How to Break Up: 8 Steps to Moving On

by | Jul 4, 2012 | Assertiveness, Breaking up, Communication Tips, Empowerment, Uncategorized


How to Break UpIn my blog about Deal Breakers, I drew from Dr. Bethany Marshall’s work to stress the importance of knowing your non-negotiable relationship terms.  I outlined the personality types that make healthy relationships impossible, and shared 5 steps to finding and asserting your personal bottom lines.

My intention was to help partners stop wasting precious years on a relationship that violates deeply-held life dreams (or improve a relationship that has potential but needs clarity around its terms).

But what if you have followed these steps and it didn’t work? What should you do when you have raised your deal breakers to your partner, worked on the relationship, and continue to feel something is wrong?

If this is the case, now is the time to consider leaving the relationship and learn the smart steps to a successful breakup.

When it’s time to leave

To see if breaking up is right for you, consider the following scenarios–some of which are aptly described by Dr. Bethany Marshall in her book Deal Breakers:

  • Your partner appears to be making an effort, but is still not making significant changes. You may feel like you are on the edge of making it, but the answer never comes. A few weeks pass and the same issues arise.
  • You continue to feel confused. You can’t get a clear sense of the larger picture.
  • You are more concerned about the future than the present, because the future seems hopeful and the present is unsatisfying.
  • You are more committed to the potential of your partner than the reality of who they are now.
  • Your partner is willing to talk about the problems, but prefers things the way they currently are.
  • Your partner is caught in an addiction and will not seek help.
  • You are in an abusive relationship.
  • You keep fighting the same fight without alteration. And you feel triggered into reactions that are unlike your true nature.
  • You partner appears to reach for solutions, but plans for something different from what you want. Their attempts are off-target or slightly amiss.

If these describe your situation, it is time to mobilize. This involves shifting the center of your focus to a life outside the relationship.

For some, this means a swift, clean break. And for others, it calls for long-term planning. Either way, successful breakups require an unwavering commitment to letting go.

How to Break Up:  8 Steps to Moving On

1)      Love yourself. You have done all you can in your relationship and shown what you have to offer: determination, assertiveness, and patience (among all your other wonderful qualities). If you are confident in your worth, you know that being single is not a catastrophe. You will prioritize your happiness without guilt. You will trust in the value of your life dreams and know that better things await you.

2)      Break the rules. As you prepare to break up, stop participating in the situations you don’t like. For example: Stop paying his bills; break plans you had for a future trip together; refuse to stand there while he flirts with somebody else–whatever the case may be for you.

3)      Face your fears. Ask yourself, “What is holding me back?” Are you afraid of the unknown? Being alone? Grieving? Financial separation? Impacting the children? Whatever your fears, know they are part of change and signal progress. Be willing to exit your comfort zone.

4)      Make a plan. There may be logistics involved. Be clear about your steps ahead of time to prevent becoming the recipient of unintended fallout.  For example, are there legal implications to breaking up? Do you need to line up your own place? If you have children, think about how you will tell them, and steps to take to help them adjust. Meet with a therapist if it feels overwhelming.

5)      Practice the break up speech. This may sound silly, but it will help you stay strong and avoid getting pulled into a discussion. It could be very simple: “This relationship is no longer working for me. I have tried everything I can, but it hasn’t been effective. I need to move on.”  This is not a time of negotiation. Rather, it is a time for you to announce your decision, allow your partner to respond, and then end the conversation.

6)      Gather a support network. Your friends and family will remind you of why you deserve better, empathize with your grief, and help you hold the line.

7)      Grieve the relationship. Even bad relationships leave a hole when they are gone. Give yourself the space to feel conflicting emotions.

8)      Imagine a healthy relationship in the future:  This does not mean you have to start dating right away. Just start with picturing your ideal relationship or person. Write down the qualities you desire.  By holding a vision in your mind, you are subconsciously drawing into your life the very circumstances and people who will fulfill it.

Remember, if you are at the point of learning how to break up, then you have already come a long way. You have found clarity about your deal breakers, asserted yourself, allowed time for change, faced the facts, and mustered the courage to let go. So congratulations!

Just keep up the good work, follow the steps above, and take the leap. You will come out the other side.

Let me know how it goes, and if there is anything I can do to help. Comment in the space below, and until next week!

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