It doesn't have to end badly: There are good ways to handle a break-up - Hindustan Times
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Does it have to end badly? There are good ways to handle a break-up, says Simran Mangharam

BySimran Mangharam
Aug 05, 2023 09:10 PM IST

When telling someone you want to end a relationship, prepare for the emotion and distress that will follow; listen; let the other person have their say too.

What does a “good” breakup look like?

They discussed the end, avoided judgement, she explained why the relationship was no longer working for her: Ted and Alexis got at least one thing right, in Schitt’s Creek. PREMIUM
They discussed the end, avoided judgement, she explained why the relationship was no longer working for her: Ted and Alexis got at least one thing right, in Schitt’s Creek.

In my years as a relationship coach, I have seen multiple people drag a relationship out, to the detriment of both parties, because they could not bring themselves to say the words. I have seen others end things in terribly hurtful or terribly indirect ways.

I have touched upon some of these cases in previous episodes of this column, where I wrote about the need for closure; about the need to let a break-up be a clean break.

But what’s a good way to actually do the telling? Let me first state for the record that the two worst ways are texting, and ghosting.

Ghosting is low for obvious reasons, and I don’t believe that — short of actual risk of bodily harm — there is ever an excuse for it. A text is perhaps the second-most-cruel and demeaning way to end a relationship. I believe that a person deserves to be told face-to-face that something they have invested emotion, intimacy and time in, is not working out.

Now, before we get to the least offensive way to break up with someone, there are two things one should try at all costs to avoid doing.

Do not say they must have known this was coming. This only serves to make the person feel stupid in addition to unloved. It may sound like a statement that will help bolster your case; it does not. It is hurtful and will almost certainly lead to tears.

There will likely be some argument, some pain. Do not respond by trying to convince the other person that this is the best thing for them / the right way forward / good for you both in the long run. These are patronising statements that belittle what the other person is feeling. They do nothing to help. And they will most likely spark tears and anger.

Instead, restrict statements to your experience. Explain in simple, accusation-free words why you have decided that you cannot continue in this bond. Use terms that are sensitive but clear. Use empathy: what is the least damaging thing someone could say to you in such a situation? Go from there.

Reiterate that you are grieving, but will not change your mind. And once you’ve said your piece, just listen. Expect the conversation to taper, become uncomfortable, become repetitive. Repeat your original statements calmly and kindly, if necessary. Avoid being drawn into a discussion of pros and cons; a rehash of past disputes; or a trading of accusations or barbs. Exit politely.

Do not have the break-up discussion for any reason other than that you truly mean to end this.

This way you will be sure that you can keep up your end of the bargain, because it doesn’t end with the talk. There are two vital things to keep in mind in the days and weeks to come.

First: You have no right to contact this person again. Any such contact is cruel, indicative of hope, and self-serving. You may tell yourself you’re doing it for them; you’re not. If you are genuinely concerned, reach out to a common friend, a sibling or other relative.

Second: Let’s say the break-up went well. Perhaps you parted ways agreeing to stay friends. Good for you. You still may not, under any circumstances, be the first to reach out. If they reach out in friendship, tread sensitively. Keep the meetings few in number and low in intensity. Coffee, not dinner. A park, not a movie.

What if you are now having second thoughts? Proceed with extreme caution until you are certain that this is something you are willing to commit to, to a far greater degree than you did before. (If you’ve already been here before, and the second chance would actually constitute a third or fourth, you need to ask yourself what you’re doing.)

If you are not having second thoughts, and they are, it is healthiest to revisit the idea of friendships a few weeks or months down the line. No matter what alternatives you may think up together, take it from a professional, that is the kindest thing to do.

(Simran Mangharam is a dating and relationship coach and can be reached on simran@floh.in)

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