“Relationships are like glass. Sometimes it’s better to leave them broken than hurt yourself trying to put it back together.”
If you are certain of your decision to end the relationship, here is script you may wish to use (or modify to suit you):
- I really like/love you (if this is true for you).
- I very much appreciate what we’ve had together, and what being with you has let me learn about myself
- At the same time, I feel certain that I need to end our relationship.
- I’m sorry if this is hard to hear.
- I have a lot of respect for you, and I know you’ll make someone really happy.
- I’m not the right person for you because I am not as happy as I’d need to be to make this work.
- I wish you all the love and happiness in the world.
What makes this script so great is that it doesn’t give him anything to argue with or any point of entry for him to change your mind.
It focuses on the positive while expressing a clear intention to end the relationship. It’s compassionate, yet it doesn’t take responsibility for his feelings. And, it gives both of you a graceful way out.
If you share property or children, there will be business to sort out between you that requires ongoing negotiation and contact.
If not, it’s probably best to limit the break-up to a conversation or letter conveying only what you prepared to say.
While ending a relationship in writing may seem impersonal, it can be the best way to safeguard yourself from being pressured or distracted away from your goal, be sure to get to say what you wanted, and bring the relationship to a clear-cut end.
If you want or need ongoing contact with him, think about the type and frequency of contact that would work best for you, and share your ideas about this with him.
Be open to what would work for him, to the extent that it doesn’t mean more involvement than you are comfortable with. Of course, what feels okay to each of you now may change tomorrow, and it’s helpful to say so.
The end of a relationship can bring a rotating kaleidoscope of feelings.
This can cause second-guessing and confusion. It may evoke feelings that are overwhelming. Notice whether you are avoiding feeling your feelings.
For example, some women will continue having sex with their ex-boyfriend as a way to stave off feeling loss or loneliness. Doing so will likely prevent you from processing your feelings about the relationship ending.
This is a transitional time in your life.
It’s important to honor that by giving it space, listening to your heart, and tending to any wounded or negative ideas or feelings.
If this is too painful or challenging to do on your own, seek professional help to process the break-up.
Otherwise, you may benefit from mindfulness meditation each day, a bubble bath, or whatever nurturing and self-reflective activity you choose to create that space that is needed to listen to your heart express what it feels about ending the relationship.
Caring for your heart in this way will not only let you feel better, in the end, but will let you develop an opening and readiness for the next love to enter your life.
Dr. Nadine Winocur – www.drnadinewinocur.com
As the old saying goes “breaking up is hard to do” and, in this technological age, it is even harder to do it gracefully.
The ease of access to texting, posting, and sharing makes a broken hearted person very vulnerable to doing some pretty distasteful things after they’ve cut the cord on their relationship.
In order to bow out gracefully make sure not to fall into these technological break-up pitfalls:
1. Texting Marathons
Back and forth texts are a power struggle over who is right and who gets the last word. In the end those two things are not what is going to make you feel better. In fact, sending off quick texts often comes with a lot of guilt, embarrassment, or anger.
Texts can be sent fueled with emotion and little thought.
If you have something you need to say write it down on a piece of paper. If it still seems important you should be calling about it. Hopefully in the time it takes to dial the number you will have changed your mind.
When you post pictures of you and that cute guy you met at the bar in order to show your guy you’ve moved on you’re actually communicating the opposite.
If a woman is comfortable with her break up she does not post things in reaction to her ex. She does not try to provoke pain or jealousy. She keeps living her most life as her authentic self. Post how you’ve always posted.
3. Status overshare
Break ups are emotional and personal experiences. They should be shared with close friends and family. Before posting anything public on Facebook or Twitter give yourself time to process the loss.
Talk on the phone to your best friend lay on the couch and cry to your mom while eating ice cream. Wait until you feel a little stronger to change your relationship “status” and remove pictures that make you sad.
4. E-mail Blackmail
Don’t use technology to threaten your ex with his old sexts, personal e-mails, or any other information you have stored on your device. You shared those things with each other during a time where there was agreed upon trust. Just because the relationship is over does not give you permission to violate that trust.
By following these guidelines you will be able to process your feelings in a healthy and private manner.
