When Is the Best Time to Break Up?

Many of us recognise and are appreciative of the happy combination of good fortune and circumstance that brings each special someone into our lives; that chance meeting, a swipe on a dating site, the acceptance of an invitation we were initially unsure of can all lead to us meeting someone who makes our lives super-wonderful for a while.

But equally there can come a time when it becomes clear the relationship has run its course and is now over. It's time to acknowledge that what was once of great significance is now over and we need to move on.

But when is the best time to break up and why is it often so hard to do?

- It's not unusual for two people to have very different views on the state of their relationship. They may not be in the same place emotionally or simply refuse to accept that it's over. Indeed one person may feel everything's fine and perhaps not even notice the cues from their partner that they're restless and wanting to move on. Breaking up can be tough when we know the other person cares so much and is hanging on. Few of us want to be responsible for someone else's pain, especially when they were once such an important part of our lives.

- Investment, both emotionally and financially can influence the decision to break up. Children are often a serious consideration - how disruptive will a breakup be, how much will it impact on their stability and wellbeing? Bigger family implications can also factor; disappointing others, damaging the status quo. Equally, finances can be enough to cause couples to stay together. Splitting the household, sorting out a settlement, agreeing custody as well as facing a large legal bill can be enough to deter some couples from breaking up.

- Secrets can be a huge part of our relationship. Letting someone know our innermost thoughts, fears and concerns, maybe disclosing past mistakes and indiscretions can make us vulnerable. There may be unease as to the aftermath of breaking up; how safe will those secrets be? Taking that risk as well as the prospect of starting the whole process again with someone new can prompt serious consideration.

- 'Perhaps I won't find someone else/better/who'll put up with me.' We can sometimes put off ending our relationship out of concern that the grass isn't always greener elsewhere. 'Better the devil I know' can keep us in a relationship which is increasingly more and more of a compromise.

- Might it be recoverable if we both try again? Relationship counselling can play a valuable role in helping improve communications and become better able to see each other's point of view. Trying again can include becoming calmer, taking things less personally and avoiding saying and doing hurtful things. It encompasses learning to stop reacting because you're feeling upset or wounded. But relationship counselling can also help facilitate the process of breaking up, especially when children are involved. Remember, you loved each other once.

But when it's clear that it's the right time to break up;

- Take the bull by the horns and say that you need to have a chat. Often they'll have an inkling as to what that might be. There are bound to have been changes to your body language and the quality of your interactions as you've gradually moved away from the relationship. By saying that you need to talk you're underlining that you've something serious to say, and it gives the other person chance to mentally prepare.

- Be discreet, respectful. Yes, you may have discussed your misgivings about the relationship with close friends or confidantes, but if you're the initiator of the breakup avoid the temptation to tell too many others first. It's hurtful and embarrassing to be the last person to discover your relationship's over.

- Keep the conversation on track and avoid listing all their failures and shortcomings. Be firm and clear about your intention to break up but stay on point by saying that it's no longer working for you. If your paths are likely to cross in the future it's good to stay reasonably amicable, even if you can't remain friends.That's why it's often better to end it rather than let it drag on indefinitely, hoping they'll end it first, gradually becoming increasingly unhappy, sour and full of recriminations.

- Accept that there's a need to grieve, sometimes before the relationship officially ends or even if it's you who's initiating the breakup. It's sad to lose a close relationship with all the dreams that accompanied it. Grieve too for things that were said and done that cannot be unsaid, that you regret, that may be forgiven but not forgotten.

- Grief can include several stages; denial, bargaining and negotiation, anger, depression until there comes acceptance. All can be drifted in and out of, with no particular pattern. Accept those phases, though occasionally accept too if a good friend says it's time to move on and stop the analysis and introspection!

Remember, by ending the relationship sooner rather than letting it drag on it's often easier to keep the friendship or at least retain a balance of mutual respect.


Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.

She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.

To order a copy or for more information, help and free articles visit http://www.lifestyletherapy.net