Breakups aren’t fun for anyone. Whether a breakup ends a long-term relationship, marriage, or even a short-term fling, emotions can run high. It’s not only the one who is broken up with (the breakee) who struggles to cope with the aftermath, the break-er-upper can also experience anxiety, depression, and increased stress. It is common to be distraught, distracted, obsess about your former partner, and experience a bout of low self esteem after a relationship ends.
Just as you wouldn’t intentionally put your hand on the handle of a hot pan, no one wants the psychological distress than can accompany the end of a union. Although some emotional pain may be unavoidable, there are ways to breakup that will actually leave you both feeling stronger and happier in the long run. It is helpful to remember that breakup distress has to do with the chemicals flooding one’s brain. In rare, extreme cases, people even experience temporary heart issues! More commonly, the “brain on a breakup” is flooded with dopamine which causes obsessive thinking as well as uniquely activated brain regions, similar to when the body feels physical pain.
Occasionally, the urge to breakup with someone is so strong that it is done in a way that is hurtful and doesn’t honor the bond you shared. Follow our handy Do’s And Do Not’s for an easier breakup!
1. Do Not Breakup By Text, IM, Snapchat, Facebook or Any Other Social Media
Did we leave any out? Okay, there are some exceptions which we will discuss in a moment, but 99% of the time a breakup by text (or social media) is a bad idea. First, although it may feel like an easy way to avoid conflict, it’s really taking the easy way out and will lead to more conflict and distress in the long term. Why? Because the person who is dumped will likely be caught off guard and their broken heart will leave them flooded with questions. They will send you dozens of texts back or messages which you may feel like you have to answer. They might even show up at your home or work anyway! Once they recover, they will probably hate you forever and so will all of their friends and family, who will refer to you as the “text dumper”, etc. And, yes, ema
il follows the same rule. Do not dump someone by written message.
Exceptions To The Rule: If your relationship was strictly online (for instance, an online love affair and you’ve never met face to face) than you can send a breakup letter without missing the mark. Additionally, if you’ve only been out a couple of times and it’s not a Breakup with a capital “B” but more a way to let the person know you don’t think you’re a match to continue to dating, than a simple text of explanation is generally appropriate.
Exception To The Exception: If you frequently talked on the phone, even if you never met or only went on a few dates, a phone call is still the classier way.
2. Do Not Blame the Other Person
Sure, maybe your soon to be ex is the worst person on the planet, burned your apartment down and stole your cat. If so, you better call the police, but if they fall somewhere in the middle, like the rest of the world, then it might be tempting to point fingers and give them them a last taste of why you don’t want to date them. The problem with this method is that you are probably emotional too. You might end up saying things that are mean, hurtful, that you’ll regret later, or which might add salt to the wound of the person you’re dumping. Resist the urge to list everything they have done wrong or didn’t do right.
3. Do Not Lie
It might be tempting to come up with a reason (ex: “I’m moving overseas in a week) that is less than accurate… either to spare their feelings or to protect them from getting completely emotionally distraught. This tends to backfire as it is almost guaranteed they will find out the truth one way or another. Also, if you lie to avoid hurting their feelings, when you really aren’t interested in continuing a relationship, you might give the false impression that you’re not sure about the breakup… which will lead to them pursuing you further.
4. Do Not Cheat Beforehand
Stuff happens. Sometimes one person has already cheated and breaks up with their partner, before they find out. That might be kinder than continuing to cheat and lie, but if you can avoid dating others before you split, do so. Once you’re single, you technically can date anyone you want. However, it’s not uncommon that breakups don’t “take” the first time around. If you sign up for Tinder within hours of dumping someone, your ex will probably think you were cheating all along (even if you weren’t) or be extra upset should you reunite later.
Exception To The Rule: Although it is best to breakup before dipping your feet in the water, if you are 100% interested in dating other people/ one person and can’t wait, it is still better to breakup with your partner first, even if it makes you seem like a jerk. At least you’ll know you did the right thing and were faithful until your relationship ended. Same goes if you have a burning desire to sign up for dating sites within hours of the breakup. At least you know that you can say you’re single be accurate for the next person you meet.
1. Do Breakup in Person
Imagine your partner sobbing and snorting and crying or pleading in front of you. Sounds terrible, doesn’t it? There are even those who go as far as to throw themselves on the ground or hold onto your leg. Hopefully the person you’re about to dump isn’t as melodramatic as that, but DO expect that they will be upset and have questions. Being dumped is one of the worst moments that happens to us, especially if you have a long history. However, the good part about breaking up in person is that you can have meaningful talk, answer questions in the moment, and know you were respectful and treated them in a loving manner, even at the close of your relationship.
Exception To The Rule: If you believe your partner is a danger and that breaking up in person could put you at risk, due to outlandish behavior or past verbal or physical abuse, then by all means get professional or police help and/ or cut off contact with a restraining order.
2. Do Talk About Your Feeling and Show Regard for Theirs
This is where it can get tricky. Breakups are a confusing time. You might feel one way today and differently tomorrow. A hot and cold emotional thermometer is common during times of stress and breakups fit the bill. However, if you dig deep, you probably know why the relationship is not a fit for you. Do your best to explain openly. The best technique is to word your reasons for breaking up in the affirmative.
For instance, instead of saying, “You never…. x, y, z…” try explaining what it is about you that doesn’t fit with the relationship. If they are high energy, maybe you simply want a slower pace. If they want to move to a big city and you like the suburb, tell them that you’re happy with your life where you are now and don’t see yourself changing. If you aren’t sure what to say, try talking to a friend, family member, or therapist first to clarify your thoughts.
Reminder: It is okay to affirm that you did care for them deeply and are sorry things have changed in you or that the relationship didn’t work out. Although it’s often made fun of, it really isn’t “them” when a relationship ends… it’s “us” and what we want to change for our lives!
3. Do Listen
Although it is important to be responsive to any questions, take time to listen to their feelings. Try and use empathy and understand that although you may not feel you’re a match, they may still have strong feelings for you. This can be true even if they were cheating on you or the one who seemed to sabotage your connection lasting.
4. Do Be Honest and Firm
Honesty will require being honest with yourself first. Being kind is important but be careful not to sugarcoat the breakup as uncertain. If you sound overly optimistic about the relationship, they may think the breakup is just a pause. Be firm and explain that although it is sad the relationship is ending, you have thought about it, want to breakup, and nothing can change that desire at this junction in time. Be willing to let them move on from you and set them free.
5. Do Take a Break
Even if you want to remain friends, it’s good to take a break of a month or two before interacting, or longer if it was an especially hard breakup. Once you do start communicating again, there is a risk that one of you will be interested in more than the other, so proceed with caution. If you are ending a relationship with someone you messaged, texted, or saw often and do not want them to be hurt when you stop communicating as much as you used to, explain why you will be taking this break from interaction.
6. Do Give Warning
Were you living it up at Taco Tuesday the night before, making love and saying “I Love You”? If so, then maybe a breakup isn’t really what you want to do deep down. Consider talking, a couple’s workshop, reading self-help books, or trying personal counseling or couple’s therapy. If you do decide to break up with your partner, don’t spring it on your unsuspecting partner. Talk about your feelings first, to see if any can be resolved. If you are obsessing about breaking up and they have no clue you’re even upset, then you may be in an avoidant relationship pattern and need to express yourself differently.
7. Do Forgive
Forgive yourself and them. There are no guarantees in life, particularly in relationships. Use this as a learning and growing opportunity for both of you!