Ending a Relationship with Love & Respect

Sometimes relationships just have too much going against them to work. Whether it be different goals in life, different outlooks on life, incompatible needs, etc., there are many reasons to end a relationship. Go into this decision knowing that it has nothing to do with how much you love this person.

Love is not enough to sustain a relationship on its own, and I’m not suggesting that love be denied, not even a little bit. Love should never be denied. Still, it can be acknowledged that no matter how much you might love or care for another person, the two of you are just not happy together. You feel you are holding your significant other (SO) back or perhaps you feel they are holding you back. Perhaps you’ve just grown too far apart. Perhaps you’ve met someone else or you want to find someone better suited to you. Perhaps it’s just that you fight too much, and you don’t want to live the rest of your life fighting everyday. Every couple fights, of course, but are you fighting more than you are loving? Do the bad and stressful times far outweigh the good, fun times? If so, you need to seriously consider ending the romantic relationship, thereby freeing each other to find someone with whom they can share their life in relative peace and happiness. This can be an especially difficult decision if there are children involved. Far too many people stay together “for the kids.”

The kids know something isn’t right, and they are learning about how relationships should be through watching you and your wife/husband/SO. Ask yourself right now, would I want my daughter/son to have this relationship? Is this relationship good enough for my child? If not, then why is it good enough for you? Why is it good enough for your SO? And if you stay in an unhappy or unfulfilling or unloving relationship/marriage for your children, you are likely sentencing your children to the same future. They are learning from you.

So, you know you need to end it. Now let’s look at some ways you can do this without destroying each other, and your children, in the process. First, you must acknowledge and express that relationships evolve, and you feel that you both have just changed too much to continue. That you are not happy, and you know that they are not happy either.

If you’ve had an indiscretion or a full blown affair, I wouldn’t recommend telling them this while you’re ending it. I don’t often advise anything but honesty, but this might be an exception. You know your situation better than I do. If it is the only thing that will help you sever ties with your spouse/SO, then perhaps you should, but that will make an amicable break up that much more difficult, maybe impossible. For they will not only feel rejected but also deeply betrayed.

Continue the discussion by telling them that you will not just disappear. That you will ease through this transition with them, especially if you have children. Contact with them should be limited, though, and it needs to be kind, respectful, and serve as a gentle reminder that it is over. Again and again. At first, perhaps you should limit contact to only once a week. After a few weeks of that, you’ll want to go into no contact for at least three weeks or a month at a time. And no contact means not checking their Facebook status or Twitter feed. No texting. Etc. When you talk with them or see them after the initial break, don’t make love. Ever. Because although you might be lonely, it will be seen by your ex as an act of love and reconciliation. Then your work will start all over again and be harder than before.

After the initial shock and the reality of the new situation has sunk in, make a pact of no contact for three full months. You both need time to heal. Reassure your ex that you are not going away, but this is a necessary break for the two of you to start living separate lives. The course, Heal My Broken Heart, is an excellent resource that I can personally recommend.

And if there is someone else or if you meet someone soon thereafter, then keep it out of public for awhile. That means not to write lovey-dovey things publicly on Facebook or via Twitter. Keep respectful of your recent ex during their time of grieving, at least for a few months. Three at the very least, and better for six. It will likely take a full year to get over each other, if not longer. Don’t make it harder for them by flaunting your new love. After all, you care for your ex, perhaps the mother/father of your children. Show them the respect they deserve.

There is another way, of course, especially if you have small children. If you live together with or without children, this transition will be more difficult, but it’s not impossible. You have a lot of work, talking, and reassuring ahead of you. You can decide to remain living together, but you must start separating your (at least romantic) lives. Through some serious work and communication, you and your SO could come to a decision to remain together as parents, supporting each other as friends while raising your children in a loving environment, but acknowledge that the romantic part of the relationship is over. You would both begin seeing other people, and whether or not you talked about that part of your life with each other, would be up to the two of you. You would evolve into best friends, in a perfect world. If you choose this path, I wouldn’t recommend lying to your children about it. You define your relationship, don’t let society define it for you. As long as you are loving and respectful of your SO, in and out of romantic ties, your children will accept you and love you for it. There are many “non-traditional” relationships in today’s society, and what works for one couple will not work for the next. Children commonly have “two mommies” or “two daddies,” something that was impossible in society just 20 years ago. People, friends, family, and society adjust, if we can just be honest and real.

