How to End a Relationship: A 5-Step Guide to Breaking up, Letting Go and Moving on
Let’s get you to the next chapter of your life.
Ending a relationship can be a painful process. Your hopes and dreams for a future with your partner are typically replaced with disappointment and anger.
But while breaking up is always tough—and can take a serious toll on your mental health in the short term—it’s also a great opportunity for personal and relationship growth. The end of a relationship can bring sadness of course but also clarity and a renewed purpose for finding yourself—and the right partner someday.
To help you through this often challenging time, here is a five-step guide for weathering the storm of a breakup, letting go of the relationship and moving on to the next bright, new chapter of your life.
Put a Post-breakup Self Care Plan in Place
If you’re the one doing the breaking up, you know what’s coming. (Though, even if you’re not the one to officially end things, you likely have a sense that a breakup is on the horizon.) Once you realize that there’s a clock ticking down the time left of your relationship, you can start preparing for the inevitable fall out.
This means determining how you’ll take care of yourself when the relationship officially ends. Self care looks different for everyone but some ideas might be: stocking your refrigerator and pantry with nourishing foods, firming up an exercise routine that you can use to worth through your emotions in a physical way, putting in for time off from work so you can take a restorative vacation, researching a therapist so you can get mental health support, starting a meditation practice or making the perfect post-breakup playlist.
Doing this before the relationship is completely over—when you’ll be less inclined to want to take care of yourself—gives you a head start on healing.
Have a Respectful Breakup Conversation
When it comes time to have the big talk about your relationship, come prepared with what you want to say. This helps keep you from lashing out emotionally or saying things you don’t really mean. Coming to the conversation as calm and prepared as possible allows you to have a respectful breakup—and fewer regrets about how things went down.
If you have questions for your soon-to-be ex or need things clarified, use the breakup as the time to get your answers. Put it all on the table so you don’t feel the urge to call them or text them after the fact. You’re going to need space to truly be able to move on.
Set Boundaries to Let Yourself Heal
After the breakup, do what you need to do to facilitate your own healing. While you may have the desire to befriend your now-ex, don’t get ahead of yourself emotionally. Right after a breakup is not the time to transition from partners to friends. You need space. They need space.
To create these boundaries, initiate a rule of no contact after the breakup. Don’t respond to texts or calls. Stop following your ex (and their friends and family members) on social media. Block these people if you need to so that you can protect your peace. If your ex needs to pick up stuff they left at your house, put everything in a box and leave it on your front porch. You might want to consider getting rid of or storing any relics of your relationship (gifts from your ex or pictures of you two) as well. These steps in the process are all so important for letting go.
Finally, sit with your own feelings and decide who is worthy of speaking about those feelings with. (Like only your close friends or your therapist. Or maybe no one at all. Your choice.) You don’t owe people an explanation or a play by play of your breakup. Shut down any conversation that’s seeking to get information out of you—your life is not fodder for gossip.
Utilize Your Support System and Self-Care Strategies
Lean on the people who love you to get through this hard time. When friends offer to bring over food (or wine) or ask if you need anything don’t brush them off. Let them help you, even if it’s just listening to you talk out your feelings yet again. Strengthening the bonds with the people who are close to you will serve as a reminder that while you’re now single you are certainly not alone.
Be sure that you’re keeping up with your self care during this time, too. Revisit the plan you made and decide if you need to tweak or add in anything that can help you. Many people find journaling to be a helpful post-breakup activity as it allows them to get everything out. There’s a certain power in writing your feelings down—doing so can almost neutralize or take some of the sting out of your heartache.
Prioritize your own happiness
Now that you’re no longer part of a couple you have the opportunity to truly focus on your own needs and desires. You hold the keys to your own happiness and you don’t need to compromise or defer to anyone else right now. You don’t have to check in with anyone or ask for permission. Especially if you’re emerging from a long term relationship, this can be a strange, almost foreign feeling.
Take this chance to rediscover who you are outside of being someone’s partner. What activities do you truly enjoy doing? Who do you actually love to hang out with? What really lights you up inside? Prioritize your joy to help you move on from this relationship.
Once you feel healed from your breakup, you might start to ponder if you’d like to find someone new. The possibilities for your next partner are truly endless and you never know who you might meet. Get excited knowing that your best relationship is yet to come.
Remember that everyone’s post-breakup process may look a little different since no two people, or two relationships, are alike. As you grieve the death of what could have been, just know that you’ll come out the other side stronger and more love-savvy than ever before.