You’re with someone who isn’t right for you. You need to break up, but just the thought of doing it makes your anxiety rise to a point where you question everything you ever thought about the relationship. Then you shake your head and tell yourself, no, I have to stop this. I have to tell this person the truth. This relationship isn’t good for me and I have to break it off.
Let’s agree right now that breaking up with someone by ghosting them or via text, email or post-it, is just not cool. The best way to break up with someone is whatever way leaves you with your self-esteem, self-respect, and self-love intact. That’s all.
Actually, there is one more thing: Safety. In some cases, physical safety is a serious thing to consider. Let’s talk about that, too.
If the person you are breaking up with is dangerous, if you are afraid they could lose it and hurt you physically or psychologically, then a long-distance declaration that the relationship is over is totally acceptable. You do not owe that person a face to face break up. Your safety comes first.
Sometimes breakups can be anti-climactic, like the ones you see in rom-coms. I mean, really, how many people did Meg Ryan break up with in the ‘90s where they were practically thanking her after the deed was done? If that’s your break up, then God bless you. You may stop reading this article. Just ask yourself, “What would Meg do?’’, do that, then make yourself some popcorn and watch Sleepless In Seattle for the seventeenth time.
Truth is, most breakups are somewhere in between those two scenarios – a place where we’re concerned and uncomfortable enough about how they will react to the news and how ready we are to face it.
How To Break Up With Someone
In those cases I have some recommendations for you:
- Be sober. If you are jumping out of your skin as you prepare to meet them to break-up try taking a run or a long walk beforehand to calm your nerves. Remember your diaphragmatic breathing exercises. Take your anxiety medication as prescribed if you have it. Resist the urge to knock back a bunch of tequila shots prior.
- Tell someone you trust what your plan is. Have your phone on you and well charged.
- Meet in a public place. A time-honored break-up tradition for a reason. A person is more apt to stay in control in a public place. You can enter and leave on your own terms and so can they.
- Have your own mode of transport. Be it your own car, bike, legs or metro card, have your own way to get in and out of the venue and to wherever you plan to go afterward.
- Tell them your intention once you sit down and before you order anything more than drinks. Write a script for yourself so that what you need to say is in your voice. Keep it short and to the point. Do not go into a lot of explanation. As soon as you do that you risk sounding unsure leaving them lots of room to try to convince you otherwise. On the other hand, you probably don’t want to sound angry or confrontational. Just “I want you to know I’ve thought about this for a long time. This isn’t working for me. I need to break-up with you.”
- After you’ve said your piece, just listen. Whatever their reaction is, remember that how they feel is their responsibility, not yours. Your job is to be truthful, authentic and kind. If they are crying or yelling or otherwise “making you feel bad” resist getting defensive. No one can make you feel anything. DO NOT confuse compassion with self-doubt.
- If the conversation is over, leave. Do not doddle. Leave the delicious french fries on the table and go.
- Have a plan for what you are going to do after. Meet up with friends, family, stay at a neutral, undisclosed place.
- Have clear boundaries for future interaction. I suggest making it a clean break. Do not be alone with that person ever again if you can possibly help it. Be OK with doing everything you can to block that person from your social media, phone, computer. To do otherwise can be confusing to everyone which will slow down healing and moving on.
- Practice radical self-care. Depending on the nature of the relationship, you may need some time to reconnect with yourself. Do the things you’ve been wanting to do but postponing because they didn’t like you doing that. Go blond, get that tattoo, take that trip or wear that clingy little black dress to have drinks with your girlfriends! You just did something brave and daring. You deserve to feel good about yourself.
Elvira G. Aletta, PhD, Founder & CEO
Life gave Dr. Aletta the opportunity to know what it’s like to hurt physically and emotionally. After an episode of serious depression in her mid-twenties, Dr. Aletta was diagnosed with a rare kidney disease that relapsed throughout her adulthood. While treatable, the cure was often as hard to bear as the disease. Later she was diagnosed with scleroderma, another chronic illness.
Throughout, Dr. Aletta battled with anxiety. Despite all this, Dr. Aletta wants you to know, you can learn to engage in life again on your terms.
Good therapy helped Dr. Aletta. She knows good therapy can help you. That’s why she created Explore What’s Next.
Today Dr. Aletta enjoys mentoring the EWN therapists, focusing on coaching and psychotherapy clients, writing and speaking. She is proud and confident that Explore What’s Next can provide you with therapists who will help you regain a sense of safety, control and joy.
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