Healthy Dating Habits: How to Break Up With Your Significant Other

Healthy Dating Habits: How to Break Up With Your Significant Other

by Lisa Davis, March 16, 2021

Managing a breakup is one of the hardest parts of dating. Most adults don’t know how to break up with their significant other, so it’s understandable that teen relationships are even messier. Oftentimes, you still have to see your ex-partner at school or within your friend group, making the breakup even more painful. 

However, the awkwardness of a breakup or the pain of seeing them after shouldn’t be enough to keep you in a bad relationship. If you are afraid to break up with your boyfriend or girlfriend, this guide can help.

High School Relationships Almost Never Last

The first step when you are heading toward a breakup is to understand that it was likely to end. While there are stories about teenage sweethearts who marry and stay together for decades, they are rare. According to the Institute for Family Studies, “someone who marries at 25 is over 50 percent less likely to get divorced than is someone who weds at age 20.” 

There are several reasons why young relationships don’t last. Mainly, your life is changing constantly during this time. You are in the midst of finding yourself, mapping a plan for the future, and starting your life. Who you are today will be different from who you are in two, five, or ten years.  

Despite this information, a breakup in your teen years is still incredibly painful – and it isn’t easy to broach the subject with your significant other and end the relationship amicably. 

Know the Signs That You Want to Break Up With Someone

It’s not uncommon for a couple to drift apart but remain together in order to avoid the pain of a breakup. You might stay with someone because you don’t want to be alone on Valentine’s Day or have a plan to keep dating them so you have a prom date. Some couples also want to “work through” their problems even though they both aren’t happy in the relationship. However, there are a few signs that it is time to break up:

  1. You stop acting like yourself and can’t relax around your significant other. 
  2. You have the same fights repeatedly.
  3. You have small fights over minor issues because of big-picture problems. 
  4. You are pretending to be over something that still hurts or annoys you. 
  5. You avoid each other.
  6. You aren’t sure the relationship is healthy anymore.
  7. You don’t like who you are when you are with them. 
  8. Your friends don’t like them – or don’t like who you are with them. 
  9. You’re curious about other people or the potential to meet new people.
  10. Your gut is telling you that it’s time to move on.

You don’t need to check all of the boxes to know that it is time to move on. Even one of these signs could be enough for you to consider how to break up with the person you are dating.

How to Break Up With Someone in 2021

Once you have come to terms with the fact that the relationship is ending, the next step is to plan your breakup. Technology, school schedules, and social activities (much less the COVID-19 pandemic) can make breakups incredibly hard. But here is how you can plan it out:

  • Don’t draw out the breakup process. The longer you wait, the more check-out of the relationship you will feel. 
  • Practice what you want to say to your partner. Acknowledge their pain and consider their feelings as you decide what to do. 
  • Deliver the news face-to-face. No one wants to get dumped via text message, social media DM, or phone call.
  • Pick the right place and time. Choose someplace they can react emotionally without embarrassing themselves or you. For example, avoid breaking up with them in the cafeteria or before they have a full day of classes ahead. 
  • Use “I” statements rather than “you” statements. Don’t talk about their faults or pick apart their actions. This can sound accusatory or lead to self-hate. 
  • Avoid diving too deeply into the details. 
  • Avoid giving false hope. Saying something like, “maybe we can try this again in a few months,” is a promise you can’t keep. 

Furthermore, remember that you cannot control their actions – whether they are angry or sad, quiet or loud. You can only control what you do or say. That being said, you may want to plan for multiple different reactions so you don’t say something hurtful. 

What to Do if Your Significant Other Threatens Suicide

At times, the worry about breaking up with a partner stems from their behavior during previous attempts to end the relationship. A boyfriend or girlfriend might miss school or work, turn to substance abuse, and even threaten suicide in order to get their partner back. (Think about the phrase, “If you leave me, I’ll kill myself,”).

Not only are these actions unhealthy coping mechanisms, but they are also abusive. Rather than dramatic acts of passion, they are meant to pressure one party into returning to the other. 

“Occasionally, a toxic partner will keep control of a relationship by turning it into a hostage situation,” the advice column Ask Dr. Nerdlove, says. “They just happen to be both the hostage-taker and the hostage. It’s a horrible situation to be in and one that leaves the non-toxic partner wracked with guilt and worry about what might happen.”

In most cases, this is an empty threat. The person threatening suicide or self-harm is likely hurting, but they might also know that this tactic works or has worked before. That being said, if you are seriously concerned about your partner, seek out help. Talk to a counselor or medical professional or even the police. Explain the situation and your concerns about your significant other. 

Dr. Nerdlove emphasizes that you do not need to stay with your significant other to help with their mental health problems. You like will never heal them (and can’t without professional training or intervention) and the pressure to heal places a significant emotional burden on you.

Grow Your Relationship Skills With Family Resources

Initiating your first breakup is a part of growing up. It rarely gets easier, but is a natural part of finding a compatible significant other. 

If you are just starting out with dating or are still in your teens, take steps to improve your relationships through Family Resources. We offer multiple healthy relationship courses through the Dibble Institute’s Relationships Smarts program. Developed for teens ages 15-18, this curriculum can help you improve communication, navigate relationships on social media, and learn to set boundaries for yourself. We can better prepare you to start dating and find healthy partners who make you happy. 

Check out our healthy relationship courses to see if they are right for you.