Breaking up is never particularly easy. We like to think that the breakups where one partner is absolutely horrible would be a little easier, but the rare times where that’s actually the case, it’s usually just as hard to let go, because that person may have convinced you that you deserved that relationship, and that’s why you had it. (Note: There is nothing you can do to deserve being treated unfairly. The problem lies within the person who doesn’t see you as an equal human being.)
But what do you do if the person is absolutely wonderful? Maybe she’s even good to you. She buys you the perfect gifts, she gets along with your parents, she cleans up after herself… But it’s still not working out? You can’t force love, and you shouldn’t try to fake it. So how do you let go without being the bad guy?
Don’t make it a public ordeal.
I tend to look down on people who choose to break up in a big, public place. (I’m not fond of the idea of public proposals, either, but that’s just a matter of personal preference.) When you bring your relationship that intimately into the spotlight, you’re trapping the other person into having the “expected” reaction. In cases of a break-up, you’re taking away her ability to express her feelings about the situation without the fear of judgment from others. No one wants to be the woman who got dumped in the middle of what she thought was a date – don’t do that.
This whole situation is probably going to be uncomfortable for you, especially if you’ve already fallen out of love. But think of how it’s going to sound from her side – there are going to be some hurt feelings, and possibly tears and anger. By choosing to have this conversation when you’re somewhere private, you’re giving her the respect of not putting your business in the public eye.
(Oh, and it should go without saying, but don’t do it over a text message, an instant message, a tweet, an e-mail, a phone call… None of that! If you know that she loves you, you should give her the courtesy of a face-to-face conversation.)
Be honest, but succinct.
Don’t give a bunch of flowery details that’ll make her hurt worse. Be clear that things are over, and give a brief answer why. Don’t sugarcoat it – she needs to know that your intentions are elsewhere. This is a time for closure, and you’re the only one who can provide that closure.
It’s very important that you don’t try to soften the blow here too much. After all, a simple white lie when breaking up with something might make them think that there’s something they can do to fix things. While that may sometimes be the case, if it’s not, you need to make things clear, or you’re only wasting her time further.
If there’s no chance, tell her there’s no chance.
I know I said sometimes you can fix things – but you need to be reasonable. She deserves to know, kindly but directly, that there is no way you’re getting back together – and then you need to stick with it. It can be difficult at first, especially if she had a lot invested into the relationship. The transition from “all” to “nothing” needs to be sharp.
In the heat of a breakup, the desire to stay friends can be really strong sometimes. Keep in mind that this is the part of the brain that isn’t satisfied that the relationship is over. Staying friends while you’re healing will not help you get over things quickly – it’ll just make it a more painful process for both of you.
Instead, make a clean break. If you run into each other in ten years, maybe you can be friends then – but right now, you can’t. There are too many hurt feelings and mixed emotions involved. Give her time to get over you.
Give space. LOTS of space.
I know I made this point already. But I can’t stress how important it is. You two need to make sure your time apart is actually spent apart. No texting to check in, no hanging out with mutual friends together… She needs closure. The only way you really get over your One True Love is to find Another True Love – and that’s going to take a while. Give her time, and focus on doing your own thing, too!
Since I’m assuming you’re a good person, some of this advice might be hard to take. Rest assured – you don’t need to be mean, just honest. It can be difficult to learn how to let someone down easy, and when it’s the one who loves you, it’s even harder.
But if you don’t put this space in there, things get even more complicated. She’s going to want to hold on in every little way she can, and because you’re nice, you’re going to want to let her. But that’s not what she needs right now. Let her go to her friends for friendship. You are the one responsible for saying no – no matter how much she begs you not to.
You might need someone to show you the same respect in the future – make sure you’re on the right side of things this time!