This path takes great strength and communication, as in cohabitation it’s far too easy to fall back into each other’s beds on lonely nights, and that can be seen as a reconciliation, as previously mentioned. That said, if you can open communication, respect, and understanding to have a loving relationship at home and have loving relationships with others, all the better for all concerned. You might end up in a polyamorous relationship after all.

Figure out what you want. What is your ideal situation? Then, try for that. Really, what have you got to lose but unhappiness?

~ by omgrey on June 22, 2011.

20 Responses to “Ending a Relationship with Love & Respect”

  1. Great post. Communication is key, a lesson I learned too late.

    • Thank you. Yes, communication is key, no doubt. And I’m sorry to hear you learned that too late, but at least you’ve learned it! Some people never do. Looking forward to meeting you on our London TweetUp PubCrawl in August! 😀

  2. I’ve actually heard that a good timeline for grief is half the total length of the original relationship.

    So a 10-year relationship will take 5 years on average to get over. Of course, one shouldn’t delay one’s own life for that full length of time, but being aware of the impact of the original relationship isn’t out of place.

    • To get over it completely? Perhaps. Likely, in fact. Depending on the person and how much of that grief was dealt with while the relationship was still going on. The one ending the relationship normally gets over it sooner since they likely started the process before the actual breakup. The other one, especially if caught complete unawares, will have a longer time of grief and recovery after the dissolution.

      I’ve heard at least a year because of the thoughts…”last year at this time we were ____.” The distance of time and rebuilding of one’s life afterward and forming new memories is the hardest during the first year.

  3. I’m guessing here but I get the sense this post has some origins in personal experience. Thank you for sharing, either way. Very important topic.

    • Thank you, Kurt. It is important. And all of my posts have some origins in personal experience, some more than others. Unfortunately for me, most of my relationships haven’t ended with love and respect, unless I was the one ending it. I always try to be kind and loving in everything I do. There truly is no reason to end things in anger most of the time. I’ve seen couples create drama to end a relationship because they felt they needed an excuse or justification. Sometimes, things just don’t work out.

  4. I hate it when I hear people saying that they are staying together “for the children” but instead they spend years steeping themselves in recrimination and hate and never telling the kids that there is anything wrong with their relationship. Much better to have a clean break and let the kids know that they didn’t do anything wrong. If you stay together “for the kids”, you will grow to resent your children for keeping you incarcerated with someone you can no longer stand.


    • Yes. It is rather unfortunate for all concerned. The children, as I mentioned, know something isn’t right, and far too often think it’s something they’ve done or their fault somehow. My mother left my father when I was five, and it damaged me, being a highly emotional person even at that age. No doubt the split affected my entire life. We moved states away from him, but I was fortunate in two ways. First, my father is a good man, even though he is not a good husband/partner, and he always provided for us. They remain friends to this day. He’s even good friends with my step-father. My sister and I were never used as ammunition between them, which also is far too often the case. The other way I was fortunate is that my mother had the strength to leave despite the judgement by her community in the mid-70s. And I admire her for that. She could’ve stayed “for the kids,” but I know I would’ve been far more damaged emotionally had she stayed, growing up in a household full of unhappiness and animosity. So, indeed, I have my special brand of insanity, but it’s manageable. I don’t think it would’ve been had she stayed.

      It’s so imperative that we take care of ourselves first. Because if we don’t care for ourselves, how can we care for anyone else? Be honest with yourself. Be honest with your spouse/SO. And, please, be honest with your children.

  5. Spot on. I used these very same ideas for my current relationship. . .even though it was not my idea to end it.

    One other thing about the communication. If you have children, it may seem like a ploy on the part of custodial parent (and even if it IS), make time to talk to your children when they need you. Not only will you feel better about it, but so will they and your former SO may calm down (as some of the biggest fear comes from the fact that not only do they feel abandoned, but so do the children).

