How to End a Relationship When Your Partner Still Loves You without hurting the other
Most people who commit to a long-term relationship feel positive about their chances of staying with their partner. They realize that all relationships wax and wane, and do their best to look at the good while ignoring the bad.
Unfortunately, those feelings can change over time, and many intimate partners will at some point know that, for them, the relationship is over.
The majority of people in committed relationships don’t make these choices rashly. Most often, they’ve done everything they can to stay in love with their partners, but have not been able to regain the positive feelings they once knew. If both partners have come to that conclusion together, the parting can be amicable and they may even stay friends. But if one partner wants out and the other is still fully committed to the relationship, the exiting partner must now face the sorrow they are likely to cause and deal with his or her own distress at creating it.
Over decades of working with couples, I have seen many people suffer the wounds of these types of conflicts.
They ask me for guidance on how to leave without causing any more distress than necessary.
They must deal with their own guilt as well as with the heartache of a person they once loved. Those feelings are compounded if they have known themselves what it’s like to have been left behind.
They want to know if it is ever possible to end a relationship with dignity and mutual respect.
Most everyone who has loved another deeply does not want to leave hurtful memories behind or deal with someone who harbors anger and resentment toward them.
They didn’t start their relationship with the intent of abandoning the ship. Nor did they expect that they would someday no longer care for the person. Now they are faced with going back on promises and leaving partners wounded.
The truth is that the expectations of the partners in a new intimate relationship often change over time and promises made in earnest fade.
Most relationships face challenges that catch the couple unaware. They may unconsciously repeat destructive patterns from prior relationships, or choose partners for the wrong reasons, blinded by attractions that fade over time.
It is common for new lovers to put their best foot forward by hiding things about themselves that they fear might turn a new lover away. If the relationship gets a sound foundation, perhaps those imagined or real flaws would be more easily overlooked. Once those behaviors emerge, however, the new partner is likely to feel betrayed, legitimately wondering what else might be hidden. Sometimes the damage comes from outside pressures that neither partner could have predicted.
Even relationships that start out with authenticity can develop difficulties over time. Communication problems, disparities in desires, or changing needs can all create problems that neither partner expected or had the capacity to solve.
For whatever reason, the partner who has lost faith in the relationship begins to pull away, sometimes silently, but sometimes with a barrage of criticisms leveled at the other partner.
The partner still fully into the relationship often doesn’t see or ignores the dwindling intimacy until it is obvious that the relationship is in trouble. At that point, he or she will begin to inquire and challenge, seeking some clarification. If the needing-to-go partner is uncomfortable or not quite ready for the conflict, he or she might deny that anything is wrong, encouraging false hope.
Being stripped of the status of someone’s “most-important person” is usually traumatic.
A partner might initially respond by trying to invalidate the severity of the problem while simultaneously trying to erase the cause for concern. Those twin behaviors, unfortunately, can make the partner trying to get out feeling trapped.
The response promises something that has no chance of happening and may only cause more distress later when the need to end the relationship resurfaces.