How to End a Relationship
Breaking up with someone you love can be one of the toughest emotional struggles you’ll go through. How have you handled breakups in the past? What can you do to minimize pain for the other person and yourself?
I’ve been on quite an emotional ride recently. What has been weighing heavily on my heart and mind involves a slice from my personal life. Without going into details, Adam, my partner for the past year, and I have decided to part ways. We will remain good friends.
The past three weeks have been a tremendously painful period, feelings of empathy mixed with remorse and guilt. The impulse to burst into tears would hit me sporadically throughout the day.
When I first wrote about the art of keeping a relationship, my friend Pete Forde suggested that perhaps people could also benefit from an article on how to end a relationship. I noted his brilliant suggestion without further thought. Little did I know, this would become the center of my experience a month later.
This being a sensitive topic, I had a tough time finding genuine and in-depth resources online. My goal here is to capture the understanding and wisdom I’ve gained from going through this event, and to perhaps be of help or a point of clarity for your life story.
Feel free to add points that I’ve missed in the comment section. I look forward to hearing your thoughts.
Why Relationships End & Other Realizations
As painful as a relationship can be as it’s ending, the experience can be a source of profound learning and personal growth. I’ve learned as the years goes by, just when you are getting comfortable, life will throw something at you which challenges that comfort. Don’t big life shifts always appear this way?
Instead of looking at these challenges with frustration, treat them as an opportunity for change in the life direction you were meant to lead and benefit from. The following are some realizations I’ve learned with regards to relationships and the ending of them.
1. The Failure Misconception
Socially, we tend to correlate the ending of a relationship with failure. We even articulate it as such; we say, “I’ve failed in this relationship”. By framing as such, we leave a negative impression in our minds and an association with relationships in general.
The ending of a relationship is not a failure, but rather the ending of a life situation in our story. We were meant to experience the relationship for its joyful moments and we were meant to learn from its challenges. New life and death are all around us. Every inhale we take is a birth and each exhale is the death of that breath; and life continues.
2. Being Honest to Your Needs
It’s important to clearly understand our needs in a relationship and qualities in a mate. Be absolutely honest with yourself and don’t compromising the qualities that are essential to you. What typically happens when we find a quality, which deeply matters to us, is missing in our partner, we think that they can be changed.
Truth is, we can’t make people change we can only change ourselves. Small things will magnify with time. Be conscious of these small things and be honest with yourself. Understand your needs and be true to yourself. We only have a set amount of time in this life, make it matter.
3. Fear and Guilt
We stay in relationships that we know aren’t necessarily right for us because we are afraid. We fear loneliness, we fear hurting our partner, and we fear having to deal with uncomfortable situations. The guilt comes in when we recognize that we are not being honest with ourselves and thus being unfair to our partners.
4. ‘Borrowed’ Desires
Sometimes in the presence of someone who is completely focused in getting what they want (ie. Your love), it influences your desires when in their presence. You pick up their strong vibe and their desire transfers to you.
In a relationship, if one partner feels significantly stronger than the other, sometimes this strong desire rubs off on the other person. In the presence of the more interested partner, the less interested partner will feel that “This is the right thing for me. This feels right.” When separated from the partner with the strong desire, the less interested partner will feel less intense or indifferent about the relationship.
5. Love and Romance Can Be Mutually Exclusive
Sometimes when we have strong connections with people, we instantly relate it to a romantic relationship, and end up jumping into one with them. You can love people without being in a romantic relationship. I think we are socially conditioned to believe that love for someone equals romance.
Truth is, the love we feel for others comes from a beautiful place within ourselves, that infinite feeling of love is an expression of our true nature, it has nothing to do with other people. Instead of jumping into romance, we can cultivate a harmonious friendship with that person.
6. Social Pressure
I felt the social pressure when considering my options. But at the end of the day, that pressure comes from my ego out of fear that I would look bad. I have a public image and on some level, I was afraid what people might think of me afterwards. That can turn into negative self talk.
