How to Say Goodbye to a Relationship With Minimal Heartbreak
Goodbyes are inevitable, whether they happen because you’re moving away, calling a relationship quits, or even leaving your new job after realizing that taking it was a bad idea. While goodbyes are part of life, actually having to make the break is something that just never seems to be easy. To get some tips on what to say and do when it’s time to quit and say adieu, we reached out to Halley Bock, a human dynamics expert. Read on for her six tips, designed to make one of the toughest things we all go through just a little bit easier on your heart.
1. Be real with yourself about your intention. No matter the type of relationship, Bock tells us you need to really think about what you want. “Ask yourself, do you really want to sever the relationship for the foreseeable future? Or is this a ploy to gain attention or achieve another outcome?” Bock asks. She tells us that a goodbye needs to actually be a “bye,” and should never be used as a negotiating tactic to get something else. “Game playing isn’t ever good in personal or professional circumstances,” she reminds us. Got that?
2. Say it clearly (and in-person). Ending relationships requires directness so that both parties are clear on what’s going on. “Assuming you won’t suffer any harm from one more interaction, deliver your message as close to in-person as you can. If you have to go for email or text, do that — but never ghost a potential partner or stop showing up to work entirely.” It might be hard to officially and directly end things, but it’s what you need to do if a goodbye is truly what you want. Quit copping out and ghosting or breadcrumbing.
3. Keep it short. “No one likes to be told a thousand ways that they’re wrong,” Bock says. “A goodbye should NEVER be a conversation to debate a topic, it should be a conversation with an intent to say goodbye.” When it comes to what you should say, Bock advises going with something short and sweet, such as, “Amy, after thinking about the dynamic we have, I’m actually falling short of my expectations. I recognize that I need to end our friendship now in order to achieve the goals I stated for myself. I hope you can understand. I wish you the best.”
Yes, it might seem harsh to be so cut and dry, but saying goodbye like this leaves no room for confusion or future hopes. You owe this concise sense of closure to the other person — whether they’re your S.O., friend, or boss.
4. Focus on yourself. Being selfish is super hard for many of us, but sometimes you need to be. Bock suggests using “I” statements instead of blaming anyone else for a break you need to make. “Be careful not to paint the other person as a monster — even if they’ve been terrible. Just be gracious and say your goodbye.”
5. Expect a reaction. Bock explains, “A sense of belonging is one of the most basic and essential human needs, so when someone tells us they’d be better off without us, it actually triggers our limbic system and immediately puts us into flight/fright/freeze modes, which are primal threat responses deeply ingrained in our nervous system.”
Knowing this, she says to expect the person receiving the goodbye to feel angry, defend themselves, blame you, make excuses, or even to go completely silent. While this can be terrible to deal with, all you can do is take a deep breath and move forward knowing you did the best that you could. “Know that this reaction is NOT about you,” Bock says. “It’s a normal (and evolutionarily necessary) process that happens.”
6. Avoid being reactive. In the case that you do encounter an emotionally challenging reaction to your goodbye, Bock says to circle back to the first point and remember your intention. “Whatever you do, don’t follow someone back into the relationship by being reactive to how they’re behaving when they have trouble accepting your choice.” Obviously easier said than done, Bock says you need to make yourself a promise that the only thing you’ll say in this phase is some version of “I wish you the best. Goodbye.” It’ll be SUPER hard to do, but you’ll both be better off.
Have you recently suffered through an anxiety-inducing goodbye? Tell us how you’re moving forward and dealing @BritandCo.
(Photos via Getty)