Are you struggling to break up with someone?
Sometimes, it can feel impossible to cut ties with a lover. We are so emotionally entangled with them, we just can’t call it quits.
That’s where this guide comes in. It will show you how to walk away from someone you love.
Learn how to make up your mind, which people you should get emotional support from, and why you must never take a former lover back.
- 1. Make Up Your Mind
- 2. Overcome Your Social Programming
- 3. Think About Children
- 4. Have the Talk
- 5. Never Ghost Them
- 6. Be Honest
- 7. Never Argue
- 8. Never Blame
- 9. Move Out
- 10. Clear Out Your Life
- 11. Unfollow Them
- 12. Prepare for the Pain
- 13. Get Support
- 14. Meditate
- 15. Use the Energy
- 16. Get Out There
- 17. Don’t Take Them Back
- Is Walking Away Always the Right Move?
Walking away from someone you love is hard. The first time I tried, I failed miserably.
I had been in a relationship with this person for almost eight years. For the longest time, I had assumed we would spend the rest of our lives together.
But recently, it had gotten unbearable. She was clearly not happy, and I was clearly not happy. So, I decided to call it quits, to spare both of us more unnecessary pain.
And at first, it seemed fine. We even started to get along as friends.
But then I backslid. We had sex again. Not one time, but several times. She started seeing other people. I got jealous. Hundreds of phone calls. Late nights. Tears. The whole shebang.
It was a trainwreck of my own making. When it was finally over (after about a year), I vowed to never let this happen again. I would learn how to walk away from someone you love.
And I did.
Like with learning any new skill set, the first attempts weren’t perfect. It took me several relationships to get this “right.” But eventually, it got to the point where I was able to separate my emotions from my decision-making and have a clean break.
Don’t get me wrong, it is still painful. Cutting ties with somebody you once loved (or still love) will always be. But it can be managed in a way that you both are able to move on and be happy again in the future, without loathing each other.
Here is how to do it.
1. Make Up Your Mind
You need to be crystal clear about what you are going to do.
If you approach your partner about breaking up but seem only half-convicted, they are going to sense that. Naturally, they will try to change your mind.
This is bad for both of you.
You will go back and forth, with hopes surging followed by crushing disappointments. In the end, you will come to resent each other. All because you couldn’t make up your mind.
So, before you open your mouth, sit down with yourself. Ask yourself, “What is my motivation for breaking up?”
Am I …
- … really done with the relationship?
- … threatening to break up, hoping that things will change?
- … just trying to inject some drama into the relationship?
Only the first reason is valid. Stay away from the other two.
There are several ways to arrive at this conclusion. I like to journal about what I am thinking or talk to myself about it during long walks.
Some people do well with lists, writing out the pros and cons of continuing the relationship.
Talking to trusted friends certainly helps. Not so much because of the advice they are going to give, but for verbalizing your thoughts and seeing how the other person reacts to it. It will clarify the situation.
2. Overcome Your Social Programming
We have this notion that if a relationship didn’t last, it must have been a failure.
This is due to social programming. Anything that doesn’t conform with the traditional relationship escalator of dating, getting married, having kids, etc. must be bad — or so our parents and peers tell us.
This is nonsense.
Some of the most fulfilling relationships I have ever had were over after a year or two. On the other hand, I know people who have been together for 40+ years and absolutely loathe each other.
Stop taking relationship advice from the mainstream. The vast majority of people are unhappy in their relationships. Roughly 50 percent of all marriages get divorced. It should be pretty obvious by now that the traditional paradigm of, “Till death do us part,” is flawed.
There is a great metaphor to help you arrive at a new of thinking.
Imagine you are a gardener, but your seeds got mixed up. When you plant them, you have no idea what is going to happen. Some of them will flower fast and gloriously but then soon wither. Some of them will be less spectacular but really take root.
Who is to say which one is better? They just are.
