Breaking up is hard to do.
Being a teenager means figuring things out. Who you are as a person, what you want in the future, and who you want to date. Exploring different dating relationships often means that sooner or later you’ll experience a break up. Breaking up can happen for many reasons, but the most common one is that the partner just isn’t a good match (Connolly & McIsaacs, 2009). Many teens say that they are not prepared for the strong emotions they feel in relationships and wish they had been warned about how difficult and painful it can be to end a romantic relationship (Adams & Williams, 2011). It’s true, breaking up is hard to do and most of us are not taught how to break up with someone or how to move ahead after the heart-ache that often comes with breaking up. Teenagers (and even many adults!) sometimes need a reminder of how to end dating relationships in a healthy way. These A-B-C’s of breaking up may be helpful.
Ask yourself, “is it time?”
Have you realized that you just aren’t a good match? Are you noticing some red flags? Are the two of you unable to deal with conflict and find yourselves arguing all the time? It’s a good idea to ask yourself if you’re in a relationship that you want to continue. It often takes time to come to a final decision, but when you do, it’s time for the next step for breaking up…
Breaking it off: Be clear
It’s important for both people in a break-up to follow a few tips to avoid a messy, hurtful situation. Here are some tips (adapted from Relationship Smarts Plus; Pearson, 2007) if you decide it’s time to break up:
- Talk to a trusted adult—make sure it is the best decision and possibly get some useful advice.
- Avoid breaking up during an argument—your anger may influence your decision or behavior in a way you might regret.
- Choose a good time and place—avoid breaking up before a big test, sporting event, or holiday. Unless you are worried about your safety, it’s best to break up in private. If you are worried the other person may get aggressive and hurt you, make sure to break up in a public place or near people you trust.
- Make the ending clear—don’t mislead the other person by saying you want to still hang out, continuing to text, or saying you just need a break.
- Avoid being mean—try not to insult the other person or bring up past arguments. Saying something like, “I think you’re a nice person, but I just don’t want to date anymore” is a perfectly clear way to get your point across.
Cope with heart-break
Maybe you weren’t the person who wanted to break up. Maybe you’re completely blindsided and didn’t realize the relationship was about to end. Or, maybe you were the person who ended the relationship, but you still feel sad about the relationship being over. Here are some tips for coping with a break up (adapted from Relationship Smarts Plus; Pearson, 2007):
- Be realistic—try to come to terms that the relationship is over and don’t try to win the person back.
- Try to avoid rebounding—give yourself time to heal and feel better before starting a new relationship.
- Get busy—hang out with friends, play sports, do hobbies you enjoy…these things will all help keep your mind occupied.
- Don’t seek revenge—you may be feeling hurt or even angry, but try to keep those feelings from controlling your behavior.
Adams, H., & Williams, L. (2011). Advice from teens to teens about dating: Implications for healthy relationships. Children and Youth Services Review, 33, 254–264.
Connolly, J., & McIsaac, C. (2009). Adolescents’ explanations for romantic dissolutions: A developmental perspective. Journal of adolescence, 32(5), 1209-1223.
Pearson, M. (2007). Love U2: Relationship smarts plus. Berkeley, CA: The Dibble Institute for Marriage Education.