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How to End a Relationship

Photo by Erik Clausen

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.

1. Clarity

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:

  1. 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.
  2. Talk about things you’ve learned from the relationship and what you are grateful for.
  3. 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.

12. Space

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:

  1. Meditation
  2. Deep Breathing
  3. Alone Time
  4. Exercise to Release Energy

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.

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About the author

Tina Su is a mom, a wife, a lover of Apple products and a CHO (Chief Happiness Officer) for our motivational community: Think Simple Now. She is obsessed with encouraging and empowering people to lead conscious and happy lives. Subscribe to new inspiring stories each week. You can also subscribe to Tina on Facebook.

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255 thoughts on How to End a Relationship

  1. I like what you’ve said here…. i miss my little woman too… could you please help me find what to do

  2. ludrash

    this is a great article. your depiction of ending a relationship as moving out of one episode in life is wonderful… and you describe a very gentle and loving way to do so. you are a lovely soul!

  3. very well put :) stumbled upon your blog while doing some research on a book that i am writing on this subject. will definitely come back for more… great work, keep it up

  4. Lisalisa

    How do you get to the point of being friends? My ex partner of 10 years left 6 months ago. There are still unresolved feelings and emotions. He wants to be friends even though he says he still has feelings for me and is dating someone else.

    I don’t know how to just cut off those feelings.

  5. @Lisalisa

    Lisalisa, you don’t become friends, or at least not until you’re completely over the relationship. Which is to say, at first you hang on and love them, then you realize they really don’t love you any more, then you’re very sad, then you’re a little sad, then you hate them, then you despise them, then you’re contemptuous of them, then you don’t give a shit about them, then you truly feel nothing about them, then you don’t care at all about them, then they mean absolutely nothing to you… then you can be friends with them again. This process usually takes years at least. Coming off a 10 year relationship, if you truly loved him, expect for it to take 2-3 years at the minimum.

    But not until you think about them and feel nothing at all, as in not even as much as you might feel meeting a stranger on the street, not until the hole in your heart is completely scarred over and stronger than before.

    Of course a rebound relationship can really help this proces along. Starting a new relationship really helps the pain of the old one. This is why rebound relationships exist, it’s the only way to speed up the process.

    Good luck

  6. Lisalisa

    I guess that’s why he jumped right in to another relationship. Distraction, easier to move on.

    Though he says he’s not happy and does miss me. But I know he’s not coming back.

  7. Lisalisa

    I don’t want this man out of my life, but I just can’t be friends yet and pretend I don’t still have feelings for him.

  8. Lisalisa,

    This article is what you’re looking for:
    How to Get Over Breakups

    It will answer the questions you asked above.

    Let us know if you need anything else.


  9. Lisalisa

    My ex called me to catch up for coffee 2 weeks after I moved out….hello? After 10 years??

  10. @Lisalisa

    Probably the absolute best thing to do is cut off contact completely. Make it something that _you’re_ doing, even if you’re not the one who initiated the breakup. Of course before then you will basically go through something like the five stages of grief; Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, Acceptance. But even once you’re in acceptance and you realize that what’s done is done and it’s never going to be like what it was before, you still have a lot of healing left to do.

    So basically don’t talk to him at all. This allows both of you to move on. Forget being friends, that’s just another way to screw yourself.

  11. Lisalisa

    Yeah I am still going through those stages of grief. Just a small shred of hope hasn’t quite gone yet.

    But in the end this is the decision he made. I can no longer do things to please him. He wasn’t sure of things, but he made his choice and is obviously sticking to it.

  12. @Lisalisa

    Want to talk about it? Email me at with your email address and I’ll get in touch. That’s a temporary email address, it will only last 1 hr from this message.

    I went through a breakup about eight months ago and I still feel a lot about it, so I definitely know what’s going on inside you.

  13. Lisalisa

    I have emailed you.

  14. @Lisalisa

    Ack, I didn’t get the email in time :( here, I’ll give you my actual email address: Please try again? I’m so sorry I missed your email.