    • Exactly! So much anger and acting out is because of the feelings of (and fear of, prior to the break) abandonment. Spot on as well, sir.

  6. Excellent post Grey! I’m one of the apparent exceptions here with regard to “staying together for the kids”. For 27 years, even the last 4 yrs of that 27, I never knew my parents were having serious problems until one evening — 5 yrs after graduating college & on my own — my mother informs me she’s separating (moving out, not divorcing) from my father. A complete & total shock to me. For my 18 yrs at home, never once did I witness or hear of ‘fatal’ problems; minor yes, but whatever bad issues occured were handled behind a closed door or beyond earshot. In many ways, I’m grateful to them for style of problem-resolution, however, in hindsight it didn’t prepare me well for my OWN intimate-problem-solving skills. One of my strongest traits gained from this type of parenting, is indeed a steady composure in some most extreme environments. But on the otherside of that coin, I’ve also learned that I can be TOO loyal to my own detriment because of my father’s unworldly committment & honor to his vows. I’ve unfortunately suffered in many ways due to that blessing/curse! It is primarily due to my father’s resilence that I have many fathering-parenting qualities with my own 2 kids (a 17 y/o and an 11 y/o)….which by the way, were taken from me (legally) in a divorce by their mother while my youngest was only 18 mons old. I was not raised to be a part-time dad; I was raised to be a GREAT full-time dad. And because I was quite unprepared to deal with divorce & family law, etc., my kids now live over 300 miles away from me; my 11 y/o misses me often. 😦

    For me, the jury is still out regarding marriages/divorce, “for the kids”, and whether it’s good or bad, etc, because BOTH sides in my personal case can be argued convincingly. I do know this without a doubt….firmly understanding WHY love is not enough to sustain a long-term relationship/marriage is a lesson, skill, concept I wish I had learned & grasped decades ago in high school & or college, becaue it damn sure would’ve have saved me a CRAP-load of money & pain!!! LOL 😉

    • It is a hard lesson to learn, I’m afraid. Thank you for your comment, and I’m glad to hear things worked out well for you.

      Thanks for the kudos on the post. It’s always a treat to read your comments.

      • Not sure things can be considered as “working out well” or fully working out well. I do feel that the profound impact parents have on their children will teach them how to manage in their own adult lives as parents and professionals. One negative for my kids & a divorce for the benefit of one parent is that long-term committments (or more precisely one’s word) is a temporal decision & can be reneged, in some cases anytime. And what does that teach to the children about adversity? One of my motto’s of life is the old Chinese philosophy: Adversity = Opportunity. Judging by the American divorce statistics the philosophy here is Adversity = Failure, Quit & find a lawyer?

        Of course, in cases of severe emotional abuse & most definitely physical abuse, divorce is most often justified, especially with children and/or adolescents. However, that was not the case in my marriage in the least. It was purely a 180 religious justification: I was not a “born again Christian”.

        Nonetheless, what really sucks is that the value of her decision isn’t going to be determined until our kids are adults, perhaps married & with their own kids…whether they benefited or suffered; and honestly, that could be way too late. I don’t see that “for the kids” or “not for the kids” is ever black-n-white. I feel the foundations built premaritally & pre-offspring are absolutely CRUCIAL! Otherwise, questions like “for the kids” or not, are too late & not addressing the real sources: the parents & them alone.

        HAH! Does it seem I have a few things to say about this subject? LOL!

      • Things are rarely black & white, even infidelity.
        Adversity = Opportunity, sure. But if one is very unhappy, even when it’s not severe emotional or physical abuse, and their partner is unwilling to work or an agreement is impossible to negotiate for the benefit of all, do you stay even though you’re unhappy, or do you risk being alone to try to find someone better suited?

