NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, September 24, 2022

Ending a Long Term Relationship

I've written about breakups in prior articles (see my articles: Should You Stay or Should You Leave Your Relationship? and When Love Doesn't Conquer All).

Ending a Long Term Relationship

Ending a relationship isn't easy, but ending a long term relationship can be especially painful for everyone involved.   You and your partner have invested in the relationship on many levels so untangling your lives is challenging.

Tips For Ending a Long Term Relationship
  • Know That It's Normal to Go Through Different Emotional Stages: Initially, you might go back and forth about whether it would be better for you to stay or go.  Your ambivalent feelings can create an emotional roller coaster for you and your partner if they're aware of your changing feelings.  Even after you've made the decision that it would be best to end the relationship, you might feel guilty and ashamed about hurting your partner and, if you have children, about the emotional impact it will have on them.  You might also feel relieved at some point and then your feelings might change to grief, anger, disbelief and so on. Know that all of this is normal (see my article: Coping With the Stages of a Breakup).
  • Be Clear With Your Partner: One of the most confusing things is when the partner who wants to end the relationship gives the other partner mixed messages.  Usually these mixed messages aren't intentional.  They often involve ambivalence, guilt, shame and a mixture of other confusing emotions.  But once you have made up your mind, consider carefully what you want to say in advance, especially if you think your partner will be surprised.  It might help to write about it so you can get clear on how you feel and what you want to say.  Once you have thought about it, talk to your partner privately in a calm manner without blaming them.  Be prepared for a negative reaction or for your partner to want to bargain with you so you don't end the relationship.  If so, be firm but compassionate.

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Be Clear About Boundaries: This is the area where many people make mistakes.  Think carefully about how much contact, if any, you want to have with your partner after the relationship ends.  If you have children together, in most circumstances, you'll need to be in contact about them.  But, if you've made up your mind that you no longer want to be in the relationship, the conversations about the children shouldn't be used as a way to get emotionally involved again.  If there are no children and no other reasons for being in contact, you'll need to decide how to proceed.  If you think you want to try to be friends or, at least, remain amicable, be honest with yourself about why you want to do this.  Are you trying to maintain contact to give yourself the option of going back with your soon-to-be-ex?  This would definitely be a mixed message.  Also, avoid trying to get your partner back when you feel lonely. Breaking up again will be even more hurtful for both of you.

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Talk to Your Children Together: If you have children together, both of you need to agree on what you want to tell them.  Speak to them together in a calm and clear way giving them an age appropriate explanation about the big change they're about to go through.  They will need reassurance that you both still love them and will be there for them.  Prepare to answer their questions and to deal with sadness and anger about how this will affect them.  Under no circumstances should either of you blame the other or try to get your children to side with you. You want to avoid the hurt and pain of creating parental alienation or split loyalty (see my articles: Talking to Your Children About the Divorce and Co-parenting After the Divorce).
  • Be Prepared to Talk to Others About the Breakup: Initially, you probably want to tell only those who are closest to you and who will be emotionally supportive.  Loved ones will be concerned about your well-being, but not everyone needs to get a long, personal explanation about the breakup.  So, for the people who need to know but who aren't close to you, have a simple statement you give where you don't delve into personal details.  If people try to pry, be polite but set a boundary with them.
  • Avoid Looking at Your Ex's Social Media After the Breakup: It might be tempting to secretly follow your ex on social media to see what they're doing and whether they're seeing someone else, but if you do this, you'll make yourself miserable.  So, avoid the temptation to look.
  • Expect to Feel Many Confusing and Contradictory Emotions: It's normal to feel grief, anger, loneliness, confusion and second thoughts about your decision.  It's normal to feel fine about your decision one moment and then get caught up in self doubt the next moment.  Grief comes in waves and can come unexpectedly at any time. Try to stay calm and not be swayed by waves of emotion.  

Ending a Long Term Relationship

  • Practice Self Compassion: During this time, you'll need to be gentle with yourself.  It can be tempting to be hard on yourself when you're going through a breakup, so practice self compassion. Take extra self care in terms of making sure you eat well, get plenty of rest and take care of yourself in other ways (see my article: Developing Self Compassion).
  • Don't Allow Your Loved Ones to Pressure You to "Just Get Over It":  We live in a culture that often has little tolerance for emotional pain.  This is especially true for people who haven't dealt with their own unresolved emotions.  Your feelings will take as long as they take for you.  Everyone's process is different.  There's no right or wrong amount of time to grieve the loss of your relationship.
  • Get Help in Therapy: Close friends and loved ones can be emotionally supportive and you might also need the help of a licensed mental health professional to deal with the emotional stages you're experiencing.  There's no shame in asking for help.  A skilled psychotherapist can help you to cope and work through unresolved emotions (see my articles: Overcoming Your Discomfort With Asking For Help and Overcoming the Heartbreak of a Breakup).

About Me
I am a licensed New York City psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR, AEDP, EFT and Somatic Experiencing therapist.

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.