Only a small proportion of people remain with their first girlfriend or boyfriend for life, so dealing with breakups is an inevitable consequence of having an active dating life.
A breakup can occasionally be a completely mutual decision – and they are ultimately the least emotionally damaging for both parties – but more often than not, there is one person who is more emotionally affected by a breakup. That person will usually be the one on the receiving end of the news.
There are two perspectives that this article will focus on. First I will discuss breakups from the point of view of the recipient; the person in the relationship who does not necessarily want it to end (often referred to colloquially and somewhat abrasively as the “dumpee”).
I will then address breakups from the point of view of the instigator (the person initiating the breakup) before finishing with advice suitable for both…
My girlfriend/boyfriend just broke up with me:
Understanding and accepting the situation:
As with overcoming any negative belief, feeling or attitude, the first step is always accepting and understanding the current situation.
Although a breakup may seem out of the blue, there will always be a reason behind it. If you are unaware of that reason, then it is probably an issue that has been developing slowly for some time. In such a case, think back to any distinct changes in the way the relationship progressed. Did the emotional or physical intimacy slowly become less fulfilling? Perhaps a power struggle had developed.
Understanding what went wrong is only the first step. Although this section is about accepting such revelations – and if your partner can verbalise their own specific reasons it makes the process far easier – it is not for anyone else to say that the relationship can never work again.
The popular article How to get your ex back may be worth reading if you believe the relationship can be reconciled and you are willing to make purposeful changes.
Keeping the relationship in perspective:
Particularly passionate people usually come out of a relationship with one of two very contrasting attitudes. The first is that of longing to be back with their partner, dismissing all the pitfalls in the relationship and not even contemplating finding someone more suitable.
The second is someone who vilifies their partner and harbours a fair amount of resentment for their ex. This second example is common of someone who has been heinously lied to or cheated on.
Both of these mindsets are not only illusory to how the relationship really was, but they are counterproductive to moving on and being happy.
However the relationship ended, cherish the positive memories and use the whole experience as a lesson for future relationships. There is such an abundance of other people out there to meet that if you are not going to be together, transition to happily being single as quickly as possible and use your past relationship experience to craft an even more perfect relationship next time.
I just broke up with my girlfriend/boyfriend:
If you ever catch yourself considering ending a relationship then there is usually at least some credence to those thoughts. Whilst in a state of relationship indecisiveness, you will undoubtedly be elucidating hundreds of thoughts about whether to stay or leave your current girlfriend or boyfriend.
As discussed in the article Should I stay or leave my relationship, whatever conclusion you come to it is best to take decisive and accelerated actions. If you have decided to end a relationship – my personal opinion being when a relationship is anything short of perfect for any prolonged period – then it helps nobody if you let that decision linger.
Softening the blow:
One way to foreshadow a breakup and prevent it ever being a surprise to your partner is by being honest about your commitment at every stage of the relationship.
In every relationship I have been in, during the dating phase I have always made it clear that I don’t simply jump into serious, exclusive relationships and that a relationship I truly want to be in is something that grows organically.
Similarly, a relationship ends when that desire for exclusivity starts to dwindle, which is rarely a sudden occurrence.
There are many reasons WHY it may dwindle and couples should never be afraid to talk about their feelings changing.
If a couple are honest with each other at every step of the relationship and don’t harbour any needless obligations to their other half (such as saying “I love you” when they don’t genuinely mean it) then it should cause no threat or panic to maturely discuss when relationship doubts first arise.
I recently wrote on twitter that in a relationship you should “always leave them happier than you found them”. There, I was referencing the day to day interactions you have with your girlfriend or boyfriend and always trying to add value and happiness to their life.
The phrase works equally well when referring to a relationship as a whole though. You’ll do well in this social world we live in if you make it a rule to never leave someone less happy than when you first meet them, whether it’s a five minute interaction with someone or a ten year relationship!
As for respecting your partner’s feelings during the delicate period of a breakup, it is usually the more passive approach that is going to be the most considerate of your partner’s feelings. Leaving on good terms is a tough balance to find. You won’t want to end the relationship with a blazing row but equally, ending on a high such as having sex can leave the other person feeling used or confused.
The more mutual you make the breakup and the more you can get your partner to agree that it is best to amicably move on, the less hurt there will be on either side.
I am going through a breakup:
Everyone knows that the best remedy for getting over someone is to move on and meet someone else but such vague advice is hard to follow.
The best way to start moving on is to make an effort to remain busy and positive in whatever way you can. This may involve spending time with friends, or one step further could be jumping straight back into the dating field. If you follow past advice on this website, you will already have options for both of those.
Some people advise removing all contact with a recent ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, deleting their phone-number and removing them from Facebook for example. It is not so much the availability of temptation that should be a problem but more the thought capacity you give to them. Removing contact with them but still thinking about them constantly is worse than keeping in contact but taking steps to move on emotionally.
Sharing a social circle:
A breakup can be particularly tricky if you share a lot of the same friends or perhaps even work together.
The same principles apply with remaining busy and not investing too much emotional thought to the situation. Explain the situation to your shared friends if you want to but avoid judging your ex in any way. A spiteful or unforgiving mindset is counterproductive to moving on and being happy.
However the relationship ended, time will always heal… but only if it is constructive and proactive time. If you can’t happily picture your ex with another man or woman, you probably have more work to do. 🙂