Ending of a Relationship

There are always questions that arise when a relationship ends. Is there a good way to break up with someone? How do I survive a breakup? What can I do if I am alone.


Photo of couple sitting apart on a bench.

Is There a Good Way to Breakup With Someone?

Do Not Postpone a Breakup

Breaking up with someone is never easy to do. There is no good way to end a relationship and spare someone’s feelings at the same time. It does not make sense to think that you can end things on one hand and comfort your hurting partner on the other hand. You cannot fix this for them or make it go away. Each of you needs to deal with the pain of the breakup separately. Before, you comforted each other and now it is no longer appropriate. Below are some ideas of how to make the breakup as bearable as possible for both parties involved. Postponing a breakup in order to spare someone’s feelings does not work. Usually the partner knows that something in the relationship is not right, although he or she may not know what it is. If asked, most people would not want someone to stay with them out of pity or a sense of obligation. The hurt of a breakup can be greatly compounded if your partner finds out you have wanted to end things for some time. He or she usually ends up wondering just how much of the relationship was, in fact, a lie.

Avoid Cowardly Breakup Attempts

There are, of course, some truly wimpy ways to break up. They include such things as avoiding your partner, not returning phone calls or emails, acting like such a jerk that your partner breaks up with you, and cheating on your partner in such a way that he or she is likely to find out. These techniques add to the hurt of the breakup because your partner ends up having to go through a period of uncertainty and confusion about what is going on.

Be Respectful

The kindest way to break up is to be honest about what is going on with you and how you feel about the relationship. When giving an explanation, try to avoid blaming the other person or putting them down. It is best to avoid calling someone names or screaming obscenities at them, regardless of how hurt or angry you are. Ending a relationship is one thing, degrading your partner while doing so is another. You are layering pain on top of pain. And sometimes the degrading hurts more than the ending. If, on the other hand, they get upset and begin yelling and calling you names, you can excuse yourself and tell them you will talk to them later. Staying around for that sort of abuse and degradation does not even the score or make up for you having hurt them.

Realize the Difficulty Involved in Post Relationship Friendships

Lastly, couples often want to go back to just being friends after a breakup. It may be possible to get to a friendly point if the breakup is mutual and if the painful feelings of ending things have healed. Even if you have a friendly relationship with your ex, however, it is not one of being “just friends.” It is impossible to erase your history together and go back to a time when you were just friends. It becomes an “ex” sort of relationship, friendly or not.


Photo of a couple with relationship problems.

How Do I Survive a Breakup?

When a breakup occurs, regardless of who initiated it, there is a huge hole in your life for a time. Even if the breakup is your idea, feelings of loss are normal. Suddenly there is a vacuum where this other person used to be. There will not be phone calls, lunches, movies, meeting after class, an automatic date to the party this weekend.... It will amaze you how much of your life revolved around this other person!

So how do you cope with this vacuum?! Unfortunately, there is not an easy answer. The same things do not work for everyone. You grieve a lot, and in between the grieving you work at filling in the vacuum. You go out with friends instead of your ex-partner. You try new activities, things you did not have time to do before when you were in a relationship. You stay busy. You plan ahead for difficult times (regular times you talked or saw each other, anniversaries, etc.). Don’t be surprised when grief blindsides you at odd, unexpected moments. Give yourself permission to feel the loss.

You have lost this one place in the world that gave you opportunities and reasons to do things. Hopefully you have other places in the world with other people that will help get you through this loss. If your romantic relationship was the only meaningful relationship you had in the world, then you are in for a really hard time, especially if your partner is the one who ended it. Surviving breakups well is a really good reason to have lots of other supportive relationships. If you do find yourself alone in the world or having difficulty coping, please know that there are counselors in the Counseling Center who are interested in helping you survive.

Having time alone between romantic relationships can be good times to clarify what went wrong this time and how you want it to go differently next time. To do this you have to believe that there will be a next time, which is a good place to be. It is also a good time to work on yourself so that you will be the best partner possible next time around.


Photo of a girl sitting alone.

What Can I Do if I Am Alone?

Give Yourself Permission to be Without a Romantic Relationship for Now

People sometimes “pass laws” about how life should be. Examples of such laws about being alone are: “I’m nobody unless somebody loves me,”  “My life is second rate if I do not have a partner,” and “I must find my soul mate immediately.” Relax, being alone at times is not illegal! Maybe those laws need to be amended or repealed.

Figure Out How Being Single Can Work for You

Being single can carry with it an amazing sense of freedom. You have more freedom than people who are in relationships. It can be exhilarating to not have to worry about anyone else. This can be your time to do as you please. If nothing immediately comes to mind, then that is where you start – what is going on with me that I do not have any interests of my own? What are things I’ve always dreamed of doing or even just thought might be fun? Get going. Try new things. Learn something about the world and about yourself. This way you will have a satisfying life even while you are alone. You will also have a lot to bring to the table when a potential relationship comes along. People who are full of energy and enthusiasm are attractive. People who are happy and busy are attractive. People who have a sense of purpose are attractive. People who have lives that they like are attractive. People who are bored, lonely and desperate are not so attractive.

Explore the World and Grow as a Person

You can take time to figure out what a good love relationship looks like. Unfortunately, there is no formal training for love relationships, and trial and error learning can be painful. Figuring things out now can eliminate some painful lessons later. It can also help you recognize people who have the qualities, skills and characteristics to pull off a good love relationship. And if you do not have all those qualities and skills yourself, you have time to develop them before the next opportunity comes along. Then, when the right person comes along, you will not only recognize them, but you will also be ready to do a good job of relating!

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