Heartbreak: how to reduce damage when ending a relationship?
Heartbreak: how to reduce damage when ending a relationship?

The contemporary relationship

The world is changing and relationships take on new forms. Especially millennials have more choice regarding finding a partner: in the past you could just found your future wife between ten other women on the dancefloor, but now you have the opportunity to admire and choose from thousands of women through apps like Tinder. The effect is that we have higher standards when it comes to having a partner: “we have so many options!”. Because of this transformation in our perspective of starting a relationship we also change the way we organise our relationship.

Esther Perel (psychotherapist, expert on human relationships) spoke about the new standards of contemporary intimacy and love with 2500 millennials. As a result of this conference she invented the word ‘stable ambiguity’. We want a partner because we don’t want to be alone. But we also want to keep our freedom and don’t want to invest a lot of time and money in our partner, especially when we feel that we need to focus on our own development and might have a better partner awaiting us. Maybe you both think about the relationship in the same way. But what if this ‘ambiguous’ vision on the relationship is not something you can share with your partner? Then this will be at the expense of the partner who does wánt to invest in the relationship.

How to limit feelings of heartbreak for the partner you are breaking up with

What happens if you have another perspective on the relationship? And you want to end it because it is not working out? By changing the way we organise our relationship we also change the way we break up with someone. We disappear and create a physical distance (‘I am busy but you will hear from me!’) and then send our partners an app to stop being in contact. Or we “ghost them” and hope that the other one will just get the hint. Or we do something that is in between: the relationship will simmer and we will only hang out on my conditions. When the break-up is definitely at issue it will cause a lot of heartache and stress to the one that is being broken up with. These kinds of break-ups will also cause uncertainty about the situation and makes you fill in the gaps. It doesn’t necessarily needs to be this way though.

Now we can virtually escape a difficult situation, it is the least preferable way to end a relationship. How can you end a relationship and make sure the other one doesn’t experience heartbreak too much?

  • Try to empathise. Ask yourself: what if someone wanted to break up with me? What would I want to know and what would I need?
  • Take time to thank someone, to show them what they meant to you. This positive feedback will show that your (ex) partner has important qualities.
  • Explain why you don’t feel there is a match (anymore).

This way you give more clarity about your reasons to end it. It will cause your partner to experience closure. On top of that you both step into a next relationship with more wisdom and experience.

Do you feel anxious thinking about breaking up with someone?

When there’s no turning back and you decided to end things, this can also cause distress and pain. Do you have these kinds of feelings and are you afraid of breaking up with someone? Is this fear getting you to ‘freeze’ and you just want to send a quick message to be done with it? Try to make a G-scheme (https://niceday.app/g-schema-angst/). With the help of a G-scheme you will get an insight of your feelings, thoughts and behaviour. You can explore if your fear is well-founded or not.

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Sarah Goslinga

My name is Sarah Goslinga, psychologist and coach at NiceDay. It's important to me that you have a real connection with your coach and that you feel you can discuss anything. In my spare time I'm busy with producing music.

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