Dealing with a breakup

Only a small proportion of people remain with their first girlfriend or boyfriend for life, so dealing with breakups is an inevitable consequence of having an active dating life.

A breakup can occasionally be a completely mutual decision – and they are ultimately the least emotionally damaging for both parties – but more often than not, there is one person who is more emotionally affected by a breakup. That person will usually be the one on the receiving end of the news.

There are two perspectives that this article will focus on. First I will discuss breakups from the point of view of the recipient; the person in the relationship who does not necessarily want it to end (often referred to colloquially and somewhat abrasively as the “dumpee”).

I will then address breakups from the point of view of the instigator (the person initiating the breakup) before finishing with advice suitable for both…

My girlfriend/boyfriend just broke up with me:

Understanding and accepting the situation:

As with overcoming any negative belief, feeling or attitude, the first step is always accepting and understanding the current situation.

Although a breakup may seem out of the blue, there will always be a reason behind it. If you are unaware of that reason, then it is probably an issue that has been developing slowly for some time. In such a case, think back to any distinct changes in the way the relationship progressed. Did the emotional or physical intimacy slowly become less fulfilling? Perhaps a power struggle had developed.

Understanding what went wrong is only the first step. Although this section is about accepting such revelations – and if your partner can verbalise their own specific reasons it makes the process far easier – it is not for anyone else to say that the relationship can never work again.

The popular article How to get your ex back may be worth reading if you believe the relationship can be reconciled and you are willing to make purposeful changes.

Keeping the relationship in perspective:

Particularly passionate people usually come out of a relationship with one of two very contrasting attitudes. The first is that of longing to be back with their partner, dismissing all the pitfalls in the relationship and not even contemplating finding someone more suitable.

The second is someone who vilifies their partner and harbours a fair amount of resentment for their ex. This second example is common of someone who has been heinously lied to or cheated on.

Both of these mindsets are not only illusory to how the relationship really was, but they are counterproductive to moving on and being happy.

However the relationship ended, cherish the positive memories and use the whole experience as a lesson for future relationships. There is such an abundance of other people out there to meet that if you are not going to be together, transition to happily being single as quickly as possible and use your past relationship experience to craft an even more perfect relationship next time.

I just broke up with my girlfriend/boyfriend:

Being decisive:

If you ever catch yourself considering ending a relationship then there is usually at least some credence to those thoughts. Whilst in a state of relationship indecisiveness, you will undoubtedly be elucidating hundreds of thoughts about whether to stay or leave your current girlfriend or boyfriend.

As discussed in the article Should I stay or leave my relationship, whatever conclusion you come to it is best to take decisive and accelerated actions. If you have decided to end a relationship – my personal opinion being when a relationship is anything short of perfect for any prolonged period – then it helps nobody if you let that decision linger.

Softening the blow:

One way to foreshadow a breakup and prevent it ever being a surprise to your partner is by being honest about your commitment at every stage of the relationship.

In every relationship I have been in, during the dating phase I have always made it clear that I don’t simply jump into serious, exclusive relationships and that a relationship I truly want to be in is something that grows organically.

Similarly, a relationship ends when that desire for exclusivity starts to dwindle, which is rarely a sudden occurrence.

There are many reasons WHY it may dwindle and couples should never be afraid to talk about their feelings changing.

If a couple are honest with each other at every step of the relationship and don’t harbour any needless obligations to their other half (such as saying “I love you” when they don’t genuinely mean it) then it should cause no threat or panic to maturely discuss when relationship doubts first arise.

Being respectful:

I recently wrote on twitter that in a relationship you should “always leave them happier than you found them”. There, I was referencing the day to day interactions you have with your girlfriend or boyfriend and always trying to add value and happiness to their life.

The phrase works equally well when referring to a relationship as a whole though. You’ll do well in this social world we live in if you make it a rule to never leave someone less happy than when you first meet them, whether it’s a five minute interaction with someone or a ten year relationship!

As for respecting your partner’s feelings during the delicate period of a breakup, it is usually the more passive approach that is going to be the most considerate of your partner’s feelings. Leaving on good terms is a tough balance to find. You won’t want to end the relationship with a blazing row but equally, ending on a high such as having sex can leave the other person feeling used or confused.

The more mutual you make the breakup and the more you can get your partner to agree that it is best to amicably move on, the less hurt there will be on either side.

I am going through a breakup:

Moving on:

Everyone knows that the best remedy for getting over someone is to move on and meet someone else but such vague advice is hard to follow.

The best way to start moving on is to make an effort to remain busy and positive in whatever way you can. This may involve spending time with friends, or one step further could be jumping straight back into the dating field. If you follow past advice on this website, you will already have options for both of those.

Some people advise removing all contact with a recent ex-boyfriend or ex-girlfriend, deleting their phone-number and removing them from Facebook for example. It is not so much the availability of temptation that should be a problem but more the thought capacity you give to them. Removing contact with them but still thinking about them constantly is worse than keeping in contact but taking steps to move on emotionally.

Sharing a social circle:

A breakup can be particularly tricky if you share a lot of the same friends or perhaps even work together.

The same principles apply with remaining busy and not investing too much emotional thought to the situation. Explain the situation to your shared friends if you want to but avoid judging your ex in any way. A spiteful or unforgiving mindset is counterproductive to moving on and being happy.