So, there is no point in feeling bad about breaking up. You are not a loser for not making it to the societal finish line of marriage, kids, and mortgage. Cherish the relationship for what it was.
3. Think About Children
If you have children together, how to walk away from somebody you love becomes a lot more complicated. You must now not only think about how the breakup affects one other person but several.
It’s a fine line to walk. On the one hand, you want things to be clear between you and your partner. They need to know it’s over.
On the other hand, you probably want your children to maintain a relationship with their other parent.
You need to communicate that as clearly as you can to your partner. “I want you out of my personal life. But I am not trying to cut you out of our children’s lives. These are two different issues.”
At the same time, beware. What I often see happening is that the partner who is getting broken up with will try to use the kids as leverage. “We should stay together for the kids.”
That’s a terrible proposition, don’t fall for it.
While it might initially be hard for your kids to deal with the breakup, in the long run, it will be better. Growing up in an atmosphere of mutual resentment doesn’t do anything for your children’s happiness.
4. Have the Talk
At some point, you need to sit down with your partner and have “the talk.”
There is no scenario where you have the talk and feel good about it. Even the most self-controlled person will let you know how disappointed they are in you, if just through their body language.
It’s just the nature of these things. Emotionally prepare for it.
Try not to stack different crises onto each other. If your partner just learned that their brother died, give them a few days.
On the other hand, it is tempting to come up with reasons to postpone having the talk. “Oh, he is under a lot of stress at work right now.”
But except for an acute crisis, you shouldn’t. Stop making excuses. Get this over with now — not in 3 months, not in 6 months.
5. Never Ghost Them
Never avoid having the talk by ghosting them. Sure, if it was a quick fling and everybody knew so, you can just let it fizzle out.
But if the two of you had some form of a long-term relationship with each other, do them the courtesy of letting them know what the deal is.
Just put yourself in their shoes. If you were in love with somebody, and they suddenly disappeared, you would go crazy from pain. Don’t do that to them.
6. Be Honest
Don’t spout platitudes like, “It’s not you, it’s me.” Let them know the actual reasons why you want to leave them.
Think about it like this. You are talking to a person that for a long time, you shared your deepest secrets with them. And now you cannot even inform them why this is over?
It is not even so much for them. Above all, you want to be congruent with yourself. What kind of person are you if you must resort to lying as soon as the situation gets a bit uncomfortable? Right, a weak person.
If you give in to these tendencies now, you will do so again in the future. And it will get easier every time.
But it will also spoil your character. Lying to avoid all confrontations has that effect. You will be constantly dissatisfied with yourself as you realize what a wuss you have become.
Don’t do this to yourself. Be honest, weather the storm. Over time, you will get rewarded for it in personal growth.
7. Never Argue
Most people who get broken up with at some point get argumentative.
They want to justify why they behaved the way they behaved. They also want to redirect some of the perceived blame back to you.
This is not the time to argue. You probably had the same arguments a million times before and they didn’t lead anywhere. Why would they now?
This is the time to call it quits.
Give them an honest, short assessment of why you are leaving them. When they start to argue, tell them, “I don’t want to argue about this. I have made up my mind. If you have any questions, I will answer them. But I won’t get into a fight with you.”
Next, some people will try to provoke you, e.g., by insulting you. They want to get a reaction out of you, especially if this worked with you in the past.
Don’t fall for this. At this point, simply get up and leave.
8. Never Blame
I was recently a spectator to a major breakup, and at some point, it turned into a payback day. The person who was doing the breaking up used the opportunity to voice their grievances.
Don’t kick the other person when they are already down, no matter what they supposedly did to you.
If you feel the need to discuss your pain, do so with somebody else, ideally a therapist or a coach. It will be much more of a cathartic experience.
9. Move Out
If you are living with someone but want to break up, this will require some planning.
Ideally, think about what this entails, even before you have the talk. Here are some common stumbling blocks to consider:
- What about your current lease? Whose name is it under? Do you first need to be removed from it?
