We could start this by saying that "breaking up with someone isn’t easy." But if you’ve been in a relationship before, you already know that.
Instead, what we’re going to say is that breaking up with someone can be easier.
We know there is a lot of fear in breaking up, such as hurting the other person and having them resent you. And while breaking up always seems to be associated with these fears, we very rarely hear of stories where couples have been able to mutually split and be happy with the decision. This led us to wonder about whether or not it’s possible for a couple to have a ‘perfect’ break-up.
It turns out, it is possible. And with the help of Andrea Kaye, a Toronto-based relationship counsellor, we’ve broken down the necessary steps to achieving a breakup where both you and your partner are happy — or at the very least, content with the outcome.
The first step in setting the groundwork, says Kaye, is respect. For a breakup to work the way you want it to, there needs to be mutual respect between you and your partner. If you don’t share the same amount of respect for each other, then the chances of the breakup being messy are high, according to Kaye.
Sometimes, respect can be even more important than love. In a piece by Dr. Peter Gray for Psychology Today, he wrote, “Love without respect is dangerous; it can crush the other, sometimes literally. To respect is to understand that the other person is not you, not an extension of you, not a reflection of you, not your toy, not your pet, not your product.”
If you don’t share the same amount of respect for each other, then the chances of the breakup being messy are high.
He continues by saying, "In a relationship of respect, your task is to understand the other person as a unique individual and learn how to mesh your needs with his or hers and help that person achieve what he or she wants to achieve."
Naturally, for some people it’s not easy to speak about their thoughts and emotions, especially if they’re afraid of creating conflict. But as Kaye mentions, "You should never leave things for too long."
As a tip, Kaye suggests you "speak with the backdrop of curiosity." This will help open up the discussion in a way that welcomes resolution or thoughts from the other person.
"At the beginning of the conversation, you should bring up the things you’re worrying about, but instead of saying things more directly towards them, rather formulate your worries into questions and ask them about whether or not they are noticing the same things as you are," she says.
It’s important that once you’ve had this discussion, make sure to ask your partner about what you need to do to make this better. If you can’t find solutions to some of your problems, then at least at this point, both you and your partner will be on the same page. But if you’re having difficulty opening up to your partner or having these types of discussions with them, then "you shouldn’t be with the person," says Kaye.
If neither of you are on the same page when it comes to the breakup, it creates another obstacle. The one thing you don’t want to do "is to end it with the other person having no idea why," says Kaye.
Once both you and your partner have achieved common ground and have exercised all the possible options for reconciling your issues, you can then begin moving towards breaking things off.
If you can’t find solutions to some of your problems, then at least at this point, both you and your partner will be on the same page.
When you’re not on the same page, a lot of confusion, or as some like to call it "limbo," is likely. Mia Scanlon explains it perfectly in her piece for Odyssey, writing, "The dynamic is altered: you cannot unsay and you cannot unhear. And once all your cards are on the table, once you’ve shown your hand, you are vulnerable."
The last step to achieving a "perfect" break-up is speaking to each other face-to-face. While all of these tips can ensure that the split will be easier, Kaye insists that all of this must happen in person. While technology has allowed for more communication, it has also created a barrier that many people use as a crutch, hiding behind devices rather than deal with a confrontation. This won’t work in a break-up situation.
"The intimacy with breaking up with someone needs to be tended to," says Kaye.
It’s not easy to watch someone pour out their emotions to you or vice versa, but it can be very healing and helpful in cleansing yourself of all the anxiety that you felt going into it.
In a blog post published on Thought Catalog, writer Katie Wilhelm wrote, "In this kind of breakup [where you’re ending things on good terms], there are hurt feelings but they are completely overshadowed by the love that you once had for each other. There is pain but it is outweighed by all of the wonderful memories that you have together."
While technology has allowed for more communication, it has also created a barrier that many people use as a crutch, hiding behind devices rather than deal with a confrontation.
It might be easier for you than the other person, but try not to leave them in the dark to deal with their emotions on their own. You don’t have to keep constant communication with them, but in this situation the best thing that you can do is assure the other person that you are still there to talk.
It sounds counterintuitive, but if you once truly loved this person and respect them, that can make leaving them easier. It will still be very tough, but at least once you’ve both moved on from the situation, you’ll both be able to feel good about it and look back at all of the fond memories from your relationship.