You will find yourself in the support of the people that matter most- family and friends- and without the static of the general public giving their opinions. You will also communicate to the other person that you respect yourself and that you will not allow a break up to drag you down. You never know what technological slip ups during a break up could amount to.
Leave your ex with the memory of you being a strong and respectable woman.
And even better, you will be setting yourself up for success in future relationships…knowing that your indiscretions are not going to come back to haunt you.
Elizabeth Earnshaw, MFT – www.abetterlifetherapy.com
Many people wish their breakups had gone more gracefully. But the truth is, depending on the situation there is often no easy way to end a union that isn’t working.
Here are some tips to ease the pain of a necessary breakup:
1. Be clear
Because it is uncomfortable to break up with someone no matter how healthy or unhealthy a relationship is, we often beat around the bush thinking the other person is getting the message. Then we wonder why they keep calling, texting, emailing, or stopping by, which only makes matters worse.
Be clear in your intentions, stating that you are ending the relationship rather than telling someone that you need a “break”. This may seem final, but if it is your intention, then make it your words as well.
2. Be concise
Most people explain too much when they break up with someone, mostly because they are afraid of hurting the other person or they feel they need to justify themselves for doing it.
Simply say, “This relationship is not going where I need it to and I am breaking up with you.”
If the person wants to know more, then tell them, but keep it simple and don’t let then talk you into staying if you really don’t want to be there.
3. Be honest—with yourself and the other person
Honesty is always the best policy, even if it hurts. There is nothing worse than unanswered questions, and honesty will facilitate the healing much more than telling them something that they will likely suspect is not true.
Dr. Katherine T. Kelly – www.drkatherinetkelly.com
Breakups don’t have to become a bitter, melodramatic imbroglio.
An occasional skirmish might be inevitable in certain circumstances, but all-out war can be avoided if BOTH partners are willing to forego the peculiar pleasure of causing each other unnecessary pain and hardship.
Perhaps the best way to go about creating a graceful exit is to see the writing on the wall.
There are times when it’s appropriate to continue fighting hard for your relationship. And sometimes you know intuitively it’s over.
When that happens, sit down together to discuss the truth of your situation.
Take note together of the vitriolic splits that have happened to people close to you and decide that you aren’t willing to go down in that miserable ball of flames.
Share with each other the gifts each of you will take from having known the other person.
If possible, each person can write down 3 things that they find special about the other one and present it to them as a gift. This can be really helpful in the future when you’re feeling down and your ego is bruised.
Try hard to keep egos and emotions at bay as you attempt to create a graceful ending to this relationship.
A business-like approach can be helpful, keeping it gentle yet firm and matter-of-fact as you relate to each other the reasons why it’s over. Share with each other what worked and didn’t work. (Remember, you can always have your meltdown later with a girlfriend!)
I realize that this scenario won’t be viable for everyone who is facing the failure of a serious relationship.
But hold yourself to your own highest standards and, whenever possible, make the choice to exit gracefully. You’ll be glad you did.
Dr. Loral Lee Portenier – www.sacreddreamscoaching.com
You’ve determined that the guy you’ve been dating is … not your guy for long-term and now you need to find a way to break the news to him. Here are some suggestions for how to find the words and how to deliver the message.
Texting your “Dear John” message?
Oh no… doing so just might earn you years of bad dating karma. Deliver the news to him in person or at least by phone.
Use logic and reason, not emotion.
What’s the real reason for why you’re breaking up with this man? Go back to Your List – the qualities and characteristics that you really want and need for Your Man to have.
Revisit your Top Three Critical Criteria, and if there’s something that you really do need and want that this particular man can’t bring to the relationship, then it’s not likely to be a successful partnership long term.
Preserve dignity and friendship.
You two invested time, money and emotional energy in each other. If you burn a bridge, leaving the relationship with hurt feelings and with a sense that this time, money, and energy has been wasted, then no one wins.
Whenever possible, stay on warm, friendly terms with your ex-boyfriends, transforming into friends who wish each other well and who watch out for each other. My best girlfriend is my husband’s former girlfriend. See how that works?
Julie Ferman, B.A. – www.julieferman.com
There are some very helpful ways you can make it easier and it is important to master them, but never instead of remembering how important and respectful to both of you not to get yourself in this difficult corner again.
