Ending a Relationship

How to Know It's Time

Ending a relationship is rarely a simple decision. It’s very easy for many of us to justify red flags we may see in hopes that our partner changes. The more we wait for our partner to change the deeper into the relationship we are and it then becomes incredibly hard to think about hurting someone we care for. When deciding whether or not to end a relationship, we recommend you start by taking some time to personally reflect on your personal boundaries.

7 types of boundaries to consider:

  1. Physical boundaries refer to personal space and physical touch
  2. Emotional boundaries refer to a person’s feelings
  3. Intellectual boundaries refer to thoughts and ideas
  4. Material boundaries refer to money and possessions
  5. Time boundaries refer to how a person uses their time
  6. Technology boundaries refer to how an individual interacts online
  7. Sexual boundaries refer to emotional, intellectual, and physical aspects of sexuality

If you are considering ending your relationship, it is likely that one of your boundaries is not being respected. Keep in mind, even "good" people can push or cross someone’s boundaries. It’s important that you identify your boundaries and then communicate them to your partner. If your partner does not choose to respect the boundaries you have set, it is probably time to end the relationship because you have the right to your boundaries being respected, no justification needed.

Ending the Relationship

First and foremost, recognize that ending a relationship is going to be difficult. There is no easy way to end a relationship and someone is likely going to feel hurt. That doesn’t mean you change your mind about ending it.

5 tips for ending a relationship:

  1. Before you approach the conversation, make a pros and cons list about the relationship. Use that pros and cons list to formulate your talking points and to understand their potential concerns or arguments for continuing the relationship.
  2. If you feel safe to do so, break up in person. Do not end the relationship over text or through another person.
  3. Make sure you have concrete reasons as to why you want to end the relationship, and articulate them clearly (refer back to your cons!). The reality is, nobody wants to be rejected and you are rejecting somebody. The goal is to reject with respect. Use "I-Statements" to show responsibility and lower defensiveness.
  4. Your partner is likely going to have a lot of questions and may even attempt to change your mind. This is normal and okay. As long as your boundaries are still being respected and the conversation remains respectful. However, do not forget your pros and cons list and stand up for what is best for you.
  5. If you feel unsafe ending your relationship, do not do this alone. Speak with a SAAVI advocate about support options. Event if you do feel safe, but are nervous, you can come to by and practice the conversation with a SAAVI advocate.

Ultimately, you owe it to yourself to always choose yourself. Ending a relationship is going to be difficult, but being in a relationship that is not respectful will be more difficult.

How to Respond When Someone Ends Your Relationship

For many of us, someone telling us they no longer want to be in a relationship with us is going to bring to light several of our own insecurities. We may have a response of sadness; feeling like we aren't good enough or we did something wrong. We may have a response of anger; feeling like our partner is wrong and not being considerate. We may have a response of desperation; feeling like you can't imagine life without your partner and will do anything to keep them in your life. 

You are entitled to your emotional response, no matter what that is. However, it is important you ultimately respect that your partner wants to end your relationship. It's okay to ask clarifying questions as to why they want to end the relationship, but avoid forcing them to answer your questions, and avoid forcing them to stay with you. Find a way to give your point-of-view thoughtfully, without blaming or insulting them.

That probably feels discouraging because in movies and TV shows we see individuals fighting for their relationship to work no matter what that looks like. But in the real world, it is important to remain respectful of someone else's boundaries. Here are some things you can say when someone breaks up with you:

  • This makes me really sad, but I respect your decision.
  • I'm just trying to keep it together right now. I didn't see this coming and—if I'm being honest—it really hurts. But I can't make you do anything you don't want to do. I really care about you and if being with me doesn't make you happy, then I agree that we shouldn't be together.
  • This hurts so much. I'm not telling you that to make you feel bad. I'm just trying to be honest. I wish this weren't happening, but I accept that you have a different vision of the future.
  • You're going to have to give me some time to think about this. Do you think we could talk in a couple of days? (respect if they aren't OK to talk)
  • I don't completely understand why, but I understand that you don't want to be together anymore, and that makes me really sad. I know I'm going to be okay but it hurts a lot right now.

While it isn't the responsibility of your partner to support you through the break-up, it is important that you find ways to support your own healing. Here are some tips we have for healing: 

  • In the immediate, take deep breaths and remind yourself that you will be OK. You may feel like you're lying to yourself and it may take a long time, but tell yourself "I will be OK. I will be OK. I will be OK."
  • Set and keep 'break-up boundaries'. While you are going to want to keep in contact with your ex, it's important to set strict boundaries. Remove them or mute them on social media, block their phone number, and don't go to their home. 
  • Say goodbye in your own way. This could be writing a goodbye letter that you never send or burning things that remind you of them (but don't burn their stuff!).
  • Surround yourself with people and things that give you true support. This could mean having a sleepover with your friends or signing up for a pottery class.
  • Give yourself time. The greatest way to heal a broken heart is time. It's not a satisfying answer because nobody wants to feel hurt, but time truly does heal all wounds.