However the relationship ended, time will always heal… but only if it is constructive and proactive time. If you can’t happily picture your ex with another man or woman, you probably have more work to do. 🙂

Much love,


8 replies
  1. Jon
    Jon says:

    I’d say I’ve been 2 times in the first situation and 2 times in the second. Lets just say it’s a lottt easier when you’re more in control of when and how to breakup. The thing that’s always worried me the most and probably stopped me being so decisive like you say was worrying about my girl hooking up with someone straight away or hooking up with one of my friends or getting with some jerk to get back at me. That’s probably also why I think it’s so hard to remain friends with an ex for me at least.

    Some great advice here though and something I’ll def think about when next in the breakup situ.

    Cheers -J

    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hey Jon,

      I agree that it is easier when you feel in control of when and how to break up and that is because the logical weighing up of whether the relationship is ideal for you will have already been done. To have a smooth breakup though, there are also a lot of caveats to consider regarding your partner’s feelings. It is in both people’s interest that no one leaves the relationship feeling angry, betrayed or resentful.

      This directly assists your second point too. Keeping the breakup mutual and amicable will mean that no one will actively want to hurt or disrespect the other, even once everything has settled.

      At some point though, you will have to accept that your ex will move on and find someone new. It shouldn’t matter who this is, as long as it is good for them and not just a heartless rebound like you perhaps fear (even then, a ‘rebound relationship’ plays its part in helping someone move on).

      One thing I have noticed is that the point where someone is happy for their ex to date new people almost always coincides with them being happy and content moving on themselves.

      Thanks for your comment, 🙂


  2. Jen Goodhue
    Jen Goodhue says:

    Hello Sam.

    I remember you talking about these topics before and it’s great to see some fresh ideas on dealing with such a common but delicate issue.

    I may have mentioned before but I went through a rather stressful breakup a few years ago with my fiance of the time. Reading this article makes me realize just how many things each of us did wrong. It seemed equally hurtful for both of us because of the fact we had so much counting on the relationship working. We lived together and obviously had plans for the future and each others families. On reflection we definitely let the breakup drag on far too long, making us lose faith in each other and ultimately grow to argue and dislike each other before going separate ways. My point is, do you think a breakup should be different the longer you have been together? My only other separations I recall have not been a big issue as we never got to such a serious place together, so it seems to me that it does make a difference.

    I like what you said about learning from the past relationships whatever way they ended. Me and my now partner do try to be brutally honest about our ups and downs and I can see a big difference. One thing is for certain, I wont let a relationship drag on past our own happiness again. It just makes waiting for true happiness take even longer : )

    Thank you for an interesting read.


    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:

      Hi Jen,

      It is not so much the literal time that a couple have been together but more how invested in the relationship they are, both practically and emotionally speaking.

      If you’ve been living together and share several financial commitments then there is in a sense, ‘more to lose’. This is heightened even further if a couple have even more commitments, such as having children.

      The best mindset before, during and immediately after a breakup is one where you truly believe you can find a relationship just as fulfilling given time and that the breakup happened for a reason and probably for the best.

      As I alluded to in the article, the person who seems more emotionally affected by a breakup is usually partially ignorant or dismissive of the problems that were actually there and so it feels like they are losing more.

      That’s great to hear your renewed attitude towards not letting a relationship drag on if it isn’t actively making you happy. As experience grows, we become a lot more aware of when a relationship is first starting to go downhill, which in turn actually makes it easier to put back on course before too much negativity arises. I like your attitude there. 🙂

      Thanks for commenting and sharing your story, 🙂


  3. pyrax
    pyrax says:

    Yup, I can relate to a lot of this as I’m notoriously bad at breaking it off with a girl I’m seeing. My longest relationships so far have only about 7 months or so but in that time I always seem to gradually lose interest myself and at the same time make the girl real clingy and in to me. As you can imagine it makes breaking up hard.

    I’m not in a relationship like that at the mo but I’d be interested to know what sort of things you actually say or do when you are ending it with a girl. From the way you write and talk about all topics I’m pretty sure you don’t have such awkward breakup talks like me and my friends always seem to lol.

    Cheers as usual for great content.

    • Samuel McCrohan
      Samuel McCrohan says:


      Seven months is by no means a flash in the pan relationship. It is certainly enough time to build a sincere connection, so it’s inevitable that the same emotions of a breakup apply.

      Disinterest and neediness in a relationship are actually not polar opposites as a lot of people may think. They increase and decrease proportionally to one another. This is something I first wrote about in the article ‘Managing the most powerful emotion in the world – The love equilibrium’. That article focuses on developing and balancing love but is very applicable to the phenomenon you are talking about.

      The way to end a relationship as amicably and mutually as possible is to not make it into a massive deal and it certainly shouldn’t be a big surprise to anyone. Just as a typical, fulfilling relationship will progress smoothly, a breakup shouldn’t be an abrupt occurrence either. That’s not to imply that delaying any decision is advised but more highlighting the fact that it’s extremely uncommon to one day be perfectly happy in your relationship and then the next day defiantly want to end it!

      Try thinking and talking about it not as a breakup but more as a transition of relationship. Being able to do this successfully though goes back to my original point about breaking up at the right time, before the gulf between disinterest and neediness or adoration has become too much to have a hope of remaining friends.

      Thanks for commenting,


  4. anon
    anon says:

    This came just at the right time for me. Still in my relationship but have lots to think about. Thankyou so much for sharing your relationship advice and I’ll sure be checking back here often. x

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