How To End A Relationship
One of the most awkward stages to reach in any relationship is its end—especially if that end isn’t mutual. If you’re ready to get out, how do you do it without inflicting too much emotional damage? While you’re sure to upset your ex, and probably yourself, you can still try to lessen the blow.
Billy from Pittsburgh, PA writes:
“I need to break up with my girlfriend. I really care about her, but it’s not working out. This isn’t something that can be saved, and I know I won’t change my mind, at least not with things the way they are now. How do I tell her? I don’t want to hurt her, but I have to, don’t I?”
Hi Billy. I’m sorry to hear that things aren’t going well with your girlfriend. You said that you won’t change your mind with things as they are—is there a circumstance which might change your mind?
You shouldn’t drag this out any longer than you need to in order to get your thoughts organized. At the same time, you don’t want to rush a break up, or you might say something you’ll regret—and it’s often hard to apologize for these things after ending a relationship. If you do think you can keep a level head, then it’s best to break up now rather than later before emotions build up any more. There’s also a basic trust issue here. The longer you think about a break up without doing something about it, the less honest you are being, even if your intentions aren’t bad.
When you announce your decision, explain to the girl all the same things you said in your letter to me. Tell her that you do care about her. If you want to stay friends, tell her that. Let her know why it isn’t working out. If she’s done something to hurt you, explain that honestly and openly, but without accusing. If, like you hinted, under other circumstances you might be interested in getting back together, tell her what those circumstances would be. But if you are absolutely sure that you don’t want to leave the door open in the future, tell her firmly so that she doesn’t expend time and energy on you that she could be putting into her next relationship.
Make sure that you give her some space and time to express her feelings, and if applicable, to defend her actions or explain them, even if you aren’t going to change your mind. The reason for this is that it will give closure to both of you, which will reduce the scars that this breakup will leave on both of you, making it easier for each of you to move on in your love lives, and also less likely that either of you will screw up in the same way with someone else in the future.
Breakups are always painful—but they don’t need to be destructive. By being open and compassionate, you can try to turn this experience into one which will be constructive for both of you.