Hello Blue Jays!
It’s October! We can’t believe that the semester is flying by, but we hope that you’ve been treating yourselves well in the midst of midterm season. As the seasons change, so do our relationships, which is fitting as we’ve gotten a ton of questions about ending intimate relationships. Read more below for more about how to end a relationship the best way you can or what to do to make peace with a break-up.
Q: What are the best ways to reject someone politely? Say we have been seeing each other for a while, but I find that I am no longer interested in pursuing them. I don’t want to ghost them or end up the bad guy in their story.
A: Sometimes our feelings change and that’s absolutely okay, but in this case, honesty is the best policy! No one wants to be with someone who doesn’t want them back, so it’s okay to be honest and tell them how you feel. I wouldn’t say that there is a ‘best’ way of breaking up with someone, especially in the case when this person did nothing wrong but you just don’t have feelings for them anymore. But there are a couple of things you can do to make sure that you are being respectful and to help the conversation to go as well as it possibly can.
- Use “I” statements to speak from your feelings and why the relationship isn’t for you. If you already know that you’re no longer interested, you don’t need to point out the flaws in the relationship itself to state how you feel and soften the rejection.
- Let them voice their feelings openly and give them the space to react, because they are going to have their own emotions about the relationship ending. This is especially true if you’ve been seeing each other for a while.
- Don’t be afraid to reiterate your boundaries around ending the relationship, especially if they want to be with you or are willing to make the relationship work.
- Have this conversation in a neutral, safe space where both parties will be able to take a moment if they need one. It should be somewhere where you both feel comfortable to be open about your feelings, and where you have the privacy to have an intimate conversation. No one likes to be trapped in space where they feel like they can’t leave or are powerless.
- Be kind! I know it goes without saying, but make sure that you are empathetic to the feeling that being rejected in any way is not fun. Try going into the conversation with the intent that you wish them the best, even if the relationship wasn’t for you, which will translate into your verbal and non-verbal cues.
Unfortunately, we can’t control whether you’re the ‘bad guy’ in their story because that’s determined by how they are experiencing the break-up. All you can do is hold space for what they are thinking and feeling, while being as courteous as you can. Even if the conversation goes well, you still might be the ‘bad guy’ in their story because that’s what they feel, and we can’t control someone else’s thoughts and emotions. We can only control our own actions, which is why it’s good that you’re thinking about breaking up with this person in a way that minimizes as much discomfort or hard feelings as possible. If you are able to do these things and you know that you did as much as you could to end the relationship with respect and compassion, then you will have done everything that you could and that’s okay. Either way, I applaud you for wanting to do that right thing and wish you luck as you navigate having this conversation!
Q: I just broke up with my long-distance boyfriend. He was kind and good, but we were different people, and I’m afraid I was too guarded and never let him fully love me nor did I fully love him. Even though I was the one who called it off, I’m still upset. How do I know I did the right thing and make peace with the breakup?
A: Sometimes there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ decision. Sometimes we choose what feels like the best option at the time with the information we have, and must accept the subsequent events. We only know if a decision was ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ afterwards because hindsight is 20/20.
Would you know what you know now if you stayed in the relationship? Maybe. But we can be certain that the break-up has provided you with insight into how you showed up in relationships, and maybe more of what you want out of future partners.
Even if you initiated the break-up, what you’re experiencing is a change, and ultimately a loss. I believe in the idea that grief comes with experiences other than a loss of life. Missed opportunities, lack of a desired or standard situation or experience, and the end of relationships are things we can grieve. I’m hearing that you might be grieving the loss of the relationship and that things could have been different (and maybe better) if you had made other choices. I can also hear empathy for him, and I personally love how you’re holding space for him in this also.
More than one thing can be true in some situations. “Yes, I ended the relationship and it still hurts to no longer be in it. Yes, some things were missing in the relationship and there were things in the relationship that I will miss.” The power of the word ‘and.’
My suggestion to you is to grieve the relationship. Scream it out, cry it out, eat your favorite foods, journal, make a playlist, play it on repeat, watch cheesy romance movies, maybe cry some more, write letters that you’ll tear up or burn later, etc. When you’re ready to get back out there, I hope you take what you’ve learned in this past relationship into the new one, and show up in a way that is satisfying and fair for yourself and your future partner.
A couple things to note! October is Intimate Partner Violence Awareness Month, so please reach out to the GBVP Team at HopkinsGBVP@jh.edu for any questions or if you or someone you know would like to access confidential support and/or additional resources. And finally, Health Promotion and Well-Being is hosting the Homewood Well-Being Fair today October 13 from 3-8PM in the Ralph O’Connor Rec Center! If you’re interested in learning more about how to advance the dimensions of well-being in your life or what resources are available to you, feel free to stop by as we’ll have tabling, games, and prizes too! We hope to see you there, and have a great weekend!
As always, you can submit your questions to Dear Tyler + Jay using the link listed below.
Note: DT&J is intended to educate and spark discussion. The advice offered is intended for informational purposes only, and is not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological, or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. If you need help getting started, you can email email@example.com.