How to End a Long Term Relationship Without Making a Mess


Ending a long-term relationship is a difficult business, no matter how little the reasons for breaking up have to do with you. There are years of feelings, hard work and hopes for the future invested in the relationship which may even affect others like kids. However, once you have decided that it is best for you both to part ways, here are a few tips on doing it amicably.

Consider the reasons

Before you speak to your partner about breaking up, take some time out for yourself and think long and hard on the reasons why you do not wish to continue with each other anymore. Consider what made you fall in love with your partner the first time. Have all those reasons gone completely missing from your partner’s personality or are they being negated by equally unlikable traits? Couples end a relationship for several reasons ranging from infidelity, emotional and physical abuse to incompatibility and boredom. Even if it is something serious like alcoholism or infidelity, consider if you are willing to give the relationship another chance. A lot of situations might seem hopeless at first, but with hard work and professional counseling, many couples have been able to start afresh.

TIP: Read the guide to prevent a break up or get back with your ex.

Be steady in your course

Once you have, indeed, made the decision to break up, decide to go on with it promptly. There is no sense in dithering about it or putting it off for a ‘suitable time’ which if you are actually unsure of yourself, might never come. People very close to you might have an inkling that you are in the process of taking a decision, but involve others as little as possible unless you have gone through it completely.

Prepare for the meeting

Decide to speak to your partner at a place where you can talk in private. Likewise set a time when you are least likely to be disturbed, since interruptions can keep a conversation from getting to the point. Do not give more than a few hours’ notice that you want to discuss something important. In fact you could even set a realistic time limit to the meeting if you anticipate endless conversations. While this will allow time for feelings to be expressed, it will prevent from matters being stretched out interminably.

What to say

It definitely pays to think through in advance of what you are going to say to your partner while announcing the breakup. Begin by saying that he or she must have realized that this is going to be a different conversation. Gently enumerate the reasons why you believe this relationship is not going to work out. However, keep them brief since this is not the time for endless discussions and analyses. Repeat the reasons if necessary but don’t allow for too much expansion. Move on to admit that you have had some wonderful times together and acknowledge your partner’s role in your life.

Stay calm

Around this time, your partner will most likely burst forth in angry accusations and recriminations. Recognize that it is natural for him/her to be upset but don’t get defensive or rush into a mud-slinging match since that is not the purpose of your conversation. No matter how hurt and angry you feel, it is your responsibility not to start a row. Accept that nothing you say can possibly make it any easier for your partner to go through all of this. So be kind but at the same time determined to get done with it.

What not to say to your partner

This aspect is equally crucial if you wish to end the relationship with a minimum of mess. Don’t start by rattling off the reasons why you don’t like him/her any more. Admit that while personally you don’t like certain things about your partner, others may not have any problem with them and you understand that you are responsible for your own likes and dislikes. Also don’t blame your partner for all the things that have gone wrong in the relationship. This will only lead to a chain of accusations and counter-accusations or promises of improvement from your partner which you may again find hard to evade. Rather, admit that you both had a role to play in the ending of the relationship and it was probably about differing priorities and fulfillments.

Things to avoid

The difficult process of ending a long-term relationship may tempt you simply to cut off all contact with your partner without giving an explanation. You may figure that if you perhaps stop returning calls, meeting him/her and are ‘unavailable’ all the time, your partner may get the picture and conclude that the relationship is over. However this is not only an unfair and cowardly thing to do but is the easiest way of leaving behind a messy trail of unresolved feelings and guilt. For the same reason, don’t just text, leave a message on the answering machine or use the telephone to announce your decision of ending things. Neither ask a friend to pass on your intention or dump the breakup on your partner just before he/she has an important commitment. Also refrain from walking out in the middle of a heated argument when neither of you are seeing things clearly and unless it is a matter of personal safety, avoid breaking up at a public place.

Take practical considerations into account

As you prepare yourself emotionally for the break up, don’t forget to look into the practical side. While this is not to imply that you should continue a bad relationship because you have kids, pets or a joint mortgage, consider how to disentangle financial or practical responsibilities that you have shared until now. And if there are kids from the relationship, consider preparing them for what is about to happen.

No matter who initiates the breakup, it is bound to be painful for both partners who have been together so long. However with a little planning and patience, you can make it a less traumatic and even an amicable way of saying goodbye to each other.