How to break up when children are involved

How to break up when children are involved

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I’ve reached the point in my thirties where at least half of my friends who are parents are no longer with their children’s biological parent. When we get together for brunch, it’s just as common for us to discuss custody agreements as it is to rehash the latest episode of RuPaul’s Drag Race.

As the old song goes, “breaking up is hard to do,” and children add an extra layer of complexity to an already difficult situation. But for many Canadians, learning to co-parent is simply a fact of life. According to the most recent 2016 Canadian census, the percentage of children aged 0 to 14 living with one parent rose from 17.8% to 19.2% since 2001.

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But like many things in life, just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s easy. If witnessing my friends struggles has taught me anything, it’s that developing a healthy co-parenting relationship is essential, but also challenging.

“Communication is often a big challenge. If the marriage failed, chances are the communication was not good even when married. After a split, the communication between exes might be even more strained, making conversations about basic logistical issues difficult and stressful,” says Iona Monk, a registered clinical counsellor and owner of Vancouver Couples Counselling.


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Whether you’re newly broken up, or have been co-parenting for a while, here are a few things that Monk suggests keeping in mind.

1. Put a positive spin on parenting differences.

Co-parents often struggle when it comes to their differing parenting styles, says Monk. Each parent may run their homes differently with different rules. “This may confuse children and make it difficult for their readjustments to the other parents’ home. Parents who are stricter may feel frustrated at their more lackadaisical ex-partners’s styles while easy going parents may rebel against their more rigid ex partners styles.”

Monk says it’s important that you don’t trash your ex’s parenting. “Explaining the differences as “style differences” may be a kind and generous way of explaining the situation to the children,” she explains.


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2. Make your children’s needs and feelings your priority.

Breakups are complicated, but don’t allow your own unresolved feelings to spill into interactions with your kids. “This might present as a co parent asking their kids uncomfortable questions about the ex and his or her general whereabouts, criticizing their ex and unwittingly making their children pick sides and loyalties. It is important to keep your feelings about your ex and the failure about the relationship private,” says Monk.

3. Be consistent.

As Monk explains, consistency is important for children’s well being. If parents do not agree that consistency is important, it will be tough to maintain the same rules and expectations for the kids. “If your ex refuses to agree to consistency, seek the help of an unbiased third party (therapist, trusted friend, someone who has already gone through a divorce with children) and ask them to weigh in,” says Monk.


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4. Find a healthy way to communicate.

As Monk reminds us, communication is crucial when children are involved. “If email or text works better than phone calls, then do that. Use whatever tool works between the two of you to keep the lines of communication open,” says Monk. If you’re still struggling to communicate, seek counselling.

5. Be a united front.

“Keep in mind that the split of the family is not the worst thing that can happen to a child. What’s more important is that the co parents are friendly, work together and have the same goal- the happiness and safety of their children,” says Monk.

However, you don’t have to be best friends with your ex in order to be good co-parents. You just need to work together as a team. As Monk says, “if kids feel that parents are united on this front, then they can emerge from the situation with a healthy understanding of relationships; that sometimes they may change form, but they never disappear.”

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  • Breaking up can be difficult to begin with, however, adding a child to the equation can make it that much more complicated.

    Many times couples wonder if they should stay in a “loveless” relationship in order to keep the child happy. The answer to this is no. Your child will be affected by the decisions that you make inside or outside of the relationship. Instead, being mature adults and handling the breakup as civil as possible is the best outcome for everyone involved. Here are some guidelines on how to do this.
    Evaluate the Relationship

    Be sure that you are not acting on rash emotions. Have you considered counseling? Are the problems you’re having long-term? Are you and your partner willing to change? After evaluating the situation you’re able to determine which the best path is for you. Do not make this decision alone as you did not make the decision on your own to begin the relationship in the first place.
    How to break up when children are involved

    Discuss the Spilt

    If you both decide it is in your best interests to move on then take the time to talk about the fact that you are breaking up. You want to discuss how it will affect your children, financial responsibility, personal property, visitation schedule, and much more. Whether you are married or not it will be important to discuss all the topics listed above. By talking it through you are able to stay on the same page and remain civil.

