Why Ending Relationships in a Healthy Way Matters

ending_relationship_healthyBefore you send that “we’re history” text or click “send” on that equally short blunt email, stop and think again. (Assuming you gave it any thought in the first place.) Even if you never want to see or have anything to do with this person again, remember that he or she is not only a fellow human being with feelings, but also someone you once cared to share your life with, whether as a casual friend or intimate lover.

The importance, not only of closure, but how that closure comes about, is critical for the well-being of each individual involved in the relationship. Whether you’re the one wanting out, or the one getting dumped, breaking up with someone you once cared about isn’t easy. Sending a hasty note in an attempt to get the pain over with as quickly as possible, more often than not, does not quite work that way. We are all humans with feelings, and actions not well thought out beforehand often result in unnecessary hurt, anger and/or guilt for both parties.

It is possible to end a relationship and keep everyone’s dignity intact. In addition, it can be a valuable learning tool to help you in your next relationship. If being with this person wasn’t right for you, ultimately it’s not right for them either, and letting go gives everyone the chance of finding a happier, healthier situation to meet their needs.

The best way to end a relationship is in private, and in person — unless you fear violence. Likewise, phone calls, emails, texts, or having a friend do the dirty work for you is cowardly and unkind in most situations. It’s also inconsiderate to let the word leak out inadvertently, with your former friend hearing the news from a third party. Discuss your intentions only with a select, trustworthy few before breaking the news.

It’s also beneficial to end a relationship in a calm, clear manner, at a time when you’re not highly emotional. This makes it less likely that you will say things in the heat of the moment that you don’t mean, or may regret later.

While ending a relationship in person might be preferred, if distance or your emotional state make this impossible, sending a letter or note can be an acceptable alternative, depending on the situation. It’s important to remember that the amount of energy and effort you give to ending a relationship should be commensurate with the depth, quality, and length of time together that you had. In other words, for a super brief “relationship,” a two-word text might be fine. A 20-year marriage, however, requires a lot more energy and effort to foster mutual self-awareness and provide a healthy and optimal sense of closure.

Regardless who the more lengthy communication is addressed to, let them know what you enjoyed and appreciated about them, as well as your disappointments and regrets. Now is not the time to blame or criticize their behavior, but to learn from it.

In long-term relationship breakups, particularly marriages headed for divorce, couples counseling can be helpful to analyze the problems, process the issues and help lay a more solid foundation for the next relationship.

Resolving conflict and establishing a truce are especially critical if children are involved. Often this is best achieved well after the decision to separate has been made, when emotions have stabilized and calm, clear thinking has returned.

Couples who have simply grown out of love, but still care for each other, are actually some of the best candidates for benefiting from counseling together. They are often more willing to discuss and learn from their mistakes, as well as seek a healthy sense of closure.

Regardless of the relationship type, ending it in a considerate way that allows each person to enhance their self-awareness and productively move forward in their separate lives, is the healthiest choice.

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