How Do I Break Up With Someone?

Break ups can be tough but it’s good to be clear. Here are some tips …

Sometimes relationships stop working and they have to end. They can end for many different reasons: breakdown of trust, one person moves on, not being ‘on the same page’, it just not being healthy. They can be really difficult and emotional. People can feel angry, sad, down, frustrated. Even if you’re the person doing the breaking up there is a real sense that you have lost something – this is heartbreak and there’s a good chance that it will happen to you one day, if it hasn’t already *sad face*.

You could try and make the relationship work. You could struggle on and hope things get better (sometimes people have a bad patch in a relationship). Sometimes unhappy relationships can be rescued, particularly if they haven’t been communicating very well with each other. A bit of honest talking (which isn’t easy to do) and some proper listening (which is even harder) can really help people in a struggling relationship. Finding out what is actually going on in someone’s head rather than assuming can make you feel connected again.

If this is something you are thinking about maybe check out my relationships graph. This hopefully will assist you in thinking about what is important to you in a relationship, what you have, what you don’t have and what you can work on.

However you may already have decided that you want out.

People say “there is no nice way to do it, so just do it.” I don’t agree with this.* It’s never nice hearing that your partner wants to end the relationship (no matter whether you’ve been going out for 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 years), but there are good ways to do it and bad ways to do it.

*However if your partner has been a complete and total shit, or your relationship has put you in danger, or you have been really badly treated, then put yourself first and just get out. Block them on facebook, don’t return their calls or texts and just cut them out of your life altogether.

  • In public or in front of your friends. Loud hailers  Facebook walls and Twitter feeds are also in public. As is grafitti
  • Saying something that is unkind or deliberately hurtful (even if it might be true). Eg “you were crap at sex”, “your breath is terrible”, “I always thought you were a minger but I took pity on you.”
  • Telling them 3rd hand, through a friend or just letting them find out.
  • Just letting it fizzle out or not returning phone calls, emails, IMs or texts without explanation.

  • First, think hard about what you are feeling in the relationship and get it really clear in your mind.
  • Do it privately. It could be in a letter or private message or email or IM or whichever method of communication works best for you. If you choose to do it in person or on the phone then make sure that you are in private and that you have a good signal on the phone, lots of battery and lots of credit/minutes.
  • Choose the right time, but do it soon. Don’t let it linger but don’t do it on the same day as they get bad news or if there is so much stuff going on in their lives that they won’t be able to hear what you are saying properly. Daytime is good, then they can get their mates to help them.
  • Speak for yourself and don’t blame. “I feel unhappy in the relationship”, “I don’t feel any trust any more”, “I don’t feel like I’m part of a team”. People can’t argue with what you are truly feeling.
  • They deserve an explanation, not an essay. Say what you have to say as clear and as concisely as you can.
  • Be nice but be honest and clear. Don’t say you still love them if you don’t. Don’t say you want to be friends unless you really, really do.
  • Make sure that they have heard and understood what you have said. Listen to what they have to say back, but remember that they might say things they don’t mean if they get angry. Be calm and be prepared to walk away, but give them an opportunity to have their say (at some stage) and listen hard. Remember that you are probably having really strong complex feelings, they probably will too, so take a bit of a deep breath before you say anything.
  • Depending on how long you’ve been together this could happen in one conversation or it might take a lot of talking.

The Aftermath

Once you’ve done it you might feel terrible but, if you’ve done it as well as you can,  all you have to worry about is how you get over it. How the other person gets over it is up to them but it isn’t your responsibility. You can be nice but also set boundaries, which is very hard to do. Some people are able to be friends straight away after a break up, others might not. If you do have a friendship after a relationship I think it’s important to recognise that it’s a different kind of relationship. Being friends afterwards probably won’t make the sad, painful feelings go away.

You’re allowed to have sad feelings. After a relationship you might have these a lot, don’t try and fight them. They will go away just as they come in. It’s hard to change what we feel, but we can do things. Go out, see your friends. Do stuff, stay active. Try getting creative. Learn something new. Feel yourself stretching and growing. Happier feelings will come back, welcome those when they come but remember that it’s still ok to feel sad now and again. You may feel a sense of loss for a long time but this will get smaller and smaller as the rest of your life gets bigger and bigger.

Like this? You’ll love my book! 99p for a download, £6.50 for a print version. More details here

For more Bishness about relationships and you

Brief Guide to Relationships: how to argue, why relationships aren’t a game, what trust means

Relationships Graph: a tool for you to work out how healthy your relationship

Abusive Relationships: check out if you’re dating a total shit

Ask Bish: friends with benefits, still a ‘relationship’

Don’t Ask Danny Dyer: a piece from me giving advice to someone who’s heartbroken

Big Up Yourself because the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself: sounds crap, but it’s true

© Justin Hancock 2013

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