Sometimes at the end of a relationship, we’re so sure we want nothing to do with the other person that we’re happy to scorch the earth with the break up conversation. But it’s probably better to do it with some compassion and empathy.
Lately, I’ve heard stories of long-term relationships ending out of the blue with no clear cause stated; relationships ended via text. There may be no “nice” way to break up with someone, but we should be able to limit the carnage.
This is someone you once cared about, in theory; don’t send them back into the world in worse condition than when you met. Breakups require recovery, but they shouldn’t leave you psychologically scarred!
Lior Gotesman is the co-founder and COO of Relationship Hero, and relationship coaching app that talks people through relationship difficulties — they see a lot of breakups, as you might imagine. Here’s his advice on cutting the cord as kindly as possible.
Though things may go off the rails, try to have a script for what you’re going to say. It will help keep you focused when emotions heighten, which they probably will; even if you feel ready to move on, breakups are upsetting for both parties.
These are the points you should be hitting, according to Gotesman:
I would advise people prepare with what they’re going to say and how they’re going to say it. The conversation should involve sharing a few things about the other person that they appreciate, a clear statement about not wanting to be in the relationship any more, and an honest explanation of why they’ve decided to break up.
This is also pretty much my advice for rejecting second dates, so they’re the basic building blocks of treating other people well.
I’ve gotten very good at saying no to second dates, largely because I go on so many first dates. There are times when we both acknowledge there’s no spark and go our separate ways; there are times when they reject me; and statistically, there are a fair number of people who want to take a second run at it even though we have literally zero chemistry.
Think about what you would like to hear
If you still can’t figure out what that script should be, Gotesman says to try to put yourself in their shoes:
They should be compassionate in their delivery and mindful of how they might make the other feel. They can imagine how they would feel if they were the ones receiving the breakup conversation.
Just don’t get carried away when you fantasise about it feels to be dumped:
But there is a limit to how much they can soften the blow, and should be firm with their decision and honest about how they feel.
You are trying to end a relationship, so stay the course.
Try to do it in person
This is just something I’m saying — unless you fear for your safety, you should make the journey to say all this to your significant other in person, preferably in a location where they won’t be humiliated if they cry. A park, a living room, somewhere relatively private where you won’t have to wait to split the check before you can both leave.
Don’t assign blame (even if they deserve it)
This is a hard one. Sometimes it really is us who create the problem in a relationship, because we’re not ready, life is too crazy, or we have our own issues to unpack. But often it really is them.
Even so, Grotesman advises that you frame your issues with the other person through your own choices, because if you make it seem as though they could change to please you, they might try to. You’re also making it seem as though it’s their decision, when it’s really yours:
For example, you’re blaming the other person when you say “I can’t be with you because you cheated on me” or “I’m breaking up with you because you’re a cheater.” Instead of blaming, take ownership of your break up decision: “I can’t be with you because you cheated on me and staying in the relationship is conflicting with my personal values.”
Breaking up is a personal decision, not a consequence of someone else’s actions. By blaming the other for the breakup, ownership of the breakup decision wrongfully goes to them. Not only will they feel more hurt by taking the blame, they will think they have the ability to undo the breakup with their actions. They can go to great lengths trying to fix whatever damage they’ve done to cause the breakup. Sometimes this can turn into an unhealthy obsession and furthers them from accepting reality. This is an easy mistake to avoid and a hard one to get out of.
Of course, there are times when we do really love someone and wish they would change a specific behaviour or attitude so we could continue the relationship. In the end, though, you can’t force anyone to be different. You can only make the healthy choice for you and say goodbye with empathy.