I recently found myself in one of the most uncomfortable situations of my life during a couples’ counseling session. The counselor turned to my partner and me and asked us a seemingly simple question: What makes this relationship worth staying?
The answer should be obvious (or so I thought). I love my partner and have for years. I’ve spent nearly every single day of my life over the past decade by his side, experiencing all the highs and lows of life.
However, I quickly learned during that turbulent 50-minute counseling session that love isn’t the end-all, be-all for many relationships. In fact, there are many times when we must part ways with someone even when we love them.
But how can we break up with someone we love? And even more importantly, how can we do it in a way that avoids excessive heartache? And, if we do part ways with someone we love, is there ever a chance that we could reconnect later down the line?
Why dating immediately after a breakup is a bad idea
Let’s be real: We all feel loneliest immediately after a breakup. Once you finish binge-watching every rom-com available on Netflix, you might consider hitting the nightclub with your single friends or updating your Tinder profile.
However, that’s one of the worst things you can do.
According to Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Eric Williams, loneliness can seriously cloud your dating judgment calls. When you feel lonely, Williams says that you “sacrifice your values and principles and overlook relationship deal breakers for the sake of not being lonely.”
Also, when you jump right back into dating after a breakup, you more than likely don’t care about the person so much as the idea of a relationship. If you’re thinking about jumping back into a relationship, ask yourself one simple question: Am I interested in this person or do I just want a relationship?
If you’re just looking to hook up with someone to feel full or connected, try dating yourself first. Trust me, you and your future partner will both benefit from the time you invest in yourself during this critical juncture.
How long should you wait to start dating again?
So, we know that jumping right back into the water after calling it quits with your former partner isn’t the best choice, but how long is long enough?
Dr. Paulette Sherman, psychologist and author of Dating From The Inside Out, claims that “most people probably wait at least a month if they had a relationship that was at least a few months long.
If it was a more significant relationship then they may take longer, like three months or more, to start dating again.”
With that being said, you shouldn’t get hung up on a specific timeline. In fact, if you ask matchmaker Gina Yannotta of The Vida Consultancy, you should feel like you can maintain a positive mindset again before jumping back into the dating pool.
As Yannotta says, “A positive mindset leads to positive behavior, which in turn increases your chances of a positive outcome.”
Yannotta also recommends that you do some soul searching and know what went wrong with your previous relationship before bringing someone new into your life. “Take time to reflect on the attributes your ex had that worked for you and that didn’t. Repeat this exercise for all your exes. This will steer you towards a healthy, lasting relationship.”
The best thing you can do before you start dating again is to be honest with yourself. If you still feel heartbroken or find yourself still communicating with your ex, it’s not time to start dating someone new.
However, if you feel comfortable and happy on your own, then chances are you’re ready to dip your toe into the dating pool once again.
How do you breakup with someone without hurting their feelings?
I know that breakups are never easy to navigate. When we still deeply care about someone, though, ending a relationship without hurting the other person can feel like an impossible task. Although many factors impact your decision to end a relationship, you can utilize these general guidelines to help you and your partner split amicably:
1. Have A Pre-Breakup Conversation
Relationship podcaster Laurel House recommends that you sit down for an open, candid conversation with your partner before you actually make a choice to split up.
“You need to sit down and have a real, honest, calm, loving, but direct conversation about your relationship needs and gently, but honestly and again directly express which are not being fulfilled,” House says.
She also recommends that you come up with a plan together with a timeline. If no changes happen within a month, then it’s time to call it quits.
2. Plan Ahead
Although you shouldn’t lead your partner on or give them false hope, you should take time to plan out your words in advance. Consider all of the logistics of the breakup, especially if you’ve been together for a long period of time, live together, or have children.
Emotions will likely be high when you start the breakup process, so having these important details mapped out in advance will help you through.
3. Always Breakup In Person
Electronic communication helps us feel less vulnerable, but it takes away body language and other critical components of serious conversations. That’s why many experts recommend that you always break up with someone in person.
