By Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz, Tribune Newspapers
May 22, 2010
There is no easy way to break up with a significant other. But you can be kind about it. Linda Young, a counseling psychologist based in Bellevue, Wash., offers advice on how to break up with someone as humanely as possible. Young is on the board of directors of the Council on Contemporary Families and runs the "Love in Limbo" blog on Psychologytoday.com. —Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Step #1: WHEN TO DO IT
Ideally: You want to have the break-up conversation when there's plenty of time to talk in private, face-to-face, with few distractions.
There's never a good time: Even if he's in a great mood, or she's had a bad day at work, don't make excuses. Decide to do it, and do it.
An exception: If your partner is going through something traumatic, such as a health scare or the death of a loved one, the more humane thing to do is postpone the breakup until that difficult period is over.
Step #2: WHERE TO DO IT
In private: During dinner (their house may be best because then you can leave). Or have the talk while taking a walk or doing something outside in nice weather, as it's healthy to physically move when you're digesting emotional news.
In public: Only if you fear for your safety.
Step #3: WHAT TO SAY
Don't: Announce beforehand that "We need to talk."
Do: Broach the subject only when you're ready to start talking. Try: "I've been struggling with something for a while, and I'd like to come out with it…" Be honest about your reasons, but don't point fingers or declare what you don't like about your partner. Rather, say, "This is what I've discovered over time is missing." The point is that it's just a mismatch.
Avoid: Infuriating clichés, such as "It's not you, it's me" or "This is hurting me as much as it's hurting you."
Step #4: REACTING TO THE REACTION
Be resolute: Don't backpedal and suggest you maybe can work it out, which just prolongs the inevitable.
Say you're sorry: Sit with your partner's tears and apologize for causing pain. If your partner gets mean and starts hurling insults, don't fight back. Just say, "I'm sorry, I know it hurts." And then listen.
Step #5: POST-BREAKUP ETIQUETTE
Generally, it's best to cut off all contact, but you may continue to talk if your partner was shocked by the break up and needs more questions answered in order to process the situation. Follow their lead, and don't initiate contact — especially if you're second-guessing your decision — it will only cause confusion.
Definitely NOT: No post-breakup sex, and don't try to be friends right away. It sends mixed signals and the dumpee may think there's a chance to get you back.
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