Sexuality Resource Center for Parents: Tools, Tips, and Tricks for Teaching Children about Human Sexuality

Ending a Relationship

(For Parents of Teenagers with Typical Development)
 

Note: This article's not just for you – share it with your teen.

Sometimes we may feel that there are too many things happening in a relationship that make us uncomfortable or unhappy. Sometimes we may decide that we want to take a break from being in any relationship at all. Or we may be enjoying a relationship, but feel that circumstances make the relationship too difficult – for example, if one person has to move far away from the other. Whatever the reason, breaking up with someone can be a hard thing to do.

If you are thinking about ending a relationship, there are certain things to keep in mind that may make it a little easier to do:

    • Make a clear decision about whether to end the relationship or not. Talk with friends and/or family members about your decision. Be sure you either don’t want to work things out or you can’t work things out.
    • Know that you will probably be hurting someone and will feel sad yourself – even if you’re the one initiating the breakup.
    • Think about what you're going to say in advance. Many people find it helps to rehearse what they want to say before saying something that's difficult.
    • Choose an appropriate place. Talk with the person somewhere that is comfortable for both of you. If you are worried about your safety, pick a busy public place.
    • Say it in person. If you feel safe, talk with the person face to face – an e-mail, phone call, or text message is usually not the best option. It's also important to do it yourself. It can create more problems if you have someone else carry the message for you.
    • Be respectful. Don't intentionally hurt someone with insults or name-calling. This will only make the conversation harder.
    • Be direct. The person may question why you are ending the relationship. Being honest may help the person have better relationships in the future.
    • Don't say "we can still be friends" unless you really mean it. Sometimes people promise a friendship to ease the hurt of a break up. This can cause more hurt and confusion down the line if you don't intend to actually stay friends.
    • Give the person some space, even if you are going to try to still be friends. It’s a good idea to take a break – from seeing each other, talking on the phone, texting, or communicating in other ways – so you can both adjust.
    • If you feel you made the right decision, stick with it. Don't allow the person to change your mind. It is normal for someone to cry or get upset during a break up. Feeling bad or guilty is not a good reason for staying in the relationship.

Ending Abusive Relationships
If you are in an abusive relationship, it is important to remember that you do not deserve to be abused. The suggestions listed above apply to ending both abusive and non-abusive relationships. If you want to end an abusive relationship, here are some additional steps for you to consider:

    • Tell a trusted adult about the violence and your plans to end the relationship. This person can provide both assistance in finding local resources and emotional support when you need it most. And it’s nice to have a second opinion about your plans – there’s more than one way to end a relationship, and a trusted adult can help you find the way that’s safest for you.
    • Call a teen hotline or go to your local teen center. Trained professionals will provide you with information, referrals, and support.
    • Choose a safe place to end the relationship. It’s hard to know how your partner will react to the news, so expect the worse and plan accordingly. Pick a busy public place and consider having your friends and/or family members nearby. Do not end the relationship in person if that feels too dangerous.
    • Find a school counselor or therapist with whom you can talk. After being in and ending an abusive relationship, you will probably need to talk about your experience and your feelings.

Dealing with Pain and Anger

Pain and anger are natural and normal feelings to have when a relationship has ended. The feelings may be strong, but they will decrease over time if you deal with them in healthy ways.

Here are some healthy ways to deal with pain and anger:

    • Let your feelings out – many people feel better after a good cry or two. It’s also okay to yell and scream when you are alone to get the anger out. Some people try to do something physical, like exercising or playing a sport.
    • Take care of yourself. Exercise, eat well, get plenty of sleep, and do something special just for yourself.
    • Keep to your routine and stay busy on the weekends. Filling up your day takes your mind off of what you’ve lost.
    • Reach out and talk with people who will listen.
    • Get rid of pictures, letters, or other reminders of the relationship.
    • Think carefully about whether you should get involved with another person right away. Sometimes, after a breakup, people start a new relationship before they’ve dealt with the pain of the previous one.

Here are some of the things you shouldn’t do to deal with pain and anger:

    • Don’t blame yourself for the breakup. Relationships end because people change or their needs aren’t being met. You didn’t fail.
    • Don’t make any big decisions right away. Your thinking may not be clear during this time, and you need a clear head to make good decisions.
    • Don’t drink or do other drugs to numb the pain. This may work for a while, but the pain won’t go away unless you deal with it.
    • Don’t take on too many new responsibilities. Give yourself time to feel better.
    • Don’t hurt yourself. Call your local suicide or teen hotline if you are having thoughts about ending your life. If there are no hotlines in your area, then find a school counselor with whom you can talk. If you're unwilling or unable to talk with a professional, then talk with a trusted adult who is willing to listen, offer support, and find the resources you need.
    • Don’t hurt others. It’s okay to feel angry, but it’s not okay to hurt someone else just because you’re angry.

 

Adapted from an article by Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The original article, “Ending a Relationship,” can be found on www.plannedparenthood.org. Additional information was obtained from Sexual Violence in Teenage Lives: A Prevention Curriculum by Judy Cyprian, Katherine McLaughlin, and Glenn Quint, Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, 1995.

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