How to Get Out of a Relationship

How to get out of a love relationship that has turned irreparably sour is as important as how to get into one. I must admit, this blog has been mostly focused on how to get into a love relationship and that’s OK. This post is offered in an effort to tip the balance in the other direction. Fifty (50) ways to leave your lover? Not quite. Well, maybe not fifty, but a few good ideas for the people out there that are looking for a way to get out of a relationship that’s no longer loving, with minimal damage.

First thing to get on the record is an understanding that the emotion of love is unpredictable and uncontrollable. It can come and it can go. And when love leaves, you should leave. Now I suspect there are a few people out there who won’t like that statement much because they have rationalized (given themselves and others reasons for why they stay in a relationship without love). Rationalizations are the cheap and easily created ways we convince ourselves to keep doing something we know (deeper down inside) is no good for us. So if love leaves my love relationship and I feel like leaving too (the most rational and appropriate response), I could tell myself I have to stay for the kids, for financial security, because my parents won’t like it if I leave, because I was taught that you are supposed to stay in a relationship no matter how you feel, and oh ya, how about this one, “in sickness and in health, for good or for bad,” which really translates into, “whether you’re in love or not.”

So what happens when you stay in a love relationship with a person you are no longer “in love with?” (By the way, the little word “in” is very important.) What happens? The answer is misery. You’d be curtailing your freedom and feeling the misery all at once, or in drips and drabs over time, feeling worse as time goes on. Of course, there’s a special category for the subgroup of people who have to leave a love relationship before they realize how much they need  the person they’ve left. But these are not the people we’re focused on. In this post, I am talking about the people who will leave a love relationship, permanently.

OK, the act of leaving, actual physically leaving, can be a bit complicated. The hardest part is acting on your feeling when your mind is still s struggling with rationalizations and ambivalence (should I go or not, maybe yes maybe no….). If you are in a situation where your partner’s way of keeping you in the relationship when they know that it is over (just like you, even though they won’t admit it), is to intimidate, threaten, control you, scare you, or force you in any way, you may have to leave without notice. What that means is leave while at the same time protecting yourself, physically, emotionally, financially, and legally. Be creative, there’s no reason to get hurt even more than you already are.

If the conditions are a bit more civil, meaning it is possible to communicate with your partner in a way that feelings are talked about and respected, disappointments shared, and it’s done in a way that is safe for all parties concerned, you’ll get a healthy opportunity to begin grieving the loss without fear getting in the way. The last act of love in a love relationship that has soured and cannot be repaired, is to let each other go with minimal damage. This allows people to grieve the loss and go on with their lives (love lives).

Some people elect to take their marriage or love relationship to therapy to find out if there is any life left in it. When there is a 50/50 chance that the relationship can be fixed, and they do one or a few couple therapy sessions to find out. This can be a good way to keep the breakup on healthier terms. The therapist helps the couple to communicate their feelings to each other, figure out whether there is anything that can be fixed, work on accepting the breakup if there isn’t, and start grieving the loss. Again, the objective is to end the relationship in a healthy way, out of respect for the fact that this was a person you used to be in love with. 

All comments welcome. Tell me about your love life experience.

Dr. Thomas Jordan, author of Learn to Love: Guide to Healing Your Disappointing Love Life

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Dr. Jordan

Dr. Thomas Jordan is a clinical psychologist, certified interpersonal psychoanalyst, author, professor, and love life researcher.