Dating and Relationship Advice

Dear iris,

"I am in the healthiest possible relationship—there's honesty, respect, and GREAT communication. I’m moving abroad in August, while he will remain home because of his business.

How do I end this amazing relationship when there's still love and nothing going wrong? I don't want to hurt him or even go through the pain myself, but I feel we have to do what's needed. I'm all for honesty and having the conversation, but how do I just wake up one day and announce that this is it? Should we slowly reduce contact or like at once? What's the best way to deal with this, and how exactly to go about it with honesty and minimize the hurting? How do we make the tough call to break up when everything's great, and you love the person?"

Sincerely,

Confused Lover

Dear Confused Lover,

It’s interesting that you describe the relationship as near-perfect and that you love your partner. Usually, when someone decides to end a relationship because of distance, there’s at least some part of the relationship they know isn’t working. Because of that, they don’t want to endure long-distance for a relationship that won’t last.

I wish you’d told me why you didn’t want to keep the relationship going. Is there no possibility of you both living in the same place again? Do you want to spend your time abroad without any ties back to your past life? Don’t get me wrong, all of these are reasonable answers. But simply saying that the fact you’re moving away means you have to “do what’s needed” (AKA break up) isn’t true.

Now, I’m not here to convince you to stay in the relationship. Just consider what your reasons are. If your partner is someone you genuinely love being with, know that there are ways to make long-distance work. People do it all the time.

That’s all I’ll say about that, though. Now, on to how to have the cleanest breakup possible with someone you still care about and love. The hard truth is: there’s no way to make this a painless breakup. The ending of a relationship will always hurt, even if both of you know it’s for the best.

But you’re right in thinking that honesty and communication will make the pain a little more bearable. It’s not fair to cut it off with no explanation, nor is it a good idea to prolong the inevitable. So definitely avoid both of those.

Instead, as soon as possible, I’d have a conversation with your partner in person. Explain your feelings about moving abroad and what that means for your relationship. Focus on your truth: your thoughts, experiences, care for his feelings, and ultimately that you are deciding to end things. Leave the space open for him to ask questions. Make a plan for how to collect your stuff from his place and vice versa. Take a few days to allow for things to settle in for the both of you. It’s up to you whether you’re in contact for those few days following your conversation.

After that, you’ll both be better off taking space from each other. That means no hanging out or late-night texts. It’s going to be tempting, since talking to your partner will seem like the answer to making things hurt less but. In the long run, it’s not. Continuing to talk or look at his social media is like giving in to your pain source. It weirdly feels good at first but horrible after. Better to cut things off cold turkey.

People prolong breakups and the healing that comes after by trying to be friends right away or staying in contact. There’s a possibility for a friendship in the future, but it needs to be after a considerable amount of time apart, so both of you can move on. Or maybe it’ll never happen. I’m on friendly terms with some of my exes, but I’m by no means friends with any of them.

Your heart is in the right place for wanting to be kind in how you handle this breakup. Honesty will always be the best bet for both of you. Avoid ghosting and the slow-fade, but also create boundaries for yourself, especially with contact. Feelings may be hurt in the process, but that’s just how breakups go.

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