How to End a Relationship

Not every relationship is meant to last. It’s important to understand not only when to end a relationship but how to end it.

If you care for someone and are in a committed relationship with them that you believe needs to end, your emotional awareness is crucial to having it end lovingly rather than exploding in disaster. Showing up emotionally mature and responsive allows the end of the relationship to matter just as much as the beginning. It confirms that you care and validates that you always have.

When relationships end poorly, it impacts both partners. Often there’s a lingering pain that causes questioning of the entire relationship. Broken hearts wonder, “Was I ever truly loved and did they ever really care?” Or, “How can they just shut down their feelings and leave me? I must have never mattered.” 

The result of damaging breakups is a pain that’s deeper and lasts much longer. There isn’t a sense of resolution or the ability to make sense of what has happened. There’s a sudden loss of someone you cared deeply for and it leaves most in a state of panic or despair. 

If your relationship has run its course, break up with love and care. Honor that you tried and likely did all you knew to do to save the connection you created together. Honor that you both discovered needs that perhaps could not be met in the relationship. 

Here are four steps to help you end a relationship:

1.    Get clear on why

When you’re left in the dark, unclear as to why the relationship ended, it adds to the pain you’re already feeling. This is usually due to a lack of clarity and ability to discuss the reasons openly. If you need to end an important relationship, first get thoughtful as to what your own reasons are. Write them out, find the words, because these words matter most to the person you are leaving. It soothes an emotionally upset mind when there’s some logic on board to help make sense of the situation. If you aren’t aware of your own heartfelt reasons, talk it out with a friend, your family, or a therapist. But get clear! 

2.    Communicate Early 

Immature harmful breakups happen abruptly. Mature adult breakups occur when the couple has discussed together specific ongoing issues. When they have tried to work through tough points. Hiding away your feelings to avoid conflict, even if you might be trying to protect your partner, is detrimental to your relationship and to the breakup.  Share openly what you’re struggling with. Talk about what is difficult for you and identifywhat your needs are. This will help you both understand that while you may care for each other, that you may not be the best fit for one another. Let your partner in when you start to question whether you can remain committed to them. 

3.    Set Boundaries Together

Once you’ve discussed ending the relationship it is crucial that you create a plan on what to do next. If this is a committed relationship it’s likely you’ve shared important parts of your lives or it’s likely you even live together. It is essential to openly discuss how to go forward. A boundary is basically what’s ok and what’s not ok. How do we separate our things? How do we handle shared friends? How do we share a pet? You must keep in mind that these boundaries need to be more ridged than flexible at first. You both need to grieve the relationship and recreate your lives as separate people. Continuing to overlap parts of your life will not be helpful and could add more harm…especially at first. 

4.    Friendship Needs to Wait

After setting boundaries, it’s important to be specific about the desire for friendship. Chances are that you both still care for each other. So, you might think it makes sense to build a friendship. But this isn’t possible immediately after a breakup. Both individuals first need to grieve the intimate relationship in their own ways before considering the possibility of creating friendship. We need to completely end what once was, in order to create something new. When you strive for friendship too early, it impacts your own healing and too often feelings get tangled into a mess. Pause and give space if you have hope for a future friendship. 

A breakup will always bring heartbreak and hurt. By showing up open and loving we can minimize the damage and the lasting impact of a relationship ending. And it will help you both heal much faster! 

Vail Relationship Institute is locate in Vail, CO and specializes in healing relationships. The highly trained team of therapists provides couples counseling, family therapy, and individual counseling to help them address deep disconnection and emotional pain. We also provide community events and online courses, all because we believe relationships matter most.