I want to break up with my boyfriend of a few years. As we both near 30 I’m getting clearer that he’s just not the guy for me.
But here’s the thing: We live together. We have a lease together. We share a car and a cat and just have so many logistical ties to each other that I’m having a really hard time figuring out a way to break up with him that makes everything as easy as possible.
I know that in the end we’re going to break up, but the timing just seems so hard. Do you have any suggestions for when or how I might find an opening to do it at the right time?
Babe Needs to Break Up
When it comes to ending relationships of course we’d all like to make the break as clean as possible, but the nature of break-ups is that, ultimately, something needs to end up broken. Cracks, fractures, and snaps are rarely successfully made without leaving behind at least one jagged edge. Putting effort into avoiding them completely is usually effort wasted. This doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to break up well and lessen the damage, but coming to grips that things will be messy by design will save you some sweat.
I always find myself surprised at how, toward the end of a relationship, the things you loved most about your partner at the beginning can be the most toxic aspects of them at the end. Organized and driven becomes controlling and anal-retentive; Refreshing spontaneity becomes predictable irresponsibility; Sassy flirtation looks like a wandering eye, etc.
The first step to breaking up well is remembering that your partner doesn’t need to be the undesirable bad guy in order to justify your decision to break up. Break-ups are allowed without projection.
Second, build compassion into your split by self-reflecting honestly about what your contributions to the problems have been and own up to them. This doesn’t mean shouldering the blame to protect your partner or distract from your decision to end it. Rather, just as you both contributed to making your relationship great, you’ve also both contributed to its — in your case, BnB, slow-and-calculated — demise.
Finally, the best way to break up with someone is to break up with them. While it appeals to the type-A folks like you and me to lay the best exit strategy possible before letting on to a break up, waking up one day to tell your sweetie over breakfast “I’m breaking up with you today as it’s the last day of our lease, today’s date is equidistant from both of our birthdays, and I’ve set the cat free in the ultimate act of conflict-avoidance because it’s easier than discussing our heartbreak. Okay, bye” before the toast even cools isn’t sparing anyone pain.
You’re allowed to state clearly to your boyfriend that you want to end your relationship. Just as you negotiated the progression of your relationship from first date to moving in, negotiate how you are going to end your relationship such as who is staying, who is going, who has the resources to do one or the other, and what this awkward in-between time is going to look like for two independent adults without releasing poor Whiskers out into the wild.
Easy, right? Of course not! Breaking up is painful work. But avoiding it, prolonging it, and secretly plotting it isn’t going to save you from it. Lean into the work with care and compassion and know eventually you both will come out on the other side.
P.S. This advice assumes a certain level of safety and power balance in your relationship. If negotiating the end of your relationship is not a safe option due to violence or abuse, visit Safe Passage at safepass.org for professional assistance on removing yourself from an unsafe relationship.
Yana Tallon-Hicks is a pleasure-positive sex writer and educator living in the Pioneer Valley. She has a website bursting with sex advice, resources, and workshops at yanatallonhicks.com.