Breakups can be difficult, but, like any obstacle, they can be an opportunity for growth. The difference between a messy breakup and an empowering one, often comes down to execution. A breakup is about more than leaving your significant other: it’s about embracing new possibilities, reaching closure, finding confidence, and self-expression. This is your definitive guide on how to break up with someone like a pro.
1. Plan out what you’re going to say.
Reasons to break up come in all shapes and sizes. If you feel your reasons are valid, then they are. Now count them up and list them. You don’t need to rehearse every word to a T, but have something more specific than a grocery list. Breakups are emotional. You’ll want to make sure, even when everything is said and done, that you’ve expressed your feelings to the best of your ability so you both can move on.
Also, include on your list the things your partner did well. You had reasons for being together, whether you changed or they did. Build them up and you’ll set a good foundation for yourself to move on from.
2. Treat them with respect and listen to what they have to say.
When the moment comes, don’t lead with anger. It’s okay to feel pain, but leave the malice behind. To break up is to begin a process of healing, and anger will lead to more hurt.
If you’re having trouble starting, just say the words, “I don’t think we should be together.” You may feel a well of emotions. Your partner may get upset. Give yourselves time to process the words.
When things have settled, start with the list you made in the first step. Don’t fault them for the relationship’s failure. Explain how the relationship no longer provides what you need. Give nuanced truths: how the relationship was good, where you contributed to the failure of the relationship, when things changed. This is the time to say everything you need to say and ask all the questions you want answers to.
Last, give them time to talk. You don’t owe your partner a negotiation, but you owe them an ear. Relationships take time and energy from both partners, and when relationships end, well, it takes two to tango. Allow them to express all they need to, so they can begin their own healing process.
3. The no contact rule and what’s next.
It’s common for people to try to be friends after a breakup, but it’s best not to. I recommend a no contact rule for at least two months, ideally longer. This period allows for emotional wounds to heal.
It’s important that beyond not contacting your ex, you’re actively trying to put them out of your mind. This means not following them on social media, not asking about them with mutual friends, but also actively not thinking about them. This isn’t the time for rosy retrospection. It’s time to start the next chapter.
4. Lean on your friends and family for support as needed.
Oftentimes, wounds will be raw for weeks or months following the breakup, even if it was amicable. Talk to your friends and family. Sharing your feelings is always better than bottling them up. If you’re still upset, say it. If you’re sad, say it. Friends and family will be your support groups. Give yourself permission to need them.
5. Focus on mental and physical wellbeing.
Performing daily activities to improve your mental and physical wellbeing should be routine outside of post-breakup situations, but if they’re not there’s no time like the present to start.
Exercise has been proven to improve mental health. You don’t have to be a gym nut in order to exercise a few times a week. Many people don’t know what type of exercise best suits them, so try a bunch of things and see what you like best. Running, weightlifting, and yoga are all good places to start. Group classes are also great ways to meet people.
To improve your mental health actively, try meditation. I recommend the app Headspace. It breaks down meditation into easy-to-follow steps in short, one-minute or more courses.
6. Embrace new possibilities.
You’re single now. Without your partner, you should have a lot more time and freedom. Take advantage of it. It’s time to pick up a hobby, take a vacation, or get back to socializing in the way you used to. You don’t need to consider your partner’s needs at every turn, so take advantage of that. Try being a yes person for the first few months out. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way and see where it takes you. This is time for you to figure out exactly what you want for you and you alone.
7. Get out there and start dating.
Take your time with dating. It doesn’t need to happen right away, but it does need to happen. Part of the growth that comes with moving on from a long-term partner is the ability to take on a new romantic identity in your future relationships. Push yourself to meet new people online and in person. Push yourself to figure out what you want in a partner (or if you even want one). Push yourself to find a new way to love that will serve you better than the way you’ve been.
A breakup can be grueling, but there are ways to make the best of it and put your best foot forward. Embrace the end and use it to strengthen yourself for the future. Get ready for what’s next.