If you’re in a relationship and breaking up is weighing on your mind, it might be time for the hardest part: telling the person you love something that will inevitably hurt them. But is there a “right” way to end the love relationship?
How you should part ways depends on your specific experience with your partner, and no two breakups are the same. It’s never easy to say goodbye to someone you love—and sometimes deciding how to break up can be more difficult than dealing with these uncertain feelings, to begin with. But when you know the end is inevitable, it’s only harder for both people to put it off. So instead of worrying about the things that could go wrong, we asked love relationship experts Sameer Sullivan and Dr. Paulette Sherman about moving on (and being fair to the people we care about).
Read on to find out the experts’ advice on how to break up with a partner you still love.
Before the Breakup
1. Make sure breaking up is what you really want.
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Relationship issues sometimes look like one thing on the surface, but when you dig deeper, you’ll find there’s something bigger that needs addressing. Are you at different life stages? Or is your partner rushing you to move to the next level? Are they a workaholic? Or are you feeling insecure about your own career path? “If you notice an issue, I think first you want to ask yourself, is that really all it is or is there something else going on there? Are you feeling pressured? Is it a commitment issue?” Dardashti says. Take a step back and an honest look at what your doubts are actually about — you might be able to find a solution to your concerns without having to break up.
2. Have an open conversation about your priorities and deal-breakers.
As you get older, you realize that compatibility is about more than whether you get along. It means where you want to live, how much you work if children are in the cards. Although it may seem intimidating, sitting down with your partner to discuss what you do and don’t want from life can save you from heartbreak in the future. “Do that early on in the relationship,” Dardashti says. “Not too early, but at a certain point so that it doesn’t hit you by surprise to find out ‘Oh yeah, this person doesn’t want to have kids.’ You don’t want to be blindsided.”
3. Once you’ve made the decision to break up, stick with it.
Sometimes it’s hard to turn off your emotions when your partner is sitting right in front of you. You’re about to say the words … but then you notice how cute they look, and you start thinking about all the good times you’ve had, and suddenly you begin to question why you wanted to break up with them in the first place. This is where willpower comes in. “If you’re ready to make the decision [to break up], then it’s important to be firm about it, and not do this push/pull with your partner and make them think that there’s hope when there’s not,” Dardashti says. “The most important part is the conviction of knowing that the issue is more important than your momentary feelings of affection and adoration.”
4. Accept that it’s going to be uncomfortable.
Breakups suck, and no amount of Google searching or Reddit forums will give you the magic solution to make them better. “There is no easy way to break up,” Dardashti says. “You just do it and prepare yourself for the fact that it’s going to be uncomfortable.” Just because it’s uncomfortable doesn’t mean that it’s not the right thing to do. “I think a lot of the time nowadays people don’t do things in the service of avoidance,” Dardashti says. “We’ve become so afraid of being uncomfortable that we avoid being really honest with the people around us.” Remember that the discomfort you’ll feel in the moment is ultimately better than continuing to lead your partner on.
After the Breakup
5. Respect their boundaries when it comes to communication.
The hardest part of being broken up might be the transition from being best friends and romantic partners to strangers. If you or your ex needs a break to process and heal. “Whether you find that staying in contact with the person makes it harder to stick to your conviction or is giving the other person false hope, then that’s a moment where you have to reassess whether it’s a good idea to stay in contact for now,” Dardashti says. If they ask for space on social media as well, respect their wishes. This doesn’t mean that a friendship won’t be possible in the future just that they need time and space in the meantime.
6. Rely on your support system.
Once you’re single again, you’ll probably have more time than you know what to do with. That means it’s a good time to reconnect with old friends or re-familiarize yourself with an old hobby or pastime. Healthy distractions are key. “We know that having a community is incredibly powerful has a positive factor in mental health and physical health. So when you’re going through stress like a breakup, it’s even more important to really allow yourself to be vulnerable and talk to someone you trust about what you’re going through,” Dardashti says. You might also consider talking to a professional. After a breakup, it can be helpful to talk to a therapist about what you’re feeling and what you want to avoid in the future Love.