Most people embark on at least one relationship in life that doesn’t work out. Sooner or later we all have to end a friendship or romance that doesn’t seem headed in the right direction. When the time comes to say good-bye, it helps to be prepared to handle the situation tactfully but firmly.
If you find yourself in this position, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- End it sooner than later. In a dating relationship, three months seems to be a common rule of thumb for determining whether a relationship has potential or is headed nowhere. Some couples may need more time, and others, less, but you might be able to come to a decision within a few months’ time. Remember, the longer you allow the situation to drag on, the harder it may become to break it off. Keep things light until you get a feel for the person’s character, personality, and common interests. Then, if you don’t feel moved to continue working on a bond, it may be time to let go.
- Be tactful. Give some thought to what you want to say before you actually say it. For most couples, a face-to-face conversation is the best way to break things off. But sometimes a telephone call or letter may work better, especially if the other person is having a hard time letting go and is apt to become emotional during the break-up. Instead of focusing on your partner’s weaknesses, try to emphasize both of your needs for individuality and common ground, leading to the point that your present situation does not promote these as well as both of you might like. You might end on the point that you are confident your friend will do well in life generally and that you wish him or her all the best.
- Stay calm. It is easy to become emotional or upset during a breakup. No one wants to be rejected or to hurt someone by ending a relationship. Then, too, there is the disappointment of an emotional investment that didn’t work out. But instead of dwelling on these negative thoughts, emphasize the positive. There must have been a few positives during your time together that you can remember with fondness. Don’t get upset if the other person says hurtful or negative things. After all, now that the relationship is ending, you won’t have to put up with complaints or criticism anymore. Understand that the other person may feel hurt and is lashing you to make you hurt, too. Offer empathy or ignore it.
- Be direct. Don’t beat around the bush. Rather than hinting that the breakup may be temporary or making up an excuse about your job or family, simply explain that the relationship is not working out as you had hoped and that you are sure both will better off going separate ways. You can mention feelings of sadness or disappointment, but don’t stir false hope if there isn’t any on your part. Don’t be evasive. Meet with the soon-to-be-ex-partner and frankly share your concerns along with best wishes for the future.
- Remain, friends. Try to part as friends if possible. For romantic relationships, this sometimes can’t happen. In such cases, maintain mutual respect. Don’t allow the breakup to disintegrate into name-calling, blame, or anger. Mention your good wishes for the other person and your hope that he or she will let you know about a big career break or educational achievement that may be looming on the horizon.
Breaking up is never easy. But when it comes, try to retain a gentle air of compassion and honesty, and both of you may part with civil if not pleasant feelings and memories.