5 Ways I've Learned to Break Up Better


Matthew Estes

I am not naive. I also know that no relationship is black and white, and each one consists of nuances unique to the couple. Any point you get to past “friendly dating” means there are intense emotional strings that tie two people together. Breaking up is one of the most difficult things to do in life, no matter what kind of emotional disposition either person had in or before the relationship.

A person usually comes to the point of wanting to break up when they don’t see a real future for the relationship. He may see the girl as “bad for him.” She may see him as “too clingy” or having no real potential to start a family. To be frank, it doesn’t matter who in the relationship feels this way, because as soon as those thoughts creep in it can be legitimate grounds for a breakup.

I don’t presume to be able to write a full-fledged “breakup guide” but I can try to help a little bit. If you're feeling stuck and need some help taking the first step, here are some ways to break up compassionately.

1. Do not procrastinate.

Do not drag out a relationship because you are looking forward to that Valentine’s Day date or going to see that big concert together (or, you know, prom). Critical relationship events are worth more than that. That kind of thinking will only serve to damage the two of you and it forces you to endure high stress a little bit longer. Sure, breakups cause more immediate pain, but it is far better than long term speculation and stress caused by suspense and inaction.

2. Don't confuse false hope for kindness.

Do not give the person you are with any false hope. Don’t say “maybe sometime in the future” or “I just need some time.” Allow the person to simply move on; time to adjust and try to rebuild his/her life. Most importantly, don’t say “I love you” during a breakup to try to console him or her. You don’t, or you won’t forever, and that’s okay.

3. Off-again/on-again relationships suck.

You can’t “ween a person off of you.” It's the ultimate form of holding someone in suspense, and I’m pretty sure should be classified as torture. Am I saying you can never ever get back with that person? No. You never really know what will happen in your life. But don’t count on it. Sometimes, like Summer and Tom from (500) Days of Summer, it’s just not meant to be. Instead, when you're ready, open up space in your life to let new relationships develop organically.

4. You may not be able to salvage the friendship.

I’m so sorry. As important as this person was to you, breakups are often the self-destruct button for a friendship, no matter how close you two were before the relationship. This is often an unavoidable consequence of a breakup, and there’s usually nothing you can do about it. Breakups come with a price, and this is it.

5. Avoid rebound relationships.

Rebound relationships make a lot of people mad. They make your ex mad, they make you mad, and the person you got with will probably feel led on. Have you ever heard a happily married person say, “I married a person I was in a rebound relationship with?”

No? Me neither.

I know it’s tough, but eventually you will move on. Just like with a death or injury, the pain subsides eventually. Time passes, people change, and you eventually find the person you’ll find true happiness with.

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