How to end a long-term relationship

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

You could have a blazing row (probably you've already had too many) when you are ending your relationship, but why would you?  What is there to be gained? You have probably already had a really difficult time.

You could mention all the things that you did not like about him/her.  That is never going to work and what were you hoping it would achieve at the point of ending a relationship?

This page is for you if you want to end your relationship or marriage. If you have landed here because your partner or spouse has told you it is over, then go straight to my page on How to Get Over Someone.

5 Classic mistakes you will want to avoid

You will want to end your relationship or marriage as smoothly as possible, even if you have been falling out of love for a long time.

"Why would I?" you might ask. Well, the rougher the ending...

  • the longer it takes for everybody to move on (particularly your children)
  • the more damage to everybody's dignity and self-esteem, with long-term consequences for their and your mental and emotional well-being
  • the higher the cost (think two houses, two cars, childcare, lawyers, etc)

Here are the five mistakes, my clients mention, have made them 'hang on' for much longer and feel much 'needier' towards their partner.

  1. not having been told why
  2. not understanding why (actually this is not necessarily your responsibility if you got the previous point right)
  3. not having been given sufficient opportunity to talk it over pre- and post-ending
  4. unexpectedly being told it is all over
  5. a sudden inexplicable change in their partner's attitude

Should you stay or walk away?

If you are not sure you should end your relationship or marriage, please take the my Relationship Test first.

My quiz will help you think through all the pros and cons. You may find that there is still hope of recovery or discover that it really is time to go your own way.

If you are not absolutely sure, I promise you the conversations about and the actual separation are going to messy beyond belief.

Save your long-term relationship or marriage?

Still think there is a chance you could make it work? You know in your heart and soul you could sort it out and you are willing to take responsibility?
Then for some really solid advice and guidance I recommend Save The Marriage (Relationship), developed by my marital therapist colleague Lee Baucomb, PhD.

When not and how not to end a long-term relationship

You are going to have to pluck up a whole heap of courage to actually deliver the message to end a relationship. Don't worry - I'm going to help you make it less daunting.

First of all, here are 10 common mistakes in timing and method you will want to avoid.

It is a bad idea to...

  1. deliver the bad news just before your partner is due to go out, go to work, pick up the children, etc
  2. end a relationship during a telephone conversation
  3. leave a voice-mail with either a hint or a clear message about ending
  4. let someone else do the dirty job
  5. deliver the message in a public place.
  6. tell friends, family members or colleagues you are ending your relationship or marriage before you tell your partner or spouse that it's over.
  7. end the relationship during a row - your partner may actually be pleased - it may be what she or he was hoping for!
  8. text/send an SMS that 'it is over' to someone you once thought the world of. 
  9. walk out of the door to go to work for example having just hinted for the first time that you are unhappy and you don't see a future for the two of you.
  10. Write it on-line in any shape or form - email, Facebook message or any other way

Have you experienced other endings?

We experience all kinds of endings in a life-time:

  • endings of couple relationships
  • the death of loved ones
  • endings caused by moves for whatever reason
  • change of jobs
  • end of friendships and so on.

You may have lost a grandparent or pet as a child, or sadly suffered even more devastating losses and endings, such as the breakup of your family for example.

Your previous experience of endings can become a template for those that follow.

Ending relationships is part of life. My focus on this website is on intimate couple relationships and I have written a number of articles on separation and divorce that are freely available.

10 Tips for giving bad news

Even if your spouse or partner is expecting bad news, your delivery of it needs careful thought and courage! Being sure and well-prepared will help you do it more confidently and with empathy and compassion.

When we get bad news our brain takes more time to comprehend what is happening. 

I remember once being given some shocking news.

We were in a remote holiday cottage in Scotland when late one night the phone rang. When I answered I was told that if we didn't leave we would be murdered!

I literally could not speak for a few moments, whilst my brain was trying to catch up.

I was SO grateful that we were due to leave the next day anyway.

Moral of the story?

Tell it slowly and gently to prevent a melt-down. Allow time to process.

  1. Time it right (see above)
  2. Prepare yourself (see: How to end a relationship)
  3. Do it gently step by step, rather than blurting it out first off
  4. Talk a bit slower than you might normally.
  5. Take a few sentences building up to the purpose of the conversation
  6. Leave short breaks for contemplation when necessary
  7. Expect your partner to have difficulties processing what you are saying, when ending a relationship
  8. Expect and be prepared for the unexpected
  9. Expect and be prepared for how you are going to cope - it may be different than you had hoped or anticipated
  10. Realise that it most likely needs more than one conversation

5 Tips for getting the dreaded conversation right

No arguing, no blaming, just ending.

  1. Talk about your role in the relationship
  2. Talk about how you are feeling - how you have run out of steam
  3. Avoid criticising your partner for what you perceive to be wrong with him/her (someone else could have been perfectly happy!)
  4. Avoid giving your partner reasons to promise to change (See why I said you needed to be absolutely sure?)
  5. Avoid giving him or her another chance if you know you truly believe in your heart that it is time to end and you now want a separation

3 Tips for a gentle let-down

  • Allow your partner sufficient breathing space if the ending has come as a shock.  Don't start waffling on about something else or say lots of reassuring things you don't mean.  Don't offer to stay friends either.
  • Do not expect to start to negotiate division of property/possessions in the month or so.
  • Stay courteous and considerate at all times.  This will help you both to recover much quicker. Yes, you too - even if you are the instigator of this ending. Doubtless you have been through a difficult time already.

Questions, questions, questions! I suspect you may want to know more. This is only part 1, read on for more information on how to end a longterm relationship...

Still not sure? No harm - here is what to do...

Part 1, Part 2Part 3Part 4

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Images courtesy of: Dionne Hartmage