    How to break up when children are involved

    Talk to Your Children

    Unless your child is under the age of 2 they will likely see the changes happening. Therefore, you need to talk with them before going through with the split. As parents you want to explain that it is not their fault. Often times children feel that their behavior is the cause of breakups. Share your plans for visitation and even express that you still care for each other as parents. Make the conversation age appropriate for best results. Be prepared to answer questions and comfort them if they need it.

    How to break up when children are involved

    Integrity, self-love and remaining neutral

    Never ever talk badly about your ex around the kids or even while you’re still together! Their father (or mother) is part of them and even if you believe they were the one who did something wrong or is at fault, it’s important to remain neutral. Sometimes sharing your lessons or realizations can be helpful, although it’s important how you impart that information. Even if something terrible happened, i.e. you or the children were abused – be mindful how you discuss it. Choose to empower your children with powerful and precious life lessons, allowing you to be authentic and coming from a place of love. Talk about self-love and self-belief, healthy boundaries, perhaps discuss what’s a healthy relationship, what really matters.

    How to break up when children are involved

    After Breaking Up

    After you’ve done the process above and have broken up you will probably feel some form of emotion. Whether you feel sad, angry, hopeless, or clueless it is important to get it out so that you don’t carry it into your next relationship. You might consider consulting a coach or counselor who can help you in healing, learning and improving yourself. Most don’t like to admit it but broken relationships are likely caused by both parties, one way or another you’ve contributed. Finding out what’s going on inside of you and how to change it can work great.

    This process will not be easy, and depending on your child they could really be affected by the change. Always keep an open mind with your child, discuss any concerns they might have, and if necessary get them professional help as well. Sometimes children won’t just tell you they are hurt by the breakup, but will begin to act out and harbor feelings. Professional guidance might be needed to get them through. In the end, both parties remaining civil and having the common interest of loving and caring for the children will make breaking up much easier and the healing process much more achievable.

    We are not shackled to our past, our families do not carry the weight of sculpting everything we will become, but we are no doubt heavily shaped by the experiences we have as children of love, relationships and trust.

    I’d be the last to advocate staying together for the children, and if separating has become your final (and often sensible) answer, this is my advice for you.

    I was conceived as a “band-aid” baby, intended to cement a relationship that was falling apart. We all know that plasters never fix the cause of the real problem, and when they finally fall off — blackened and tatty — the wound is dirtier than ever before. A colicky baby certainly makes a stable relationship a challenge, let alone a rocky one.

    My memories of being a young child are punctuated by shouting and sadness. My parents seemed to live separate lives, bonded together only by anger. I never felt as if they were a team. My dad had his own bedroom, and would rarely come on holidays with us.

    The day my mother finally declared that it was enough, my Dad had to walk to the front door with six-year-old me sitting on his foot. As he dragged me along, attempting to pry my fingers from around his thigh, I imagine his heart breaking, along with mine. My poor mother was left with the broken pieces scattered around, like a broken mirror shards that are found buried in a carpet, years after it smashed.

    This moment, when my family broke apart irreplaceably, became a pivotable point in my future expectations of men and relationships. It doesn’t matter if they love me, they’ll leave because I’m not enough.

    My parents’ separation remained hostile for the next eight years; I grew up a daughter of two households. I always knew I had to create lies to placate each parent. No, of course dad didn’t take me to the pub again. No, of course mum didn’t leave me home alone to go food shopping. As a rather unsophisticated liar, I was often caught, leaving me again in the middle of two adults unable to manage their own sadnesses and anger for the sake of their child.

    Their animosity loomed so large for so long, that when my father dropped me home after visiting him, he had to watch me walk up the whole street, rather than walking me to the door. I remember the odd sense of pride I felt when finally both parents agreed he could stand at the bottom of the path instead. There was something so achingly sad about that walk up the street alone, in the no man’s land between both parents. My heart cried for the loss of my dad, but yet only felt truly safe once home again with my mum.

