This is from the chapter that says what to do if you try all that relationship-saving stuff and it's STILL not working and now you're standing at the precipice of an ending. How do you break up? Breaking up a relationship can be one of the most difficult things to do but here are some strategies they recommend if you are absolutely positive that you need to move on:
Couples can disconnect from eachother because it's the best way they know to take care of themselves. A big reason people sometimes can't see the truth that will set them free is the fact that it points to a breakup and they just can't face that.
We wonder, what do I say? How do I say it? When do I say it? How do I set things up so things go as smoothly as possible?
1. Don't go into details when they ask why. A breakup is NOT a discussion about how you can patch up your relationship. One way or another, you get sucked into a negotiation about your relationship. And either you'll have to say "I don't want to be with you under any circumstances" which ends the painful pulling back & forth, but in the meantime, the discussing and negotiating have heartbreakingly gone on for hours, days, months, sometimes years. Or you cave. Why? Because you were worn out.
So what do you say? "This relationship just doesn't work for me anymore." This lessens the painful discussion that involves a lot of desperate begging that can never really lead anywhere good. And it's far better than a time-wasting heart-eroding period where you cave into the idea of working on a relationship you don't want to stay in.
2. Tell the truth but meet their need. Here are the most common needs people have when someone breaks up with them:
To know what your future relationship will be
to know that you can still be friends
to know how the money is going to work
to know where he/she is going to live
to know how much time he/she has before you separate
to know how you're going to explain this to family and friends
to know what the next steps are and what the timeline is
to know there is nothing they could have done to change things
3. Know right now: it's impossible to avoid confrontation. The things we do to avoid a scene usually make things worse in the long run. The only way to minimize the yelling and crying that come with a breakup is to welcome it. Say "I know you have a lot of feelings and a lot of things to tell me. I don't want to stop you. Let me hear everything you have to say. Let's get it all out." The more you welcome the other person's feelings, the more that person feels that she doesn't have to crank up her feelings to break through your resistance to them. Try as much as possible to validate what the other person says. Turning this into a debate over who did the most to kick the crap out of this relationship, you're just setting up a more harrowing scene. So don't attack. Don't blame. Don't defend yourself, either. Just let all of the other person's feelings come out and validate them whenever possible. You can ask "What do you need from me that would help?"
If kids are involved, give them the message that they are strong and resilient; that they'll come out of this ok; that everyone is going to be okay; that even though things are different, they still come from a good, strong, healthy family.
A lot of people find my posts via search engines and if you arrived at this one that way, I'm sorry you're facing these terrible crossroads. It's wrenching no matter what you decide.
In my case, the separation and divorce were so difficult that I wish I'd known it'd have been worth almost anything to change things rather than go through the ending. But the problem is, it's hard to emphasize when you're up against that wall -- the "THIS MUST CHANGE or this relationship is doomed" wall. If you're the one making the decision, your partner may not understand how desperately you feel about issues. I found these resources too late, but they may help you so I'm sharing here:
Two great resources for help if you're not yet sure:
- Jonathan Gottman's has methods that are based on science & research: Marriage research FAQ
- Al Turtle has a very kind view which helps improve communication by seeing things through the eyes of your partner and expressing yourself differently. You can only change yourself, not anyone else, but it is possible to change the communication dynamic with your own method of expression. It's worth checking out: http://www.alturtle.com