A guide on when it’s time to breakup, how to execute it, and how to get over it.
When clients come to me wondering what to do about their dissatisfaction with a relationship, I guide them through the 3 Door Options: do nothing, ask for change, or breakup. I have coached quite a few people through breakups and divorces in my time as a Certified Sex Coach.
Obviously, there are plenty of reasons to break up with someone immediately. However, there are the relationships that are just okay, lackluster, or barely hanging on and these relationships need some examination.
Many people continue to date or stay married to people that simply aren’t a great match for them. When dating, you may take your time getting to know someone, but once they show you who they are, believe them! If values and personalities don’t align, don’t waste your time, or theirs.
When is it time to pull the plug? Here are a few things to consider:
If this person is stealing your peace, that’s a big red flag. While this is subjective, ask yourself how content, happy, and calm do you and your heart feel around that person.
If it seems like there is something “off,” listen to your gut instinct, because your body is sensing something isn’t quite right. Your body reacts to things for your survival and your protection, and you might be trying to logic your way past the gut feeling. You should not feel that way with someone you are dating or committed to.
You may be telling yourself, “Maybe I haven’t gotten to know this person well enough yet. I need to give them more of a chance.” Perhaps you think you’re being too judgmental, or you’re jumping to conclusions. Either do some sleuthing, ask more questions, or listen to what your gut instinct is saying.
Does this person respect your boundaries? These can be boundaries about sex, time you want to spend together, or something arbitrary that makes you feel safe. Your boundaries are your boundaries. It is perfectly okay for them to seek clarity to understand your motivations behind them. They are more than welcome to say that doesn’t work for them, too. But that means you’re at a standstill, and you are not on the same page about boundaries, and that could signal it’s time to split.
What is their consistency like? We are on our best behavior when we first meet someone new. If someone puts up a facade and pretends to be someone they are not, they can only pretend for so long. The facade is going to crumble and reveal a completely different person soon enough. Watch outlying behavior. About 4-6 months after you’ve met them, a lot of people may seem a little different. Think about if it wasn’t your own bias that influenced your early perceptions. Did you just witness a bad day, or is it the beginning of seeing who they really are?
Have you come to the conclusion you’re not on the same page regarding commitment? If they want you to meet their family at a big end of summer BBQ, and the thought of going makes you cringe, let them know you need to slow down. Continuing to date someone who wants a deeper commitment than you is a disservice to you both.
Ways to execute the breakup.
I give a wide range of advice when it comes to breakups, because it really does depend upon how long you’ve been with this person and how deep your commitment is. If you’ve only been casually dating somebody for two to three months, I think you owe them less than you owe someone you’ve been committed to for a long time, but at the very least, you owe them respect.
One of the tactics I often prescribe is dialing things down. If you spend all your free evenings with this person you’re dating, perhaps start making more specific dates to spend time together. Let them fit into your life rather than the other way around for a while, and see what happens.
Making yourself less available for this person may be viewed as a bit of a test, and yeah, it kind of is. Do you miss them? Does your relationship improve or degrade quickly with less time spent together? A slow fade away needs an ending, but the distance can provide much needed perspective before making your decision.
If you have found yourself in a place where they constantly cross boundaries, start restating those boundaries anytime they’re crossed. You need to be clear with them, “This is a boundary you keep violating. This is something I’m not okay with.” Remember an apology without change is manipulation. The more you find yourself having to have the same conversation, the easier it may become to recognize the pattern.
And then of course, we’ve got the much more direct method. I don’t think it’s okay to break up with anybody via text. I give you a pass if you have a disability and using a form of technology helps you communicate. Aside from that scenario, I think a breakup deserves a phone call or an in-person conversation.
I think it’s a balance in a breakup between being transparent and being sort of short on details. (If you’ve been married, you’re going to owe them more details than a 6-week courtship, of course.) Here’s why…Sometimes in a breakup, especially if the other person did not see it coming, we inadvertently say things that open that person up to thinking there are possibilities to fix it or an opportunity to renegotiate. If you are done and not open to fixing it, be short, be clear, be concise.
How to get over a breakup?
I know being alone isn’t much fun for some people. Practice getting used to being alone in your space with only the voices in our heads, especially if it’s your first time living solo as an adult. Get a pet. Find a healthy hobby. Meet your neighbors. Find community. Volunteer. Change jobs.
Recognize that loneliness and being alone are not the same thing. Connection comes in a multitude of ways. Loneliness is something of our own doing, oftentimes, because we are choosing not to create new bonds. Get on dating sites. Join a sports league. Make new connections somewhere! If you feel like you’re stuck, check out YouTube channel Kurzgesagt. They have an amazing video about the cycle of loneliness and how to break it.
Reflect and Learn
Not everyone should jump right back into the dating pool but do what’s right for you. I highly encourage you to take your time. Do some self-reflection, do some journaling, or talk to some you trust. Write or talk about some of the most important lessons you learned – the good, the bad, and the ugly. What did you learn from the relationship that will help you along your journey finding the next relationship?
I don’t think there’s a single sole person out there for us. I think there’s a handful of people spread all over the world, and it’s up to us to discern these people from the crowd. But unless you do some self-analysis and ask what are the lessons to be learned, you can get stuck in a pattern of choosing the same type of partner again and again.
Work on growing
After a breakup, commit to some growth. Read books, listen to podcasts, watch YouTube videos. Learn more about communication. Listen to episodes of my podcast. Find another podcast – one of my favorites is Small Things Often from The Gottman Institute. Every episode is under five minutes focusing on one brief topic that research shows help build healthy relationships.
Commit to self-reflection and gaining clarity. Go to therapy, go to a coach, go to group workshops. Learn more about what you want in a relationship. Learn more about your sexuality. Go out and date casually. Try some things your former partner would never try. Maybe join “Consent Kansas City,” or another kink affiliated group in your area, and meet some kinky singles you can just have some playtime with.
There is the old saying that “the best way to get over someone is to get under someone.” Just do it safely. Think about it before you jump back out there. Sometimes people are like, fuck it. I just want to get laid. I ain’t mad at that, yet other people need to take their time. You don’t need to have sex to go out on a date and distract yourself with the company of someone new. Make a new friend if that’s all you want to do.
You learn valuable lessons with every interaction you have with someone, gain more discernment with every person you date, learn to refine what it is you really want and need in a partner, and you learn how to better look for that next time.
If you are dragging your feet, not breaking up with this person or not walking away from the marriage; nothing is changing after you’ve asked for changes; you’re getting the apologies but not getting the promised change in behavior, it’s probably time to end the relationship.
When did you decide you needed to break-up with someone? Email me firstname.lastname@example.org. I want to hear your stories of breaking up and moving on.