How To Break Up…Without Breaking The Person

How to break up without breaking the person

A break up can make or break a person. Literally. It can affect their world view…it can affect how they see people and how they navigate through life. What’s worse is that the longer and more serious the relationship was, the worse the negative effects can be if the breakup is not done right. Before I get into these points, its important to say that breaking up with someone is not a bad thing. Sometimes relationships don’t work even with good people…or how about the breakups with the person in church!!! Those are the worst right!!! The ones where the person is otherwise a nice person and you actually care about them but just don’t want to continue a relationship with them …or ones where you made a commitment to a wedding but are calling it off… its REALLY important to handle breakups well.

Now…its also important to note that I am not talking about breaking up a marriage (calling off a wedding is not the same thing as breaking up a marriage) Here, I am talking about a non-marriage relationship….I am talking about everything before the status of “married”

So if you are going to break up with someone…if you’re going to call the relationship quits with this otherwise nice person, then these are a few important things to know or do:

1. Think long and hard about why, and give CLEAR and HONEST reasons as best as you can:

When you are breaking up with someone, don’t just hide behind vague speech or cliché phrases. “Its not you its me” Well, what exactly is it about you???. “We are on two different paths” Really? Are you moving to the North Pole and I can’t come?

Contrary to popular opinion, you shouldn’t sugar coat everything when you are breaking up with someone.  Be honest and be clear. This is only possible when you have thought long and hard not just about how you feel “right now”, but about the relationship and how it has evolved to the point of breakup.

2. Don’t just DECLARE, DESCRIBE.

I am frustrated! I am Hurt! I am upset! Those are just declarations of state. What we need to do (and I teach this as one of the tools for sharing how you feel), is to describe the state. So instead of just saying “I have been frustrated”, you can say “I have felt emotionally alone in the relationship and overwhelmed by the burden of being the one more interested in improving the relationship”  ….or whatever “being frustrated” means to you. This will help them make sense (if not at the point if break up but soon enough) of the breakup.

Or, if there is a behavior that has become detrimental to the relationship, don’t just declare it, describe it. So don’t just say “I’m leaving you because of your anger …or your insecurities…or whatever” why? Because those things in of themselves are not necessarily what may be detrimental to the relationship, but HOW they manifest and affect the relationship may be the problem. So describe those. That sounds like: “ Your anger quickly transitions into a rage and when  that happens, you become irrational,  violent and it becomes impossible for me to calm you by myself” …or “Your insecurities affects us because you make me feel guilty about every social interaction with the opposite sex and that is beginning to affect my self-esteem”.

So don’t just declare your state or the reason for the breakup…describe instead.

3. Take responsibility for your part!

Hello! It takes Two! It is an honorable thing to think about and be able to articulate the roles YOU played in the failure of the relationship. Don’t just finger point and accuse the other person for the break up. It is childish and selfish. Make sure that as much as you are honest with them about the role they played, don’t leave yourself out of that failure. That may be as simple as you not speaking up 6 months ago when a behavior started to bother you, and letting it fester till it was impossible to fix. Take time to think about and articulate how you contributed to the relationship’s failure. And please…spare us…unless you are Jesus, you have flaws.

4. Think: What’s In It For Them?

Surely you’re not the only one that will benefit from a breakup from the wrong relationship. The difference is, YOURE not the one being caught unawares so do them the honor of helping them see how this breakup may serve them well too if not now but in the future.  They may not see it now but that’s where you come in. Remember, you had the luxury of time to think this through…help them take steps towards discovering what you already have.

5. Don’t Run away from the reaction:

Both ladies and men do this …but in different ways. Many ladies (being conflict averse in these types of situations) might pull the slow-kill card where they let the relationship die slowly…slowly withdrawing, to the point where the man gradually sees what’s happening, brings it up and then she announces her exit, using the recent decline as the spring board to leave.

Men do it too but on the other side of the extreme…by trying to break up very Matter-Of-Factly so they don’t generate a reaction or so they can get out of the situation before a full emotional reaction.

Don’t do that. Be mature enough to sit back and allow them to vent and ask questions, cry, and attempt to understand. Remember that up until that moment, you are probably the closest person they have so give them the emotional permission and space to react….to cry …to be upset…to vent (Of course safely. If you are dealing with a person prone to abuse, then consider that and act accordingly)

6. Tell them why it can’t (or shouldn’t ) be fixed:

If you are breaking up with someone who cares about you, one of the most prominent questions on their mind is: “Why cant we try to fix this?” and you must think about the answer to that. For real…can it be fixed?…SHOULD it be fixed? Why shouldn’t we try …or try again? Again…be honest but think about this beforehand. In fact…if you do this right, you may realize that the relationship IS actually worth saving and you’ll be able to identify HOW.

