How to End a Relationship Without Regrets

Ending a relationship is never easy, but it can be done with finesse.
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Breakups are often messy and hurtful, but they don't need to be. Examine your feelings carefully before you decide to end the relationship. Don't act impulsively if you don't want to suffer regret later. Once you are sure that you no longer want the relationship to continue, take some time to determine the best approach to inform your partner about your decision. A kind, gentle approach makes it easier to avoid feeling regret or guilt later.

1 Determining If the Relationship Is Over

2 Decide whether your needs

Decide whether your needs are being met in this relationship. There's probably no future in a one-sided relationship where you're always setting aside your feelings in deference to your partner's, especially if you've tried to correct the imbalance and haven't succeeded.

3 Think

Think about how you feel when you two are apart. If you look forward to when you'll next see your partner, there might still be a spark of interest. But if you're excited to spend time apart and dread your partner's return, that could be a sign it's time to move on.

4 Don't make the decision

Don't make the decision to split permanently in the midst of an argument. Give yourself some time to calm down and analyze the situation objectively. Wait until you can honestly remind yourself of your partner's good qualities and see how that makes you feel. If you still feel strongly about splitting after your anger has cooled, your decision is more likely to be correct.

5 Imagine your life

Imagine how your life will be different if you two break up. If picturing your partner with someone else causes you pain, you might not yet be ready to let go. Feeling indifferent to that mental picture means there would be no jealousy and suggests that you are over the relationship.

6 Making the Break

7 Be courageous

Be courageous. Meet your partner face to face when you deliver the news that you want to end the relationship. This is no time for sending a text, email or even making a phone call. Choose a quiet place where you'll be alone without any interruptions. Be prepared for a difficult and painful conversation, but you'll avoid the regret you might feel if you had avoided the meeting.

8 Be even you

Be truthful even when you know the truth will hurt. For example, if you've found someone else, tell you partner. You'll feel better about yourself for being honest, and you'll regret it if your ex finds out the truth later and confronts you.

9 Communicate with grace and tact

Communicate with grace and tact, even if your partner was the one to ruin the relationship. It's easier to move forward when you avoid the trap of blaming your partner. Blame is likely to keep you tethered to the past, constantly wondering "what if" and possibly regretting things you've said and done.

10 Avoid dredging

Avoid dredging up past hurts and all of your partner's shortcomings. Find a way to forgive your partner. Psychologist Marcia Reynolds recommends in her article "End Your Relationship With Dignity" for "Psychology Today" that you forgive yourself as well for deciding to end the relationship.

11 Don't make rash decisions

Don't make rash decisions about dividing mutual possessions. If you've been in a long-term relationship and have accumulated many things together, you'll need time to reach an equitable division of property. If you try to discuss this when you're both in a highly charged emotional state, you might agree to give away things you'll later regret. Give yourself at least a few days to think it through before you get into the details of who gets what.

12 After the Breakup

13 Discuss with your ex

Discuss with your ex what you'll tell family and friends about the reason for the breakup. It's best if you can agree on a simple explanation that doesn't target either one of you as being responsible. For example, a statement such as, "We agreed it was time to move on," allows both of you to preserve your dignity and avoid embarrassment.

14 Don't listen

Don't listen to well-meaning friends who chastise you for giving up on what they think was a good relationship. If you thought through your decision before you acted, you know best what you needed to do. Don't allow others to plant seeds of doubt and regret in your mind. Assure them that you know the break was for the best, and don't dwell on discussions that rehash the past.

15 Give yourself

Give yourself some time to reflect on the highs and lows of the relationship and determine what you learned from the experience. Compare this relationship to others you've had and see if there are any patterns in your behavior. Increased self-awareness can help you have more success in your future relationships.

  • If your partner has a history of violent outbursts and you're afraid to broach the subject of a breakup, choose a public location where you two still can talk privately.
  • Consider seeing a therapist if you want out of a relationship but can't find the courage to do so.

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.