    I acknowledge that my parents did the best they could in those tough times. I forgive them for being unable to place my emotional needs above their own. They are human and fallible, just as I am now. However, so much of my childhood sorrow was unnecessary and I wouldn’t wish my experiences on anybody.

    Relationships between two adults do not have to last forever. Relationships between two adults who have children should. My parents stopped loving each other and that is OK. What is crucial is that the love for the child dictate the new boundaries that the adults need to establish. Having a child means being willing to put the child first, and when you divorce or separate from the parent of your children, you need to remember that your child deserves to be put first. The child adores you both, and hearing or seeing you bitterly snap back and forth sticks with them long after the rows stop. You may not think they hear, or understand your snide passive aggressive tones, but they usually do.

    I had no say in how my parents broke our family down; no chance to say it was too loud, too messy and too sore. No way to articulate that ripping the band-aid off in front of me was unfair, and no way of asking them to stop making me lie. So instead, I’m asking on behalf of your children. You can’t sugarcoat a family breakdown, but you can be honest and open without exposing them to the true rawness of your own broken hearts.

    Don’t stay together for the kids, but break up softly for them instead.

    How to break up when children are involved

    If you and your partner find it hard to get along with each other and have decided to break up with each other and the kids are involved, then you have to be very careful. Breaking up with your partner is one thing but doing the same with kids involved is a totally different thing. In some cases, where things went out of control, couples broke up with each other and so with the kids while some realise their responsibility towards the children and reached a consensus regarding how they will work things out.

    Break up itself is one of the most difficult things but when kids are involved, it becomes harder for everyone. Having a child with someone creates your affiliation with the partner and no matter how worse things go; you will always find yourself attached to both of them. If you and your partner have decided to break up with each other, then you should also decide about your responsibilities towards the kid. Not to mention, who will take the custody of the child is the most important thing and should be settled in advance.

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    Children can be very stressful with the news of break up; therefore you should plan with your partner how would you tell them about the news. In many cases, couples try to ignore the disagreements they have and live together for their children but if you are unable to do that, it is better that you part ways.

    You should decide with your partner in advance regarding the responsibilities of your kid. Do not forget to decide the timings of meetings and spending vacations with the kid.

    You must inform your child and explain to him that there will be no affect on your affiliation with him. He might ask several questions from both of you, do not stop him and let him ask anything he wants.

    You should come to an agreement with your spouse regarding the expenditures of your kid. Do not forget to plan about his schooling and involve him in sports.

    If necessary, you can take advice of a counsellor.

    Make your kids understand that it is not the worst thing in fact; it is for the betterment of all of you. Tell him that both of you might be seeing other people after a short time.

    Explain to your child that he can reach whenever he wants, you will always be there for him.

    BREAKING up is hard for everyone, especially if there are kids involved. But what if the kids you’ve brought up and loved for years aren’t yours?

    July 5, 2015 9:35am

    What happens when the kids you love aren’t yours, and then you go through a break up? Source:Supplied

    The wicked stepmothers have been used in fairytales for centuries — women who see the children in their marriage as an obstacle to the affection of their man. I grew up with a woman like this. She was a hateful, sadistic woman whose only redeeming feature was that I could choose to have nothing to do with her when I grew up.

    Then I became a stepmother. I was determined to be different. It’s a complex relationship and requires much more effort that raising biological children.

    These children don’t have to love you and the reality is, they probably won’t (at least for some time).

    I was in my late twenties with an instant family — one boy and one girl. Over the next seven years the relationship developed and blossomed, and I became the children’s primary carer. Their parents were busy and I gladly agreed to cut down on my work and take the position as stepmum.

    The children didn’t call me mum, but they did trust me to take care of their needs. I made them breakfast, packed their lunches, washed their clothes, took them to their sporting activities, got involved with the school, helped them with homework and argued over “screen time”. The house ran smoothly and the children were happy.

