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Ending a Relationship


Ending a relationship rarely comes as a surprise to both parties.

While one partner may feel blindsided, often the other has spent time ruminating over the future of the relationship: feelings of intimacy fade into uncertainty and second-guessing.Sometimes this happens rapidly, and other times is happens gradually over time. However, how exactly should we end a relationship?


When you think about it, the process of breaking up is no different to executing any other goal. So it makes sense that people will choose the method that best helps them reach their goal. For some, this is to simply cut and run as fast as they can; other times the initiator wants to spare their (soon to be ex) partner’s feelings as much as possible. Let’s have a look at some of the different ways to end a relationship:


Ghosting. We all know someone who has been ghosted, and maybe we have done it ourselves. Ghosting usually occurs in short-term or casual relationships, when the initiator wants a quick exit without having to get into a lengthy discussion. Essentially, all contact is severed and they are never to be heard from again, and is largely an act of convenience. Efficient? Yes. Brutal? Also yes. For the person being ghosted, they are left wondering why, with no answers and no closure. It adds to feelings of abandonment and exclusion, and depending on the person, can be psychologically damaging.


Orbiting. This is the close cousin of Ghosting. Although orbiting has been around for as long as breaking up has been happening, it has become more prominent in the age of social media. As the name suggests, rather than disappearing off the face of the earth, the initiator will cut most contact, but keep following on social media, liking posts, commenting vaguely and so on. It is almost like the initiator is saying “I don’t want you, but I want to keep reminding you that I am here, please don’t forget about me”. This leads to confusion for the person being dumped, because well, mixed messages much? In a nutshell, Orbiting is kind of like half-ripping off a bandaid.


Distance communication. Ahh, the good old dumped-via-texting. This essentially fits into the same category as Orbiting and Ghosting, in that it is rooted in avoidance. The initiator wants to end the relationship, whilst avoiding the discomfort that comes from that process. Depending on the significance of the relationship (i.e. a casual hook-up verses a committed relationship), this often hits the other party pretty hard, and understandably can leave them pretty angry. If you are looking to stay friends afterwards, this might not be the best option.


Manipulating. As Kylo Ren once said, “I know what I must do, but I don’t think I have the strength to do it”. So when it comes to ending a relationship, why not try and make them break up with you? Rather than calling a spade a spade, initiators might try picking fights, becoming insufferable to live with, leaving evidence of cheating, or calling a temporary break (knowing that it will be permanent). While it doesn’t rate highly on the compassion scale, it does let the initiator off the hook to a degree, as they don’t necessarily need to take on the responsibility of choosing to end the relationship.


Self Blame. It’s not you, it’s me! Sometimes people will choose to focus on the positives of the relationship, and the positive aspects of their partner, while overselling their own flaws. This approach is more common in anxious and anxiously-attached people, as they feel as though they are sparing the feelings of their (soon to be ex) partner. This option ranks far higher on the compassion-scale, however it can lead to the other party feeling confused, and come across as insincere. Because really, why would you be breaking up with someone if they were so wonderful?


Direct Conversations. Look, no one enjoys having tough, uncomfortable conversations. However, when it comes to ending relationships this might be one of the better ways to go about it. Although you might feel like a bit of a jerk breaking up with someone and explaining why you aren’t into them anymore, it does provide a sense of finality and closure that the other options don’t really allow. While it doesn’t really leave the door open to get back together (at least straight away), it also leaves less chance for animosity.


Mutual ending. This is really the gold standard for ending relationships. In an ideal world, both people would realise they are on the same page about the future (or lack thereof) of the relationship, and come to a mature, mutual understanding about it. Relationships that end this way usually do so with compassion and understanding, leading to more favourable outcomes for both people, and while there is still grief afterwards, it is generally more manageable than with other methods.


If you are interested in discussing any of the points further, we would be more than happy to hear from you. Feel free to send an email to admin@youmatterpsychologists.com.au and we will answer any questions you may have.



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