        Religious differences are huge, really. Basic philosophical differences are huge, too. Sometimes, insurmountable. I remember when I stopped dating anyone who wasn’t a vegetarian. My sister said to me: “You’ll never find anyone.” But my vegetarianism was an ethical choice, and one I felt very deeply about. How could I share a life with someone who’s philosophical beliefs were so fundamentally different than mine? Turns out, I found an amazing man, who is also an ethical vegetarian. We have minor spiritual belief differences, but they’re close enough to work.

        Our relationship *would not work* if he was a born-again Christian. No how. No way. I can’t even read overtly Christian blogs let alone share my life with someone who believes that. Nor could my husband deal if I was born-again. We’d be miserable…and we’d make each other miserable.

  7. After my first marriage failed I learned this lesson all too well. By the time we separated the marriage had dissolved into nothing more than glorified roommates edged with bitterness and anger.

    Surprisingly the easiest part was the actual ending of the marriage. It was as if we had both been holding our breath for 2 years and finally admitting it wasn’t going to work was a relief.

    • Yes, when it fades away like that and the heartbreak is spread out over years, the end is a relief. Sorry to hear about the end of your marriage, but it sounds like it was the best for you both.

  8. The good:

    1) I like the connection between love and respect. Every time he says husbands need respect and wives need love, you have to translate that mentally into *both* husbands *and* wives need love *and* respect, but the basic premise is a good one — the Christian understanding of love indicates an attitude of honoring, respecting, and blessing the other person.

    2) The crazy cycle and reward cycle. This is one of the most important things most couples could learn. Our behaviors are self-reinforcing and good things to lead to more good things in a cycle. Likewise, bad things often lead to more bad things. The good news is that we serve a God of redemption and just as the gospel message teaches us that Christ breaks us out of a cycle of sin, God can redeem broken marriages and break them out of destructive cycles.

    3) For *some* couples, a disrespectful attitude toward the husband or an unloving attitude toward the wife *is* the problem. For those relationships, I imagine they would benefit greatly from this book.

    The not-so-good:

    1) As mentioned by several reviewers already, the book is incredibly sexist. I started making a `W’ in the margins when Dr. Eggerichs blamed the wife for the problem and a `H’ when he blamed the husband. Skimming back through, it’s about 90% W’s. Just about any time he says something negative about the husband, you are almost guaranteed to get a follow-up sentence about how his wife’s pettiness or nagging or belittling comments or criticizing or bitterness or whatever was really the root cause of the husband’s behavior. At times, it was to the point I thought he was emasculating men by making us out to be powerless — we can’t take responsibility for our own behavior because every issue is probably our wife’s fault anyway.

    2) It’s kindof a continuation of #1, but I honestly can’t believe he found a man and a *woman* to blame the husband’s marital infidelity on the wife. Finding a man who wants to justify his immorality by blaming his wife shouldn’t be too hard, but Dr. Eggerichs found a woman who blamed *herself* for her husband’s philandering. The idea that a man has so little control over his own actions that he is to be expected to wander if his wife doesn’t `put out’ often enough is just galling.

    3) The narrowness of the focus. As I mentioned above, a disrespected husband or unloved wife is a problem for some couples. But there’s lots of reasons marriages struggle, and disrespect is only one of the possibilities. Dr. Eggerichs doesn’t acknowledge that at all.

    4) He spends quite a bit of energy being defensive about it, so Dr. Eggerichs clearly realizes that the idea of unconditional respect has some problems. I honestly don’t see the appeal of unconditional respect. If I want respect from my wife (which I most certainly do!), I will act in a way that *deserves* respect. Why would I demand her unconditional respect regardless of my actions unless I couldn’t be bothered to earn it?

  9. […] month I wrote a post on how to end a romantic relationship with love and respect. Even if the romantic part is severed, you do not have to lose that person forever, especially if […]

  10. […] admit that most intimate relationships don’t evolve. They end. Often bitterly. Often angrily. Often without respect. But, they sometimes end cordially with love and understanding that it just can’t work on […]

  11. […] Most of us in sex-positive communities are compassionate, loving, open people who hold honesty and integrity in high regard. Sometimes we just don’t know what to do. Guess what, neither does your partner. Show your vulnerability and express your empathy. There is so many wonderful ways to end a relationship with love and respect. […]

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