    Their father and I planned to add to the family with a baby of our own. We had some trouble conceiving but after a few tests were told we would have above average success with IVF.

    The day we got this news everything changed. My partner became distant and argumentative until he finally said it — “I don’t want to have a baby”. What would follow was a year of constant bickering.

    I couldn’t reconcile with the situation presented to me. After everything I had put into the family unit, I wasn’t going to have a choice about adding a baby to our family.

    Then it hit me, it’s not my family, I’m merely a guest in theirs. Without a child together, my partner could go back to taking care of the kids without any input from me. I had no rights to the children I was raising.

    Unlike the wicked stepmother stories, I loved these children and I deeply loved their father. I didn’t want to leave the house, but after a year or so of arguing I realised I couldn’t accept that I was never going to have a baby.

    Their father suggested we live separately and now we do. I don’t see the children often anymore. Thanks to the invasion of privacy that is social media, I sometimes see a big event in their lives posted somewhere.

    It never stops breaking my heart, how little I mean to them now. Don’t get me wrong …. I am genuinely glad they are happy and I wouldn’t want them to be sad about absence.

    For me however, I think it will always be sad. The grief of losing them was as big a part of my heartache in my separation from their father, as the grief of losing him was.

    In the 7 years I was in the relationship I made 14 birthday cakes for my step kids, each year more elaborate than the last. I bought every dress for the school dances for my girl and every pair of footy boots for my boy. I took the children away camping on school holidays often while both of their parents worked.

    I will miss being that person in their life. I loved making stupidly elaborate birthday cakes; I loved going shopping with them and watching them dress up for their events.

    And there will be many big events in their lives I will probably miss. Will they want me at their graduations? Will they call me when they get married? Will I know when they have their first child?

    The reality is they probably won’t. Their mum and dad will be there.

    Would I do it again? Definitely. Those years were precious, they meant a lot to me and I will treasure the memories.

    It hurts to feel betrayed and it damages relationship trust and connection. When your partner has an affair, it can leave you questioning everything you thought you knew about your partner, yourself and your relationship.

    When a child is involved, cheating becomes that much more difficult and destructive.

    Jason genuinely regrets that he cheated. He and his wife, Sharon, have worked hard to create a loving, caring home for their daughter. Jason didn’t mean to have an affair with a woman he met while on a business trip– it just happened.

    A year ago, Jason was repeatedly sent to a town that’s in a neighboring state to help set up a branch office for his company. He felt lonely, especially because Sharon was very focused on their daughter who was having a tough time transitioning to adolescence. To Jason, it seemed like Sharon didn’t really care that he was away so much.

    He felt non-essential and unimportant to her. Rachel works at the coffee shop in the town Jason was working in. Her friendly smile and interest in him were welcome and appealing. He didn’t mean to lie to Rachel about having a wife and daughter back home. He didn’t mean to have dinner with her and then, eventually, to spend nights at her house whenever he was in town.

    When Rachel became pregnant, this woke Jason up and caused him to seriously re-evaluate his choices. He finally told Rachel the truth and she immediately broke up with him. Jason also admitted his affair to Sharon. She has agreed to give him another chance, for which he is grateful.

    The challenge is, everything is so much more complicated and messy now. Jason really wants to rebuild trust and his marriage with Sharon. He wants to be a more engaged father to their daughter too. But, he is unwilling to abandon his child with Rachel.

    Infidelity does become that much more difficult to deal with when there is a child involved. This can take different forms…

    As with Jason, you and your partner might already have a child and a pregnancy could have resulted from the affair. Now, your partner has financial obligations and potentially a desire to be some form of parent to the other child once he or she is born.

    Even if the affair did not bring about a pregnancy, you might be worried about the negative effects on your child. Unless you have a baby or young child, it’s nearly impossible to keep your partner’s infidelity a secret. Even if your child doesn’t specifically know what happened, he or she will undoubtedly sense that something is “off” or “wrong” with you and your partner.