1. Never blame your partner by telling him or her what they could have done differently.
If there is no chance you are willing to keep trying, those criticisms will only hurt more. Your partner may scramble now to change them without any hope of success.
2. Talk about why you were reticent to be up front earlier as an admission of who you are and how you could have handled it better.
3. Let your partner vent and validate his or her right to do so.
That doesn’t mean taking abuse, but you do want to own your accountability and your true sadness for causing any greater hurt by waiting until there were no other alternatives.
4. Your partner will more than likely ask if you have found someone else.
Hopefully, even if you have, you have not started overlapping without telling him or her. If you have met another person, you can ameliorate whatever sorrow your partner is feeling by telling him or her that you wanted to give the relationship all you had before letting go to make sure it was the right decision.
5. Tell your partner everything you have learned and loved in the relationship.
Thank them for the time you’ve shared and apologize for any misleading you may have inadvertently done.
If your partner has had no idea you were going to leave the relationship, you may not be able to help him through that heartbreak.
You may not even have the right to. After you have made the separation, turn to yourself.
- Have you ever been on the other end of a negative surprise that has no alternative no matter what you do?
- What would you have preferred had the situation been reversed?
Learning from the experience, you will not find yourself in the same difficult conflict again.
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
Breakups are hard no matter the situation.
No matter how we feel we often want to say goodbye in a way that respects our feelings, respects our partner’s feelings, and allows things to end with closure, gracefully.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:
Find a way to put a positive spin on whatever you say. Honesty is important, but so is consideration.
Be kind, be appreciative of the experiences you shared, and of what you learned. No matter how bad things may feel at present, remember that there once was good and to honor that.
Be nice. We want to be mean but what will that achieve? Nothing.
Being graceful means letting go of anger and resentment and walking forward with your head held high. Being mean and nasty will only lower you to his level (if indeed he even deserves your wrath, which he may not).
Appreciate things for what they are, for their uniqueness, for what they give you and for where they take you.
Love that relationships can be for a season, a reason, and can have varied purposes in our lives. With this knowledge we accept the flux of relationships, allow for flexibility, and cope with letting go when relationships reach their end.
Express your emotions, as long as it can be from a place of productivity and not a place of blame or negativity.
If you can help someone to better understand who they are in a relationship, they may have greater success in their next coupling. Don’t forget that each partner is responsible for the relationship, and no one is perfect!
Be considerate and sensitive.
Even if you no longer like this person, they do deserve decency, so be considerate of what they may be feeling in this situation. Have compassion for them, and think of how you would like to be treated if the shoe was on the other foot.
Do not break up with someone by phone, text, or email, unless that is your only option.
Break up with someone respectfully by doing it in person. It can be difficult to cause someone hurt (or maybe not) but it takes a real woman/person to be honest and deal with the emotional effects of that honesty.
Remember that endings can also be beginnings, and that when you close one door another opens. Your future dating adventures are full of possibility.
Whatever you do, do with love and wonder as what you put out into the universe comes back to you!
Lisa Resnick, M.A., EdM, LMHC, CHHC – www.lisaresnickholistictherapy.com
I assume that you are breaking up after efforts to mend what is not working in the relationship, and that the continued behaviors are “deal breakers” for you. Working through all of that is the subject of another column.
The definition of graceful is: characterized by elegance of form, manner, movement or speech.
To do anything gracefully, you need to keep all of those elements in mind.
To start, be clear on what the other person is doing that you cannot tolerate.
Write it down and be very familiar with it when you meet face to face. Do not bring out the list and read it. Just keep it in your pocket as a sort of talisman.
Good form comes into play, when you honor yourself and the other person by being brave enough to talk in person. Doing the hard things in life makes us braver.
Speaking from a place of kindness, gives you elegance of manner.
Even if the other person has been cruel to you at times, you do not have to return in kind. Keep the conversation focused on the “objectionable” behavior of the individual. For example: the person lied to you. Rather than call him a liar, say that lying (the behavior) is intolerable to you.
Keep your tone mild and confident.
Raising your voice will most likely escalate the conversation and leave both of you frustrated and emotional.
Don’t make promises you won’t keep.
