Breaking up – the ultimate NO
Break ups occurs for any number of reasons, but the only one that counts is that one person no longer sees the other person as part of their future.
Deciding to break-up is a shared decision. Even though a break-up is often initiated by one person, the decision is shared because it affects and involves both persons.
ARE WE STILL A COUPLE?
One person can’t force another person to continue in a relationship against their will. If one person is a NO the relationship moves to the End Zone.
There’s still a ME and a YOU, but no longer an US.
A difficult conversation
The person who initiates the break-up may still care about the other person and not want to cause unnecessary hurt.
They may even be reluctant to have the conversation that ultimately ends the relationship because of how it will make the other person feel.
They may also be experiencing feelings of guilt, knowing that they will hurt someone they’ve been close to.
For the other person, the end of a relationship may be unexpected and come as an emotionally wrenching shock. They may be feeling confused and in denial about what’s actually happening.
Breaking up respectfully
As difficult as a break-up conversation might be, it must be done and if possible, should be done respectfully.
- Your partner deserves to hear this decision from you personally - say it face to face.
- Think ahead about what you are going to say and how you are going to communicate your decision.
- Don’t make it public knowledge before you do have the break up conversation. Your partner deserves to hear it from you first, not someone else.
- Be clear that this is a break up and there is no ambiguity.
- If you are concerned about how the other person will react to this break up, pick a public location like a café or a busy park.
- Be sensitive but be honest, even if the reasons may cause immediate hurt.
- Don’t get coaxed into an argument.
- Show kindness and respect for the other person’s feelings while maintaining enough distance to confirm the break up is actually happening.
- Confide in someone you trust. Even if you are the one ending the relationship, you may experience complicated emotions and need someone to talk to afterwards.
Processing a break-up
Break-ups involve change and loss.
Change is inevitable and ranges from relatively small adjustments like ‘who will I take to the gig next week?’, to major life changes such as ‘where will I sleep tonight?’.
Loss is tied to the end of the couple unit and can resemble a form of grief:
- I’ll never kiss them again
- We’ll never share anything again
- We’ll never get married.
Recovering from a break-up may be a slow and painful process that relies on the support of good friends and family, and that’s ok. It’s important to seek out support from those you can trust.
Your feelings are your own and no-one else can tell you what your individual experience should be.
What’s not ok is to punish, hurt or harass the other person:
- you can’t hit them
- you can’t abuse them
- you can’t get revenge on social media
- you can’t harass them and try to change their mind.
Tips for coping post break-up
- Allow yourself to feel sad and give yourself time to process the change and loss.
- Let your friends and family know about the break-up so they can support you.
- The end of a relationship doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you.
- Look after your body with exercise, enough sleep, and good food.
- Do things that are personally satisfying or make you happy.
- Pursue new interests that have no association with your ex.
- Acknowledge what was positive about the relationship and what might have been improved, both from your perspective and your ex’s.
- If possible, avoid contact with your ex, at least to begin with.
- Resist the urge to monitor your ex on social media.
- Get professional help if you need it.
How you manage an ongoing relationship with an ex depends on:
- how long you were together
- the nature of the relationship
- if children are involved
- if there are shared friends and ongoing interaction is unavoidable
- you are both keen to stay in each other’s life as friends.
Unless children are involved, this conversation is usually best left until both persons have taken time to process their own feelings and consider the future.
It could be as simple as saying ‘I’d just like to send you a text on your birthday’, or ‘let’s be respectful of each other’s feelings when bringing dates to group social events’.
There is also nothing wrong with wanting to draw a line under the relationship and move on with no further contact.
To avoid unexpected and uncomfortable situations if the relationship was significant and long-term, it’s a good idea to have a conversation about the future and how the both of you can navigate it in a way that’s respectful to each other.