It’s important that both you and your partner experience the breakup as it happens, and doing so in person helps with that.
Ending the relationship for someone else
We all know that love is a complicated emotion. Unfortunately, that sometimes means that people can sometimes still love their partner even after the romance fizzles out. Instead of cheating on your partner or clinging to a partner who cheats on you, though, always break things off when another person becomes involved in the relationship.
Author and palliative care nurse Bonnie Ware says one of the worst things you can do is live with regret. So, if you’ve found someone new or see apparent signs that your partner is, then it’s time to let go.
Sit down and have an honest, direct conversation with your partner and express your feelings and give them space to do the same. By doing this, you just might find that although you both love each other deeply, a romantic relationship is no longer the best choice for the two of you.
If you’re the one who found someone new, explain how that happened to your partner. Openly express any infidelity that occurred (or lack thereof if it didn’t), but don’t press your partner to forgive you. If your partner is the one who moved on, share your knowledge without making any accusations or attacks; just state the facts.
Finally, discuss any parameters on communication after the breakup. If you choose to remain friends, explore what that looks like and discuss any boundaries that you’d like to set.
If you decide that friendship isn’t possible, then establish rules and boundaries for communication or situations where mutual friends are involved. It’s best to cover all the groundwork before saying goodbye for good.
Breaking up because of long distance
Although all of our internet gadgets make long-distance communication easier than ever before, maintaining long-distance relationships is a challenging task for most couples. In fact, nearly half of all long-distance relationships end in a breakup, and most only last about one-third as long as most other romantic relationships.
If you feel like your LDR isn’t working out, then plan a time to sit down over video chat and hash things out. And, for the most part, you can follow the same basic guidelines for an in-person breakup.
The one positive about breaking up with someone you love because of distance is that you can each fully receive the space and time you need to heal.
Set parameters on digital communication after the breakup (I recommend no contact for a bit), then let the tears flow. You’ll heal in time, I promise.
Calling it quits with someone you live with
Speaking from personal experience, calling it quits with your live-in partner can be one of the hardest breakup situations to navigate. On top of all the complicated emotions, you must also work out the countless logistical factors that come with living together.
The first thing I recommend you do is to plan a firm move out date and establish your own spaces within the home or apartment during the breakup conversation. You’ll each want a safe space that you can retreat to when emotions rise, so it’s essential to establish these rules from the get-go.
When it comes to splitting possessions and planning the actual moving process, don’t decide anything in the heat of the moment. According to psychologist and author Amy Morin, feelings “can lead you astray” if you’re not careful. So, allow a cooling-off period before you and your ex-partner make any decisions about splitting assets.
Finally, avoid the temptation to get back together or fool around with your partner while still living together. Sex complicates everything, and although some websites suggest that breakup sex is kinky, the reality is that it will leave both parties confused and even more emotional.
Breaking it off with a long-term relationship partner
The longer you spend with someone, the harder it is to let them go. We all grow complacent and we hate letting go. However, if you find yourself at an impasse with your partner or questioning if you should stay, then it’s time to break things off regardless of the history you share with your partner.
Obviously, the choice to end a long-term relationship is rarely a spur-of-the-moment choice for most of us. Although you could list many reasons for the split, life coach Matthew Hussey’s YouTube video on breakups recommends that you keep your grievances brief.
Furthermore, you want to remain calm and collected, but also acknowledge the extreme gravity of the situation. Even if you just say, “I know this is difficult,” your partner will feel like you care and, in turn, will receive your message more openly.
Once you hash out all the details of the split, Getting Past Your Breakup author Susan J. Elliott recommends that you take a lengthy break from all forms of communication with your now ex. “This is part of the grieving process,” she says. “When your ex is still there, it stalls the process.”
Also, my personal bit of advice? Don’t hold back on sharing the news with friends and family — you’ll need their support to power through your heartache.
