The Healthy Breakup

“The Top 10 Tips to a Healthy Relationship,” “Three Things Every Good Relationship MUST Have,” “How to Date to Secure Your Mate” and thousands of other potential article headlines point to what establishing a healthy dating relationship entails, but what about information on a healthy breakup? Can a breakup be healthy?

Honestly, there is a point in every relationship where full-on commitment must take place or the decision to end the relationship must happen. Too often, couples will stay too long in sub-par relationships because the thought of breaking up seems more stressful than the decision to remain together.

BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DO, BUT THERE IS A HEALTHY WAY TO DO IT.

So how do you healthily break up? And how do you stay broken-up once the initial decision to end the relationship has been made?

Whatever the reason behind a couple’s need to break up, the best route is to do so with honesty, integrity and commitment. Breakups get messy when dishonesty, avoidance and a lack of adherence to the decision occur.

HONESTY: Be honest about why you’re ending the relationship. If your partner wants to know why you’re breaking up, respect that by telling the truth. It may feel as though you’re preserving their feelings by softening the truth with an “it’s not you, it’s me” statement but you’re not. Breakups hurt and they only hurt worse when the one being broken up with has no clue how to rationalize what is happening. If you can find a kind way to explain the need for a breakup, do so. Giving some honesty may actually help your ex grow as a person and be better prepared for the next relationship.

AVOIDANCE: Don’t procrastinate when you know you’re not in a right relationship. This is not to say that you need to end the relationship as soon as things get difficult, but if you’re dating and you’ve been seeing red-flags for a while, end the relationship before doing so becomes more difficult. Avoiding the breakup discussion won’t make things easier in the end, quite the opposite is true. Avoiding the breakup discussion for a day leads to a week, which leads to a month, and so forth, of you being in a relationship you’re not truly invested in. Not only does your partner deserve full investment, but you deserve to be in a relationship to which you feel you want to fully commit.

COMMITMENT: Once the breakup has been initiated, commit to the decision. The back and forth of a breakup is often the most painful. Sometimes the back and forth happens because you don’t know if you made the right decision, but more than not, deep down, you do know you did, which is why you made the decision in the first place. Other times, the back and forth happens because you think this will cause less pain for your ex—it won’t. The back and forth is like slowly peeling off a Band-Aid, the longer it takes the longer the pain lasts. If you decide to break up, commit to your decision because your ex deserves the chance to begin healing as much as you do. The healing process will only be stunted by continually reopening relationship wounds.

Breaking up is difficult, whether it’s your decision or your partners, but if the relationship is not right for you, you have to be honest about it. Avoiding a breakup doesn’t fix what’s not right about the relationship and once the decision to break up has been made, be committed to it because you both deserve the chance to find the loves of your lives.

By Megan Clunan, MA, LMHC, LPC