Here is an example of such a thought, “What would my friends think? What would my readers think? I am a horrible person.” I got out of this state by gaining clarity and recognizing that I needed to be honest with myself.
7. Loss of Friendship
Traditionally, when relationships end, we tend to cut everything off. It’s silly to conclude that after sharing months and years with someone, that if one component of the relationship changes, all else must be cut off. Why can’t we continue the other components of the relationship after our hearts are healed? Friendship does not have to be lost.
8. Fantasy Fueled By Desire
We let our minds get caught up in an idea, a vision of how something should be, and we end up living in that fantasy instead of reality. We repeatedly play the same videos in our mind, and believe that we will be happy when our life situation matches that of the mental videos. The same applies to our idea of relationships. It is easy to let our desires get in the way of reality, and we end up living in a fantasy world within our current relationship… until one day, we wake up from that fantasy.
How to Break Up with Someone
Photo via Erik Clausen
Once you’ve decided that parting ways is the best solution, doing the actual break up can be pretty nerve racking, since people’s hearts are on the line. Here is a series of steps to help you through it and suggestions of ways to reduce pain caused to the other person.
Make sure you understand why you are doing it. Sometimes the surface reason isn’t the real reason. Dig deep within yourself to find the real reason. Being surrounded by the situation can cloud your judgment. Separate yourself from the situation and spend some alone time. This will help you gain the clarity you need. I’ve found journaling to be an effective tool.
2. Self Honesty
Make the commitment to be honest with yourself and the other person. The truth will set you free. Be committed to that.
3. Setup Meeting Time
Setup mutual time to talk to your partner as soon as possible. Some people are opposed to phone breakups. I think that face-to-face is always best, but if distance separates you, it’s best to do so as soon as possible rather than waiting.
4. State of Compassion
Before your meeting, get into a state of compassion for the other person. In a state of compassion, you will exude love and understanding, which you’ll need to help the other person heal. Some suggestions to help you get into a compassionate state:
- Deep Breathing – Stand up straight, close your eyes, and place your hand on your heart. Take deep, long inhales and exhales. You can count the inhale/exhale length. After inhaling, hold your breath for a 5 count before exhaling slowly. Repeat at least 15 times.
- Gratitude - Sit somewhere comfortable, close your eyes, and picture everything you are grateful for. One by one, images of people, situations, places, and things appear in your imagination. Alternatively, try writing this down instead of visualizing.
- Focus on Love - Close your eyes. Optionally, put on some slow music which you enjoy. In your imagination, go back to all the times when you felt loved and when you felt love for others. Imagine times where you truly felt happy and free. Imagine yourself as a little kid, experiencing joy and freedom. Do this exercise for at least 5-10 minutes.
5. The Meeting
During the meeting, focus on communicating your reasons clearly and respectfully for the sake of the other person. Here are some additional pointers for when explaining yourself during the meeting:
- When explaining, focus on how things made you feel, this way your partner doesn’t get defensive. Make it clear that the situation is not their fault, since blaming doesn’t add value in helping the situation.
- Talk about things you’ve learned from the relationship and what you are grateful for.
- Be Genuine in everything that you say. If you don’t mean something, don’t say it. People can detect when you are not being authentic.
6. Be There
Your partner will get emotional and possibly very upset. They will bounce between different emotional states. Your job is to be there for them. Become the observer of the situation. Stay conscious, calm and alert.
7. Don’t take anything personally
When we are emotional and feeling hurt, we can easily become irrational and say things we don’t mean. Don’t be surprised if your partner acts like a small child and says unreasonable or mean things to you. They don’t mean it. They are simply hurt and need attention from you. Don’t take anything personally. Become the observer so you don’t get attached to what’s being said and react defensively.
8. Love Them
Love them regardless of the situation. They are human and have feelings. Remember you can love people without needing to be in a romantic relationship with them. Be there for them in that state of love and compassion, regardless of how they react. This will help you find your center, while remaining calm to best help the other person deal with the situation.