- Do you have the money right now to move out and live by yourself? Or will you have to find someone who takes you in, e.g., your parents or a friend?
- How much stuff do you have? Can you do the move yourself or do you need to hire a moving agency?
Never let logistics intimidate you, though.
Even if you can’t find a solution right, still go through with the breakup. Solutions tend to pop up once they are most needed.
10. Clear Out Your Life
Once you are broken up, you should remove things that remind you of your partner. This will help you deal with the pain and to move on.
Many people dump their partner’s memorabilia. I think that’s a mistake.
It is better to put these things out of sight, instead of getting rid of them. Put them in a box and store them with a friend. Or simply rent some storage space.
If you are a minimalist like me, you can also take pictures of those memorabilia, and then dump them. Then you put these pictures in a folder and move it somewhere digitally out of sight.
Understand — you will eventually get over this. Your grievances will fade. And once you do, it will be nice to revisit those nice times you had together.
Also, your lover will die at some point, and they might die before you do. By then, you will be glad you didn’t destroy everything that reminds you of them.
11. Unfollow Them
Unfollow your ex on all the different social media platforms.
First of all, you shouldn’t look at pictures of your ex right now. It will just postpone the healing process.
Second, whatever people post on social media during a breakup is extremely inaccurate (even more so than the highly curated content we usually post).
That’s because they assume the other person is watching. So they strategically publish untruths to make the other person regret their decision.
Don’t play this game.
Should you also delete their number?
I tend not to, at least if I don’t have other means of contacting them.
For example, if your ex is living in another country, if you delete their number, you might really never be able to reach out to them again. I think that is a mistake.
Once the dust has settled (and provided that you are both mature adults), there is a good chance you might be able to turn this into a deep friendship. That’s worth a lot.
Thus, I would keep their number.
If the other person is initially going crazy and calling you 100 times a day, just block them.
12. Prepare for the Pain
People who walk away from someone they love often underestimate the amount of grief they are going to feel. After all, it’s them doing the walking.
It will often hit you, when you least expect it, e.g., when you watch a certain TV show that you used to watch together.
Steel yourself for these surprise hits. They will come.
Never reaching out to your ex during those moments of weakness, though. It might feel nice to hook up right then, but you will pay the price for it later. All the issues you used to have, haven’t gone away.
13. Get Support
In moments when you are feeling the loss, it is important that you have people that you can reach out to. This could be a family member or a friend.
Be selective, though. Don’t recruit people who will use this as an opportunity to engage in gossip. A bitch session might feel nice in the moment, but afterward, you will feel worse. Prefer people who will just listen.
What I have often noticed is that men struggle with getting emotional support after a breakup more than women do.
That’s because their relationships tend to be less emotionally explicit. Men would rather do stuff together than sit down and talk about their feelings.
But when you are in crisis mode, that will come back to bite you in the butt.
So, it might be a good idea to cultivate a few “touchy-feely” friendships for rainy days. If you already are in crisis mode and have no one to talk to, consider enlisting the help of a therapist or coach.
The time after a breakup is ideal for getting into meditation.
Because of the disarray you find yourself in, your inner barriers are more “permeable” than usual. That will make it easier for you to plunge into deeper stages of consciousness.
That’s why we often experience the greatest spiritual breakthroughs during times of pain.
Also, it will help you to deal with the pain itself.
Meditation is about observing yourself. Whatever you feel while closing your eyes — stress, anxiety, sadness — you watch that emotion without suppressing it.
Interestingly, by becoming an observer, that negative emotion starts to dissolve. What you are left with is a state of relaxed contentment, not unlike what you feel after a good cry.
If you take this even further, i.e., if you keep meditating, you will eventually enter an even deeper state of happiness, one of exhilarating freedom. It takes a while to get there consistently, but once you do, it compares to nothing else.
