What’s the Best Way to Break Up?

Dear GoodTherapy,

I have been with my boyfriend for over a year now and I don’t see a future together. It was fun for a while, but now it feels stale and unexciting. I don’t love him and never have. I’m bored, he mostly annoys me now, and I don’t want to be in the relationship anymore.

My friends have been telling me to end it for months, but I don’t know how. I suck at breaking up with guys. I usually end up waiting until they get so frustrated with me that they decide to end it, and then I feel relieved that I didn’t have to. I know that probably makes me a terrible person, but I don’t like hurting people’s feelings, so it’s hard for me to be honest and direct like that.

Unfortunately, my boyfriend doesn’t seem at all deterred by the distance I have been putting between us. I don’t see him ending this. I’m going to have to buck up somehow and do it. But how? A couple of my friends have broken up with guys by text or app. One said leave a written note. One said call him and call it good. My parents say I should meet him in a public place and deliver the news in person, but I am worried he’ll react badly and make a scene.

What do you think? Is there a “right way” to break up (and is there a “wrong way”)? —Split Decision

Submit Your Own Question to a Therapist

Dear Split,

Thank you for writing in with such a great question. First, I’d like to assure you that none of what you described makes you a terrible person. Many people do not like to invite potential for conflict, to deliver bad news, or to hurt other people’s feelings. Breaking up with a partner raises all of these possibilities. It is hard to do, and most people don’t enjoy doing it; in fact, a lot of people avoid it. It sounds like avoidance has been your approach—you create distance and wait for your partner to get frustrated and end it themselves.

I wonder if, in your relationships, you have a hard time asking for what you want or need—maybe you find yourself dropping hints in the hopes your partner will pick up on them and act. If this rings true for you, perhaps you can think of your pending breakup as an opportunity to state your desire: in this case, the desire to end the relationship.

One of the problems with trying to behave in a way that causes your partner to end the relationship is that it can lead to what you are dealing with now. You want out of the relationship and are behaving as such, but your boyfriend is either not getting it or doesn’t mind the behavior. Either way, he’s not ending it and you are stuck. Trying to force a certain behavior—in this case, a breakup—from someone else can be quite frustrating for both people. You’re wondering why he isn’t breaking up with you and growing more and more annoyed by his presence, and he might well be feeling hurt or frustrated wondering what is happening.

When this kind of issue shows up in my practice, I often find it is emblematic of a general discomfort with asking for what one wants and needs. I wonder if, in your relationships, you have a hard time asking for what you want or need—maybe you find yourself dropping hints in the hopes your partner will pick up on them and act. If this rings true for you, perhaps you can think of your pending breakup as an opportunity to state your desire: in this case, the desire to end the relationship. Learning how to ask for what you need is essential to having happy and healthy relationships. Even if you want out of this one, you can think of it as practice for your next relationship.

It is not easy to learn how to be direct and open with your needs and desires; sometimes there are underlying challenges such as self-worth issues or unhealthy models in your family of origin. You might even find it helpful to partner with a therapist to explore some of this and practice new behaviors.

As for your question about whether there a “right way” or a “wrong way” to break up, I think the modality you use is less important than deciding you are going to assert your desire to end the relationship. You want out of it, and you have wanted out of it for some time. You deserve to stand up and state that and get what you want for yourself, rather than waiting and hoping someone else will give it to you.

Best wishes,

Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC

Sarah Noel
Sarah Noel, MS, LMHC is a licensed psychotherapist living and working in Brooklyn, New York. She specializes in working with people who are struggling through depression, anxiety, trauma, and major life transitions. She approaches her work from a person-centered perspective, always acknowledging the people she works with as experts on themselves. She is honored and humbled on a daily basis to be able to partner with people at such critical points in their unique journeys.
  • 1 comment
  • Leave a Comment
  • ikuday

    ikuday

    September 19th, 2018 at 5:57 AM

    Apparently Madison responded to the situation, and she said basically He treated me like his mother and I had to do everything for him, he never did anything but sleep and play video games, and I was tired of his emotional outbursts. Also, she doesnt even really like video games. The relationship with the other guy (main dudes brother) started well after the initial breakup when main dude asked his bro to check up on her, and they grew closer. poor girl got in a relationship with a manbaby and now everyone hates her

Leave a Comment

By commenting you acknowledge acceptance of GoodTherapy.org's Terms and Conditions of Use.

* Indicates required field.

 

Advanced Search

Search Our Blog

   
GoodTherapy.org is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis, medical treatment, or therapy. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified mental health provider with any questions you may have regarding any mental health symptom or medical condition. Never disregard professional psychological or medical advice nor delay in seeking professional advice or treatment because of something you have read on GoodTherapy.org.