Things have not been going well, and although you have been putting it off, the looming breakup is inevitable. You want to spare him/her pain, but that's not always possible. So what can one do to soften the blow?
Respect the other person's feelings. Being dumped is a shattering blow to the ego and there is no point in making it worse than it needs to be. Let the person rant and rave – he/she is entitled to it. This is not the time for fishing out past injustices.
Make yourself clear. There is no point in beating about the bush or being less than straightforward. State what you have decided, for example,"I have given it a lot of thought and I don't think this is working for either of us. If we want to remain friends, I think we need to put a stop to this relationship".
Don't give false hope. Doing this will be even more shattering in the long run to the person being dumped. It will be like being dumped twice, instead of once. Don't let yourself be manipulated into a trial separation, or into having another go at the relationship if you have decided in your heart that you want out.
Do it face-to-face. It is inexcusable to do something like this over the telephone or by letter. Unpleasant as it may be, have enough respect for the time and effort the other person invested in you and the relationship, to tell them face-to-face.
Don't use a third person to do your dirty work. Some people simply get involved with someone else in order to get rid of the person they are currently involved with. The idea behind this is that the present girlfriend/boyfriend will eventually notice you are hanging out with someone else and break up with you. This is not the way to do it. If this is the way you go about things, the other person should throw a party to celebrate being rid of you. Getting someone else to break the news is just the coward's way out.
Don't be nasty. There is no point in listing the other person's shortcomings, which led you to make this decision. This is not the time to rub salt into the wounds. Possibly name some of their good points. It is always an idea to blame yourself a little and to say you think the other person deserves more than you are able to give.
Expect floods of tears. Be prepared for this – a breakup is always difficult and a shattering blow to the ego. You might also get quite a lot of insults coming your way. Expect to also feel hurt and very emotional – this is not an easy thing to do. Listen patiently, but don't let yourself be abused.
Don't go public with a new relationship immediately. Out of respect for the person you were involved with, keep any new relationship under wraps at least for a few weeks. Anyway, it is probably a better idea not to get involved straightaway with someone else.
Talk to friends and family. Don't just disappear. You might have become part of another family for a while – go and see them and explain the situation. Make an effort to keep contact with those you really like.
Don't say nasty things about your ex to others. Doing this says a lot more about you than about him or her. If it came to choosing sides, if you have been running around spreading poison, people will not choose your side.
Don't be halfhearted. Don't break up with someone and then still go to the movies with him/her or pop in to visit every second day. This just prolongs the pain and does not allow the other person to start the healing process and to get on with their lives. The odd phone call once a month could just show your concern – use your discretion here.
(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated January 2014)
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