January is commonly referred to as the month for separation and divorce and there may be a number of reasons for this. For starters, many feel that the Holidays aren’t the ideal time to end a relationship – plans have been made, friends and family are expecting you and your partner to participate together, and you don’t want to spoil the good cheer with the news of a breakup. So even if you made the decision to end a relationship, you may have elected to put off the inevitable until after the festivities.
For others, the Holidays may have provided the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back. She embarrassed you at the family gathering…again. He was cruel and short-tempered with the children… again. You fought about money… again. You were given countless reasons to be disappointed and angry… again.
The process of disengaging from a relationship does not happen overnight, and the desire to split may not even be mutual. If you’ve reached the point of no return in your relationship, be it a marriage or with someone you’ve been dating for a few months, how do you end things? Figuring out how to end a relationship can be even more difficult than deciding on when is the best time. Your partner may need time to react and come to terms with the decision to separate.
Regardless of why or when you plan to end your relationship, there are steps you can take to prepare yourself, your partner, and your family.
Be sure you’re ready to end your relationship, and then stick to your decision. Only you know when you’re ready to leave, despite the numerous pressures to fall back into a bad relationship. It may feel safer or easier to just stay together; you may feel guilty after seeing your partner’s reaction; or you might despair at your children’s or family’s response to the news. Staying for the wrong reasons will never lead to a happy ending. Get the support you need to stay firm.
Have a clear message prepared. Know what you want to say and rehearse it if necessary, so you can express your position clearly and fairly. Try to take some time for yourself beforehand to collect your thoughts to make sure you’re not in a reactive state. This will ensure you’ll be in the best position to enter into this conversation with your partner rationally and with composure.
Think of your children. If children are involved, the decision to break up can be even more difficult. If both of you want out but have been waiting till after the Holidays because of the kids, prepare a plan for communicating the news to your children jointly, and for responding to their reactions. What most people don’t realize is that children are very perceptive – they see and hear things, especially when you think they don’t – so chances are they likely already know something is up. Be honest with them (as befits their age), but keep them out of the process as much as you possibly can, and never use them as weapons against your partner during or after the separation process.
If you are married or common-law, get legal advice. If you know your partner will not take the decision lightly, it may be best to have a good safety plan in place and to elicit the help and support of close family or friends who can ensure your breakup will be done safely.
Give yourself and your partner time to react to the breakup, and allow for a period of closure. Relationships are not one-sided, and neither are breakups. Both you and your partner will have unique reactions to the breakup, whether it was a mutual decision or not, and you’ll both need time to grieve and heal. Try to refrain from contact where possible, and keep away from each other’s turf – be that a favourite haunt, jogging route, friend’s place, or formerly shared activity. Allow the relationship to truly end.
Meet with a counsellor. A professional counsellor will help both of you stay focused, calm and civil during the separation process. Your counsellor can also help you understand each other better, and learn to communicate and relate to each other within the context of your new relationship. Meeting with a separate counsellor on your own will also help you establish yourself in your new life, and to understand and come to terms with your feelings about the end of your relationship.
Whatever you decide to do, there is no need to travel this road by yourself. Your Employee and Family Assistance Program is there to assist you in either making the decision or helping you get connected to other resources that will provide you with the tools you need to get through things as smoothly as possible. Help is only a phone call or click away. Call 1 866 833-7690 or visit workhealthlife.com.
Thanks to Dale Gillespie for her collaboration on this article.