    Want a plan to start rebuilding trust? Go here…

    Be selfish.

    Even though there is a child or children involved, we urge you to be selfish. It’s understandable that your first impulse might be to direct your energy to your child, making sure that he or she is okay in the midst of the tension and conflict going on in your home. If your partner now has a child with another woman (or man), you may believe that it is only “right” for that child to be the priority.

    We’re not suggesting that you neglect, ignore or make any child less important. But, we do recommend that you make yourself just as important.

    You’ve got needs and it is essential that you get those needs met. You might be feeling vulnerable, hurt or emotionally destroyed by all of this. We’re here to remind you that you can’t possibly “be there” for your child if you aren’t taking the time to heal and make yourself a priority too.

    Turn to family, friends and maybe even a professional counselor or coach for support. Identify and ask for the kind of support you most need right now. It might be someone to take your child to the park so that you can have time to write in your journal, get a massage or just to sit and cry. This may be someone to listen and help you sort through your options so that you can make the best decision for you.

    Pay attention to the child’s needs.

    Yes, by all means, we also encourage you to make sure the child or children involved are being well cared for. It’s probably best to talk with your partner about what and how you will share about the affair, taking the child’s age into consideration. Remember, you can be honest without telling details that would be inappropriate or distressing for the child to hear.

    Here are some examples of what you might say…

    Daddy made a mistake and mommy feels very sad about it. Both mommy and daddy love you very much and are here for you.”

    “I was feeling lonely and I made a decision that I really regret. I had an affair, but it’s over now. I am working with your father to make things right in our marriage again. We both love you and are available to answer your questions.”

    It is sometimes helpful for the one who cheated to tell the child– either alone or with the other parent present. It all depends on what you and your partner decide is best for the situation and for your child.

    If a pregnancy is the result of the affair, this can be tricky to communicate to a child. Seek advice from a professional therapist for children and really tune in to your child to know what he or she is ready to hear and when.

    Remember, you ALWAYS have choice.

    If you feel as if you have “no choice” but to stay in your relationship or to end it because there is a child involved, back up and think again. Children can be resilient regardless of what the adults in their lives choose to do.

    If you sacrifice your needs for what you think are the needs of a child, this isn’t going to benefit anyone!

    There are all kinds of different family arrangements, so try to keep your mind open and keep asking yourself what is the wisest and best situation for your child, your relationship and for you.

    At a Glance

    Breaking down writing assignments can help kids manage the work.

    Kids with learning and thinking differences may not know how to break an assignment into chunks.

    The smaller the “chunks,” the more manageable they may be for your child.

    Writing assignments can be overwhelming for students with certain learning and thinking differences. Your child may have an overall plan for how to manage big projects. But when he sits down to start a writing assignment, he may not know how to break it down into smaller tasks.

    The key is to identify specific chunks that will make the work manageable for your child. The chunks may vary from one assignment to the next. But the ones listed here can serve as a guide.

    Chunk #1: Review the type of writing.

    Examine the assignment carefully. What type of writing is involved? Is it a research paper, a personal story or an analysis of something your child has read? Look for keywords in the assignment, such as “compare,” “discuss” or “share.” Make sure your child understands what he needs to do for that type of writing.

    Graphic organizers can be helpful at various stages of a writing assignment. Find a graphic organizer that works for your child.

    Chunk #2: List the tasks and create a timeline.

    Before he can start the writing process, your child will need to know all the tasks involved. These will make up the chunks of the assignment. Depending on the type of assignment, some of the tasks might include:

    Do research and/or read.

    Take notes (a graphic organizer may help).

    Decide on a thesis statement or theme.

    Create an outline (a graphic organizer may help).

    Write a first draft.

    Once he’s decided on the tasks, he can develop a timeline for getting them done. Help him figure out the time required for each one. Work backwards through the tasks to come up with a timeline for producing the assignment. (Build in extra time for tasks that may be especially hard for your child.)

