Break ups are fricking hard and painful. They leave us feeling confused, perplexed, at times paralysed. Whether it’s you breaking up or someone breaking up with you, it’s hard to figure out what to do, say or not. Here are the most common questions I get asked about break ups.
- Is there ever a good time?
Unfortunately, there is never a good time to break up. When we wait to break up with someone after having carefully considered our decision, it’s only fair to yourself and the person in question to let them know as soon as possible. Obviously, we want to be mindful to not break the news to them on the day of a major life event like the death of a close family member or graduation day. But that said if you know and are as sure as you can possibly be, don’t kill too much time not telling the other person.
- Should you give the person a head’s up?
Yes, it’s important for the other person to not feel blindsided and have some inkling about how you’re feeling about them or the relationship. If you’ve been having second thoughts about your relationship, it time to make a call. Part of being in adult relationships is being fair to other person and communicating about parts of the relationship that aren’t working for us. This is only fair since it gives the other person the feedback and time to be aware of their role in things and possibly make changes or adjustments as needed.
If this becomes an issue down the line, the other person is less caught off guard. For example, “I have communicated with you before that your anger really frightens me and is something I cannot live with. We’ve talked about it several times before and nothing seems to have changed. You don’t seem to have made efforts to get any help”.
- Is there a particular language that should (or shouldn’t) be used?
It’s important to be direct and forthcoming and at the same time non-accusatory and kind in the way we break up with others.
- Using “I” statements are crucial- “I feel insecure when I don’t know where you are and who you’re with”.
- Also using statements that state what you feel and what you need, rather than focus on what the other isn’t doing. “I think I need to be in a relationship where it’s clear that the other person cares about me as much as I care about them.”
- Don’t blame or vilify the other person–“It’s your fault that we are breaking up because…” or “If only you would do….I would not be breaking up with you”.
- Don’t name call or put the other person down–“You are …..and I cannot deal with someone who does ….anymore”.
- What’s the best way to approach the break-up conversation?
Because breaking up is such a difficult conversation to have, it’s important to give the other person their space and not rush cajoling or pacifying them physically. The other person is entitled to having their own feeling about the situation– sadness, shame, anger, grief. Allow them to listen to your words without distracting them by your behavior.
- Find a good time and place, preferably not at a restaurant or bar.
- Watch your voice tone and your nonverbal communication. Compose yourself as best you can so you can communicate in a manner the other person can hear.
- Give them your full attention
- Don’t pace, or walk around restlessly
- It’s best to avoid alcohol during the conversation
- Should you follow-up to check in with the other person?
If you’re breaking up with someone you were seriously involved with or had a meaningful relationship with, it’s okay to be concerned about the other person and worry about how they’re doing. However, you want to be careful that you’re not doing this from a place of guilt and when some time has passed for you both to better deal with your feelings.
- Check in with them ONLY if you’re not trying to get back together with them
- If things ended well and you both decided to “consciously uncouple”, a phone call to follow up a month or so later is okay
- If things didn’t end well, the other person left angry and bitter- you want to give them space and not pursue them. Hopefully in the future, when they’re ready to move on from you, perhaps your relationship with them can be more civil
- It’s never a good idea to comfort someone with sex! Whatever you may think at the time, its not what you or they need.
- In the aftermath, how should you approach matters like dealing with the fallout from your ex’s family and friends, or getting your things from their apartment?
Depending on how things ended with the other person, you would need to figure out next steps. When relationships end, it’s easy for rational, reasonable thought to go flying out the window.
- Keep communication short and to the point –“I need to come and pick up my stuff, what day/time works for you”.
- Don’t get distracted by attempts to reconcile or get together. Keep the conversation focussed.
- If your partner engages in any emotional or physical retaliation, your best bet is to get the help of a friend or family member to mediate conversations with them.
- Your health and well-being are more important that your stuff, let it go if possible.
Hope this was useful. Remember, it’s okay to let go of relationships and not feel compelled to stay in them because we feel guilty, or embarrassed. It’s also okay to break up and choose not to be friends with someone. Another relationship won’t be the same and it doesn’t need to be. Love comes in different forms, shapes, and sizes and you absolutely can find happiness and fulfillment with someone else.