  15. It takes faith and courage to do things sometimes, and like you said crying is the way to heal the soul and the heart.

    It always helps to know that the one who broke your heart really did care for you and it wasnt just “nothing”…that is what hurts the most, that is what stays on your mind. I do believe in calling and checking up sometimes helps, but I think after a week or two leave the person alone. Let them heal, because the sound of their voice, or the slightest hint of “I still love you I just dont think the relationship is right for me tone” comes through…is so Killer to the healing process for the other person :0)

    Every scenario I just read, I have been through in the past 3 months, we are now again in a relationship (we have two kids), but I am starting to get annoyed by him and I now understand and believe that my love for him is strong, but the “want to be with him” is gone!!!

    Sure I want a family, but i also want a healthy relationship and I fear that part of me is gone. How do you help me with that. We have been though Jerry Springer, maury Povich, and what next!!! Now he wants to be a family man and marry me. I dont want to get married to him, and he was all I ever wanted when the relationship started, he proved to me that he’s all I should never of had.

    I am an excellent mother, and would make the right man a impecable wife, but i feel like he doesnt deserve me. I am bitter at what hes done to me. Do i let him prove to me that he is a good man who has ended his foolish ways and hope that the love rekindles?

    Help me!! Just advice would help a long way, my parents are way tired of hearing it!!!

    Annoyed, Hurt, and Confused
    Las Vegas

  16. @Victoria Malone

    So you feel that he doesn’t deserve you? Already you’re in trouble, because it sounds like you want a quid pro quo out of the relationship. He is supposed to give you something or be a certain way, and in return you’re granting him your presence. Love is a bonding, a merging, where neither side has to do anything special to earn it. Love isn’t something you can earn, only something you can feel. If love can be bought and sold for this or that, then it’s not love as I understand it. Love that you earn and pay for means that it’s always available to the highest bidder.

    However, I suggest that if you don’t love him, then you should take decisive action to tell him that, and then amicably and firmly begin parting ways. He won’t believe it for a long time, but if you’re certain of your feelings, then you can convince him eventually.

    But I wouldn’t claim injured status. If he loves you, and you don’t love him, then it’s easy to tell whose love failed.

  17. J Feels

    You are a blessing to the human race.

  18. NO MAN

    GUYS …. thank you for everything you said and it got me me thinking about my girlfriend chatting and communicating with her ex … and i told her that i don’t agree with that … i mean is that normal … because the story is that she cheated on me with the same guy while i was out of the country and later we broke up because of him but now he’s back chatting and communicating with her . and all she tells me is that they are just friends .

  19. @NO MAN

    This could go either way. If she’s open with you about what she talks about with him and how she feels and such, it might be innocent. It is possible for ex-lovers to turn into friends with nothing more between them, so you shouldn’t be instantly jealous or suspicious. Most likely, it’s innocent. When you’re in love with someone, then that love fails, then you get back together, then you come apart again, it isn’t likely to reform into anything serious. Friends-with-benefits at most, but no emotional content as intense as love.

    Probably your jealousy is getting in the way of an innocent relationship between them. Even the sex was likely to have been without love, just random lust or comfort sex. Of course this would be intolerable for most men such as yourself, but not all sex is meaningful emotionally. So I would relax, ask her what she talks about with him, give her the freedom to be honest with you without you freaking out over it. After you establish that everything is cool no matter what she tells you, she’ll start telling you more and more, and then you’ll see how meaningful it is. Just be calm and she’ll tell you everything when you’re curious and you’ll probably find it’s totally innocent. And yes, it’s normal to have some ties with your ex even long after it ends.

  20. Akom Asuquo

    it is amazing, so brilliant, i cant wait to read it again and again. thanks very much for your lovely article.