Most people cannot remain friends after a breakup. We do this to let the other person down gently, but the result is usually more pain, because of false hope. You’ve made this decision with a clear mind, so remain clear on your intent.
If I am facing an awkward or difficult conversation, I often practice it first.
Find a good friend who knows the individual you are breaking up with and practice what you want to say. This will increase your confidence and give you the opportunity to see if what you are saying and how you are saying it, is done gracefully.
Linda McKenney, Personal Life Coach and Motivational Speaker – www.majok.org
Bad break ups. We’ve all been through them and know the pain and frustration involved for both parties.
Often, our desire to avoid a negative interaction can fuel our anxiety to either find the “perfect solution” or escape all together, which prevents us from accepting the reality that this is not going to be easy.
There is no quick fix, no perfect scenario that guarantees that your partner will not get their feelings hurt and leave with their self-esteem intact.
In our attempt to protect them from hurt, embarrassment, and rejection we often make excuses, beat around the bush, or avoid having the conversation all together (roll to voicemail).
This leaves them with lots of questions and when left to their own devices, our partners find answers that are sometimes more hurtful than the truth.
No breaking up is never easy… but it doesn’t have to be awful either.
Once you accept the difficult emotions involved in ending a relationship, you can also embrace that your role in the conversation is not to prevent these emotions, but to sit with them while you honor the relationship that you had with honesty, respect, and integrity.
So what does this grace under pressure look like?
It means talking with your partner one on one. Nobody wants to find out by seeing your relationship status change on social media! This kind of conversation deserves your time and attention.
It means remaining calm and nonreactive should your partner become defensive or upset. There is no room for the blame game if you hope to end things on good terms.
While it can be difficult to hear your partner’s side of things, defensiveness is a common reaction, and you may be tempted to defend yourself as well.
It is best to simply acknowledge this response without engaging in it. As they say, “It takes two to tango”.
And finally, it involves being secure in your decision to leave the relationship to avoid sending mixed signals.
While it might sound less harsh to suggest that “maybe things will be different if we just take a break”, leaving your partner hanging onto hope that you’ll change your mind is simply unfair.
In the aftermath of a successful breakup, you will not reflect on how well your partner responded to you, but on your ability to approach a difficult situation with intention and self-respect.
Julie L Miller, MS, LMFT – www.therapywithjulie.com
So often there is a tremendous amount of hurt and pain when a relationship ends. We get so caught up in the emotion that we begin reacting to what’s being said or done. We seek revenge for being hurt, which then only compounds the situation, and it soon becomes a toxic, nasty fight.
The key here is to be aware of your actions and to not give yourself permission to behave badly, no matter what the reason.
It is okay to feel bad; it is not okay to act bad! When we remove self-permission to behave badly it makes it so much easier to not react to the situation.
Next, make a very detailed list of everything that was wrong in the relationship.
In moments of weakness review the list rather than picking up the phone or sending text messages back and forth. If contact is stopped then the situation cannot spiral out of control.
During this time it is important to do a lot of emotional work!
This part is really uncomfortable but very necessary to cleanse so you don’t drag the baggage of this relationship into the next.
On the one hand, grieve the loss just as you would a death.
On the other hand, work on your own hooks, or baggage, that is fueling the emotions.
- Do you feel abandoned? Betrayed?
- Are you scared to be alone?
During this phase it is very important to be very honest with yourself!
These are buttons from the past that need to be healed so you can attract a different kind of partner.
Also, by focusing on yourself and not the other person it is much easier to be amicable rather than hostile by placing the emotions where they really belong, on the past.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW – www.cynthiapickett.com
Breaking up gracefully? Breaking and gracefully don’t go together, it’s an oxymoron.
BUT there is a way to end things without it ending in resentment and disgust. It’s not always easy and it isn’t always guaranteed to work but approach it the right way, and two people can part civilly.
1. You’re both adults.
We can start there. No reason why two grown people can’t be mature with a break up.
2. Figure out what you want to say and the best way and time to approach him.
Impulsively rarely works (probably more like never) so have a clear plan you are ready to calmly execute.
