The end of a close relationship can be very difficult to handle, even if you’re the instigator. Emotions can run high and couples are rarely at their best with each other. Harsh words may be said in anger and sometimes it’s not possible to even identify our feelings or know how to properly express them. This article aims to help those who have decided to break up with their partner to do so respectfully and with self-awareness, for the benefit of both parties.
Accept Your Difficult Choice
Deciding to break up with a significant other can take weeks, months, or years, but now you know you’re ready to move on, alone. The first step in initiating a mature break-up is to accept that even though your decision may cause hurt and disruption it is the right choice. Continuing in an unfulfilling relationship only delays the inevitable and saves no-one from hurt. Accept your choice and accept that such a choice is not usually made in a vacuum. There will likely have been many influences, not all within your control, that lead you to where you are today.
Anticipate Strong Emotions and Accept them as Valid
As the initiator of the break-up, you may be surprised by your feelings and the depth of them. You may wonder why, if breaking up is what you want, you feel as badly as you do. Many emotions can present themselves. For example, you may feel guilty because you’re hurting someone you once cared for. You may feel frustrated because your relationship didn’t work out. There may be sadness and a sense of loss for what you once both shared. You may even resent your partner if you believe they drove you to break up with them. After all, why couldn’t they just make you happy? All these feelings and many others are perfectly normal. By anticipating a mixed range of complex and sometimes powerful emotions — and accepting them — you can alleviate some of the confusion that may arise and be kind to yourself during this difficult time.
Avoid Devaluing as a Coping Mechanism
No-one likes to feel bad so it’s natural to find ways to cope. One strategy is to look back at the relationship and try to reduce its importance to you. This can ease the pain of goodbye because if the relationship was not very important, then surely its loss is no big deal. Another reason we devalue to cope is when we feel wronged and this usually stems from anger. Here we may say things like “Why did I even bother with them?”. Finally, sometimes we devalue because we don’t trust ourselves to not return to our partner. If we can convince ourselves that the relationship was of less value than it was, why would we consider going back? Devaluing as a coping mechanism is another perfectly normal response to a difficult situation, but it’s helpful to recognize it for what it is.
Choose Growth Over Negativity
Every relationship teaches us something. Rather than view the relationship negatively, look for what it taught you. Did you learn something about yourself? Are you more aware now of what you want and don’t want in a relationship, or what you need in a person? Even though the relationship ended, look for the good in it and how it benefited you.
Accept Your Partner’s Imperfections — and Your Own!
In the midst of a break-up, it’s easy to focus on all that was wrong with your ex, but the likelihood is that even though they were bad for you, they are not simply a “bad” person. Accepting that none of us is perfect and that we each have our flaws will help you come to terms with your differences and avoid harbouring a grudge. Grudges can take hold of our lives if we let them, and that can hinder moving on freely and finding peace and happiness.
Embrace the Future
Starting out anew and alone can be daunting. There is a certain comfort in having a partner, even if that partner is not quite right for you. It’s natural to wonder what the future may hold now that you’re single again. Will you love again? When will that be? What if you regret your decision? It’s important to understand that these are normal questions associated with entering a new phase of life. Letting go sometimes requires courage and courage does not mean you don’t feel afraid; it means taking the necessary action even though you feel afraid. With each relationship, you will learn and grow and build resilience as you face your next challenge.
Going through a breakup can be intensely stressful and while you may not be able to avoid negative feelings, you can choose how you manage them. Anticipating and accepting your feelings, and focussing on the positive and what can be learned, is a responsible approach to breaking up that will help you heal and be well-placed emotionally for your next relationship.
If you are experiencing difficulty with a relationship, we can help.