9. Fully Express Emotions
If you feel like crying, do it, and do it fully. This will release the emotional clutter in your inner space.
10. Multiple Meetings
it really takes several days before news can sink in. Don’t expect to meet once and be done with it. It is your responsibility to be there for that person, at least initially during a breakup situation.
11. Be Available
Do whatever is necessary to help them heal without compromising your values. Be available for them when they need you.
Give them space. They will be hurt no matter what, so even if they appear fine on the outside, they are hurting. What they need now is time. Check up on them a few times in the beginning to make sure they are okay and to let them know that they matter. Remind them that you are here if they need your help to heal.
13. Relinquish Guilt
You may experience guilt, since you are the one initiating the breakup. You see that you’ve caused pain and this may affect your state of being. The following are some ideas that help to let go of this feeling:
How to Cope with Your Partner Leaving
I’ve had my share of heart breaks and understand what it feels like to be on the receiving end. It hurts, it really hurts. You feel like it’s the end of the world, and you wonder how you can possibly get over it. You will feel pain and despair, but I promise you, you will get over it. Time is the magic ingredient.
Photo via Aurora
I will have an in depth article on this topic soon. For now, here are some pointers for those on the receiving end of breakups. These have been helpful for me in the past.
- Talk With Friends – In verbalizing your thoughts and options, you’ll gain better understanding and perspective.
- Surround Yourself with Positive Energy – Be surrounded by friends and family. Be around happy and optimistic people. Be around people you like. Be around people who can make you laugh.
- Love Yourself – Spend time inwards with loving yourself. Doing things to appreciate and love yourself will help you gain the self confidence and independence you need to heal. When was the last time you really appreciated yourself?
- It’s Okay to Cry – In fact, I recommend it. Express the pain and let it all out. Don’t hold anything back, cry fully. Letting it out will be liberating for your being. It’s okay to cry.
- Find the Lesson – What did you learn through this relationship? I’m a big believer that good can come out of every situation, even ones we’ve perceived as bad. Focus on what you’ve gained in life lessons that you wouldn’t have learned otherwise.
- Fully Experiencing the Pain – When pain strikes, our instinct is to avoid it. We distract ourselves with other tasks while suppressing the pain. This doesn’t actually make the pain go away. “What we resist, persists.” The best way to deal with the pain is by fully facing it. Closing your eyes, fully experience that feeling of sharp pain within your being, and become the observer of that pain within you. Separate the observer from the pain.
- Gratitude Visualization – Put your hands on your heart and gently shut your eyes. Visualize all the things, experiences, and people that you are thankful for. If you are visualizing a person, see their face smiling at you with joy and kindness. Give thanks for all the things we take for granted, parts of our body, the things we enjoy about our jobs, people who love us. Give thanks to your heart, which works continuously, without which we wouldn’t be here. Give thanks to our safe homes, the abundance of food, and clothing to keep us warm. Give thanks to people who have been kind to us. Give thanks to authors who have inspired us. Gratitude puts you in a state of love, acceptance and understanding.
- Benefits to Me? – Focus on how this new situation can help you. Maybe you will now have the free time to pursue something that’s important to you. Maybe you can gain the independence and freedom you’ve wanted to experience for yourself.
- Time Heals – After the initial shock has sunk in and you’ve had plenty of communication with your ex, take time to be separated from your ex partner. It’s hard to gain clarity, perspectives and independence while being reminded of them constantly. I recommend taking a few weeks to be apart: no meeting, no emails, no phone calls. With time, you will heal.
- Silence Heals – Sit silently and observe your emotions and thoughts. Have a journal and pen at your side. When you have a realization, write it down in your journal. Use journaling as a tool to help you sort out your thoughts. It has the power to help you gain clarity.
* How have you handled breakups in the past? How would you do it differently if given the chance? Got tips for coping with breakups from the receiving end? Share your voice in the comments below. Let’s make this a collective learning experience. Thank you for sharing this moment with me.