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Twelve Steps To End A Relationship

Dr. Lisa Lawless

Dr. Lisa Lawless, CEO of Holistic Wisdom
Clinical Psychotherapist: Relationship & Sexual Health Expert

Finger Puppets, Broken Heart, Breakup & Divorce AdviceCommon Years For Ending Relationships

The most common years a couple calls it quits are years 3, 7, 11, and 15. The causes of the breakups vary but often, in the earlier years, it is when couples have not learned to resolve the conflict once the honeymoon period has worn off. It may also indicate that the dating period was not truthful, where the couple discovers things about their mate that they had anticipated or can tolerate in a relationship.

Around the seventh year, couples often break up because the relationship has stagnated, and they may have begun to grow in different directions. By the eleventh year, many couples have forgotten how to connect and have intimacy. By the fifteenth year, they often live as nothing more than roommates that tolerate one another.

Of course, other factors such as children, abuse, and even health issues can influence when a couple ends a relationship. It may be surprising to learn that health issues can be a cause for ending a relationship, but they do affect divorce rates. According to one study, 21 percent of women and 3 percent of men have a partner that initiates divorce when they get a life-threatening diagnosis.

Divorce Rates By Generation

Specifically, Millennials have a 26% marriage rate, compared to 36% for Generation X, 48% for Baby Boomers, and 65% for the Silents. In addition, millennials and Generation X are putting off marriage until later or avoiding it altogether.

When You Want To End Your Relationship

When you are in a relationship with someone you are no longer romantically interested in, it's time to be honest with them about how you feel as prolonging it is hurtful to you both. Failure to do this can mean that you will be much more vulnerable to ending things badly and possibly having a physical or emotional affair.

The best way to approach a breakup or divorce is to make it quick, calm, and as easy as possible because they are typically quite challenging for both partners. Being sensitive to one another's feelings, as well as being calm, polite, and honest about why you are ending the relationship, is always best.

Breaking The News

An Ideal Location

Find the time when you can be alone with them in person. If you are worried they may make a scene or be violent, then choose a public spot like a park close by so that people are around to help if you need it, but where you can speak privately. If you do it at home, make sure that someone who cares about you knows you are doing it and will check on you to make sure you are alright. One of the best locations is at a therapist's office, who can help you to have this difficult discussion and who can help you prepare in advance.

Do Not Have Children Present

If you have children get a sitter for them or take them to someone else home, this is not the time to have them around if they are not in school. You may even want to make arrangements for them to spend the night at a friend or relatives house. Then before you bring them back into your home agree on how you tell them and protect them from any emotional negativity around it.

Nurture Yourself

It can be extremely stressful to end a relationship so make sure to practice self-care by eating nutritious foods, exercising, and finding ways to relax. Try to relax and reassure yourself that you are doing what is right for you. While you may feel sad for them, understand that it is far more painful for them to be in a relationship where they do not receive the love they want.


If you have a lot to say, prepare notes using a bullet point checklist to be sure to cover the important things you want to share with them. Let them know before you speak that you would like the opportunity to speak uninterrupted and give them a chance to reply once you have finished saying the things you want to say.

What To Say

Tell them that you feel this relationship needs to end and be clear about what you want; if you wish to have a continued friendship, you can discuss those boundaries; if you do not want to see them again, try not to make promises you won't keep.

They May Be In Shock

Give them a few moments to allow what you are saying sink in. Often this comes as a shock to people even if they had a feeling it was going to happen.

Set Boundaries

If they try to convince you to give them another chance, listen to them respectfully as you have expected them to listen to you. Listening to them does not mean they will change your mind; just allow them to speak out of respect.

Once they are finished speaking, you can tell them that you've made up your mind, and there no chance to make this work. Tell them that while you respect their views, you have thought a lot about this and that nothing would change your mind as you know that this is the right thing for you to do.

Allow Them To Leave

Let them go when they feel it is time to end the conversation. Don't try and make them stay to chat more or quickly dismiss them; after all, you took the time to get into this relationship; you can take the time to depart it respectfully.

Living Together Or Divorces

When you live with your partner, a breakup or divorce is much more challenging. Do your research in advance and have things in place before and ready to implement once you initiate this.

Get Prepared

Not being prepared can make things quite complicated and emotionally charged more than it has to be. Understand your legal rights and theirs and look into the possibility of consulting with a lawyer should you feel you need one. Make checklists of things you need to have in place and when you need to implement them.

When Children Are Involved

If children are involved, make sure that you spend time researching how to best protect them emotionally during the divorce and look into the possibility of talking to a therapist to help you and them navigate this stressful life event. You may also want to speak with a lawyer about custody concerns.


Although breakups can be challenging, honesty serves you in that you do not have to be afraid of standing up for your needs. It helps both of you learn from your relationship to be better partners to future romantic interests.

In some cases, it may be best to hold back on divulging too much information, especially if someone is furious and looking to seek revenge or who may be violent with you. While honesty is typically the best policy, protecting yourself and your children if you have them is a priority.

What's Next?

Breakups and divorces can be very challenging. They can cause you to become emotionally unavailable with others temporarily and to experience high levels of stress. Make sure to nurture yourself during this time by doing things that empower you.

Do things such as:

  • Eat a nutritionally rich diet
  • Exercise to release stress hormones
  • Ensure that you get enough rest and sleep
  • Journal your feelings
  • Seek out a therapy
  • Get support through family and friends
  • Spend time in nature
  • Do things that are enjoyable to you

Most of all, take time to reflect on what you learned and what you want going forward, and then commit to taking steps to make a new adventure for yourself. You deserve it.

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