If you're on the fence about your relationship and have been thinking about breaking up, chances are there's a lot on your mind. You've probably been mulling over ongoing problems, or wondering what the future might be like. And while it can be tempting to scrap it and walk away, there are so many benefits to be had by talking about it first.
After all, "ending anything significant should involve a lot of thought and communication," Jonathan Bennett, relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle. "It’s only fair to your partner that you are open and transparent. It’s also possible that opening the lines of communication and having an authentic conversation with your partner could help you see that you want [them] in your life."
This will also allow your partner to get things off their chest and share their side of the story, which can in turn lead to a mutual decision to either stay and work on the relationship, or amicably part ways. "Talking with one another can help you understand not only what you want out of relationship, but where you see it going in the future," Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells Bustle. So with that in mind, read on for a few things you may want to discuss, according to experts, before breaking up.
1. Your Communication Styles
It might not come as a surprise, but "many breakups occur because the couple doesn’t communicate enough or doesn’t do it effectively," Bennett says. So first and foremost, you'll want to chat about any ongoing communication problems you've been having, including ways you might be able to turn things around.
And don't hold back. Use this time to get everything off your chest, even if it feels like you've talked about it all before. "If you can open the lines of communication, it will allow a more honest assessment of the situation," Bennett says. "It could mean a breakup is necessary, but it also might allow you to deal with issues that have gone unresolved."
2. The Good Things In Your Relationship
You can talk about whatever doesn't feel right, like communication struggles. But don't forget to bring up about the good side of your relationship, too, including what brought you together in the first place and the connection you share.
"When couples are considering breaking up, much of the focus is on the bad aspects of the relationship," Bennett says. "However, it can be helpful to talk about the good things too, especially what works in the relationship and what you love about each other."
This will not only pad an otherwise tough conversation, but it can also "help you see the whole picture before making a decision," Bennett says. When you're reminded of the positive side, you may even want to work on saving your relationship.
3. The Things That Have Annoyed You
Sometimes, all the ways you've felt annoyed or upset won't come out until this eleventh-hour conversation. "Maybe you've held back because you have a hard time with anger or criticism," Sandra E. Cohen, PhD, psychoanalyst and clinical psychologist, tells Bustle. Or you were never really sure how to approach the topic.
But it's better to say it late than never, and be honest about what's annoying you. "When you can talk about the things that have bothered you and listen to your partner, you might just find that [they are] receptive to working on it and willing to change," Cohen says.
4. What Hurt You
Similarly, it can be important to talk about how you feel hurt, or anything that's left you feeling low. As Cohen says, "Usually when a relationship is at the point of breaking up, you have a lot of hurt stored up over the time you've spent together or the time things started to go downhill."
It can be beneficial to lay it all out on the table before breaking up, and seeing if there's anything that can be done. "Talking about what has hurt you both, and listening openly, can bring greater understanding of each other and a chance to start anew," Cohen says.
5. What You Need From The Relationship
To figure out if the relationship is salvageable or not, talk about what you both want and need from the relationship. "Communicating needs openly is one of the hardest things to do in a relationship, especially in a non- critical, angry, or accusatory way," Cohen says. "Sometimes your partner is just unaware. Sometimes it's hard to identify your own needs. So, try to identify them before you have the talk."
Do you need better communication? Quality time? Fairness? Trust? "You might learn that your partner is more capable of meeting your needs than you think," Cohen says. "Talking openly and non-critically is the most important thing in making a relationship work."
6. Give Your Side Of The Story
When you're smack dab in the middle of a shaky relationship, it can be incredibly difficult to see the situation with any clarity. But that's precisely why you'll want to share your side of the story, and ask your partner to share theirs, too.
"Giving one another an opportunity to tell their side of the story, so to speak, is actually a wonderful opportunity to see your relationship through their eyes," Chelsea Leigh Trescott, a breakup coach who is certified in solution-focused life coaching, tells Bustle.
If you do end up parting ways, this conversation can prove to be immensely comforting, as you won't be left guessing. But if you don't, it will add a deeper level of understanding to your relationship.
7. Talk About Regret
It's not always possible to know whether or not you'll regret the break up until you actually do it and give it time to sink in. You can, however, try to imagine what it might be like, and how it might feel a few months or years down the line.
"If you are worried that you may be walking away from the most important person in your life, it is worth talking further," Lauren Cook, MMFT, a clinician practicing emotionally-focused therapy, tells Bustle. "Whether it’s to get closure or to decide to stay together, fear of regret can be an indicator that the relationship is unfinished."
8. Talk Logistics
Regrets aside, you'll have to talk about the logistics of possibly moving, who will go where, and what will happen to all your shared stuff. "If you’ve been in a long relationship, there might be a lot to untangle before you officially end it," Bennett says.
Talking about the logistics of a breakup can be quite eye-opening, too. "This conversation can [...] help you clarify your own needs and goals," Bennett says. "You might even realize that you want your partner in your future after all."
9. Discuss Other Ways To Fix Problems
"Too often in relationships, there’s so much focus on what’s not working, but yet the same strategies are used to fight the same battles — and none of them are working," Dr. Catalina Lawsin, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist with specialization in couples counseling and founder of Psychotherapy Without Borders, LLC, tells Bustle.
So before breaking up, chat about other strategies or approaches that may make your relationship stronger. Have you tried couples counseling? Or looking at the problem in a different way? You might be glad you gave it a second try.
10. Acknowledge The Effort You've Both Made
Sometimes resentment can brew — and make a breakup feel imminent — simply because you haven't noticed all the little things your partner does to benefit the relationship. And yet, "by reviewing what’s been tried, this acknowledges each partner’s efforts to make the relationship stronger," Lawsin says. It can even lead to a newfound appreciation that may have otherwise been overlooked.
11. Talk About The Changes You're Willing To Make
If you decide to part ways after having these conversations, that's fine. But if you decide to work on improving your connection, it'll be necessary to discuss what you're both willing to do to turn things around.
"Each partner needs to start by looking at themselves and sharing what they realistically are prepared to do and have the emotional/logistical reserve to provide," Lawsin says. "So have a conversation about where you both are at, individually, and what you’re prepared to do and give to the relationship moving forward." Hear each other out, weigh all of the above information, and see if you can, in fact, work on communication, listening, trust, etc.
By having discussions like these, you may realize that there are things you can do to improve your relationship.