How to End a Relationship Well, Part 1
Breaking up is hard to do. There is nothing easy about it because so many emotions are involved. Precious emotions from precious people. Pain is a part of a break up. Not everyone handles pain with bravery or even well. Also the person being dumped deserves your respect. He/she was worthy to spend your time with, make memories with, share emotions with, and is a child of God. But this break is necessary and the right thing to do.
Due to so many personal factors involved and my desire to make this actually helpful to you, this won’t be the ‘how to” steps to end the relationship well. There are just too many caveats that are a part of your story and being generic really won’t help you. This is just a random list of helpful points. Really there will be two posts of helpful points because I have so many. One or two points may speak directly to your situation. One or two may be too “elementary” for your situation. But I do believe you will find several to be actually helpful and will also become part of your advice-giving as you walk with your friends through their break ups.
Remember first that breaking up is ending a pattern that is not healthy for you. No one likes to go through a change of pattern in one’s life. That last sentence has that one word in it that most everyone hates—change. You are bringing about change with this ending discussion. You are exposing vulnerability as you instigate this change. No wonder so many emotions will be involved.
- Begin this break up conversation with the end in mind. You must know what the end is and not waver on that.
- Communicate clearly. Since you are doing the breaking up you have the advantage to put together your thoughts to be as clear as possible. Practicing your clarity will really help the one being dumped to not be confused by your unsureness. If you give off any vibe of unsureness, the person is going to cling to that as a possibility of hope. This is a guarantee of more drama down the road.
- If the break up is over a consistent behavior that is not changing, put together a list of how many times you two have talked about this and repeat yet again why this is important to you. Do not be exasperated that you have to yet again communicate this. Say this so clearly that this will be your last time. Practice saying this. Use your team to help you practice saying this.
- Do not give off false hope. Practicing with your team will help with this. In your practiced clarity you don’t want to say anything that will lead this person to believe that “if he changes this” or “if she changes that” that you two will reconcile. You two have already had many conversations asking for this change. It is not going to happen. But hearing any window of hope from you (something you may be trying to do to soften this blow but don’t do it!) will be the one thing he/she remembers from the entire conversation. This person is going to cling to this false hope. And when the reality of this person’s Plan A comes crashing down, you are going to be the target of anger. This all could have been prevented.
- If under emotional duress (this is hard even if you are doing the breaking up, you are bringing change into your life too) you have trouble remembering why you want to break up or trouble remembering examples that support your reasons, beforehand write down these reasons and examples. Share this writing assignment with your team. And don’t be too intimidated to bring out your notes for the actual break up. Being clear is more important than looking weak.
- This truth is going to hurt. It is going to hurt. If you try to soften the truth, you may confuse the other, the truth gets missed, and the ending may get lost. Embrace the pain of the truth—with respect and worthiness of the other.
- Focus on what isn’t working for you in the relationship, rather than telling him/her what is wrong with him/her. This is not about belittling the worthy humanity of him/her. This is about you desiring a better match for you. Understanding that your soon-to-be ex truly believes he/she is that great match for you. This will be a fine line to communicate through (hence why practice with your team will help so much) but remember the bottom line is you want to recognize the worth of your soon-to-be-ex. He/she just is not right for you.
- Remember that this other person is wonderfully made by God like you are. But in this moment he/she is vulnerable. To protect him/herself, your soon-to-be-ex may want to turn around and attack you. It is understandable even if it is wrong. By focusing on what isn’t working in the relationship instead of what is wrong with the human being, you can hopefully minimize some of these personal attacks because you didn’t attack first.
- Don’t instigate this discussion of breaking up when you are mad. There are enough painful emotions in this ending discussion you don’t need to add your anger into the mix. You have the control in this to take your time to calm down, talk all the angles out with your team, pray, and then ask for this conversation.
- He/she may offer to change, or to do things differently in order to preserve the relationship. If the person didn’t change when you’ve discussed your problems in the past, it’s too late to expect him or her to truly change now. Ask for your soon-to-be-ex to grant you respect here. Remind him/her that you have prayed about it, sought counsel, brought your team in, and you know it is time to end this relationship.
- Be on the “discernment look out” to not allow manipulation. You begin by showing respect first. Manipulation of you at this time is a disrespect for you.
- Whether it’s as simple as saying “You’ll never find anyone as good as me” or as scary as saying “I’ll make you regret this,” he/she is usually just trying to make him/herself feel better. However, threats of physical harm are serious and should not be ignored. If you feel that your safety is at risk, stay calm and leave quickly.
- Just so you know too, this conversation is an ending. You won’t be seeing this person again for at least 6 months. That is not a random number I pass on. It is a good estimate for realistic healing on both sides. It may be longer for you. But you must have this complete break and separation. This is difficult. This is that breaking of life patterns you’ve become accustomed to. You can do this. The other will survive this too.
- So don’t call or text. Remove from social media. Don’t go to places you know he/she may frequent. Don’t go to places where you may be “found.” If emailed or called, keep the response short and non-personal. Never call, text, or email first, even to ask how they are doing. This creates false hope. I know this all sounds so harsh but this is necessary. Go into this ending conversation realizing that you have to abide by this in your life.
- After this ending conversation, you are not friends–at least for a while. You can say you’d like to remain friends, but it’s not going to be possible to be friends. Saying it or attempting to remain friends will lead to a lot of confused feelings and make it hard on both of you to move on with your lives. Realize this now. There is an ending happening and you are losing a friend.
- Time is a very important factor for both of you. And neither of you can make time go any faster.
(Photo credit: http://bodiesthatwork.com/endings/)
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