Everyone knows being dumped is the absolute pits — but being the breaker-upper can be just as bad. Especially if your soon-to-be-ex-significant other hasn’t done anything really wrong. Maybe the love just isn’t there anymore and you want to move on. But how to do it in a way that honors what you used to have — and do it with integrity and maturity? Sure, everyone knows you don’t dump your fiancé by text message (though many do!) but there are so many other ways you can move on and still keep your soul intact.
1. Be honest
When you’re about to break the heart of someone you may still truly care about, you may be tempted to tell him or her you suddenly have to move to Moldavia. Perhaps you’ll even be tempted to fake your own death. But stop. This isn’t about you and your awkward feelings — there comes a time when everyone must grow up and face difficult situations and this is one of them.
Psychotherapist Sharon Martin says: “Honesty is the best approach in breaking up with someone you’ve fallen out of love with. You can gently let your partner know that your feelings have changed and it’s time to go separate ways. Sometimes your partner will recognize that s/he feels similarly. However, it can be quite painful if your partner is still in love with you and is not ready to break up. In my opinion, the most mature and thoughtful thing to do is tell the truth and trust that in time your partner will see this as an opportunity in disguise.”
Remember, you do have the right to opt out of a relationship. You don’t have a right to leave your partner in utter confusion as you “plan” your trip to Moldavia.
2. Avoid blame as the easy way out
While it might be tempting to blame your partner for the demise of your feelings which allows you to feel less guilty, it’s better to take ownership of your feelings and thoughts. After all, if it’s all about your partner, then he or she will likely promise that everything will change. But if you’re certain this is what you want, that won’t work. Own up to your feelings. Relationship coach Rebecca Wong says, “When we love someone, but realize for whatever reason that it simply isn’t working (it happens, there are deal breakers) it’s best to step into our why and take responsibility by describing our needs and feelings. To do this be gentle, avoid critiquing your partner, avoid blame, describe yourself and your inner world rather then what’s wrong with your partner. This will help you manage the inevitable conflict that accompanies the disappointment of a breakup and also help each of you be more open and aware of how to soothe one another in the process.”
NYU professor of psychiatry Irene S. Levine concurs, saying, “You can remind that individual that no one is necessarily at fault or to blame. You can explain that the time you spent together was real and worthwhile.” Remember, you have a right to your feelings — even if, at the moment, they don’t make much sense.
3. No ghosting
So the time has come for you to end your relationship, this doesn’t mean the time has come for you to be a complete asshat. If you’ve spent any significant amount of time with your partner, or moved to physical intimacy, or even had more than a couple of dates, you owe your partner a goodbye. You do not have to defend your decision, or blame, or explain. But disappearing because you don’t want to risk any kind of an awkward scene is for cowardly babies. Life is full of awkwardness — stand in your integrity and realize you have a right to move on — and your partner has a right to know you aren’t being held hostage in someone’s basement.
4. No texting/emailing your breakup
This might seem like an obvious tip but shockingly, one survey showed that over 50 percent of people do their breaking up by digital means. While I think this is OK in some cases — in others, it is absolutely wrong. Someone you’ve been seriously involved with but who hasn’t done anything to betray you or otherwise bust the boundaries of your relationship is owed an in-person chat. Says author of Successful Second Marriages Patricia Bubash, “For sure, don’t send it in an email or a text. Relationships change, one person might find they are no longer in love. Once that becomes a realization, do not continue seeing this person ‘to let them down easy.’ Make a date somewhere that allows for privacy to tell them that the relationship has come to an end. Begin the conversation on a positive note: ‘We have had a good time together, created great memories, and this is about me, and what I think is best for both of us for our future. I will always care about you, hold you in high regard, but at this time, I am ending the relationship.'”
Good advice, though you may not want to prepare a “romantic” date for your breakup. Ask to meet at a coffee shop, park or even your living room. No sense having your significant other spending an hour getting ready or buying a new outfit for what may likely be the last time you see him or her. Psychiatrist Carole Lieberman suggests that if you fear your significant other may keep interrupting your breakup speech, then write it all down on a card, and hand it to him or her. “Be warm and compassionate and open to answering any questions he [or she] may have,” she says.
5. Be firm
When you’re breaking up with someone who isn’t necessary an asshat, it can be tempting to be wishy-washy and open-ended, making the person feel like there’s still a chance — perhaps your ego even enjoys that the person will cling on, trying to win you back. But that isn’t fair to your partner. Avoid declarations like, “If only you had helped me clean up the house more, things could have been different,” or “If you’d been more romantic, maybe things wouldn’t be like this.” If chores or romance is the problem, then say that, and work out that issue. You don’t break up to get what you want. Realize that hanging around longer to avoid hurting the other person, or avoid feeling like a heel, is only going to make things worse in the long run. Says relationship expert Shuntai Beaugard: “If you stay, someone is bound to pay.”
6. Be careful
If there’s even the smallest hint that someone may not take the breakup well and may even in fact become angry or violent, retired CIA man B.D. Foley, author of CIA Street Smarts for Women: Spy Skills to tell the Prince from the Predator, says you should take precautions: “She [or he] can meet him in a semi-public setting, and consider having friends or family close by, such as in an adjacent room or lobby. Just having others in the vicinity might be enough to preempt and avoid any emotional or violent outbursts on his part. She should consider following the CIA elements of a termination by being fair, firm, and final.” It goes without saying that if your gut instinct is telling you this person may cause you harm, do not worry about being “rude” by not having face-to-face interaction — your safety comes first.
7. Now go away
You’ve broken up with your ex, possibly hurt that person very badly, now let him or her heal. This means not checking in with little messages asking if everything is OK, and declaring once again how much you loved this person. And for the love of Pete, do not insist that the two of you should be friends! This is only going to give him or her hope where there should not be hope, and stall him or her moving on. Maybe that is your goal? Be honest with yourself about what you’re doing — chances are your ego wants to keep the person “on ice” in case you change your mind. Be adult and don’t use someone who loved you for validation. Leave it in the dumpee’s court as to whether he or she wants to “check in” down the road.