Have you recently realized that your relationship with your partner just doesn’t work out?
However hard you might be trying to save your relationship, sometimes you just feel that it’s better if you break up with your partner.
But ending a relationship is more often than not a painful experience for both parties. And as studies prove, emotional pain has a negative influence on overall physical and mental health (Lumley et al., 2011). The reason is that overcoming the shock as a result of loss isn’t easy to adapt to. And that’s why people often look for ways to break up with their partners without hurting them.
So what are your options to minimize the pain and preserve the friendship with your partner? Is this even possible? Can counseling help to avoid negative consequences for your and your partner’s mental health after a breakup?
In this article, we’ll review things you should and shouldn’t do when you think about breaking up with your partner. We’ll explain how counseling works for breakups and what your options are to avoid hurting your partner.
What Does Research Say About Ending Relationships?
Depending on the type of relationship, the intimacy level, attachment forms, and the way you end the relationship, breakups can have different outcomes. While most of the time, the initial consequences of ending the relationship negatively affect both partners, as time goes by, people develop optimal strategies to adapt or use the case as a way to grow and become more resilient.
However, the potential to move on and start a new relationship or focus on your personal potential after a breakup depends on the strategies for ending the relationship. According to Leslie Baxter (1982), people use different strategies to end intimate relationships. The study found 35 different ways to end the relationship and classified these strategies into 4 major factors:
- Withdrawal/avoidance – Individuals who use this strategy try to avoid communicating with their partners, instead of explaining and resolving the issues in their relationships.
- Manipulatory strategies – Thai factor involves cases when people reach out to third parties to end relationships or try to deceive their partners in order to manipulate their feelings.
- Positive tone – It’s the most constructive strategy to reduce the impact of negative feelings and make sure that the partner will handle the consequences of a breakup.
- Openness – People who chose this strategy communicated openly with their partners and sincerely shared their opinions about the reasons why the relationship should have ended.
Not surprisingly, positive tone and openness strategies are the most effective ways to break up with your partner when you don’t want to hurt them. The reason is that honest and clear communication will help them understand why it’s the right time to end the relationship. And maintaining a positive tone will help you stay in touch even after the breakup so that none of the parties will have to deal with the negative feelings of loss or bereavement.
Things You Should Do
Let’s discuss some of the research-based options to end your current relationship without hurting your partner’s feelings:
- Talk to your partner face-to-face
Discussing your intentions in person is the key to a potentially pain-reduced breakup with your partner. Whenever you’re certain that you want to break up, make an appointment. Tell your partner you want to discuss something important and don’t even think about letting them know your decision by a phone call or a text. However uncomfortable as it might be, it’s the best way to make your partner realize that you still respect them.
- Be honest about your reasons
Sometimes the true reason for your breakup won’t be acceptable to your partner. The reason is that we all have subjective perceptions of our relationships. And therefore, what is right for you might be wrong for your partner. Still, if you don’t explain the real reason why you decided to break up with them, you’ll hurt them even more once they acknowledge the real issue. So, be honest about your feelings and try to explain your reasons in a gentle way.
- Set boundaries
If your partner doesn’t want to break up with you, don’t forget to set boundaries with them. Maybe you’re not going to cut contact all at once, but explaining that you’re no longer a couple is important for both of you to have the right expectations about your future.
- Listen to your partner without judging them
Once you tell your partner that your relationship has to end, you shouldn’t finish the conversation. Instead, listen to your partner, understand their perspectives, and don’t judge them. Maybe their perspective will help you reevaluate your relationship and start again. And even if it’s not, your partner has the right to share their opinions with you. It’s the only way to maintain a healthy connection after a breakup.
Things You Shouldn’t Do
Now it’s time to discuss the things you should avoid in the process of breaking up with your partner:
- Don’t try to remain friends right away
One of the most common mistakes people make when breaking up with their partners is that they try to remain friends with their ex-partners right away. However, you should know that every individual needs time to heal from a breakup. Therefore, suggesting remaining friends is not the right way to end your relationship. Give them time instead, let them process the feelings of confusion or loss and see if you can remain friends, but only after enough time has passed.
- Don’t give your partner false hope
Offering false hope is indeed the hardest part of any breakup. It means that you’re not completely honest with your partner about the breakup and leaving the ways to rebuild the relationship if the breakup won’t work. So remember to be 100% sure about the need to break up. And if you’ve already made the decision, don’t give your partner false hope. Just explain that you’re not getting back together.
- Don’t disrespect them
Even if your partner has hurt you so much, there’s no need to devalue them while breaking up. You’re not going to contact them afterward, and disrespecting them will not do any good either for you or your partner. So, be honest, try to understand their perspective, and don’t underestimate the positive aspects that made you fall in love with them initially.
- Don’t make impulsive decisions
Did you know that impulsivity is one of the main reasons for the dissolution of romantic relationships? Actually, that’s what studies prove (Smith, 2016). That’s why you shouldn’t make decisions when you’re angry or frustrated with your partner. Try to make a decision about the future of your relationship only when you can think rationally.
How Can Counseling Help?
Even though you understand all the theoretical principles to avoid hurting your partner while breaking up with them, most of the time it’s hard to find the strength to think about everything when the time comes. But receiving help from professional relationship experts can help you overcome difficulties and break up with your partner without making yourself feel guilty.
People who can’t manage to deal with relationship problems on their own tend to receive couples counseling. It’s a type of therapy that aims to help couples solve problems in their relationships, such as communication issues, lost intimacy, or overcoming infidelity. Furthermore, couples’ counselors can also help you to find proper ways to end the relationship without hurting your partner.
Studies prove that people who receive couples therapy can develop effective strategies to terminate dysfunctional behaviors and have a healthy relationship. That’s why you should consider contacting our professional therapists at Health for Life Counseling in Grand Rapids, MI, and Ada, MI.
Our licensed counselors have years of proven experience in helping clients better define their relationship goals and resolve issues with their partners. So, don’t hesitate to contact them in the West Michigan area or talk to them online. They will help you work through the difficulties of breaking up and attempting to not hurt your partner’s feelings.