The Proper Way to Break Up With Someone

There are tons of articles written all the time – and I’ve written a few of the myself – about how NOT to end a relationship. We’re all aware that e-mail, texts and post-its just aren’t respectful, considerate, mature or human ways of breaking up with someone. They aren’t. Period. Unless it’s for safety reasons. But that’s neither here nor there. The question then is whether there’s a RIGHT way to break up. And yes, there is.

Step One: IN PERSON! First off, it starts with a face-to-face. Or at least a genuine attempt to meet face-to-face. This is personal. If you valued the relationship (and I know that’s an if, but IF you did) and you valued your partner, then you’ve got to honor that by having the guts to do the deed when you can see the whites of his/her eyes.

Step Two: DO IT ASAP! Don’t skirt the issue. If you’re coming to say “it’s over” then make that the first or second phrase that comes out of you. Prolonging it only makes it worse. Don’t lie and don’t give a list of reasons that aren’t true. You’ve got to treat it like chopping off a limb. One clean katana cut and then you cauterize the wound.

Step Three: EXPLAIN! There’s nothing worse than someone not knowing why it’s over. This is your time to have your say and make it known. It’s not a discussion. Its facts. This is called closure. It’s a good thing. You tell him/her your reasons and make it abundantly clear that they’re irreconcilable.

Step Four: LISTEN! This might be the hardest part. You’ve got to allow him/her to have his/her say. You’ve got to allow them to be hurt. You’ve got to allow them to be angry. You’ve got to expect them to be wounded and if you’re willing, depending on how much you care and what you’re willing to put up with, you need to let him/her get it out of his/her system. You know what this stepped is called? Closure! It works both ways and it ain’t pretty.

Step Five: TIME! Walk away. Take some space. If you decide you want to be friends, fine, but not today. Not this day. Not for a while. You can’t replace one role for the other. For the immediate, you go and do something else. You move forward, you do something that’s going to make you happy and you grieve the loss in the time it takes you. Because this is a loss for you as much for the other person. Even though you initiated it. You’re still losing a dynamic, a status quo, a part of your identity for however long you’ve been together. You’re completely eliminating the “we” component of your life, unless of course you’ve got someone else all prepped and ready to pick up that slack. But even with the DH on deck, you’re still letting go of something and that takes time.

Now here’s the hard part: Nobody wins a break up. It’s a fun TV myth, but it’s not about winning. Feelings are going to get hurt and it’s going to get at least a little messy. This is the way it works. You try to make it as clean as you can but there’s going to be anger and pain. For him/her and for you. You can’t avoid it. You can’t sidestep it. You have to accept it and prepare yourself as best as you can. Which might be futile but at least you’ll feel active rather than reactive.

And that’s the proper way for a break up. In an ideal world, at least…

We need to talk,

The Dude

[Lead image via Felix Mizioznikov/Shutterstock]

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