How to end a long-term relationship? Recently, my best friend broke up with her boyfriend of 10 years. They were literally ‘couple goals’ for me. But after talking to her, I realized that people fall out of love, even after dating for a decade. Are you one of them? Are you looking for a guide on how to get out of a long-term relationship and sever ties with someone who has been an integral part of your every day for what seems like a lifetime?
To help you figure out how to snap the chord when your lives are so closely intertwined, we talked to emotional wellness and mindfulness coach Pooja Priyamvada (certified in Psychological and Mental Health First Aid from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the University of Sydney), who specializes in counseling for extramarital affairs, breakups, separation, grief, and loss, to name a few.
When To End A Relationship
The end of a relationship can be an unnerving thought, especially when you’ve been together a long time. However, sometimes holding on to a relationship just because it is familiar can do more harm than good. By looking away from your problems, you may just be kicking the can down the road.
Pooja says, “Ending a relationship is generally a complex and well-thought decision. Rarely do people end a long-term relationship impulsively. Hence, giving it appropriate time is usually a good scale to measure the correctness of your decision. Reasons can vary, ranging from abuse to something deeply personal, hence subjective.”
How to know when to end a relationship? According to Pooja, here are some sure-shot red flags that can act as grounds for a breakup:
- Abuse in any form
- Any of the partners breaking the trust and other core promises of a relationship
- Irreconcilable differences
So, if you have been avoiding the red flags for years now, we’d like to remind you that your own validation is all you need to know that it may be time to move on from a relationship irrespective of how long you’ve been together. You are making the right decision if:
- Your emotional/physical needs aren’t being met
- You can’t communicate with your partner
- The basic trust/respect is missing
- The relationship feels one-sided
How To End A Long-Term Relationship? 7 Handy Tips
Studies point out that experiencing a breakup is associated with increased psychological distress and decreased life satisfaction. Couples who break up after cohabiting and having had plans for marriage experience greater declines in life satisfaction compared to couples who started dating recently.
Related Reading: It’s Not You, It’s Me – Breakup Excuse? What It Really Means
Pooja says, “The emotional investment is often less in a short-term relationship hence it is easier to get out of. A short relationship would have little influence on other aspects of your life.”
Be that as it may, having to end a relationship after years of being together is still a real possibility. The best way to deal with it is to prepare yourself by knowing how to get out of a long-term relationship. Sure, it will still be agonizingly painful and there isn’t anything you can do about that except be prepared to go through the stages of grief after a breakup.
However, by handling it the right way, you can minimize the emotional scars for yourself as well as your soon-to-be-ex partner. Don’t worry, we are here for you, to help you through it all. Here are some handy tips on how to end a long-term relationship:
1. Avoid the common mistakes in ending a long-term relationship
Pooja gives a handy list of mistakes that you should AVOID making when ending a relationship after years:
- Do not rush the decision
- Do not let other people’s opinions about you, your partner, or your relationship influence this decision
- Do not break up with the purpose of revenge or due to resentment
- Do not end the relationship to punish your partner
2. Break up in person
A lot of clients ask Pooja, “I feel like packing my bags and sneaking out unnoticed. Is it the ideal way to leave a long-term partner?” Pooja advises, “That would not be a good option unless there is a risk to your life and safety. A partner deserves to know and ask their questions for this closure.” Extending your partner the courtesy of a conversation is one of the most important tips on how to break up in a long-term relationship.
According to research, the ideal way to break up is to do it in person (but not in public). Pooja suggests, “It should be an honest, transparent, and calm conversation in person. Call/text would be inappropriate, provided both the people are civil and safe for each other.”
