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How many ways to initiate a breakup?

Psychologist Leslie Baxter (1986) asked 64 male and 93 female college students to write papers on how they broke up. After research, Baxter concludes that there is an obvious classification of break-ups: direct or indirect break-ups. In some cases, break-ups are explicitly proposed;

“Leaving a bad relationship—-how to end a relationship correctly”

1. There are two types of direct breakup strategies.

The first strategy is to break up without explanation. Maybe it’s just telling the other person that you want to break up, and then there’s no more response, or it’s just a word or two. The second strategy is to justify the breakup. The break-up person may take a.” when explaining the reasons. Defence (justification), b.” Demotion (de-escalation) and c.” Positive tone / self blame” approach.

The defence prefers to describe the negative parts of the relationship, such as accusing the other party of harming themselves, while “demotion” focuses on advising the other person to agree to break up by describing the benefits of the break-up, and the break-up person wants the relationship to be relegated from “partner” to “friend”. And “positive tone” refers to the break-up process, the break-up person tried to take care of each other’s feelings, such as may try to share (“I know you’re so sad”), or use self-blame to try to reduce the other person’s guilt (“It’s all my problem, you don’t hurt, blame me”) (Banks et al., 1987).

2. Indirect break-up strategies are also divided into two categories: “ghosting” and “manipulation”.

“Ghost” means disappearing without saying a word. The other person may suddenly never reply to any of your messages, do not answer all your calls, suddenly cut off the relationship. And “manipulation” is through various means, to hope that the other party proposed to break up or take the initiative away. For example, some people will use “passive attack” way, by doing bad things to force the other party to break up, and some people will start to alienate each other, hoping that the other side can get hints from their own cold (Baxter, 1986; Banks et al., 1987)。

Different people will break up in different ways. And the same person in their own different intimate relationships, the break-up strategy may also be different. Why is that?

What should I do if I want to break up?

So what is the more appropriate and beneficial way to break up?

“Leaving a bad relationship—-how to end a relationship correctly”

1. Be prepared before you break up

a. Make sure you’ve decided to break up

Assess the relationship before proposing a breakup. Marriage consultant Lesli Doares lists several questions to help people determine if they really need to break up (Kim, 2016):

· Am I looking too emotionally at the problems in my relationship?

· Am I putting my responsibilities to my partner, for example, in the hope of meeting all my needs with Ta?

· Do we still grow independently in our relationships?

· Did my partner make me better, or did it weaken me?

· If I break up, will I be more miserable than I am now?

· If I had a baby, would I let Ta stay in that relationship?

If you have more than one “no” answer to the above question, perhaps you can consider breaking up.

“Leaving a bad relationship—-how to end a relationship correctly”

b. Don’t shy away from breaking up once you decide to break up

People tend to avoid breaking up because they feel guilty or don’t want to face conflict. Your avoidance and procrastination are a waste of your time, making yourself miserable, and preventing the other from finding a better relationship for you earlier. Moreover, people have the right to express their true feelings, and if you are dissatisfied, you can point them out to the other person. Maybe the other person will be painful after listening to, but in a person’s life, there will always be something that breaks us up, and breaking up is just one of them.

c. Make a specific breakup plan

You need to make a plan before you propose a breakup. You can list on paper the conversations and conflicts you may have during a breakup, and you can find friends to play roles, practice how to deal with conflict, and express your emotions firmly.

Second, you need to think carefully about the changes that may occur after a breakup, whether emotional or financial. For example, if you are currently cohabiting, you may need to find a place to live temporarily, and if you share some of the more valuable items between you, you may want to belong to the time and avoid the long break-up process caused by delivery.

2. During a breakup: Be friendly, frank, and sincere

Try to choose face-to-face, text message delivery, although fast, but may miss the other party’s non-language information. At the same time, can be peaceful, sincere reasons, do not use excuses, but also avoid using a too negative tone of communication. In the end, you can calmly thank the other person: “Thank you so much for this time,” “This is what I learned from you, and I’ll take it with me,” “And that’s what I hope you can learn,” “Bless you” (Perel, 2015).

Pay attention to the process of breaking up must not procrastination. If you don’t want to give the other person unnecessary hope, don’t be vague and explicitly say you want to break up. If you want to be friends with the other person, you can make a request, but also understand that the other person may refuse, and if the other person offered to continue to be friends with you, but if you do not want to do so, you do not choose to accept to comfort the other person, or you will regret later.

3. After the break-up: establish a reasonable border

After a breakup, you need to stop doing anything your partner will do with the other person immediately. For example, shopping together, watching movies, eating and so on. You need to redefine the boundaries with each other, and maybe at first you will feel as if the distance from the other person has become more distant, but this is necessary. Don’t take the initiative to contact or care for each other because of guilt, let it’s not to have “nostalgia sex” – because you miss each other and immediately sleep with each other after a breakup, and so on.

Be patient with your ex and understand that the other person may have emotional reactions: anger, sadness, depression, and so on. But don’t indulge the other person to cross the line because you feel guilty. For example, if the other person keeps calling you, you can tell them bluntly that you know the other person is sad, but it bothers you and you want the other person to stop making calls.

Finally, you need to build your own support system. The study found that people who proposed breaking up also had negative emotions and experienced a process of loss. You can talk to friends, keep a diary, and even have counselling. It’s important for those who used to use their partner as their primary source of support to find new resources to support themselves.


Banks, S. , Altendorf, D. , Greene, J.& Cody, M. (1987) An examination of relationship disengagement:Perceptions, breakup strategies and outcomes, Western Journal of SpeechCommunication, 51:1, 19-41.

Collins, T. J., & Gillath, O. (2012).Attachment, breakup strategies, and associated outcomes: The effects ofsecurity enhancement on the selection of breakup strategies. Journal OfResearch In Personality, 46(2), 210-222.

Georgopulos, S. (2011). Effectiverelationship exit strategies. Thought Catalog.

Kim, J. (2016). 7 questions to ask yourselfbefore you break up. Psychology Today.

McClintock, E. (2015). Who is more likelyto leave a bad relationship. Psychology Today.

Miller, R. & Perlman, D. (2010). IntimateRelationship. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education.

Perel, E. (2015). Stable ambiguity and therise of ghosting, icing and simmering. Esther Perel.

Sprecher, S., Zimmerman, Z., &Abrahams, E. (2010). Choosing compassionate strategies

to end a relationship: Effects ofcompassionate love for partner and the reason for the breakup. SocialPsychology. Vol. 41(2):66–75.

Svoboda, E. (2011). The throughoutly modernguide to break up. Psychology Today.

Whitbourne, S. (2014). What’s the best wayfor you to end a relationship?. Psychology Today.

Recommended reading:

1.Get ex boyfriend back—-what should girls pay attention to when they meet their ex boyfriends

2.Get ex boyfriend back—-how did you get your ex back after the breakup

3.Get ex boyfriend back—-after breaking up, the girl recovers her ex boyfriend’s routine

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