7 Things Relationship Experts Want You To Know If You've Never Initiated A Breakup
There's one dating debate that has never quite been settled — is it better to break up with someone or be broken up with? Or maybe, is it harder to leave or be left? The truth is, it's always going to come down to the specific circumstances of the relationship and the people involved. Sometimes doing the dumping is easier, sometimes it's easier to be dumped. But some people, no matter how bad the situation gets, are never the one who breaks things off. Rather than breaking up with someone, they'll stay in a relationship until the bitter end — waiting to be broken up with.
"If you’ve never initiated a breakup, you might have to ask yourself why," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. Obviously if you've never been in a serious relationship, it makes sense that you've never been through a breakup. But if you've been in bad relationships and either stayed to appease the other person and tried to make the relationship better — or if you've behaved badly in the hope of getting dumped — you may have some bigger things to consider. Staying in a bad relationship is not the right answer.
Here's what you should keep in mind if you've never initiated a breakup, according to experts.
1. It's Important To Check In With Yourself
If you've been in relationships that weren't working but have never dumped someone, it may be that you're not valuing your own needs enough.
"You might be someone who focuses so much on the other person and how they are feeling that you never even learn that you are dissatisfied," Hartstein says. "The problem with this is that it becomes very hard to find a good match if you end up 'adapting' to whoever you are with regardless of how you actually feel about them." Make sure you're being honest with how you're feeling in the relationship.
2. Breakups Don't Have To Be Devastating
If you've never broken up with someone, it may be that you imagine they're always these brutal, traumatic events. But breakups don't have to be awful. Of course, you can't control how someone else is going to respond or how deeply they're going to feel a breakup, but you can do your best to break up with someone in a way that's mindful and considerate.
"Know why you are breaking up and be able to state the reason," Joshua Klapow, PhD, clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Bustle. "Have a statement, rehearse it and stick with it. The beating around the bush, the avoidance of the reasons, the lying to save feelings does nothing to help the situation. You can be compassionate, but tell the truth."
3. Breaking Up Can Be The Kinder Option
A lot of the time, you might think you're helping your partner or doing the right thing by not dumping them — but that's not always the case. "[Y]ou are actually doing them a much greater disservice by 'pretending' to be present and happy in the relationship," Hartstein says. "If you are not really interested in them anymore, breaking up might seem cruel but it’s actually worse to stay with them under false pretenses."
4. Look At Other Relationships That Have Ended
Even though it feels like breaking up with someone can be really hurtful, try to look back at your past relationships — or, if you don't have any, your friends' past relationships. So many relationships breakdowns that felt awful at the time were actually very good in the long run — you may even laugh about some of them. Know that what you're going to do seems significant now, but over time that gravity will fade.
"Grieve the loss, cry, and get angry," psychotherapist Barbara Neitlich, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Yell and stomp around [...] and call your best girlfriends over for support. Be in the moment and feel the pain." And know that it will pass.
5. You Shouldn't Just Break And Go
"Most people do everything they can to make it short, sweet, and get out," Klapow says. But unfortunately, that's rarely how these things go.
"Be prepared to talk about your feelings and their actions. Don’t be a mind reader," he says. "You don’t know what they feel, what they are feeling or how they are going to react." Be prepared to open up, because they may want you to and, unless they behaved really badly, they probably do deserve to know your reasons.
6. You Can't Take Responsibility For Their Emotions
If they become upset during the breakup, it's easy to feel like you've done something terrible, but remember that you can't help how you feel.
"You don’t have to and are not responsible for controlling how they feel about the breakup," Klapow says. "Your job is to be honest and compassionate and allow them to feel whatever they choose to feel. That may be sadness, anger at you, desperation, rejection." You can accept how they're feeling without assuming responsibility for it — or feeling like you've done something wrong.
7. Make It A Clean Break
It's tempting to let someone talk you out of a breakup — especially if it's your first time. But remember, in the long run that's not going to be good for either of you. "Do not get into promises, compromises and negotiations if in fact your desire is not to be with them," Klapow says. "Making it easier now does not make it easy later." Instead, try to stay firm.
It may be that you've only had a few relationships — or you haven't had any — so breaking up with someone hasn't come up. But if you've been in a lot of relationships and find that you've never dumped someone, it may be time to look at why. Make sure you're being honest about your needs and being realistic about whether your relationship is working for you. Some short-term pain may be so much better for you both in the long run.