3. Be honest.
Tell him exactly how you feel (leave out ugly words and unnecessary insults, that won’t work). He is going to appreciate that much more than if you beat around the bush and get into the “You’re a really nice guy….but…” Guys are more direct and they want you to be direct, too.
4. You very well may not be friends afterwards.
Don’t plan on it. Just because you break up gracefully does not mean this person still wants to stick around. In fact, it’s probably better to go your own ways. It helps provide that distance needed for healing after a break-up.
5. Don’t harbor ill will towards him.
Your attitude will dictate the way you feel and if you want a clean break up, just let it roll off your shoulders.
Again, there is no guarantee this will work for everyone every time because there are a lot of reasons that cause break ups, but if you want to part amicably it is possible.
Haley Gage, M.A., LAPC – www.openpathcollective.org/clinicians/haley-gage-2/
The saying (and the old song) “Breaking up is hard to do” stems from simple truth! Even when we originate the breakup and know it is ‘for the best’ – we grieve the relationship.
Grief generates feelings and we react to those feelings – sometimes, not in the best way.
Breakups generally bring up feelings of fear, disappointment, and uncertainty.
They can stir up insecurities and old scripts that we carry from our childhood (i.e., “you should have …”, “you could have…”).
Whether it was your decision or not – you will probably feel some elements of regret over what ‘could have been’.
Pay attention to the way that you REACT to your feelings.
Remind yourself to BE THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BE.
Most of us don’t ‘want’ to be raving lunatics, spewing vulgarities around a crowd but that can happen without warning when our emotions run amok.
STOP and think about how you are reacting and ask yourself if what you feel like doing is something you will be proud to remember.
Find a way to remind yourself of those motivating tidbits that often ring true:
- When one door closes, another opens
- Everything happens for a reason
- This was just practice for the real thing
- I deserve to be loved completely
Surround yourself with supportive friends who encourage you to move forward and be positive about your FUTURE – not those who help you stay covered in muck from the past!
Breaking up IS hard to do but when you
- Pay attention to your reaction
- Stay focused on future possibilities and
- Act in ways that you’ll be proud to remember
– you will move through the experience and come out the other side with more wisdom and your head held high!
Leslyn Kantner, MSMHC, NCC – www.westgrovetherapy.com
“Breaking up is hard to do” – no matter how long the relationship lasted, you were, to some extent, “invested” with this other person.
There was a reason you initially entered into this relationship, and now you want to end it.
There were connections made with this other person – friendship, learnings/teachings, business endeavors, feelings of love/attraction, bonding, etc.
When you decide to end this relationship, you are altering or severing these connections.
First, decide clearly for yourself what you want the result of this break up to be.
- Do you want to end the spouse/boyfriend/fiancé portion and still remain friends, if possible?
- Do you want to sever the relationship totally and not have any contact with this other person?
- What do you want the final state of this relationship to be?
Once you make this decision, determine how to clearly communicate your desire to the other person.
Choose your words carefully. Practice if necessary in front of the mirror or with a friend. Your words can be short and sweet, but definitely need to be firm, direct and to the point, to communicate your intent.
If you are truly ending the relationship, be clear that this relationship is over and what that means to you.
Share a reason for the termination, if you can. If you are not clear and direct, there is a chance for miscommunication and confusion. If not clear, the other person may feel there is some hope for reconciliation, especially if the other person does not want the relationship to end.
If your desire is to remain friends after the breakup, let the other person know your thoughts, expectations, and how you see your relationship changing.
Ask if the other person is open to this new relationship with you, or not. Remember, all relationships take two involved participants, so if the other person is not open to this, you must let the relationship go.
Even with the acceptance of technology, for most personal situations, unless you have a concern about your safety, a break up should occur in person, not by telephone, email or text message.
There was a reason why you had decided to invest in this relationship initially, so the ending should be respectful, and should be communicated face to face.
Dr. Nancy Wall – www.tampabaymatchmakers.com
Relationships are a cycle.
A cycle that can be broken down into three parts;
- the beginning (or as I like to call it – The Love Bubble Phase),
- the middle phase (or the “nuts and bolts of the relationship” phase), and
- then the End Phase (the reevaluation of what you want phase).
When you’re in the reevaluation phase, take some time to reflect on what you want out of a relationship as well as what you need for yourself. If your needs aren’t being met, then it’s time to move on.