Is it normal for couples to break up and get back together?
During high school, I dated a guy on and off for two and a half years. At the time, I thought that our constant back and forth was a normal part of intimate relationships. And, as it turns out, I wasn’t wrong: a 2014 study at Kansas State University found that nearly 40 percent of couples experience that on-again, off-again relationship.
While many couples can power through a breakup and come back together stronger, others continue to split when times get tough, then run back to each other when conditions improve.
Relationship cycling — that constant on-again, off-again process — is never healthy for anyone. These relationships often lead to dissatisfied partners who can’t work through problems. If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to break the cycle sooner than later.
What percentage of breakups get back together?
Relationship cycling aside, researchers Sarah Halpern-Meekin, Wendy Manning, Peggy Giordano, and Monica Longmore found that nearly 50 percent of couples experience one breakup during the lifetime of their relationship. So, if you feel a breakup is needed but still hold feelings for your partner, there’s a 50-50 chance you could later end up together again.
Reasons your breakup is the best thing for you
Although the reality is hard to face, there are times when breaking ties with a partner is ultimately the best thing for you. Even if you love your significant other, here are some reasons why you should end the relationship immediately:
- There’s infidelity from either party
- You’re constantly fighting over small, petty matters
- Your lives are going in entirely different directions
- Sex is the only reason you’re still together
- Your partner is displaying abusive behaviors or you fear for your safety
Although the heartache may sting for a while, once you move on, you’ll eventually feel a bit lighter. If one (or more) of my previously mentioned points is happening in your relationship, then chances are you feel unhappy and even a bit trapped. Letting go will ultimately lead you down the path you’re meant to be on and alleviate the stress you feel.
Can true love survive a breakup?
I always hated the phrase, “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it's yours. If not, it was never meant to be.” However, many people wonder if their love can survive a breakup and look to this phrase for inspiration.
According to Sheri Meyers, a clinical psychologist and author of Chatting or Cheating, “If you choose to try again [after a breakup], you both know that your hearts are really in the right place. And that's a great foundation from which to build a new relationship.”
When you really love someone, you accept them despite their flaws. And if you experience someone during the throws of a breakup and still want to try again, that’s likely a sign that you truly love the person.
Also, chances are that if you’re willing to give your ex another shot, they’ve made some sort of radical changes. And, more than likely, these changes involved the exact problems that caused you to split to begin with.
How do you know when a relationship is really over permanently?
Even if you decide to break things off with your significant other, it’s hard to know if your relationship is really over or just “on a break.” According to psychologist Suzanne Degges-White, though, there are a few clear signs that your relationship has hit its natural end.
According to Degges-White, all relationships experience highs and lows. With that being said, there’s a huge difference between a lull and a real issue. If you find yourself continually resenting your partner, avoiding all contact with them, or seeing no trace of them in your aspirations, then things are probably over for good.
Once you split, you’ll also find more signs that the relationship has run its course. If you find that after six months you’re happier and healthier than you were with your partner, you’re excited when someone compliments you, or you’re making long-term plans, then chances are you’ve successfully moved on.
Sometimes love can blind us to the point where we don’t even realize that our relationship is no longer benefiting anyone. What’s more, humans thrive on consistency, and long-term partners can provide that in our lives.
However, I’ve learned the hard way that even when you truly love someone staying together isn’t always the best choice for you or your partner.
It’s important to always be honest with yourself and your partner when your heart starts feeling heavy during the course of your relationship. In fact, honest, vulnerable conversations can ultimately help you end relationships on good terms.
And although it may seem impossible, time heals all wounds. You can always still love someone and care about them in a completely platonic way without continuing an unhealthy romantic relationship with them.
If your gut tells you that it’s time to end your relationship, then it’s probably right. Take some time to think things over, but at the end of the day, trust your heart to lead you in the right direction. Your happiness is ultimately the most important thing in life — even if that means breaking up with someone you love.