How to Break Up Well

Breaking up is hard to do—but is there a way to do it right?

When a couple that has been dating for two and a half years hears the news that their friends who have been dating for six months have made the leap to engagement, questions often arise: “What’s wrong with us? If they’re ready, why aren’t we?” Many couples conclude that the reason they’re not ready is that perhaps the relationship isn’t right, so they break it off.

When your partner wants to know why you’re breaking up, be a true friend and be honest.

Whatever the reason behind your breakup, what does a healthy break-up look like? How can you do it with integrity? And how can you respond when the person being left behind is you?

Sooner is better than later

Once you know the relationship has run its course, don’t prolong its inevitable end simply because your girlfriend’s sister is getting married in a month and you’ve already agreed to be at the wedding. More damage can be done and more hurt can be leveled in a month of uncertainty than a year of trial and error. It’s just human nature. Your significant other will sense you’re pulling away, and when they bring it up and you deny it, they’ll rightfully accuse you of dishonesty and wasting their time.

I’m not saying you should run as soon as you have any hesitation. Be deliberate and thoughtful. If you didn’t enter a relationship too hastily, there’s no reason to get out of it too hastily. But when you arrive at the point where you know there is no chance the relationship will progress toward marriage, be open, honest and clear.

Be helpful but not a counselor

When your partner wants to know why you’re breaking up, be a true friend and be honest. Compassionately but clearly state the main reasons. Keep in mind, however, that this isn’t the time for counseling. If the issue is that the guy has no ambitions, say so: “I just don’t see you going anywhere right now vocationally, and that’s a huge problem for me.” This helps him and chases away some of the uncertainty that creates even more hurt. But don’t get sucked into a counseling session where he might come back with, “Well, what if I send out more applications or take that internship? Do you think that would be wise?” At that point, be direct: “I’m not the one to discuss this with, and this isn’t the time or place, because whatever you do, it’s not going to change what’s happening here.”

Some people, by not giving any reasons for a break-up, risk creating anger that takes a long time to resolve. You’re trying to be nice by remaining silent, but the other person usually takes it the other way, feeling that it’s cruel to leave him or her hanging—and that person has a point if the relationship has been a significant one. If you can find a sensitive way to explain why you’re breaking things off, do so. Giving that person some clues can help him or her grow through the experience, which is kind, but that doesn’t mean you need to become a counselor and try to fix what went or is wrong.

Don’t blame your parents, your friends or God. You made the call to get into the relationship, and you have to own the decision to break it off.

Own the decision

Don’t blame your parents, your friends or God. You made the call to get into the relationship, and you have to own the decision to break it off.

When you say, “God is leading me to end this” (particularly if the person is less spiritually mature than you are), you’re risking making the person angry with God instead of you, when in reality, you should be more concerned about how he or she is doing with God than how he or she feels about you.

Your desire to not pursue marriage with the person is legitimate; in the end, that’s all someone else needs to know. It’s your decision. Own it.

If it’s over, tell them it’s over

Don’t say, “It’s time to take a break,” if you don’t intend to ever get back together again. If the relationship is over for good, say so. It’s unkind to leave a boyfriend or girlfriend hanging or to give them false hope just to spare you the pain of watching that person hurt. Hurt will come eventually, because one day he or she will realize you’re never going to get back together again—either when you start dating someone else or when more time passes and you don’t pursue them. If you indicate any hope for a return to dating them, that person may even expect you to let him or her know if you meet someone else, which will set up another painful conversation.

Do yourself and them a favor: End it completely, thoroughly and without any ambiguity.

If you’re on the receiving end ...

What if you’re the “victim”—i.e., the one being left? Whether or not you had your own doubts or you had high hopes for this relationship, it's going to hurt. And that's OK. Remember that faith isn't denial. Mourning is an entirely appropriate, emotionally healthy and even biblical response to disappointment. (See Joel 1:13 and the entire book of Lamentations.) Let yourself hurt for a while. But be careful about trying to save the relationship in order to save face. It’s embarrassing to be dumped, but do you really want to spend the rest of your life with someone you had to convince to stay with you?

Take the time to learn from your pain. Use the opportunity to let God show Himself to you as the Great Comforter and truest friend you will ever have. Though this opinion falls way outside the scope of this article, I believe the Bible is very clear that there isn’t just one right person for each of us to marry. This break-up needn’t, therefore, be the end of your romantic dreams as much as it might be the necessary heartbreak that can lead to the beginning of an even better one.

