Breaking Up Is Hard to Do
- Lee Wilson Family Dynamics Institute
- 2008 17 Jul
Breaking up with someone is usually an awkward, painful and depressing event. Sure, sometimes it can be refreshing. But if we wanted the relationship to work and have come to realize that it won't, it can be a very sad event.
Most of us don't want to hurt the other person when we break up with them. In fact sometimes we allow the relationship to go on longer than we feel we should because we don't want to hurt that person, especially if that person has strong feelings for us that are no longer reciprocated.
So how might a Christian approach this difficult situation? It will come up for the majority of us, even if it is simply us deciding we don't want a third date. So we'd better be prepared. I've been on both sides of this dramatic dance and have compiled this list to help walk you through the process if you decide you must break up with someone.
First ... Make sure you really want to break up. All relationships go through down times and you need to make sure this is not simply a temporary dip. Take your time and do your best to picture your life without being in your current relationship with this person. Decide whether or not the issues that have you wanting to break up are based on current circumstances or if they are permanent issues that cause you to feel the two of you are best served by going your separate ways.
Sleep on your decision.
Second ... If you've gotten past the first part and know that you need to break up with this person, then you need to plan your words and timing carefully. Jesus said, "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12). So your top priority needs to be ending your dating status with this person with grace and love, even though it will not be romantic love. You need to break up with them "as you would have them" break up with you. No one wants to be dumped, but if it's going to happen there's certainly some ways that we would rather not experience.
Most of us don't want to hurt the other person when we break up with them. If we do want to hurt someone then we need to step back and evaluate our own spiritual health. It's going to hurt them no matter what, so it's best for us to try to hurt them as little as possible. Now is not the time for vengeance.
The Bible tells us to treat others with care. So that means we don't break up with them in an email or through the voice mail on their cell phone. We should give them respect and care by talking with that person face to face. So choose to care and show compassion toward the person you're about to break up with.
Third ... Sometimes in an effort to show compassion, you might end up leading the other person on. That means that instead of ending the relationship as planned, you are talked into hanging on a little longer because you don't want to hurt the other person. Usually this ends up causing more pain in the long run. So let me encourage you to refer back to the first rule and if you are certain you want to break up then do nothing less. It's like ripping a band aid off. It certainly hurts but isn't prolonging the pain by a timid series of attempts. So make a clean break if that is what you want to do. It's better to allow the other person to start the healing process than to give them false hope.
Tell that person that you care about them but want to break up. Use language that is clear and without loopholes so that they will know what they're facing. Wish them the best. Tell them you'll pray for them and mean it. Then leave. Don't make this a long process, because by dragging out the meeting you only allow them to think they might be able to talk you into staying in the relationship. It's also common that they will want a continual series of last kisses, hugs or other displays of affection. You don't want to hurt them, so you might give in and this will only confuse each of you and cause more pain to the person on the other end of the break up. Words are enough. Keep a cool head, be polite and sensitive and then walk away.
Fourth ...This part is not much easier than the others. You need to set up boundaries that you don't want the other person to cross. If you know the other person still wants to get back together with you, you will need to be considerate enough to them that you don't accidentally give them hope that you also want to reconcile. So for the first several months especially, if you do interact with your ex you'll need to focus on limiting your interactions to small talk. It's important you don't undo the clean break from the third step with your words.
It is my opinion that both people have to be on exactly the same page if a friendship is ever to come from the ended relationship. It's possible, but rare and difficult. So take that part very slowly. Sometimes, if your ex is ever going to emotionally move on, you must limit your friendship. That might sound harsh but it can sometimes be the price paid for a romantic relationship that went bust.
If you have mutual friends it would be wise to be very careful with your words around them because it's likely your ex, if he/she wants to get back together, will be probing them for words you said that might suggest you want them back.
Last ... Life goes on. It does but that doesn't mean you jump into another relationship the day after initiating a break up. Only you will know when the time is right but it's not healthy for you to intentionally start another romantic relationship quickly.
It's also not fair to your ex. For example, it would be very unfair for them to see you kissing another person only a couple of days after you broke up with them. It might cause them to believe you were cheating on them with that person while the two of you were together. That can delay the healing process and cause a tremendous addition of unnecessary pain.
So be fair to yourself and your ex by taking the post breakup stage slowly. Give yourself time to be with friends and time to be emotionally ready for another relationship if that is what you want.
No one wants to break up with someone but it's usually part of life. Don't be reckless with other people's feelings but don't be controlled by them either.