How To Breakup Without Breaking Each Other

Guest Post by Samuel Laws

My grandparents both met in high school. They fell in love, grew a relationship and have built an amazing life together. I find it fascinating how much has changed in just a two generations of time. When I was in high school, my life revolved around playing basketball and finding a girlfriend. I’m now 26 years old, and have been in a total of three relationships.

I recently went through my most difficult break up yet. It’s not easy making a responsible decision that causes another human pain. While our relationships are intentional they don’t always go in the direction we hope. They unfold in real time through real experiences.


Sometimes, they can even leave us broken, hurting, and let down. Loving someone is a beautiful risk, one I still believe is worth taking. But consequently this risk requires a few necessary endings. It's my hope to steps that will turn hurt into healing, broken into beautiful, and let down to lift up.

People breakup, but they don’t have to break each other.

3 Ways to honor the person you’re breaking up with:

1. Say what needs to be said then stop talking.
Whatever you do, remember that regardless of how strong a person is, breaking up will produce feelings of rejection. Even if they want out of the relationship too! In times of pressure and distraught, we find ourselves ruled by our emotions. We use words like weapons and show body language determined to inflict pain. Be different. Lead with maturity. Get to the point, be sensitive to the moment, understand their humaness, but be short. No breakup should ever take longer than 15 minutes. Be strong enough to be brief.

2. Don’t hurt your reputation by trying to hurt theirs.
I’ve never been lucky enough to break up with someone who I didn’t share a friend circle with. This can be tough. You realize how intertwined your lives really are. Dinner, outings, the movies, events… they all change after a breakup. But one piece of wisdom reigns true: If you are in the same community, keep the negative stuff quiet. The last thing you want outsiders to do, is choose sides. You won't just lose a relationship, you’ll lose friends.

3. Give the greatest parting gifts possible: time and space.
Loneliness it hard. You were best friends. You talked for hours each day. It feels as if everything reminds you of something you did together. We must confront the reality of our emotional separation. Like velcro, your lives are slowly being ripped apart. And it will hurt. But as many wise men have said, “time heals all.” But this won't work if you continue to interject in the process. A text message, an email, an unexpected stop at their work. Your inability to cope with their absence will likely end up harming yourself and hurting them. Stick with space, it's the only strategy that always works. 

What has helped you navigate a healthy breakup? Let me know in the comments below.

Also, I found this interesting and slightly provocative infographic on the concept of breakovers. I expect you'll enjoy 🙂

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Comments

26 Responses

  1. Wow. I couldn’t have come across this at a better time. I’ve been considering a break up and have been putting it off to save his feelings, but I think I’m just making it worse in the process.

    1. It will only help him – and you. Honesty (particulary after so much vested energy in a relationship) is hard. But in the long run, worth it. (Talking from experience).
      And.. feeling loneliness later on and missing your ex doesn’t equate to have made the wrong decision. It’s all a part of the grieving process.

    2. So glad this came at such an important time in your life, Leanna. And you are right, postponing the inevitable is only going to make it harder and more hearthbreaking for him. Good luck!

  2. I’m actually going through a break up right now. We dated for two years and one day he says he thinks that God is telling him we shouldn’t get married. It crushed me to no end and now it’s been 5 months and I’m still hurting from it all. We haven’t stopped communicating, sometimes we’ll even talk on the phone for an hour or so. It’s been one of the toughest experiences in my life.

    1. Wow Brittany, I’m so sorry to hear that. Maybe cutting off communication would be the best case for you, kind of like ripping a band aid off. You’ll have to decide what hurts more, to stay in communication or to cut it off and do your best to move on. Good luck my friend

  3. When my ex broke up with me we didnt do any of these things – our break up took an hour or more, I had to tell all of our friends, and we decided that we could be mature and still stay friends. We dated for 6 months and it took me 3 months to get over him. It might’ve taken longer to get over him because we still were talking but I’m glad we never stopped because now I can still be his good friend. I don’t nessicarily disagree with today’s post, but in some situations these steps aren’t needed.

    1. I agree that every breakup isn’t cookie cutter, and that each has its individual circumstances. Glad you found a process that worked for you, Margaret 🙂

  4. My boyfriend of a year broke up with me out of the blue, six weeks ago and he constantly texts me and emails me to tell me he fells lonely and sad. We met last week for the first time since the break up, had coffee and he kissed me and held me in his arms. Then he left me again saying he thinks that meeting was a mistake. How am I supposed to heal when he is still giving me hope? It’s the most difficult and painful time I’ve ever experienced.

    1. I would ignore his texts and emails. Try to go out and have fun. Focus on yourself. Even if you do want him back, don’t make yourself available, don’t jump when he says frog. Most people want an equal partner. Hanging on after he broke up with you will just make you seem less. Even if you do go your separate ways, there are tons of men out there, maybe this is freeing you up for someone even better. Good luck

    2. Don’t allow him to drag you on with him. He’s using you for his low moments and that’s not okay. Remember you are worth more than that. Once you realize your value, you’ll be able to move on regardless of hearing from him or not!

  5. How do you approach breaking up with someone when you live together and are engaged? Things used to be so great but I’m just not happy anymore. I don’t know how to make the break without completely destroying them.

    1. This is NOT condemnation at all, please do not take this that way.
      This is part of why living with a partner before marriage is not a good idea. Living together without having the full commitment of a marriage can be difficult. I know you say you’re just not happy anymore, but maybe try living apart for a while again. If you still love and care for them. There are statistics (which I don’t have the numbers off-hand) that state how marriages that are preceded by living together have a higher rate of divorce than those couples who wait to live together until after getting married. I feel like there’s just some simple wisdom in that concept.
      Regardless of your decision and how this turns out for you…I wish you the best!

