Everyone has been involved in a break-up.  Maybe it wasn’t even yours – you may have been pulled into the drama of the demise of a family member or friend’s relationship – but everyone can put themselves in the shoes of someone whose relationship is ending.  Chances are you even know people whose break-ups you have admired – they seem to maintain their cool, keep things together, and can even be friendly when they are in the same space.  You almost certainly know people who have done the opposite and had more of a scorched earth policy at the end of a relationship – taking down everyone in their path.

What makes for a “successful” break-up?  Here are five things to keep in mind:

  • Think about your kids – and then think about them again. If you have children, you need to consider how the break-up is going to affect them.  It is important to keep in mind that they have their own relationship with your partner (even if that person is not their parent) and that needs to be honored.  It is also critical to keep in mind that kids are not messengers – no matter how old they are – and it is inappropriate to ask them to convey messages for you or act as go-betweens.
  • Think about yourself. Self-care is critical when a relationship is ending.  You need to think about what you need to meet your own emotional needs and what is healthy for you.  Maybe you need some space or some boundaries.  Maybe you need a neutral party – such as a religious leader, mediator, counselor, etc. – to help.  Do you need legal help to handle matters?
  •  Think about your (former) partner. People often get stuck in a negative place about their soon-to-be former partner and they forget about all of the good things and positive traits.  As I often remind clients (and friends), you liked (and hopefully loved) someone enough to get involved with them in the first place, so try to keep that in mind when you are dissolving your relationship.
  • Think about your assets and liabilities. If you have been married or in a long-term relationship, chances are you have comingled some (or all) of your assets and debts.  What kind of division do you want?  What kind do you need to meet your financial needs?  What does your former partner need?  Is there enough to go around?
  • Think about your future. It might feel like the break-up is the be-all and end-all of your universe and, for a short time, it might be.  However, it won’t be forever.  Where do you see yourself when the break-up is resolved?  How do you see your relationship with your former partner?  What do you want that to look like?

The chances of each person in a relationship that is ending coming out with everything they want is not very high.  However, it is possible for each person to emerge from the relationship in relatively good status – financially, psychologically, as parents, etc. – so that they can move on.

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