People are messy.
Relationships are messy.
The end of relationships can be particularly messy and sometimes trying to avoid that mess is what causes the most hurt and confusion. When I started dating I was stressed about the difficulties of meeting people and instigating romance but I hadn't considered all the difficult break ups / breaks offs I was about to encounter along the way. Whether it be ending a relationship or just declining a second date – these are not comfortable conversations to have.
It can be hard to navigate as a Christian. Churches are pretty quiet on the subject and in general Christian communities get excited about the prospect of blossoming romance and don't always know how to handle it when things fizzle out.
The Bible doesn’t have a ton to say about break ups or dating. However it does have a lot to say about love, grace and wisdom… So with all my experiences of break ups (which is pretty extensive) and trying to follow Jesus in the area of relationships (which is growing) here’s my top tips for honourable break ups…
1.Don’t feel guilty
There is often guilt produced when you decide to break up with someone. You know you are about to hurt someone and take an intentional step away from them. It doesn’t feel comfortable.
However, for the most part, relationships end because you don’t feel the attraction or you’ve decided for another reason that they are not the right person for you. If you feel like you no longer want to pursue a relationship with someone then don’t feel guilty. Those are very natural feelings which are often out of your control.
Feeling guilty can be the root of making bad decisions about a how to break things off – if you don’t want to look like the bad guy you might inadvertently make the other person feel as though it is there fault.
So please know -
you are NOT the ‘bad guy’ for wanting to break up/ stop dating
even though it might feel like it at the time.
If you are thoughtful then you could actually break up in a way that honours you both and, although there will be some pain, will help you to both move forward in a more positive way.
2. Don’t do a freeze out
If you’re unsure about a relationship you might feel the urge to do a ‘wind down’ or a gradual freeze out… stop replying to texts promptly, begin to act a bit cold and stand offish, avoid physical affection. However this part of a break up can be the most hurtful and confusing to the other person.
Instead try to be honest – express concerns you might be having with the other person. It’s even ok to ask for some space while you figure it out. You can’t go wrong by being honest about how you’re feeling – if you do decide to keep going with the relationship rather than breaking up then you have travelled that bump in the road together: if not, at least they are prepared for what’s coming.
3. Choose the right location
This is a tricky one and might depend on the people involved… personally I find it awkward if you are at one of the party’s home… Your own home is your personal space, your safe space, not somewhere you want to have your heart kicked in!
But then in public can be difficult because if one of you gets upset it might be awkward. My best recommendation would be a walk around a park or around the block – easy to escape from, low pressure in terms of having a conversations and neutral ground. Try to honour the other person by thinking about where would be best for them, not you. Don’t get them to trek across the country to see you and then break up with them – not cool!
4.Don’t be selfish
At the point of breaking up with someone you’ll have a lot of mixed feelings. You might be thinking about the things you’ll be missing out on if you break up with that person. They’ll probably have things about them that you like, even if you want to end the relationship. There was a reason you got together in the first place. This is not the time to cling on to those things. If you choose to say no to a relationship with someone then you have to accept that you’re probably saying no to all the good things about them too.
Often you might want to stay friends with the person so you don’t lose them out of your life. This is not always possible though and it’s not always right for them so a little self-sacrificial love and wisdom is needed here. Sometimes it’s the most loving thing to put down clear boundaries.
How many times have I heard dubious break up excuses from different people…
I feel like I need to focus on other things at the moment.
I’m going through a lot of issues.
I’m moving to Yemen.
I’m not sure any of these reasons given turned out to be true. Most of the time people are just looking for a more palatable reason that ‘I don’t really fancy you.’
But if you give a reason that’s not true – and you don’t move to Yemen – then the truth will eventually come out. The truth is always best and gives the other person the best chance to move on without a lot of questions and confusions. Breaking up because you don’t fancy someone or you don’t feel the chemistry is a totally valid reason! Probably one of the most valid ones!
So I really hope these tips are helpful. Break ups can be terrifying and horrid and sometimes the fear of a break up can hold us back from stepping into a relationship in the first place. Even just rejecting an advance online can leave us feeling guilty or uncomfortable. But I truly believe, in all situations, even the most difficult ones, we can treat each other honourably, trust in God and his promise of grace and grow through these experiences.