How to Make a Clean Break

Breaking up is hard to do. Even harder when it’s messy and the possibility of backsliding is pretty much guaranteed, which only makes things complicated for all involved (no matter how good it might feel in the moment).

Cutting ties to an ex is always easier when it’s a clean break. This relationship exit strategy may sound impossible, but it can be done when you have the right plan of attack. Okay, that sounds harsh. How about “execution”? Erm . . . well, you know what I mean. That’s why I recruited Nicole McCance, a Toronto relationship psychotherapist, who offers insight and advice to help your breakup stick. For real.

Pre-Break Up

Before you have the inevitable “talk” it’s important to think and get clear about why you’re breaking up. “Take time to think it through before you act. Make sure you are 100% ready to leave,” McCance advises. “Lean on your friends for support and go through your pros and cons list with them. Write things down. Get clear.” Remember that if you aren’t ready for the break, the possibility of getting back together with your ex is very high. “I always tell clients that if you think you might regret your decision later, than you may not be ready to leave yet. You’ll know when you are ready to leave when you know you won’t regret it.”

Once you’re clear and confident that a separation is what you definitely what, it’s time to get practical about your new lease on life. Write a list of to-dos, like where you are going to live, and separating bank accounts or the sharing of pets, etc. Making a pros and cons list about your relationship is also helpful. “Review your list often, especially the pros of breaking up,” says McCance. “Most people tend to forget the bad aspects of the relationship and before they know it are back together.”

McCance also suggests that you, “Start visualizing how your life will be different when you leave. Also, journaling is key. Start venting on paper all the reasons you want to end the relationship. This will help you remember why you are leaving in those weak moments.”

In the Midst of the Break Up

So D-Day has come. McCance recommends that if you don’t live together, you should have the conversation at her house. “This way you are in control of leaving and you don’t run into the awkward situation where she is at your place and won’t leave.” After the deed done, and the tears are shed, ask her to respect your wishes and not contact you for at least month.

“Typically the person who was broken up with might want to fight to get you back. However, it is helpful to tell her that the incessant phone calls, emails and texts are actually demonstrating that she is not listening to your needs.” And it’s also stressful and will most likely lead to ex-sex, and, no, that’s not a good thing.

Post-Break Up

You’re done. Now what? At this time, there will be an empty void that you’ll try to fill with booze and fried foods and Netflix. You’ll probably miss your ex, too, and that’s totally okay. But that doesn’t mean you should call her. Instead, McCance suggests leaning on your buddies. “Try not to be alone, go out with supportive friends,” McCance says. “You may feel lonely, which is normal so keep busy. You may also miss her, even though you wanted to end it. You had a routine that you were used to. You may even feel a bit lost after the breakup. Remember that all this will pass in time. Fill your life up with things that bring you joy.”

Avoid your ex at all costs, too. This means IRL and when it comes to social media. “The last thing you need is to run into her looking gorgeous or worse—with another guy,” says McCance. “If this happens, be polite and move on.”

You definitely should not be “friends” on Facebook or following each other on Twitter if you want the breakup to stick, either. It’s not being petty—it’s self-preservation. “Delete them and try not to creep them through your mutual friends either,” McCance recommends. “It is natural for curiosity to get the best of you. But it can be torturous watching her move on without you. Even if you were the one who ended it. So, lay off the social media (for a while) and go live your life.”

The whole process of a clean break might initially feel tortuous and difficult, but having a clean breakup really is the best possible route when it comes to saying goodbye.

“Having a clean break is really the fastest way for the both of you to move on,” McCance says. “After a clean break you will feel complete, like there is nothing else to say. Take what you learned with you. This will help in your future love endeavours.”

Brianne Hogan is a freelance writer based in Toronto, something of a humorist, and considers herself more Bridget Jones than Samantha Jones. Though she won’t reveal which parts, she will admit to liking emotionally unavailable men and drinking lots of wine.  You can follow her on Twitter  @briannehogan.

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