INSIDE OUT DATING GUIDE 1
ENDING A RELATIONSHIP THAT ISN’T WORKING
In a new monthly series, our relationships expert, Sarah Abell, looks at dating issues and offers readers her practical advice. This month, she looks at how to end a relationship if it isn’t working.
First things first, you need to decide whether the relationship really is over or if what you are going through is just a little bump on the road to true love.
It can be a shock in any dating relationship when you have your first argument or notice a really annoying habit in your partner that you hadn’t seen before. The temptation can be to throw in the towel at the first sign of a problem but the reality is that all relationships take work. Even in the best relationships there will come a time when you need to recognise the differences between you, resolve conflict and face up to the fact that your partner isn’t perfect after all.
But what happens when the rose tinted glasses come off and you realise that you really don’t love (or even like) this person anymore? What if you can no longer see yourself in a long-term relationship with them? What if you can’t be yourself when you are with them? What if you have discovered that they are abusive, unkind, dishonest or unfaithful? In these cases, the time may well have come to end the relationship.
Ending a relationship is never easy. It helps to try to do it as soon as possible after you’ve made the decision, because delaying the inevitable can make things worse, as Sophie discovered.
“I had dated Charlie for three years, we were living together, he had moved cities to be with me and was very much a part of my family. We were very much in love but I had realised that I didn’t want to marry him, so decided I had to end our relationship. It was a few weeks before Christmas and I confided in my mother, who insisted that I had to wait until after Christmas to break up with Charlie as he was joining us on our family Christmas holiday. He has no family where we live, and she thought it would be just ‘too mean’.
“I did what my mother suggested but Charlie wasn’t stupid and he realised that something was wrong during the holiday. He kept asking what it was, but I didn’t want to upset my family or him and ‘ruin Christmas’ so I pretended it was all OK.
“As soon as we were back home, I told him it was over and, yes, he was upset. But what hurt him most was knowing that I had felt that way for weeks but I had carried on as if nothing was wrong. He felt lied to. It was so awful and I decided never again to let convenience or the feelings of family or friends dictate the timing of my relationships.”
If you do have to end a relationship, do it kindly. Think about how you would like to be told. Make sure you do it face to face (where possible). I think texting is a definite no-no, as is splitting up via email or just changing your status on Facebook. If you can’t physically be in the same place, at least do it on the phone or over Skype so that you can have a two-way conversation.
Don’t bottle it and get your best friend to give the bad news on your behalf, as happened to one friend of mine. And don’t leave the person to guess that the relationship is over, as happened to Blake: “I was in a long-distance relationship. My girlfriend came back home to England early spring and invited me to come with her to Sydney for Easter. It was a great idea, although logistically it was going to be hard to organise a flight that close to the time… a few options of how I could do this were racing through my head until she said… ‘It would be great, you can meet my new boyfriend’… It wasn’t the best way to find out, and needless to say I didn’t take her up on her offer.”
When it comes to explaining why you want to break up, be clear (and gentle) about your reasons. Clichéd lines like, “It isn’t you – it’s me,” aren’t helpful. Give them an opportunity to ask questions and fully take on board what you are saying. You may have been deciding this for weeks but they may not have seen this conversation coming, so it could take them a little while to get their head around it. You may need to give them time to think about it and then chat again a couple of days later, when they have thought of all the things they want to ask.
It can help to discuss how the break-up is going to work. If you have been living together, discuss who will move out and when. If you have any joint possessions how will you split them? Will there be any contact? Talk together about what will happen if you are both going to the same event, party, friend’s house or meeting. Will there be a time when you can be friends? How will you let the other know if one of you starts to see someone else? These are difficult conversations to have but the clearer you can be the easier the break-up will be for both of you.
The worst thing you can do is to give false hope that you may get back together again one day if that is not true. The truth can hurt but lies can hurt even more. I have heard too many stories of people who have told their boyfriend or girlfriend that they just don’t want to get married at the moment or aren’t ready for a big commitment, and then four months down the line they are engaged to someone else.
If I had to sum up my advice for splitting up well it would be: be kind, be clear and be firm. Ending a relationship is never going to be a pleasant experience but if you can keep those three things in mind it will hopefully lessen the pain for you and for the other person.
If you are reading this and have a story of how not to end a relationship or any tips on how to do it well, please do include them in the comments section below. It would be great to hear about your experiences.