I Want Out! How to End a Relationship

July 3, 2020 |Gideon Hanekom

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Let’s talk about how to end a relationship. The truth is that not all relationships go the distance. That is just part of life. Often, we find ourselves in a relationship with someone that isn’t quite right, even though it might’ve started off well. However, at some point, you realise you want out. But how do you do it in the best possible way?

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Before I got married, I found myself in a five-year long relationship that needed to come to an end, but I put it off.

There are many reasons for this that I won’t go into here, but it’s important to know that putting off the inevitable only prolongs the suffering.

By the same token, however, I also understand that it is sometimes hard to end a relationship.

For various reasons of course.

Most of us who have been in relationships before, will tell you that at some point or another you actually liked the person you were with.

It wasn’t all bad and there were deftly some good times.

However, when you reach a point where the whole thing just isn’t right anymore, refusing or avoiding to pull the trigger and end a relationship can be costly.

Especially for your own well-being and happiness … And theirs.

Something I’ve seen many couples do is use the “wait-and-see” strategy.

It is where things aren’t going well anymore but instead of making the hard call and ending the relationship, they opt to wait-and-see because things might improve.

In my experience, that seldom happens.

Unless of course you actively go about trying to fix your relationship.

But that also seldom happens.

More often than not, when couples reach a certain point in their relationship, it becomes more about putting off the inevitable than putting the relationship back on track.

Maybe that’s you right now, I don’t know…

But if it is, and you know that your time is up, then let me give you a few suggestions to end a relationship as positive as possible so that everyone can go their separate ways with dignity and grace.

And listen, before we look at a few strategies to end a relationship, please understand that breaking up is rarely easy to do.

I’ve had some good ones and less than ideal ones.

It is almost always challenging, so understand that from the start.

The following suggestions won’t take the sting out of it, but they’ll at least give you a framework to work with.

Be sure about your decision to exit the relationship.

This is the crucial first step – making sure you know why you want to end a relationship.

So, before bringing your relationship to an end, spend some time and give some thoughtful consideration to the reasons why you want to break up with your partner.

crying teenage girl sitting on the bed in her room CADAJCH end a relationship

Doing this first is important because when you go through the “whys” in your head, it will make it easier for you to move forward with your plan when it’s crunch time.

Also, many partners tend to ask why you want to end a relationship, so it helps to be ready for that discussion.

The more clarity you have about your reasons for ending a relationship, the easier it will be for you to communicate that when the pressure is on and emotions are high.

By being absolutely certain about why you want to end a relationship, you will have the confidence and courage to push through when the conversation gets difficult later on.

What are your concerns about ending the relationship?

Something else to consider is your concerns about ending the relationship.

If you’ve ever broken up with someone you will remember that there are always some things we are concerned about when we consider ending a relationship.

Perhaps you fear you won’t have another relationship and end up alone.

But frankly, the chance of never having another relationship is highly unlikely.

Perhaps you fear the person will be angry with you.

That is a possibility.

Maybe the person will have hurt and angry feelings, but that’s on them and not you.

You cannot control how another person reacts, and that shouldn’t be a reason for you to avoid listening to your heart and following your mind.

If it’s the right thing to do, it’s the right thing to do.

If your partner does voice such feelings as anger or disappointment, just endeavour to listen calmly without interruption.

Remember that when somebody breaks up with us, the hurts we feel is oftentimes connected to our pride.

Nobody wants to have their pride hurt.

So, often reactions of anger are more about saving face than actually being angry.

young bearded man getting drunk in bar QL672WB end a relationship

Financial concerns might another concern when you want to end a relationship, especially if the two of you are living together.

This one can be very complicated, so ensure you give your financial situation some good thought before making the break so you’ll have a workable plan on how you’ll proceed.

The most complicated concern you might be facing is having children together.

This can become very tricky.

I would suggest that you engage the services of some professional counsellor or therapist to help you through these potentially rocky waters.

At the end of the day, be honest and clear with yourself about your concerns, and where applicable, with your partner as well.

This way, you’ll have time to think through the sticking points to arrive at successful resolutions for each issue when you finally enter a relationship.

Decide where and when the discussion will take place.

This is a vital decision you have to make which will greatly increase your chances of having a positive and peaceful breakup … If there ever was such a thing.

Select a location that’s safe, quiet, and appropriate for the discussion.

You obviously never know how your partner will react, so it’s better to be prepared than embarrassed when something does go awry.

Moreover, if you fear for your safety, again I encourage you to seek professional advice about how to disengage from the relationship.

sad woman with problem JUZYKGN end a relationship

On the other hand, perhaps you don’t have any fear for your safety, but you do have concerns about the other person manipulating you to stay in the relationship.

On a personal note, I’ve had this happened to me in one of my earlier relationships.

When my then-girlfriend realised that I was busy breaking up with her, she became overly emotional, cried a lot, and begged me to stay with her.

In hindsight, I allowed her to manipulate me (since I have such a big heart, LOL) and the relationship ended up lasting for almost 5 years which was a mistake.

If you are scared that the same thing might happen to you, it might be wise to have a friend or family member nearby who can step in and help you if needed.

Again, in hindsight, if I chose a better location and the presence of my best friend at the time, I probably would have pushed through and saved myself years in a relationship that ended eventually anyway.

When you have the conversation with your partner, I encourage you to get to the point quickly, share your reasons if asked, and outline your plan for leaving if you live together.

Then stick to that plan and follow through with it.

Speak honestly and say you’re sorry.

