Ending a relationship is a no-win situation. There are about fifty bad ways to do it from e-mails to Post- its, all of which are the coward’s way out. Leaving someone takes courage. Leaving someone well calls for integrity; the best way to end a relationship is with kindness for yourself and your partner. You must act humbly, gently, and above all kindly.
You need to prepare. Things haven’t gone the way you hoped or your beloved turns out to be a jerk, but once you’ve made your decision it’s not about them anymore. You need to act in the way that’s best for you.
If the reason you’re leaving is due to behavior such as abuse, stop reading this, go pack your bags and get the hell out. The rest of you, stay with me.
In a perfect You’ve Got Mail world you and your sweetie walk out on a movie, head to a fashionable Upper West Side restaurant and laughingly share with each other that it’s time to move on. He heads back to your place, packs up his typewriters and heads off into the night. If only life imitated art.
The likelihood of both of you cordially calling it quits at the same time is slim and chances are if you’re the one initiating the split your partner (no matter how they feel) will do at least some the following:
- Beg you to stay
- Swear they will change/change for five minutes
- Cajole you
- Threaten to hurt you or themselves
- Make your life even more miserable than it currently is; my personal favorite
All this may upset and confuse you but it’s merely a sign of their desperation. Even if they are as unhappy as you are no one wants to be left. Don’t get sidetracked once you’ve made a decision. Your best strategy is to ignore all of it. As my therapist told me when I finally decided to leave my partner “You’re not responsible for their feelings.” You need to leave with as much of yourself intact as possible.
This is scary stuff. At the least, you’re going to hurt someone else. You may be afraid they will get angry. Unless you have reason to fear for your safety (see warning above) you’ll have to swallow your fear and just do it. Putting it off won’t make it easier and soon you’re going to feel like you’re lying every time you say ‘I love you,’ have sex, or kiss them goodbye. You will be lying, and lying unless you are a rat, will make you feel bad, a lot.
Humility goes a long way in saving everyone’s ego. Apologize for anything you did to contribute to the failure of the relationship. Don’t accuse them or point out everything they did wrong, that’s for your BFF and your therapist and will just prolong this difficult conversation. Even if you are blameless, I was, just ask me, I’m sure you can come up with something. Be ready for them to enthusiastically agree with you. They may add some ‘helpful’ suggestions. Suck it up! Remember, kindness.
Preparing what you’re going to say and practicing won’t make you sound rehearsed it will make you sound calm and reasonable. If you know what you’re going to say you can focus. You can pay attention to what’s happening, you can stay present which means you won’t get derailed and can stay on message: “We are done.”
Even if they have treated you like absolute shit, and you dread coming home, hey, it happens, treating them kindly is best for you. It is the best way to protect your heart and the best way to ensure that you feel OK later. This is a take the high road kind of situation, and really what isn’t?
There is never a reason to act unkind and ending a relationship will most assuredly feel unkind for the receiver of the news. Being kind and gentle doesn’t diminish your message; it makes it easier for them to hear what you’re saying. It protects your self-image and later you might get to revel in a few moments of self-righteousness.
I know all this as if you couldn’t already tell —from personal experience. I put off having the inevitable conversation for almost two years after it was clear to me our relationship was untenable. I hated myself who I had turned into. When I finally managed to get the words out I was freed from all of that. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and it was the best thing too. Did I do it the best way? Not even close. If it’s time to end a relationship it’s best to be gentle with yourself, be kind to them, and get it done.
This piece was written for round two of Yeah Write’s super challenge. The assignment: write a persuasive essay on the topic What’s the best way to end a relationship? I will be moving on to the final round of this three part challenge.