Welcome to Better Sex With Dr. Lexx, a monthly column where sex therapist, educator and consultant Dr. Lexx Brown-James shares expertise, advice and wisdom about sex, relationships and more. Approaching education about sex as a life-long endeavor — “from womb to tomb” — Dr. Lexx (AKA The #CouplesClinician) is your guide to the shame-free, medically accurate, inclusive and comprehensive conversations for you, your partner and your whole family.
With Spring in the air, we see the signals pointing to the end of winter and the potential of everything blossoming again. During Spring, the adage ‘out with the old and in with the new’ becomes an embodied saying as many relationship endings take place. It seems this time of year — a month after Valentine’s Day, when the weather changes, and right before summer takes over — is a prime break-up season for lovers. However, just because it seems to be a popular time for breakups, doesn’t mean that those break-ups have to feel like emotional warfare.
So many articles discuss what to do when dumped and how to get over being dumped, which is needed and necessary. Not a lot of articles, however, talk about how to end a relationship amicably— especially when there is still care between the people involved. People who are ending relationships are also often hurting too because ending a relationship can be hard. Planning a break-up with someone is full of anticipation, anxiety, guilt, fear, and the realization that there will be some level of unpleasantness. Here are a few ways to reduce unpleasant experiences when ending a relationship.
Once you are sure about ending the relationship, do so in person if able and safe.
Ending relationships and intimacy bonds can be shocking for the other person, if you fear that person lashing out or causing you harm do not break up in person — a call or facetime works. If you have no fear of repercussion, remember that text messages and emails can be misinterpreted. Direct contact is best so that a person understands exactly what you are communicating and has a chance to ask questions and clarify reasons around this ending.
Be clear on your reasons for ending the relationship.
Communicate your reasons with clarity and succinctly without criticizing or tearing down your fresh ex-lover. You have made the decision to end the relationship and you can own what you desire for your future. Try to avoid blame or moral superiority and instead make it clear ending this relationship is what you need for health, success or growth.
Take responsibility for your parts.
Own the parts of the relationship where you could have done differently and if there are ongoing responsibilities name how you plan to maintain them. This may include custody of children, payment of bills, or work responsibilities. In ending the relationship, access to those responsibilities may change and it is up to you to share your plan on ensuring how those responsibilities will be maintained.
Make your boundaries clear.
With ending a relationship there are certain intimacies that no longer take place and will take some getting used to. If you want to block someone on social media, take down pictures, end daily contact, or ask for a period of time to return items, make that clear in this conversation. Stating boundaries is not cold, nor mean, it helps clarify the end of the relationship and set expectations for the path forward.
Respect your newly ex-lover’s boundaries as well.
When ending a relationship, it is often evident to the person who is going to end the relationship before the other person is privy to the idea and information. So, there may be a level of shock and a need for separation to gain some semblance of what exactly is happening. This may mean that your fresh ex-partner might be reeling, hysterical, confused, and deeply hurt. They may need time to figure out how to respond, sort through questions, or process the break-up. Be flexible and genuine on what you are willing to commit to if this is the case.
Initiation of sex, physical intimacy and booty calls are a no-go.
Ending a relationship, especially when it has been physical can also signal a loss and a fear regarding scarcity when it comes to having successful physical intimacy in the future. If you are sure about breaking up, it’s best to end intimacy in all ways — including physically. Being physically intimate after so many intimate feelings have been exchanged only creates more confusion and makes a thoughtful break-up more difficult.
Be prepared to lose connections, social access and family bonds.
When relationships build, it is inevitable that social circles, friends, and even family members might become shared by the couple. When it is time to break up, think about who makes sense for you to stay connected too and realize that they might not want to stay connected after the break-up.
Ending a relationship is necessary sometimes, and it does not have to become an ongoing, drama-filled saga. Breaking up with compassion, thoughtfulness, and care is possible with some clear thought, pre-planning and clear boundary definition.
So, as Spring blossoms, if you’re thinking of ending a relationship and you want it to end amicably, contemplate the important pieces for you to communicate, boundaries you need to move forward and partner needs you’re willing to consider while moving forward during separation.
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