There's no two ways about it: Ending a relationship sucks, and it's hard to know exactly how to break up with someone while causing minimum damage with someone. But some strategies make the experience of being dumped (and dumping) far more unpleasant than others. Here are some common mistakes that make our breakups even worse—and what we should do instead.
1. Don't wait too long
Emotional health expert and NYC-based psychotherapist Katherine Schafler has observed that by the time we call it quits with someone, we often know we've wanted to for a while. Though it's worth it to wait until you're 100 percent sure you actually want to end the relationship—breaking up is easier than begging for someone back, after all—you should rip the Band-Aid off as soon as you've made the decision, says Schafler. "Try to appreciate that some pain can't be avoided, but extending the pain out can be avoided."
2. Don't do it during a fight
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Avoid making major decisions like ending a relationship while emotions are running high. "Often, issues can be talked through and resolved, and after each person has had some time and perspective, the issues never seem as bad as they did in the heat of the moment of the fight," says Lori Salkin, a senior matchmaker and dating coach at SawYouatSinai.com. "You will realize that you still like the person and they are still a good person—you just didn't like one thing they did or said."
3. Don't lie about your reasons for ending it
You might think you're saving someone heartache by sugarcoating your breakup, but by masking your real reasons, you risk leaving them confused, which impedes closure. "It's actually easier to move on and recover from a breakup when you know the truth, even if it's ugly," says Salkin. "Being honest also gives the other person an opportunity to address the issue and see if you both actually have your facts straight and if not, might give you a chance to stay together and work it out." And if it's about something beyond their control, knowing this might actually help them make peace with the situation, rather than wondering how they could fix it.
4. Don't leave things open-ended
Don't tell someone you want to take a break if you don't know if that break will ever end, says Salkin. Same goes with saying that maybe in the future, when things are different, you could get back together. Bachelorette villain Bentley Williams famously described this as ending a relationship with a "dot, dot, dot"—to which Bachelorette Ashley Hebert responded, "Just be a man and admit that it's a period!" Trust that if breaking up ends up being a mistake, you'll find your way back together, says Salkin. And if you can't commit to breaking up for good, don't do it at all.
5. Don't burn bridges
Sure, rom-coms might teach us to leave defiant drunken voicemails and burn our former flame's stuff in bonfires, but real-life breakups rarely benefit from such dramatic gestures. In fact, research shows that while Facebook-stalking your ex will probably impede the healing process, so will un-friending. And while becoming friends with your ex immediately can veer into tricky territory, remaining civil could preserve the possibility of a friendship—or at least continued contact with your mutual friends—once things cool down. "Granted, some bridges definitely need to be burned, but taking things slow with regard to dismantling your relationship—and the social media evidence of that relationship—can save both people a lot of drama," says Schafler.
6. Don't immediately get back together
There are exceptions to this rule, but most couples that get back together after breaking updon't stay together—and people tend to be less happy in their relationships the second time around. Sometimes when a breakup gets unbearable, it seems like a good idea to do anything you can to get over the heartache. Unfortunately, chances are good that you'll then have to go through it all over again. Schafler recommends the book Too Good to Leave, Too Bad to Stay if you're really struggling with the decision of whether to break up or whether to get back together.