We learn about relationships by being in relationships. Not all romantic relationships survive and that’s ok. Experiencing a break-up is not failure. Sometimes love dies. Sometimes the relationship was less about love and more about something else. It doesn’t mean that you did something wrong. You had the courage to try. It didn’t work out and now you move on having learnt a few life lessons.
As painful as break-ups are, we shouldn’t avoid relationships for the fear of them ending. Relationships can teach us important lessons about ourselves, others and life.
If we never experience a toxic relationship, we may not be able to see the warning signs of dysfunctional relationships until we have already gotten hurt. The more we learn about what we want and deserve from our relationship and romantic partner, the easier it is for us to make wise choices in love.
If your heart is breaking because you can see your relationship entering its final stages, here are a few suggestions on how to break up well.
1. Don’t burn any bridges.
The two of you may never be romantically involved again and that is probably for the best. However, you never know when your paths may cross again at work or socially. The world is small.
Break up in a way that will enable you to be in the same room, work together or share a meal without you having any regrets about the choices you made during this break up.
Remain dignified at all times. No matter how low your soon-to-be-ex descends, you don’t need to descend to their level. Live your core principles, hold your head up high and you can be proud of your behavior in 5 years time. Your paths may cross again. Let them be the one feeling bad about how they behaved, not you.
2. There is no need to bring out all your grievances.
The two of you are breaking up. You’ll have grievances. If you weren’t able to work through them constructively during the time you were together, what do you expect to happen now?
There is going to be stuff that you didn’t like about your partner. There’ll be aspects in you that they aren’t fond of. There is no need to bring it all out to the open. Let some things rest. Venting and airing your dirty laundry is unlikely to bring you closure.
Be mindful not to assign blame. Relationships are two-way streets. Don’t try and make your soon-to-be-ex feel better by saying that it was your fault. At the same time, don’t try to blame them, either. You are both ok but the relationship between the two of you wasn’t. It happens.
3. Be kind and constructive
If you must say something important, get something off your chest, be mindful of how you say it. You want to be heard. Criticizing your partner, putting yourself above them or being unreasonable will make them regret the day they met you. Just as you want to remember your partner as a good person, you want them to remember you as a kind human being as well.
Break up when you still have an ounce of respect and admiration for each other. If there is nothing good left, you’ve left the break up too late.
You want to be a person who dates good people. This means that you should’t badmouth your ex after the break-up. Remain dignified. Remember, others may wonder why you choose to date bad people.
4. Cut all contact
Yes. This is means all contact. Unless you have a child together or share the custody of a pet, you should have nothing to do with each other for quite a long time. I can’t tell you for how long you need to cut all contact it has to be long enough for there not to be a temptation to run to the other when you feel lonely. You may be able to be friends at some point but decide on that later. If you do not cut all contact, you will slow down the healing process. In order to be able to move on, you must not be in each other’s lives.
5. Grieve and then move on
Give yourself time to grieve. Talk to one or two fully trustworthy people. Choose these people well. They must be supportive of you and keep everything you share with them confidential. You don’t want half the town to know about your innermost pain.
If you have no one to talk to, ask yourself if you are afraid to open up to another person. Maybe this is something worth exploring? Or, is your social network so thin there is no one there for you in your time of need? This needs some attention. You can also keep a journal and even speak to a professional. However, don’t put your pain on social media. Ever!
Make sure you have learnt something about yourself from this past relationship. If you aren’t sure what you learnt, don’t start dating again until you do. You don’t want to repeat the mistakes you made in the previous relationship in a new relationship.
Use our free Ask Yourself journaling guides to help you become the person you want to be.
Matleena Vanhanen is a licensed Counselling Psychologist with over 20 years of experience working in Europe and the Middle East. She has a practice of couples and individual therapy at the MapleTree Center in Dubai.