    2. There may not be any easy way to go about it Ashley, it’s just a difficult thing when you begin to build a life together. I would definitely encourage you to do what needs to be done though, and don’t just stay in your circumstance because it may be “easier” or less “sticky”. Sometimes you just have to focus on what’s best for you. It’s not your job to pick up his broken pieces.

  6. Thanks for sharing this article.
    First of all, I want to apologize for my “poor” english. I’m from Colombia, so, my first language is spanish. But I will try to explain my ideas the best way I can jejeje.

    Last year, my boyfriend dumped me. He decided to break up with me… by whatsapp. Yes, he just said to me “Annie, I don’t want to see you anymore. I met someone else and I’m confused…” It was really painful. I know there’s no “painless break up”, but I know that a “face to face” break up could be different (worthier). A face to face break up could have given me the chance to say goodbye, to look at his eyes and tell him for the last time “I love you… I love you so much. I forgive you”.
    Since that horrible day, we haven’t talked anymore. I removed his photos from my cell, I deleted his number, I blocked him from Facebook and Flickr… And yes, unfriend your ex is a good way to heal. But, in my case, I’m trying to delete him from my heart (that’s not easy), living this mourning for more than 13 months… and I feel that I’m still loving him, even he caused me a great pain. Sometimes I feel myself stuck in my own mourning. I’ve been trying to focus my mind in other things: working a lot, writing my M.Sc. thesis, painting, exercising… And those activities are great and my friends have been by my side to hear me and help me, but at the end of the day I begin to miss him and I fall asleep thinking of him.

    1. to look at his eyes and tell him for the last time “I love you… I love you so much. I forgive you”.

      Well certainly did win me over.

      I am sorry for your loss.
      Hope you feel better

    2. “True love doesn’t have a happy ending, because true love never ends. Letting go is one way of saying, ‘I love you.’ “~Unknown

      This supports the notion that we never stop loving someone, all that happens is we learn to love them enough to understand that being without them is for the best. I have found that keeping my ex’s as friends has been of great help because they know well enough (and care enough) to always give me an honest opinion. I’ve only had three girl friends and have been single for about 3 years. Knowing what resulted in the break ups and having people that know me in a relationship setup has made finding a new girlfriend/future wife a lot easier. I know what to fix to be the best possible version of me for the person who will be my significant other.

  7. Closure on both sides helps tremendously. When you get dumped, you don’t get that closure and it takes a long time to heal.

      1. Hi Glori, I was recently dumped in a way that was sharp and he sounded angered. He was fine but it didn’t help my healing and have been looking for ways to get better. I’m finding little info on the actual act of “closure” unless it has to do with sudden loss- i.e. death of a loved one.

  8. Hi Dale,
    What do you do with feelings of hope and wanting to end up together some day even if that isn’t your main focus right now? Is it best to cut off the communication anyway? Loving someone so deeply, the idea of not having them in my life at all just sucks.

    1. Hi, I saw you didn’t have a response, so I wanted to reply. You have to do this in a ‘you-like’ way, and not try to imitate or recreate anyone else’s reaction to a break-up. Own your disappointment, because hiding it and pretending you are fine will only make it worse. We have all felt that way about someone, and everyone has dealt with a break-up that shook them too the roots, but you can either let it make or break you. Don’t, whatever you do, get back together with your ex, because you know how the story ends this time, but it will be much more painful the second time you break up.
      Instead, try to write a list of negatives about your ex, don’t shout them out, don’t write it on Facebook, and definitely don’t show anyone, but use it to balance yourself whenever you feel low about your ex. write a new negative every time you can think of one, and soon you will be left with that glorious, ‘we are great as friends, but I’m so glad we aren’t anything more’ feeling.
      good luck.

  9. Hi Dale,
    Mine is bit different story. The guy, I fall in love was already married and he did not tell me about it. When I proposed him, he started avoiding me and broke all the possible contacts with me. After, around 1.5 years, we again came in to contact with each other and he told me that he was separating from his wife. I thought, he must have got married during those years when we were not in contact with each other. However, later i got to know from his very close friend that, when we (Me and the guy) first met he was already married since two years. I still feel for him and told him that I would love to get married with you when you would separate from your wife. On the one hand he claims to love me a lot and on the other hand he says that he was not sure whether he would separate from his wife or not. He also suggest me to go away from him which is highly impossible for me. I do not know what to do? I try to divert my mind, however at the end of the day, I miss him a lot.

  10. a minute ago
    “True love doesn’t have a happy ending, because true love never ends. Letting go is one way of saying, ‘I love you.’ “~Unknown

    This supports the notion that we never stop loving someone, all that happens is we learn to love them enough to understand that being without them is for the best. I have found that keeping my ex’s as friends has been of great help because they know well enough (and care enough) to always give me an honest opinion. I’ve only had three girl friends and have been single for about 3 years. Knowing what resulted in the break ups and having people that know me in a relationship setup has made finding a new girlfriend/future wife a lot easier. I know what to fix to be the best possible version of me for the person who will be my significant other.

  11. I have been with my boyfriend for 4 years, we have lived together for almost a year. I am 6 years younger than him, I am not as ready for marriage and kids as he is and as soon. He does everything to please me, i love him but I have no passion left and i don’t want to string him along to see if something in me changes. I have no idea how to approach this. He is so head over heels and I am closed off.

Comments are closed.