Honesty is always the best policy.
Be true to yourself, express yourself with “I” statements, and be careful not to use judgments or accusations.
Always ask yourself this: Is he a lesson or is he a “lifer”?
If the guy isn’t the one you want to share your life with (the lifer), then he is a lesson for you to learn from.
Ask yourself “What is the lesson that I have to learn about relationships?” “What do I have to learn about myself when in a relationship?”
These questions serve to take you deeper into what you need to unlock within yourself in order to have a satisfying relationship.
Once you’ve broken up gracefully, go date yourself!
Learn about yourself, take a class, go on vacation! Have a fabulous time being you! The more you grow and learn about yourself and have fun, the more attractive you’ll be to a partner and cultivate the relationship of your dreams.
Nadia Ahrens, LICSW – www.nadiaahrenstherapy.com
1. Give him feedback about why you are ending the relationship.
This allows him to learn from the experience, see areas he needs to change and things to do differently in the future.
2. Break up in person if possible, at the very least do it over the phone.
Don’t do it via email, text, voicemail, Facebook, etc.
3. Take care of yourself after the breakup.
You may have been the one to end the relationship but there is still grief involved. Make sure you have good supports from friends or family during this time.
4. Be sober when you do it.
Things have a funny way of looking different when you are inebriated and you may end up making a mistake by ending it while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
1. Take responsibility for making him understand why the relationship is ending.
If you have explained things to the best of your ability and he still doesn’t get why you’re ending it, he is probably just trying to drag things out in the hopes of getting you to change your mind or feel guilty.
2. Break up because you are mad.
Be certain you want to actually end the relationship. Are you breaking up because you want to get his attention, you want to punish him, you want to get your way? If so, find a more mature way to communicate and solve problems.
3. Say “I’m sorry” for ending the relationship.
Doing so creates confusion, makes the break up look and feel like a mistake. Apologizing makes you look unsure, which reduces both of your ability to accept the decision and move on. It adds to guilty and blaming feelings. If you are truly sorry about breaking up then maybe you shouldn’t break up.
4. Say “it’s not you it’s me”.
Breakups are caused by joint interactional patterns. It isn’t one person’s fault, and the ‘blame’ is not one-sided. Further, if it’s all your fault, then he is not able to learn and grow through this process.
Brett McDonald, M.S., LMHC – www.psychologytoday.com/us/therapists/brett-rene-mcdonald
“Be honest and timely” or as Paul Simon once said, “You don’t need to be Coy Roy”
Breaking up with someone is never easy.
Generally it is not considered polite in social interactions to hurt someone’s feelings but this is not a normal social interactions. Not to break up when you feel the need, is only stringing them alone. Stringing someone along is hurtful and should not be done.
Dating is a ritual done to find a permanent partner.
It is understood no one will stay with everyone they date. People will find their most successful matches by breaking up with a number of almost matches.
Breaking up is a part of the process of finding yourself and your ideal life.
Ensuring the break up is completed in a timely manner is essential. This allows both you and them to get on with life and find the one they are meant to be with instead.
Breaking up does not mean one person is “bad” or “good”.
It can merely mean people not working with compatible lifestyles such as working long hours, wanting children, wanting wealth, etc. It does not have to mean a malicious act done by one of the partners. It can be, but should not be malicious.
Know why you are breaking up.
The other person will want to know, but you will need to know as well. It will be difficult to move on if you don’t really know why you are breaking up with someone. You want to fine tune your idea of the best person, not make the same mistakes over and over.
Once you have gone through the process of making the decision, understand there is no “right” time.
Unfortunately there is no perfect “break up” moment. Traditionally the “in person” approach is considered the most respected. It shows a concern of the other person by allowing them to ask questions and discuss your decision.
Others have used texting but that is generally considered disrespectful and hiding.
The impression given is they are cast off without a thought of their importance in the relationship and not allowed to ask questions. Others have simply moved or left town which provides the same feeling as texting.
To be as graceful as possible in a difficult moment I suggest making the decision with a full heart, expressed in timely manner, in person and respectful while holding your ground and confidence.
Katherine Woodworth, LPC, CRC – www.fairwaycounseling.com
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