There are so many reasons why you might experience anxiety before ending a relationship. It’s tough to admit to yourself that things aren’t working out and that you want to change your life, start over, and eventually find somebody new. But then you also have to walk up to your partner and say all of that to their face? Talk about a nightmare.
Even when your connection isn’t great, letting another person down is never easy. “You might try to predict how your partner will respond, and the process of trying to figure out the best way to end the relationship can be very stressful,” Dr. Annie Hsueh, PhD, a licensed clinical psychologist, tells Bustle.
You also might have a hard time envisioning what life will be like after the breakup. It’s possible a lot of your identity is wrapped up in being part of a couple and sharing your time with your partner, Tracy Nathanson, LCSW, a therapist and founder of Pace of Mind, tells Bustle. Even if the relationship is toxic, it’s natural to mourn the loss of what you’re used to.
Breakups aren’t fun, but don’t let fear or nerves prevent you from leaving a situation that doesn’t feel right. Read on below for expert-approved ways to ease anxiety before ending a relationship, so the process can be smoother for both you and your partner.
Decide When You’ll Break Up With Your Partner
The last thing you’ll want to do is wait for the “ideal moment” to break up, Hsueh says, mostly because it doesn’t exist. There will always be a birthday, or a holiday, or some other event on the horizon that’ll make it seem like bad timing. The reality is the longer you wait the harder it’ll feel, so it’s best to just get it over with.
Once you’re ready, come up with a plan. “Set a time to talk, perhaps in a neutral location, so that this does not continue hanging over your head and cause even more anxiety,” Dr. Jaime Marrus, a clinical psychologist, tells Bustle.
If it still seems difficult, reach out to friends, family, or a therapist for support. They can help you develop a plan for exiting as smoothly as possible, particularly if you’re anxious.
Write Down What You’ll Say
If you think you might freeze up, plan what you’d like to say ahead of time and envision how you’d like the convo to go. “Depending on the circumstances, you may want to offer a shorter or longer explanation or space for discussion for your partner,” Marrus says. “Try writing your thoughts down ahead of time.”
Even if you or your partner gets upset — which is OK and to be expected, Marrus says — you’ll be able to remember your notes and get back on topic. Since anxiety often stems from the unknown, having a list of bullet points will make the process a little less nerve-racking.
Be Extra Nice To Yourself
If you start to think that you’re some sort of monster for breaking up with your partner, stop the thought in its tracks.
“Remember that as long as you are caring and kind in your demeanor, and take responsibility for your role in [the relationship ending], that you are actually being kind in moving things forward,” Marilee Feldman, LCPC, CADC, a licensed professional counselor and owner of Life Counseling Institute, tells Bustle. “You won't be doing yourself or your partner any favors by staying in a relationship that you no longer want to be in.”
If nothing ends up going to plan, recenter yourself is by taking a few deep breaths, Marrus says, and repeating a mantra, such as “I am confident with my choice.”
Follow A Post-Breakup Plan
Think about what you’d like to do the moment you say “it’s over.” Will you get into a friend’s car and drive away? Will take yourself out for a nice dinner? Will you breathe a sigh of relief and go home to watch Netflix? By keeping your focus on a post-breakup plan, it’ll help you see past moments of anxiety.
And the same is true for the days and weeks that follow. “Try to structure your time so that you are not ruminating on your decision or conversation,” Marrus says. “It is to be expected that you will feel some loneliness and uncertainty afterwards. After all, you likely spent a lot of time with this person and now you're, well, not. So plan a way to fill that time in a way that will bring you peace.”
Your post-breakup life can be whatever you want it to be, whether you’d like to celebrate with friends, talk to a therapist, or sink into a bath and relax every evening until you feel better. It’s understandable why you might get anxious before breaking up with a partner. But keep your eye on the future and remember that you’ve totally got this.
Dr. Annie Hsueh, PhD, licensed clinical psychologist
Tracy Nathanson, LCSW, therapist
Dr. Jaime Marrus, clinical psychologist
Marilee Feldman, LCPC, CADC, licensed professional counselor