Whether it’s a summer fling who’s turning needy, or a longterm partnership that has lost all its shine, autumn may feel like the perfect time to end your relationship and start anew. But when you grab your emotional-scissors and cut out your once-soulmate’s heart, at least try to do it with as much grace and maturity as you can muster. The final act of a relationship can range from mildly devastating to full-on shit-show; however, if you avoid these seven deadly sins of breaking up, it’s still going to suck, but you might be able to dodge the worst of it.
Using the wrong communication medium
The traditional advice about breaking up is to not do it over text or by phone as a show of respect to the person you’re leaving. This is usually solid advice, but if safety is an issue — if you even suspect your soon-to-be-ex might get violent — ending the relationship via text, email, phone call, or restraining order is the right decision. Personal safety trumps all other concerns, and you know your relationship and partner best.
Trying to stay “friends”
It’s possible to be friends with an ex, but it’s usually a long process that requires going full no-contact for as long as it takes for both parties to fully separate. It’s easiest to just never see the person again, but if you want a friendship at some point, make it a clean break — no late-night calls, block all social media, and try not to run into each other — otherwise you’re just dragging things out and creating one of those weird half-relationships where no one is satisfied. Once enough time has passed (my personal rule-of-thumb is no-contact for double the amount of time you were together), you can very lightly test the idea of being friends.
Not really meaning it
We have all known that couple that breaks up and gets back together multiple times. “Break-ups” that don’t really mean the end of a relationship are usually ways of arguing or manipulating within it. And that just really sucks. I get that every love affair, FWB situation, and marriage is complicated and unique, but “fake-ups” are a fundamentally dishonest and childish way to conduct your personal life.
Focusing on the other person instead of yourself
When your internal life gets fully wrapped up in someone else’s, it can be hard to mentally separate your identity from theirs, but that’s entire point of ending things. So remember, you are taking the action of ending things for reasons of your own. You don’t need their approval or agreement. Similarly, things are not ending because your partner did something wrong. (I mean, I’m sure they did, but it’s all about the framing.) They are ending because you are no longer putting up with the thing/things they did. You can only control yourself, so explain things to reflect this. “I’m moving out because I no longer find this relationship fulfilling” is different from “I’m moving out because you suck so badly.”
Trying to get the other person to end things
Ending a relationship — even a toxic one — is difficult, messy, unpleasant, and emotionally wrenching, so it makes sense that almost everyone puts it off and/or drags out the ending for days, weeks, or even years. But there are some people who are so cowardly they try to put the emotional work of separating on their partner by becoming gigantic arseholes and trying to force their hand. If you want to end things, step up and end them; don’t secretly manipulate your partner into doing your emotional work.
Not being honest/being too honest/being honest in the wrong way
The amount of honesty you should show your partner when breaking up with them is a delicate thing. This is generally not the time to list your soon-to-be-ex partner’s every fault or recount every time you were slighted. But it’s also not really fair to not offer an honest explanation of why you’re ending it. Saying, “I don’t want to see you any more because things are getting stale for me, and I want to see other people,” is cool, whereas something like, “I want to date your friend because she’s hotter than you,” is not. Both are honest, but the first one is also respectful.
Being talked into staying
If you’ve tried to work things out with your significant other and determined that your relationship has passed its expiration date, be resolute with the break up. Big promises made to avoid the pain of a relationship ending are unlikely to be kept, and it might seem like not breaking someone’s heart is the kind thing to do, but all you’re really doing is kicking the can down the road and delaying the process of healing for both you and your soon-to-be-ex. So be kind, but also be firm that you mean it.
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