Leaving a relationship is never going to go perfectly. A breakup is a breakup because something is broken, after all.
But there are certainly things you can do to make leaving a relationship as smooth as possible.
How to Leave a Relationship And Protect your Mental Health
1. Get clear that you are ready to leave.
Yes, some of us are the type who are never sure of anything. That’s ok. Look for ‘more certain than not’.
TIP: read our article, “Should I Leave My Relationship? How to Know It’s Time”.
[Really feel you can’t do this alone? Visit our sister site harleytherapy.com to book counselling easily and quickly, worldwide, via Skype, by phone or in person.]
2. Get out as much anger as you can in advance.
Breaking up in a state of anger means things are said you will regret later. It can mean an ongoing battle that can get really dirty (or even end up in a legal battle). You can also be left with lower self-esteem, beating yourself up for being impulsive and out-of-control.
TIP: Don’t dump all your anger on your friends (or you won’t have many left). Practice release writing. Get sheets of paper that will be easy to rip up after, and promise yourself you will do just that (this frees the unconscious mind). Then go to town. Write out the most horrible, wild things you think. Then do rip it up after.
3. Stop the extreme thinking.
One of the reasons people drag out breakups or make them explosive is that they work themselves into a state using crazy thoughts, or what psychology calls ‘cognitive distortions‘.
Leaving a relationship is not the end of the world. Actual fact – if you leave and three months later you regret it, and you broke up in a clean, respectful way like this article suggests, you can always try being together again.
TIP: Read our articles on ‘Stop Being a Drama Addict‘ and ‘Cognitive Distortions‘. Then read our article on ‘Balanced Thinking‘ and do what it suggests.
4. Leave now, talk later.
It’s the old, ‘let’s go for dinner and talk about it’. And then drinks happen, then makeup sex, and then you wake up stuck back in the relationship you are gasping to get out of.
The crucial ingredient of leaving a relationship is actually leaving. There is nothing that can’t wait to be talked about. And having at least a week of space between leaving and talking means everyone has a chance to cool down and say what they really mean.
TIP: Give your now ex a clear date you are open to contact, so they don’t feel tortured. Make it at minimum a week, more if you need it. Be clear what kind of contact, such as just emails at first if that feels better. Then get out of there. If you are a text addict, give your phone to a friend for a week.
5. Blast through guilt.
Guilt drives many people back to a bad relationship. One little text from the ex saying “I can’t manage
without you” and “you are my one and only love”, “how can you do this to me”…and a tsunami of self doubt descends.
TIP: Turn all statements they throw at you into ones about yourself. Using the ones above as examples: “How can I do this to myself?” “I am my one and only love. I can’t manage without myself.”. Bringing our attention back to ourselves shows how much we have neglected ourselves, and how much we truly do now need to listen to our own needs and trust our ex finds a way to take care of his or her own.
6. Contain the ex bashing.
Badmouthing you ex to people you both know, or even just to others you casually know like colleagues, might feel good in the moment. But it knocks people’s trust in you, turns off people around you, and if you ever do get back into the relationship it can mean a serious breach of trust to get over.
TIP: Try a negativity dump, a concept created by personal development expert Barbara Sher. Work with a very trusted friend. In a private space, take turns ranting for five full minutes (use a timer) . The other person can neither interrupt or give advice, they can only nod and listen. You might be surprised to see how hard it is to full five minutes – and how great you feel after!
7. But blame in the backseat.
Blame actually creates intimacy. When we blame each other it’s often over unique ‘inner kmowledge’, or things that happened at events together. They wouldn’t stop watching porn, they were late for your birthday party.
But the bad memories sit right next to good ones, and they are still a shared experience. Next thing you know you are reminiscing and regretting your good decision.
TIP: Each time you want to blame your ex write them a heated letter by hand. Then keep them all on file (never do an email. Too tempting to press send). If, a month or more after the breakup, you want to send them, summarise them all into a more mature, constructive and balanced email.
8. Set a goal and give it all you’ve got.
You know all those hobbies you used to have before the relationship? Those life goals that were so important you put aside? Get one out and dust it off. Now. And give it everything you have got. A goal can be a life saver. It gives us new focus, raises self-esteem, and means you are less likely to fall into depression.
And it gets us out meeting new people we share things in common with, fighting the loneliness a breakup can trigger.
TIP: Read all our great articles on goal setting, including “How to Set SMART Goals“, “What to do if Your Goal Setting isn’t Working“, and “How to Set Goals That Do Work“.
9. Get the money side sorted.
If they owe you money, get it back before the breakup. And if your finances are joined? Speak to a lawyer to ensure your funds are safe.
And let’s spotlight ‘economic abuse’, here. It involves a partner keeping the other trapped by threatening to leave them with nothing if they walk out.
TIP: If you worry you are going through economic abuse, read our article on economic abuse that includes useful charities that can help.
10. Be certain it is safe to leave.
If your wellbeing or that of your children will be at threat if you leave a relationship, absolutely reach out for proper support. Not a friend who also knows your partner and might say something without thinking. Someone who is completely outside of the situation.
TIP: If needs be call a charity that helps people in abusive relationships leave. Here in the UK these include Refuge (for women), Women’s Aid (for women), Rise, Mankind (for men). If you are worried about the safety of a family pet, go here for a list of charities that foster your animal.
Most of all, Seek support.
Yes, friends are amazing to have in a breakup. But if leaving a relationship has a lot of fallout and you only have one or two friends to talk to, you might need more support.
Seeking outside support also means you don’t overload your friendships or even ruin them.
It’s especially a good idea to see a counsellor or a therapist if leaving a relationship has triggered other things for you. This might be a sense of abandonment, of not being loveable, or of not being good enough. Or it could be that you feel anxious or depressed. A therapist can not only help you dig out and process old experiences, he or she can help you find new ways of managing better.
Do you need to talk to an expert therapist about leaving a relationship? We connect you with some of London’s top talk therapists with centrally-based offices. Not in London? Or on a budget? Try our new service, harleytherapy.com , and book affordable therapy pronto across the UK or from any country in the world via Skype or phone.
Still have a question about leaving a relationship? Or want to share your experience with other readers? Use the comment box below.