The space between knowing a relationship is over, and actually leaving can be a yawning chasm of fear and uncertainty. If you’ve taken the test, Should I Stay or Should I Go? and you realise it’s time to leave, what are your next steps?
I don’t claim to be an expert in leaving relationships, because I completely fucked it up when I left my marriage. I’ve learned from my mistakes, so you don’t have to make the same ones. Here aare10 ways to leave your lover.
1. Have your own money and your own bank account
I don’t care how wonderful your partner is, how much you trust him and how much you are a million percent sure you will never break up, you need to have your own money and your own bank account. If you wish to create a joint account when you get married or for some other reason, don’t close down your personal account. Each week, put some money into that account for a rainy day. If that day never comes, you can buy yourself something gorgeous when you are 70. If a monsoon sets in, you’ll have something to keep you safe and warm.
2. See a couple’s therapist
Even if you know that therapy is not going to repair your relationship, still go and see a relationship counselor. After a couple of sessions getting nowhere, you can explain in front of a professional witness that you want to call it quits. The therapist can help you both with effective exit strategies.
3. Broach the subject of leaving in stages
If you don’t have a therapist, remember that telling your partner you want to leave won’t be what they are expecting to hear. Once you utter the words, “I want to end this relationship,” your partner will probably go into shock. S/he will feel angry, betrayed, upset, and hurt, and nothing you will say after that will sink in. Leave your partner to cool off before attempting to discuss the logistics and next steps.
4. Take ownership
Statements like, “You make me feel…” and “You treat me like…” are liable to ignite a heated confrontation. The best way to express how you are feeling is to refer to your own emotional experiences. No one can argue with you when you say, “I am no longer in love with you…” or “I no longer feel happy and fulfilled in this relationship…”
5. Decide beforehand who will do the moving out
It is easier to move out yourself than convincing your partner to leave. Have somewhere to stay lined up before you announce you are leaving — even if it is only a temporary arrangement while you look for a new house or apartment.
If circumstances mean your partner has to move out, it is better to be away while s/he packs up and goes. Arranging to go out of town during this time will lessen the potential for conflict.
6. Ignore accusations, taunts and insults
The end of a relationship seems to stir up the ugliest of human behaviour. If your partner is calling you names and accusing you of things you haven’t done, don’t try to defend yourself. If s/he is continuously harassing you, put boundaries around the amount of contact you have. If your partner wants to see you as a bad person to justify the end of the relationship, you can’t stop them. Just roll with the punches.
7. Move to a different suburb
Moving to a different suburb may seem like obvious advice, but it was something I failed to do. My new flat was only a few streets away from where my ex-husband was living, and he pretty much stalked me. Don’t give your ex-partner your new address or invite him into your new home — if you need to speak with him after you’ve broken up, go to a public place. Find someone else to help you put together that new Ikea bookshelf.
8. Expect your partner to be on their best behaviour
Once your partner has recovered from the initial shock of the break-up s/he will most probably turn into the most kind and loving person you have ever met. Either they want you back or they want you to regret leaving. Don’t be fooled by this trick. If your partner has miraculously changed overnight, ask them to leave you alone for at least six months. If they come back at the end of that time still transformed, then you can decide what to do.
9. Plan to grieve
Losing a partner through a breakup is a loss no matter who does the leaving. You will feel heart-broken, confused, guilty and lonely. You will mourn the loss of your dreams and fantasies of the ideal life you had mapped out in your head. None of these emotions mean you did the wrong thing, and going back won’t make everything better. Tackle one day at a time. Be kind to yourself. It will get better.
10. Say no (and yes)
You no longer have to follow someone’s instructions or ask permission before making a decision. You can say no to anything and everything you don’t want to do. You can also say yes to things you wouldn’t have done before. You are solely responsible for your own life now, so enjoy your independence. You might make a few mistakes along the way, but that’s all part of the fun.
What have you learned from your relationship breakups?