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How to Break Up Respectfully
When Relationships End
In the beginning, it's exciting. You can't wait to see your BF or GF — and it feels amazing to know that he or she feels the same way. The happiness and excitement of a new relationship can overpower everything else.
Nothing stays new forever, though. Things change as couples get to know each other better. Some people settle into a comfortable, close relationship. Other couples drift apart.
There are lots of different reasons why people break up. Growing apart is one. You might find that your interests, ideas, values, and feelings aren't as well matched as you thought they were. Changing your mind or your feelings about the other person is another. Perhaps you just don't enjoy being together. Maybe you argue or don't want the same thing. You might have developed feelings for someone else. Or maybe you've discovered you're just not interested in having a serious relationship right now.
Most people go through a break-up (or several break-ups) in their lives. If you've ever been through it, you know it can be painful — even if it seems like it's for the best.
Why Is Breaking Up So Hard to Do?
If you're thinking of breaking up with someone, you may have mixed feelings about it. After all, you got together for a reason. So it's normal to wonder: "Will things get better?" "Should I give it another chance?" "Will I regret this decision?" Breaking up isn't an easy decision. You may need to take time to think about it.
Even if you feel sure of your decision, breaking up means having an awkward or difficult conversation. The person you're breaking up with might feel hurt, disappointed, sad, rejected, or heartbroken. When you're the one ending the relationship, you probably want to do it in a way that is respectful and sensitive. You don't want the other person to be hurt — and you don't want to be upset either.
Avoid It? Or Get it Over With?
Some people avoid the unpleasant task of starting a difficult conversation. Others have a "just-get-it-over-with" attitude. But neither of these approaches is the best one. Avoiding just prolongs the situation (and may end up hurting the other person more). And if you rush into a difficult conversation without thinking it through, you may say things you regret.
Something in the middle works best: Think things through so you're clear with yourself on why you want to break up. Then act.
Break-up Do's and Don'ts
Every situation is different. There's no one-size-fits-all approach to breaking up. But there are some general "do's and don'ts" you can keep in mind as you start thinking about having that break-up conversation.
These "dos and don'ts" aren't just for break-ups. If someone asks you out but you're not really interested, you can follow the same guidelines for letting that person down gently.
What to Say and How to Say It
You've made the decision to break up. Now you need to find a good time to talk — and a way to have the conversation that's respectful, fair, clear, and kind. Break-ups are more than just planning what to say. You also want to consider how you will say it.
Here are some examples of what you might say. Use these ideas and modify them to fit your situation and style:
Relationships Help Us Learn
Whether they last a long time or a short time, relationships can have special meaning and value. Each relationship can teach us something about ourselves, another person, and what we want and need in a future partner. It's a chance for us to learn to care about another person and to experience being cared about.
A break-up is an opportunity to learn, too. It's not easy. But it's a chance to do your best to respect another person's feelings. Ending a relationship — as hard as it is — builds our skills when it comes to being honest and kind during difficult conversations.
Reviewed by: D'Arcy Lyness, PhD