    Also, plan to check in with him after each task at first. Once he gets going, you can check in after a few tasks.

    Chunk #3: Gather resources.

    Discuss what your child needs to know and where that information needs to come from. If it’s a book report, make sure he has his own copy of the book. (If he needs an audiobook, make sure he has that, too.) If it’s a research paper, help him find reliable resources at the library or online.

    Chunk #4: Read and highlight information.

    Encourage your child to find information that he feels is crucial or that interests him. This is a two-part task: reading and highlighting. If your child doesn’t know how to highlight information, work with him to develop this skill.

    You can start by asking him to tell you what he thinks is important after he reads each page. Then you can highlight that information for him.

    Chunk #5: Decide on a thesis statement.

    The thesis statement is the argument or the main point your child’s writing assignment will be making. Help your child explore and sift through his thoughts and ideas. Be sure to ask him to tell you a few of the details that led him to make that particular argument or point. Depending on his learning and thinking differences, you may want to build in extra time for this chunk.

    Chunk #6: Create an outline.

    Many graphic organizers create outlines for different types of papers. But if your child is using one that doesn’t, he can arrange his notes to make one. He can even copy each note onto an index card and arrange them that way. The outline should tell the story (or make his case) from the beginning to the middle to the end.

    Chunk: #7: Review the paragraphs needed.

    If your child is using a graphic organizer, it may include a template for this. You can also help your child do it on his own. (Be sure to ask if the teacher has given him a rubric or a handout that describes the assignment.)

    For instance, there’s a common form that research papers take. The first paragraph contains a thesis statement, followed by an explanation of what’s coming next.

    The next three paragraphs support the statement by going into more detail and using quotes or facts. The last paragraph sums up the thesis and recaps the supporting details.

    Chunk #8: Write the draft.

    Certain learning and thinking differences may make this chunk difficult to do all at once. These include dysgraphia , ADHD and executive functioning issues , and slow processing speed.

    It can help to decide how your child will tackle the actual production of the paragraphs. Set a schedule where he can successfully get through the writing. For instance, he could write in half-hour increments with breaks in between. Or he could write one or two paragraphs at a time.

    Chunk #9: Review, revise and re-read.

    Go over the paper together to make sure it meets the criteria of the writing assignment. Help your child mark where he needs to make changes, add details or correct errors.

    This is actually a three-part process, so you may choose to break it down into separate steps. If so, return to the overall timeline and factor that in.

    More Tools and Strategies to Help With Writing

    Breaking assignments into chunks can help make them doable for your child. But there are other ways you can help make the writing process easier. Look into graphic organizers that can help your child organize his thoughts, notes and outline for writing. Explore strategies for helping reluctant writers.

    Key Takeaways

    Make sure your child understands the assignment and the type of writing involved.

    Creating a timeline can help you build in extra time for chunks that may be harder for your child.

    Graphic organizers can help kids break down assignments and keep track of ideas.


    About the Author

    About the Author

    Amanda Morin worked as a classroom teacher and as an early intervention specialist for 10 years. She is the author of The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education. Two of her children have learning differences.

    Reviewed by

    Reviewed by

    Bob Cunningham, EdM serves as executive director of learning development at Understood.

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    How best to minimize the pain in a painful situation.

    How to break up when children are involved

    When a relationship ends, everybody hurts. Most conspicuously, the partner who’s been broken up with experiences the sudden shock and loss of the end of the relationship. But the one doing the breaking up isn’t immune to pain, either. There’s a great deal of advice on the Internet about how to survive a bad breakup, but comparatively little about how to end a relationship as gently as possible. It may be impossible to get through a breakup without hurting your partner, but there are a few clear choices you can make to mitigate this pain.