15. Use the Energy
There will come a point after breaking up where you will experience a surge of energy. Utilize that for your most important project in life.
This energy injection always happens. We feel we are done with one chapter in our lives and about to start another one. Suddenly, there is potential. Change seems possible.
Use that while it lasts.
For example, commit to getting fit (a goal that will help you with finding a new partner). Start that passion business you always dreamed of. Learn Russian like you always said you would.
What I don’t advise is going on a party binge. It’s tempting to call up your single friends, get drunk, and hit the clubs. That’s a waste of that precious drive.
16. Get Out There
I just said you shouldn’t mindlessly party. However, I am all for your putting yourself back into the market. Just do so without getting intoxicated and wasting lots of time.
What I always advise is that you learn how to talk to strangers. There are usually numerous times throughout the day — in line at the supermarket, on your way to the subway — when you could have a quick, flirty interaction with someone attractive.
Granted, this is easier said than done. Men in particular suffer from crippling anxiety when chatting someone up. Women, on the other hand, are often caught up in gender roles. “But I want him to make the first move.”
Both approaches are not productive.
Make this a project. Gradually desensitize yourself to these limiting beliefs.
For example, every time you leave the house, give a compliment to a stranger. Just tell them that they look nice today and then leave. Done.
Once you can do that, ask a follow-up question to keep the interaction going. “You don’t look like you are from around here. If I had to guess, I would say you are from … Am I right?”
Eventually, throw in a few teases while talking to them. Twist their words a little bit. This is to spark up the interaction and to keep communicating your sexual interest.
I have seen both men and women change their lives going through this process.
17. Don’t Take Them Back
There is a good chance that at some point, your ex will come crawling back to you.
That is even more likely if you made a hard cut. By being strict about removing them from your life, you have shown that you are in control of yourself. You don’t depend on them.
That is extremely attractive.
Couple this with the emotional and sexual familiarity that still exists between you, and post-breakup sex is a likely occurrence.
Don’t do it.
It doesn’t make sense. While you could be out there creating new sexual opportunities for yourself, you are shagging up with your ex, a person you know full well by now that you are not compatible with. You are wasting time.
Also, you are not just making things worse for yourself, but also for your partner. By taking them back, even just for sex, you are rekindling their romantic devotion to you. When you once again remove yourself, you are now essentially breaking up with them again.
That is twice the pain.
The solution is to get out there and talk to new people, see my previous point. If you have other irons in the fire, there will be much less of a temptation to reactivate things with your ex.
Is Walking Away Always the Right Move?
There are definitely situations where it’s best to cut ties with somebody and be done with it.
For example, if your partner was violent towards you, you should get out of there and never look back. No matter how much they promise you to change, they practically never do.
However, if you find yourself in a situation like this, it is high time you do some soul-searching.
We don’t just stumble into “toxic” relationships. To paraphrase Freud, there are no accidents. The people we are with are a direct reflection of our own personality.
So, if you regularly must make a getaway from bad relationships, consider the real problem — you. You are allowing people into your life that shouldn’t be there in the first place.
In a relationship between mature adults, it is rarely necessary to banish the other person from your life for good.
On the contrary, it can be highly rewarding to stay in touch. For example, some of my best, most trustworthy friends are former lovers of mine. It’d be much worse off without them.
My rationale — if I let someone get close to me in the first place, it is because they are exceptional people. Such people are hard to come by. So why would I get rid of them, just because we decide not to continue our sexual activities?
Having said that, even if you find yourself in such a grown-up constellation, it is usually best to create some initial, mutual distance. This will allow you both to move on emotionally.
Once that period of decoupling has passed, you can now meet again, and assign each other new roles in your lives. You will oftentimes find that this platonic continuation of your relationship is more rewarding than the original, sexual relationship.
So, cutting someone out (temporarily) can in fact strengthen the overall relationship. That is the model that you should ideally aim for.