How to end a long term relationship or marriage

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

It's difficult to know how to end a long term relationship or marriage on good (or at least 'manageable') terms. It may include not only having to separate from your partner, but also having to seek a divorce. It's far more difficult than ending a short-term relationship.

First of all, of course, you really need to be absolutely sure that you want an end.  If by any chance you don't know what to do for the best, then this Stay or Walk Away Relationship Test can help you make that difficult decision.

If you've landed here because you're worried that your partner may be wanting to end your relationship or marriage, then I'd like to help you to be prepared.  Have a look at How to Have the Best Chance of a Reconciliation so that you have the best chance of winning him or her back.  

I really think it's also worth asking yourself whether or not you've done all you can to Save Your Relationship...?

About breaking up ...

Having realistic expectations is important. I'm afraid it's not worth thinking that you can end a long term relationship without any stress or upset... this is just a fantasy (sorry!). 

I can understand that it's much more comfortable to pretend it's going to be okay. You might just find it excruciating to think of your partner being upset, or to see it happening. Particularly if you feel that you're the cause of the pain.

However, I know that you can manage it, if you prepare yourself well before the start of the emotional roller-coaster.

The process of ending a long term relationship is likely to take a little while. There are identifiable stages: from telling your partner, through to the various stages of the legal divorce, the final division of property and moving house if you're living together.

Not just separation but also divorce?

If your marital problems are leading to divorce, you may also be interested in my pages on divorce. They also have lots of useful information if you want to know how to end a long term relationship.

How to end a long term relationship:
Reducing heartbreak and conflict

The first step is accepting that it may take more time and energy to create a 'good' ending than perhaps you'd hoped.

So, if...

  • you're at all unsure about ending your relationship, or
  • your partner has left or is about to leave

...then hop over to my page on the Best Chance of a Reconciliation. This'll help you to avoid pushing your partner further away.

The second step is to approach each stage with the right mindset. This means that come what may, you're mentally prepared to stay calm and polite and do what you'd have wanted for yourself - however difficult your partner may make it for you.

I promise you, if you need to engage a solicitor - that second step will help keep your costs down. You won't be creating another layer of conflict on top of the one you're already dealing with. (If you do need a lawyer by any chance, have a look at my page: How to Find a Lawyer)

Even if - for whatever reason - the breakup is unlikely to be amicable, you may just manage a reasonable breakup. You'll feel better for it and it may also help your partner to get over the ending sooner (I hope that still matters to you, if only a little).  

If you have children - the whole drama will be so much more manageable for them, if the two of you can (at the very least) talk politely. Do take a look at my page about Divorce and Children to make sure you're prepared for how your kids might react, and what you can do to help them get through this process too.

Do all you can to stay as calm as possible. Stay in touch with family and friends and take time out for yourself to help you relax.

How are you feeling?

torn up love letters and photos - ending a relationship

Even if you're the one instigating the ending of your long term relationship, I won't be surprised if you feel sad, disappointed and lonely. Probably too you might feel angry and perhaps be suffering sleepless nights.  

Of course, what you're going through does depend to some extent on why you married or stayed with this partner in the first place.

Assuming that the two of you were together out of true love, you may find that the whole split is going to be more painful than you'd anticipated - even if you have been falling out of love over a period of time. You may have already experienced that or it may happen later, when it's over and all the 'practical' stuff has been dealt with.

If the split and/or divorce is what you wanted, it may be a relief when you've finally done it. However, you may have been so focused on all the trouble and the actual separation that the meaning of the end has barely registered. No surprise then if it 'hits' you a little later.

Unfortunately you'll probably have to deal with loads of unwanted negative emotions during the breaking up process. But I can help you with this a little. I really recommend hypnosis downloads to help calm your troubled mind, and the Ending a Relationship MP3 can really help.  

There's also a really wonderful natural remedy called Melancholy Lift which can relieve sadness, grief and weepiness. 

lone woman staring out of the window

6 strategies that prolong the agony

Here are the things you'll need to keep in mind when you want to know how to end a long term relationship or marriage. It's very easy to make an already difficult situation even more unmanageable by doing any of the following:

  1. Putting the ending off when you really know you want to leave - sadly it just isn't going to be any easier a month or a year later. It's unlikely that there's ever going to be a 'good' time for this type of ending. Of course, there could be a really bad time - for example in the middle of a major crisis. Try to calmly think through why exactly you've been putting it off and take a problem-solving approach to each reason or 'excuse' you come up with. My page on Problem Solving Strategies may help.
  2. Deliberately making life as miserable and difficult as possible in the hope that your partner says he or she no longer loves you and wants an end to the relationship. This would only add another layer of problems and stress on top of what you're dealing with already. Ending a long term relationship this way would leave you both with a very bitter taste in your mouth.
  3. Using your children (if you or your partner have children) as pawns. Children Caught in the Middle of two unhappy parents are set up to form unhappy relationships themselves.
  4. Starting an affair - the pain this causes should not be underestimated. Again, it just adds more problems and distress.  Ultimately your adultery could cause a great deal of trauma to all involved - not just your partner. If you want to know how to end a long term relationship as well as you can, than you'll need to end the affair - at least until you've dealt with the ending of your marriage or relationship. If you're caught up in an affair, you may find the information on my page on Surviving Infidelity helpful.
  5. Avoiding any conversation about the problems in your relationship or marriage may result in your partner making assumptions. He or she will be desperately trying to figure out what's going on. You could be suspected of having an affair, even if there is no infidelity. Of course, if you are having an affair, I can understand you won't want to talk.  However, you're only prolonging the agony if deep down you know you want to finish your primary relationship.
  6. Packing your bags and disappearing - no further explanation needed here.

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3Part 4

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