    First, when contemplating a breakup, one needs to recognize that an effective end to the relationship is not the only thing at stake. If you’ve spent enough time in the company of another person — if you’ve shared feelings and physical or emotional intimacy — you’ll need to consolidate positive memories of the relationship as you move forward with your life. You’ll want to accept the reasons the relationship didn’t work while retaining the ability to look back on it with warmth. The person you’re breaking up with deserves the same, and will need to experience the breakup in a way that doesn’t overwhelm their good memories. Your goal, in breaking up with him or her as gently as possible, is to acknowledge the parts of the relationship that were good and validate those experiences: It wouldn’t be fair to cast a pall over those memories by ending the relationship in a hurtful way or by “ghosting” a partner. So although everyone gets hurt when a relationship dies, your intention in taking steps to end it should be to minimize the damage caused by the crash.

    In planning to break up with someone, you’ll go through a fair amount of distress yourself. Depending on how long you’ve anticipated the breakup, you’ll likely experience some form of anxiety or dread as you look ahead to taking unpleasant steps. You may not feel supported by friends or family as you carry out the breakup, either: Typically, the dump-ee retains the sympathy of the social group, while the person ending the relationship is seen as needing less support. You can expect to feel guilt in the period leading up to the breakup and afterward. It’s common to find yourself wishing you could end the relationship without causing pain, even if you know that’s not possible. Lastly, you will probably go through your own (very necessary) feelings of grief over the end of the relationship, and it can be difficult to process this sense of loss while simultaneously blaming yourself.

    When all is said and done, though, when you need to break up, there are certain guidelines to follow to minimize pain on both sides. Some may seem as if they’ll make a difficult situation even harder, but in the end, if you do what’s recommended here, and avoid what’s discouraged, you and your ex may be able to look back on the breakup with dignity, resolve, and clarity.

    What to Do

    1. End the relationship as soon as you know it can’t go on. Putting off the inevitable will only cause the relationship to decline further.

    2. Break up in person. It’s essential to be physically present to show that the relationship was important to you. Breakups by text may be common these days, but they hurt terribly and leave confusion in their wake.

    3. Be honest about your feelings. It will hurt your partner more if you don’t acknowledge the real issues involved. (At the same time, it’s also important to recognize when too much honesty can be hurtful.)

    4. Be clear and certain about your reasons for breaking up. Avoid vagueness. Show your partner the respect inherent in closure.

    5. Take responsibility for your decision. Acknowledge that it’s what you want, rather than blaming it on circumstances, or on your partner.

    6. Listen to the other person, without defending yourself. Hear your partner out. Answer any questions as honestly as you can.

    7. Break off the relationship cleanly. Cut off contact for some time after the breakup, to show respect for your partner’s feelings and to indicate that things have changed permanently.

    What Not to Do

    1. Don’t break up in public. You’ll need to offer your partner the opportunity to experience an honest emotional reaction, and privacy will help with that. Most likely, you’ll also be questioned about your reasons for breaking up, and it will be easier for your partner to ask these questions if the event occurs in a safe and at least semi-private location.

    2. Don’t break up in your own home; if possible, do so in the home of your partner. When the conversation is over, you’ll want to be the one to pick up and leave, and it will be easier for your partner not to have to travel home while experiencing such raw feelings.

    3. Don’t offer false hope. If you’re certain you need to break up, it’s better not to leave the relationship open-ended.

    4. Don’t try to downshift the romance to friendship. It may feel like a way to cushion the blow, but it actually causes uncertainty and runs the risk of generating more hurt feelings. The goal is to allow your partner to look back on the relationship as a good thing, not to change it into something less well-defined.

    5. Don’t devalue the other person. You’ve been important to each other, so try to show your partner your appreciation for his or her good qualities.

    6. Don’t try to make the other person feel better, even as you’re breaking up. You can’t be a part of your ex’s support network after the relationship is over.

    7. Don’t have breakup sex. It will only confuse the issue for both of you.

    If you can look at your upcoming breakup from your partner’s point of view, you may be able to separate yourself from the grief, loss, and worry you’re feeling well enough to think through what you should and should not say. By following these guidelines, you stand a good chance of putting a clear and respectful end to a relationship in a way that will allow each of you, someday, to look back with appreciation on the time you spent together.