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Breakups suck. I don’t care if you’re the dumper or the dumpee—regardless, you’re in a sucky position. However, there is one key difference between the two: as the dumper, you decide how this breakup unfolds. Or at least how this breakup begins to unfold. While there is no textbook equation for breaking up with someone you love, there are a few things you should keep in mind as you approach this difficult conversation. First, honesty is the best policy. Second, pain is inevitable. And lastly, closure is crucial. Lesli Doares, a communications coach and relationship expert, is here to help me explain these three significant points and advise you during this not-so-easy process.
Honesty is the Best Policy
I know you’ve heard this one before—it might be a cliché, but it couldn’t be truer when it comes to breakups. The best thing you can do for your partner and yourself is be honest about your feelings and decision to end the relationship. Doares says you need to first explain what isn’t working. “Keeping it about you and not laying blame on the other person removes some of the sting,” she explains. “Be specific about these things—not the trite ‘it’s not you, it’s me.’”
Once you’ve laid these cards on the table, you might decide to discuss the good: why you’re thankful for the time that you did have together, what you’ve learned about yourself, and how it has benefitted your life moving forward. “Express gratitude for learning these things and for the time you spent together,” she says. But avoid sending mixed signals and don’t be wishy-washy. As Doares explains, “offering the option of staying friends is cruel and can keep them from moving on.”
Pain: A Necessary Evil
Have you ever heard of a breakup that didn’t involve hurt feelings? Even if/when a breakup is mutual, someone gets hurt—in fact, more often than not, both parties experience pain. Because regardless of the reason for the split, it’s tough to part ways with someone you love and care for. Doares delves into this pain:
“There’s a reason why breaking up is hard to do. This is because it is almost impossible to do without hurt. This hurt is varied and impacts both people. First, is the hurt of the person who discovers their needs are not being met in the relationship. This may be followed by the hurt of not being able to make this happen despite real effort. Then, there is the hurt that comes with ending something you hoped would turn out differently—this is for both parties. So, the first step is to recognize that a breakup without hurt is impossible: even if both people recognize and agree that the relationship can’t work, and there are true good wishes for the other person.”
Remember this simple, yet hard-hitting truth when you approach this difficult conversation with your partner. Don’t minimize their feelings and don’t discount yours either. Let the pain come and accept it as the necessary evil it is: you and your significant other will heal, but only if you first open yourself to the hurt that comes with any breakup.
Closure and Clarity
As I just mentioned, breakups aren’t fun. They’re uncomfortable, they’re sad, they’re anxiety-inducing… but they’re also necessary. Ultimately, if you or your partner aren’t happy in or fulfilled by the relationship, then it’s best if you go your separate ways. And in realizing this, you can’t just run or disappear—you need to face the music, talk to your partner, and see that both of you get the closure you need. As Doares explains, this might mean having an extensive conversation, or even several conversations, about your relationship and your decision to end it; therefore, you should be ready to explain that decision:
“Don’t break up in the heat of the moment or use it as a threat. Also, make sure there is sufficient time to have a conversation—not to give them an opportunity to plead their case, but so there is time for them to process it. This may mean having more than one conversation about it. Again, the more clarity you have about the reason(s) for your decision, the less chance there is for any misunderstanding or unrealistic hope.” So, while it might be weighing heavy on your mind, you shouldn’t initiate this discussion until you’re actually ready and prepared to talk about the decision you have come to. Dedicate some time to thoroughly understanding yourself, and then open up. Remember to be completely honest, and surrender to whatever feelings may come flooding in.