liebe, ame, love, amor, amare (can you just hear the romantic music playing?). Whatever language, it sounds great and feels great! Two people falling in love and getting to know one another, Getting to know you, Getting to know all about you, as the song goes, until eventually it is understood that this relationship is destined for a lifetime. Or…until one of them realizes they know the other one a bit better than they like. (This is where the romantic music skips, scrapes and comes to a screeching hault.) It’s time for a break up.

Lucky are those who find their soul mate on the first try and manage to stay married their entire lives. How romantic! What a wonderful blessing! But in reality, those relationships are very few and far between. Most of the rest of us usually go through one or more. And as the song goes, Breakin’ Up is Hard to Do! is also painful and sometimes necessary. But there are some things which can help the situation go a little smoother, and here are a few tips for how to

  • Be resolved. Before you break up with someone, be sure it’s what you want to do. It’s just unkind, cruel even, to break someone’s heart, then give them hope and break their heart again. It’s not helpful to have someone get used to the idea that you might leave before you actually do it. That only adds extra stress and lengthens the grieving process.
  • Be fair. A relationship of any length (one dinner date doesn’t make a relationship) requires an in-person conversation to end the relationship. Don’t break up in voice mail, email, text, leaving a note or sending it through the grapevine. Don’t have a friend do it for you. Yes, it’s unpleasant, but man up or put on your big-girl panties and get the job done. However, if the person you are leaving is aggressive, violent or has anger issues, it may be best not to meet in person, unless of course you choose to do so in a police department.
  • Be honest. Don’t tell someone you’re moving to another country, or fake your death to get out of a relationship. Do I even need to explain that? Do not do that, not ever.
  • Be clear. Avoid platitudes like “It’s not you, it’s me.” You may not realize how horrible that sounds until it is spoken to you. If there is a reason, be honest. It’s okay to say something like, “I don’t feel we are a good match.” or “It looks like we want different things in life.” If they offended you, let them know it. “You cheated on me. It’s over.” But don’t use platitudes.
  • Be consistent. There could be begging, crying, etc. Giving in will only postpone the inevitable and make it worse next time you attempt to break up. Avoid saying things like “I just need time,” or “Maybe we can get back together later.” These phrases will not make life easier. When left with the uncertainty of where things stand, the other party will feel the need to make regular contact to figure it out.
  • Be kind. Remember you might be breaking a heart. Most people do deserve kindness, and showing it says more about you than the person you give it to.
  • Be dignified. Don’t get into a shouting match, and especially don’t get into a physical fight. If things start to get loud and out of control, simply walk away. The message has been heard.
  • Be safe! Breaking up with a boyfriend is almost never easy, but it’s important to make sure you remain safe. If a person has any history of stalking, domestic violence, or any anger issues, it’s best to have this conversation in a public place. In fact, it might be good under any circumstances to have a break-up buddy, someone you can have waiting in the parking lot, at another table, nearby to make sure you are safe. Always listen to your instinct. If you feel the person could become violent, better safe than sorry. Always let a trusted friend know you are about to break up with someone. A good idea is to set a code word with your break up buddy and a time to call. If you don’t call by the set time, have the buddy call you. If you don’t answer or use the code word, the buddy executes a previously agreed upon safety plan (calling the police). Better safe than sorry. When in a violent relationship, break ups can be extremely dangerous. Your safety is more important than someone’s pride. If you feel unsafe, or a friend feels you are, listen. Take precautions. Be safe.

With the support of a therapist, such as Sandra A. Lancaster, MA, LCPC, who has years of experience in helping others with conflicts and relationships, you can reduce conflict and increase satisfaction in your relationships. Cognitive behavioral therapy helps clients understand how thoughts impact their behaviors and emotions and thereby make changes to improve many areas of life. For more information on breaking up, domestic violence or building healthy relationships, please contact Sandra at VTN for a free initial consultation.