When we end the relationship, it’s extremely important to remember that just because a relationship didn’t work out, doesn’t mean that you suddenly need to treat the other person like garbage.

Unless, of course, they were garbage and abused you.

That’s another story.

compassionate young woman supporting depressed div 3Q9ECYH end a relationship

But for most of us, when we end a relationship it is simply because things didn’t work out.

There is no malice in it.

It simply didn’t work out.

But you can still treat the other person with dignity, respect, and even love.

The fact of the matter is that up to the point of breaking up with this person, you most likely shared an intimate life together.

That still counts for something.

So, when you end a relationship, instead of becoming a douche, still treat the other person well.

Use a caring tone of voice and appropriate language as you share your intentions of ending the relationship.

For example, say something like:

  • “I’ve been unhappy with our relationship over the past few months. I’ve decided to go my own way. I’m sorry but I feel this is the right thing to do.”
  • “There have been some changes between us recently and I’ve decided to move out. I’m sorry.”
  • “I’m sorry to say this but things aren’t working out between us, and I think we need to move on. I’m sorry.”

Use polite language and avoid negative emotions.

This one follows on from the previous.

Although you’ll likely feel hurt and angry, watch your phrasing.

Especially if you’re the one being broken up with.

unhappy couple having conflict in bed at home P6WGD3H end a relationship

But again, just because you’re breaking up does not mean you should suddenly start behaving poorly.

There is no need for it.

So, rather than, “You never…” or “You always…” start with, “I am unhappy because we don’t spend enough time together” or “I feel like my friends and family aren’t welcome in our home.”  

And whatever you do, avoid finger-pointing and blaming.

This is not the time for that.

You’ve already made up your mind to break up, there is no need to rub salt in the wounds.

Instead, now is the time to stay confident and keep your cool.

Observe your partner’s reaction and listen.

A breakup is rarely a one-way street.

Chances are your partner will respond to what you have to say.

Your partner may very well feel like sharing their own feelings, so be ready to listen.

This is not just about you.

Give them the time and respect to share their own heart and thoughts with you.

You might actually learn something that could be of benefit in your next relationship (when that happens).

So let them speak.

And when they’re finished, say briefly, “I’m sorry I’ve hurt you.”

sad guy and girl hugging feeling unloved standing YFJX83U end a relationship

However, stay focused on your desired result to end the relationship.

I remember one break up I’ve had years ago at Uni.

It was after students can back from holiday for another semester.

I rang my then-girlfriend up at her hostel (nobody texted in those days) and asked her to meet me in a park where we used to go a lot.

I sat her down and shared with her my heart openly and honestly, and she was devastated.

The toughest part of that breakup was that it was unexpected and in hindsight, probably premature.

I got cold feet.

Our relationship was actually fine, but I panicked because we were doing so well.

It’s weird I know, but that’s what happened.

After our chat, we hugged for some time and then parted ways.

And that was it.

The point here is that breaking up can be civil.

It can be a time to get closure by sharing your thoughts and also receiving the other person’s.

It’s a two-way street.

Doing it in that way, in my opinion, is the best way to get closure and move on completely, rather than trying to shortcut the process.

Remember what I said at the start – most breakups are difficult, uncomfortable, and not that easy.

Refrain from prolonging the discussion.

The last suggestion I would give you when you end a relationship is to refrain from prolonging the discussion.

That is just a strategy to put off the inevitable.

But is no easy way of doing this.

Unless you have absolutely no respect for the other person and you either just “ghost” them or break up by text.

Please don’t be one of those people.

It is cowardly and gutless.

But if you do decide to go through the process and have this difficult conversation, it is equally important to avoid getting pulled into an argument.

Simply state succinctly your plan to end the relationship and a few brief reasons why.

Then, share your timeline or plan: “After this discussion, I’m going back to the house to get my things together to leave today.”

Thereafter, as soon as it’s appropriate, excuse yourself, get up, and follow through on your plan.

Try and leave on good terms even though you might be hurting.

sullen husband 6PK5UGN end a relationship

What To Avoid

Before I we bring this to a close, let me also give a shortlist of what to avoid when you decide to end a relationship.

According to PsychologyToday.com, the most important things to avoid when breaking up are:

1. Don’t break up in public. 

2. Don’t break up in your own home; if possible, do so in the home of your partner. 

3. Don’t offer false hope. 

4. Don’t try to downshift the romance to friendship. 

5. Don’t devalue the other person. 

6. Don’t try to make the other person feel better, even as you’re breaking up. 

7. Don’t have breakup sex. 

Take Away

I hope the previous suggestions gave you some food for thought and a strategy to end a relationship when the time comes.

Again, realise that ending a relationship can be difficult.

But it’s all part of life.

In fact, going through a breakup often changes and prepares you more for the next relationship.

At the end of the day, if you’re in a situation right now where you need to end a relationship but you’re hesitant to act; understand that your life will improve when you take control and make decisions that are right for you.

If you want a better quality of life, stop dreaming about it and start creating it.

And that might require you to make a hard decision first.

But be optimistic that you’re making the best choice you can.

About the author

Gideon Hanekom

Gideon Hanekom is the creator of TheRelationshipGuy.com, a popular relationship blog that ranks among the top 50 relationship blogs in 2024. The website helps couples to create happier, healthier, and more intimate relationships. Gideon is a trained professional counsellor and holds post-graduate degrees in Theology and Psychology. His articles have also been featured on respected platforms such as Marriage.com and The Good Men Project.

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