7. Tell them what to expect…and why:

The other major question on the person’s mind is “So what now?” “How will this breakup play out?” So tell them what to expect. For example, tell them that as hard as it may be, you are going to be giving them (and yourself) space to work through this. Explain to them that you’re there for them when they need you but that you will probably be distancing yourself from them NOT because you suddenly hate them but because you are trying honor them (and yourself)…by not sending mixed messages and preventing them ( or you) from moving on. That said, you want to be there for them to answer any questions or give clarity about anything.

8. Let your pain show in words and in action:

If you indeed care about this person as a human being…as a person, this should be difficult for you…and its ok to let that show. Its ok to let the other person know how hard this is for you. In fact, if you do that, and still move forward with the break up, it shows that the breakup was that important to go through with. It says that even though we are breaking up, there are good things about our relationship that are difficult to let go of. Don’t put on your poker face or bold face and try to be all unemotional about it.

9. Do NOT try to save face by talking them down to others so that you look justified for breaking up:

You know…when mutual friends or their own friends/family ask you why you broke up with that person and you proceed to say things that should be private, or you exaggerate disagreements or you vomit out the other person’s faults just so you look like you had a justified reason for the break up. Don’t do that. You may not still be in a relationship with that person but you can still respect them. Be polite and respectful. This is when you can be general and let them know that you still respect this person. Trust me. This is what will actually build respect for you with those people and with your Ex.

Special note to the men. Even if your mutual lady friend hates your Ex G. Friend right now, they could be best friends by the time you have finished reading this sentence. I don’t have an explanation for this :o)

10. Don’t be the first to announce it to your mutual friends:

Don’t break up and then proceed to tell all your mutual friends. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell YOUR close friends even if they are mutual friends, it just means that you respect the fact that they are your Ex’s friends too. If you can, let the news get to them from your Ex or at the very least, let those friends be the ones to ask you, not you just divulging the information.

Let your Ex release this information at their own pace as much as possible. Remember again that you had the luxury of a few days or weeks or months to contemplate this breakup but they just got hit with a breakup brick.

11. Set the tone with mutual friends:

When the news does get out, be very quick to set the tone with those mutual friends. Why? Because they will feed off you. If you sound bitter and nasty, they will take the cue from you. But if you sound respectful and instruct them to handle you both with respect, they will.

12. Tell them HOW you are going to honor them through the process:

When someone is going through a breakup, one of the scariest thoughts going through their minds is “How to face the people out there” . Especially if this was a serious relationship that people knew of. The friends, coworkers, family members who will have a thousand questions and will inadvertently remind them of the break up. Well, don’t leave it to assumption. Tell them how you’re going to honor them….that you won’t talk them down…that you’ll keep private things private, that even though you are not in a relationship with them, you still respect them.

13. Pray for them:

Huh? Yea. Do you know how many women turn into sexual sin or sinful lifestyles or become unable to have healthy trusting relationships because they were hurt by a man (even if he had fair reasons). Do you know how many men turn into emotional abusers in marriage or become incapable of ever being vulnerable in relationships because some girl in college thought he didn’t have feelings and shouldn’t feel emotional pain because he was male?

Pray that they find healing, pray that they find the right one that will love them how Christ intended for them to be loved. Pray that the break up wont break them.  Pray that they will find comfort and that the breakup will be just as good for them as you think it will be good for you.

14. Once you break UP, start to Break OFF:

Don’t send mixed messages. Calling them frequently, going over to visit, hanging out often…no. Allow them to work through this.

Be there to make sure they have some cushion for their fall…but once they land, you need to let them get up alone.

If you’re breaking up, break up and make that clear. This is not the same as “taking time off”. Don’t give false hope. Release this person and be strong enough to help them release you. At first you want to be there to take those calls to answer questions, to talk and transition. But very soon afterwards, you need to stop hanging out or talking past a certain time at night and so on.

Anticipate and be there for a time of transition where you are there for them as they work this out but make it short.

15. Met someone new? Tell them:

Do them the favor of telling them first if you do move on to someone else somewhat shortly after that breakup. Again, this is not really necessary if you are no longer in touch, you don’t speak or if the breakup was a long time ago. However, if you still have a platonic relationship, then tell them…It’s a whole new wave of emotions when an Ex (you in this case) gets married or moves into a new relationship before them. How you handle this can really help to seal closure for them too.

So, if there is a combination of any TWO of these elements, tell them when you meet someone new:

i) You are still in the same small community (church, school, team etc) , AND/OR
ii) You still communicate on a platonic level, AND/OR
iii) You did the breaking up, and are the first to start a new relationship

Break ups are hard no matter who you are …especially for the one who is being broken up with. Man or Woman, being left can be devastating…and just because you are breaking up with someone doesn’t mean you can’t still CARE about them. Just because the relationship didn’t work, doesn’t mean the PERSON doesnt deserve your respect.

When you are in a relationship with someone, your commitment to care for them is not “just” for how you HAVE the relationship. If this person is indeed someone you care about and if this person is otherwise a good person, then that commitment extends to how you END the relationship too.

Have you ever been through a bad breakup and wished they did any of these points? Have you ever had to end a relationship with a good person? Your thoughts? Comment below.