Video by Dr. Charlotte Howard
Article by Dr. Kyler Shumway
Nobody likes a breakup.
And yet, breakup happens all the time in relationships. Things might start off great, with lots of warmth and positivity, only for the relationship to change over time. The spark might fade as the two of you grow apart and change. There may be moments of broken trust, broken hearts, and broken promises. What started off as a strong team and a source of support may transform into something stressful and full of conflict.
When the relationship has met its end, how can you end it well?
Dr. Charlotte Howard, co-founder and owner of Deep Eddy Psychotherapy, offers some insights for dealing with a breakup in the healthiest way possible. If you (or a loved one) are going through a breakup or divorce, you don’t have to do it alone. Contact us today to get the help you deserve.
Not enough time to watch the video? Scroll down to learn some of the highlights!
Three Keys to a Healthy Breakup
#1 – Open the Conversation
One of the unhealthiest and most traumatizing ways to break up is to leave suddenly and without warning. Sometimes, especially in unsafe and abusive relationships, a sudden break is necessary. But usually, both partners can benefit from enduring the awkward, hard conversations that happen during a healthy goodbye.
So, if the relationship is healthy enough, consider opening up a conversation about the possibility of breaking up.
Here are a few simple ways to start a conversation about a breakup:
- Assuming it feels safe to do so, find a time and place that is private so that the two of you can be vulnerable without worrying what others will think
- Start the conversation by stating that you have something really important and difficult that you need to share, and ask their permission to have a tough talk
- Begin by expressing that you feel like the relationship isn’t working, and then offer examples (e.g., I feel unheard in our relationship, I don’t feel like my needs are met in our marriage anymore, I’ve been feeling hurt and insecure ever since you told me that you cheated)
- Give your partner space to respond, and make sure they feel heard
Sometimes we assume that our partner “sees it coming” or “knows” that breakup is on the table. And yet, until the conversation starts, many people mistakenly believe that the relationship is good enough, that neither of you are considering parting ways.
Many people fear that opening the conversation will lead to the breakup, and that it will somehow make it worse. And yet, sometimes sharing that the relationship isn’t working is the first step to getting it back to the way it was before (or, perhaps stronger and healthier than ever). If repair isn’t possible (meaning the the relationship fully ends), then you are ready to move on to the next step.
#2 – Share Sunset Needs
It’s so hard to say goodbye.
Sometimes, we need certain things as part of that goodbye – what we like to refer to as “sunset needs,” the needs that emerge as the sun sets on your relationship. You might want support with figuring out where to live, how to tell friends and family, and more. You may need to hear unfiltered feedback from your partner so that you can learn and grow. Or, you may just need space after the breakup, which means you’d need to ask for limited or no contact for a while.
Whatever your needs are, take time for both of you to share, hear, and collaborate so that those can be met. The two of you will have to figure out how to navigate the world without the relationship as it was before, and that transition will be easier if you can work as a team.
#3 – Cry Together
Grief is a healthy, normal reaction to loss. And if the relationship meant anything to either of you, there will be a felt sense of loss.
Nothing is more healing than having someone who knows what you are going through. Your partner is going through this breakup just as much as you are, and the two of you can be there for one another.
Take time to grieve together, to shed tears over the loss of the relationship. Share loving words and wishes – what you had was beautiful and loving, and it is sad that it must end. If you can, tell your partner that you are grateful for what they gave you, that your time together was a special part of your story, and that you’ll always care for them. No one has to do this alone.
Breakup and divorce are so difficult, but you don’t have to go through it by yourself.
We have some of the best relational grief therapists in Texas, and they would love to help you journey through this part of your story in a healthy, loving way.
We are here for you. All you have to do is reach out.