12 Comments

Festo David Lubwama

2

Festo David Lubwama commented…

"My people perish from a lack of knowledge" Hosea 4:6.
We usually fail to make these decisions in our lives and end up with a trail of hurts from several failed relationships.
I don't really understand how the Bible clearly indicates that "there isn’t just one right person for each of us to marry" so I ask for clarity......
Thank you for that enlightenment!

Wes

19

Wes replied to Festo David Lubwama's comment

I'm not sure what the author has in mind when he says that the Bible "clearly indicates" that there isn't just one soulmate out there for everyone. However, I do believe that the converse is true: the Bible never indicates that there is only one perfect mate out there for you.

Mike Stidham

2

Mike Stidham replied to Wes's comment

And DON'T say, "I think God wants me to be single." I used that line to get out of a toxic relationship. At the time, I meant it.
Two months after that, I met someone else. Another five months later, I married her!

J Conley

44

J Conley replied to Mike Stidham's comment

Others have explained it better, but I think the notion that there's one specific "soulmate" out there for everyone is an overly-romantic and unrealistic concept.

In my impression, with the exception of the occasional divine command (i.e. Hosea) and clear instances where two people were put together (Adam and Eve, obviously; Jacob and Rebekah; Ruth and Boaz, etc.) many marriages in the Bible were treated in a pretty matter-of-fact manner.

Many men, especially kings (i.e. David), took multiple wives, and many if not all women had no choice on who they were given in marriage. Various prophets married multiple times, and others never did. Despite instances of outright sin, God gives us a lot of free reign on what we choose to do, and to my knowledge I never got the impression that He chastised people in the Bible for messing it up for their "destined" spouse.

Most passages talk about the wisdom and blessings in finding a mate, and avoiding covetousness. Another passage says that it's better not to marry, if you can handle it. Yet the most prominent message on marriage is that it represents the intimacy between Jesus and the Church.

However, saving yourself for a specific, panacean "one" in lieu of wisely "counting the cost" on who to marry, if at all, is not supported by how God dealt with real people in the Bible.

Granted, I know some couples who arguably are "soulmates" just because they're so hopelessly compatible.

I'm just not convinced that *every* person has that good fortune.

J Conley

44

J Conley replied to Mike Stidham's comment

Sorry, I meant to reply to Festo's comment.

Marian Gregory

7

Marian Gregory replied to J Conley's comment

who ever is reading this testimony today should please celebrate with me and my family because it all started like a joke to some people and others said it was impossible. my name is Michael i live in Chicago i am happily married with two kids and a lovely wife something terrible happen to my family along the line, i lost my job and my wife packed out of my house because i was unable to take care of her and my kids at that particular time. i manage all through five years, no wife to support me to take care of the children and there come a faithful day that i will never forget in my life i met an old friend who i explain all my difficulties to, and he took me to a spell caster and and the name of the temple is called, okundonorgreatspell, i was assure that everything will be fine and my wife will come back to me after the wonderful work of okundonorgreatspell, my wife came back to me and today i am one of the richest man in my country. i advice you if you have any problem email him with this email: okundonorgreatspell@gmail.com and you will have the best result. take things for granted and it will be take from you. i wish you all the best.

Sam McLoughlin

1

Sam McLoughlin commented…

"This break-up needn’t, therefore, be the end of your romantic dreams as much as it might be the necessary heartbreak that can lead to the beginning of an even better one."
...
an even better heartbreak?
...?

Chris Mills

22

Chris Mills commented…

Why are we breaking up? We shouldn't be getting together at all if we're not in it for good. We should be taking our moral guidance from God, not culture. Dating without commitment, divorce, all of this is absolutely contrary to what the Bible tells us about how we should live. If we seek to glorify God, we shouldn't be worried about "breaking up well" because we shouldn't even be doing it.

Neilanderson

1

Neilanderson commented…

I will suggest you professional relationship help. It is possible to get clarity in your relationship. It’s easy to get really wrapped up in emotion and not have clarity in our current relationships situation. Maybe you’ve broken up and gotten back together. Or maybe you think you are on the verge or breaking up and wonder if you should give it some more time/energy.
http://breakupschool.com/should-we-breakup/

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