  21. Moonbug

    You know what. This is a really crappy article. It somehow enshrines selfishness and justifies walking all over other people’s emotions and feelings.
    The underlying issue in any break, as is the reason of heartache afterwards, is that although both parties got in the relationship as consenting individuals, one of them somehow assumed the right to screw the other person over, owing to their selfishness.
    No one put a gun to anyone’s head to enter a relationship. They entered it of their own free will. However, once into a relationship, you need to consider the other persons feelings.

    The line, ‘we can’t change the other person, we can only change ourselves’ is pure blasphemy. If the other person is going to be shattered post breakup, do you not think they will be willing to change in order to avoid that? The truth is you are afraid that given a chance, the other person might change. So you want to rob them of that chance and end it pre-emptively. And how is a breakup a method of ‘changing yourself’ anyway? In fact, it is the exact opposite of changing yourself. You are essentially not changing and choosing to go after circumstances that require you to not change. Changing yourself would involve realigning your expectations so that you can be happier with someone who loves you so deeply and truly that the breakup will leave them devastated.

    Please own up to your selfishness and start living for real. What you have suggested is extremely childish and immature. How bad a decision maker you have to be to not see that you will be unhappy before you enter into a relationship? And leaving the other person shattered because you made a stupid decision is not fair. No matter how much you soften the blow. You cannot absolve yourself of the responsibility of making someone who loved you miserable.

    The entire article reeks of selfishness. It says somewhere, ‘we only live a certain time so make the most of it’ or something to that effect. How selfish! Why don’t you consider that the other person too lives only a certain amount of time. Is it ok to make their time on this planet horrible by dumping them for no fault of theirs. You are dumping the person because YOU made a wrong choice. How is that fair? The world would be a much happier place if people owned up for the wrongs they did and tried everything they could to make it right, including reassessing their expectations. Quick fixes like breaking up because the other person didn’t turn out the way you wanted them to, even though they do love you madly is nothing but escapism. I understand that thats the way some people want to lead their lives. But please don’t idealize or venerate that philosophy. Its the core of everything thats wrong with people today.

    If the people of the past had lived by the philosophy of ‘we only have a certain time to live, make the most of it’, our lives would be much more awful today. It was because those people realized what was right and wrong in a very natural sense, that they could lay the ground work for a lot of good things which were achieved after they were gone. Mother Teresa could have thought ‘let me make the most of the time I have and enjoy myself. Let the lepers find their way through life.’ Gandhi could have thought ‘I am from a well to do family. Let me make the most of it and lead a happy and affluent life myself. After all I too have limited time here.’ But these people didn’t think so shallow. They did everything they could to maket the best of a crappy situation.

    The point I am trying to make is that no relationship is too damaged to repair, provided there are two people who want to make it work. And as long as it can be repaired, I think both people owe it to each other to make it work. The person seeking the easy way out unfortunately ends up better off than the one willing to put in the hard work. As unfair as that is, articles like yours only serve as a medium for these escapists to justify themselves and feel good about making someone else feel bad.


  22. Moonbug, you argue your point well, but your words are sometimes reflected in the mentality of someone in a codependent relationship. “They’ll be shattered if I leave, so I have to give them a chance.”

    I completely disagree with your line, “…no relationship is too damaged to repair, provided there are two people who want to make it work.” What if both partners want to make it work even though the relationship involves abuse (physical or emotional). If you think that’s a far-fetched scenario, you’re wrong: Plenty of time women and men will want to make it work with an abusive partner, putting their lives at risk.

    Yes, a certain degree of selfishness is required in making these decisions. The guilt of leaving an unhealthy relationship can be paralyzing — sometimes it takes the determination to be selfish to finally get out.

    As for my contribution to the How to End a Relationship argument, see my blog.

  23. Lizah

    Hi Tina,
    Thank you so much for your article. Am going through a break up from a 2 year relationship currently and have gone through alot of pain as i am the one initiating it.
    Now i got the tips and the courage to face it with love knowing it is not failure but am moving forward.
    One thing that caught my eye in your article is that we can only change ourselves and not the other person!

    But one thing that is disturbing me is wether he will be able to take it kindly/ and positively as am leaving him for some one else?! It is not easy.

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