According to Pooja, “honesty with kindness” when initiating a breakup means:
- No blame-game
- State honest facts, without insulting your partner
- Have full control over your feelings
- Set clear emotional boundaries
- Do not talk much about the past but the situation now
- Talk about the way ahead
3. Use the right words
A simple but effective piece of advice on how to break up in a long-term relationship is to choose your words well. State your reasons for the breakup clearly. Tell them exactly what’s not working out for you. Here are some examples to end a relationship on good terms:
- “When you cheated on me, it all went downhill”
- “We fight a lot and it’s taking a toll on my mental health”
- “The long-distance relationship is exhausting. I miss physical intimacy”
Apologize, if you must. The end of a relationship should be graceful. You can say something along the lines of:
- “I am sorry if this hurts”
- “I know this is difficult to hear”
- “I know this isn’t how you wanted it to be”
How to end a long-term relationship? Wish them well. You can use one of the following phrases:
- “I’ll always be happy that I got to know you”
- “You are going to be okay”
- “The memories we made will stay close to my heart”
4. Hear their side of the story
According to studies, women tend to have more severe reactions to breakups than men. Regardless of their gender, your partner will obviously feel angry and hurt. They might start crying or even beg you to rethink your decision. Provide them with a safe space to feel all their feelings. You have just hit them with a thunderbolt. Don’t expect them to take it well, instantaneously.
Related Reading: Why Are Breakups So Hard To Get Over For Some People Than Others?
Pooja suggests a list of questions you should be prepared for:
- “What went wrong?”
- “Couldn’t you have tried some more?”
- “All those years together, couldn’t you hold on a little longer?”
- “How can I live without you?”
- “Whose fault was it?”
5. Figure out the logistics
The answer to how to get out of a long-term relationship differs from one relationship to another. How to break up with your partner when you live together? These are the following logistics that you should discuss, according to Pooja:
- Splitting of common liabilities/loans
- Who will move out and who will stay
- Decisions about pets, kids, and plants if any
Similarly, in the case there are children involved, Pooja advises, “Both parents need to keep doing their bit for the kids. They need not share their bitterness toward their partner with the kids. Depending on their age and maturity, facts must be shared with them too.”
6. Get support
Pooja emphasizes, “Breakup is basically a loss of a relationship and hence entails a sense of grief. It can also lead to anxiety and/or depression. Therapy and counseling are always beneficial when going through these tidal emotions.”
So, find a therapist that suits you. A licensed professional will give you CBT exercises and help you change your unhealthy patterns of thinking. If you’re struggling with figuring out how to end a long-term relationship or are reeling from the stress of having come out of one recently and are looking for help, counselors from Bonobology’s panel are here for you.
7. Navigate the healing process
Yes, it is very natural to feel overwhelming guilt after ending a years-long relationship. But, remember that you are human and you are entitled to prioritize your happiness. In fact, ending a long-term relationship is not as uncommon as you may think. In fact, research by YouGov found that 64% of Americans have gone through at least one long-term relationship breakup.
Pooja confesses, “I ended my marriage of 13 years and 7 years of dating. A lot of seniors are also exploring the possibility of ending unfulfilling relationships, resulting in a rise in the trend of gray divorces.”
Related Reading: 13 Steps To Get Your Life Together After A Breakup
However, just because it’s not uncommon doesn’t mean it’s going to be a walk in the park. You still need to be prepared to deal with the aftermath of this colossal loss, even if you’re the one pulling the plug. Here are some ways you can successfully navigate the healing process:
- Lean on your loved ones for support after the breakup
- Follow the no-contact rule
- Inculcate reading as a habit
- Exercise to release endorphins
- Hydrate and eat healthy
- Travel and explore new places
- Follow a skincare routine
- Buy a sex toy/explore your body
- Abuse/irreconcilable differences are fair grounds to end a relationship
- Initiate the breakup face-to-face
- State your reasons honestly
- Apologize for hurting them in any way
- Show gratitude for all that they taught you
- Focus on your healing and growth
Finally, when a relationship ends, you don’t just lose the person, you also lose a part of yourself. But don’t worry, the pain that comes in the wake of ending a long-term relationship doesn’t last forever. According to research, those who parted ways with their partner showcased a drop in their perceived control in the first year following the separation. But “stress-related growth” eventually bolstered their sense of control.
Hence, don’t lose hope. This adversity will only make you stronger. Dr. Seuss has famously said, “Don’t cry because it’s over. Smile because it happened.”