Whether you’re thinking about leaving a long-term marriage or a shorter-term relationship, breaking the news to your partner is rarely easy. Maybe you’ve been indecisive for months or years but you can’t find the right words to tell your partner the relationship is well past its expiration date. Could be that even when you try to talk about it, the two of you just end up rehashing old wounds and not getting anywhere.
Here are seven icebreakers to begin a conversation that will move you toward real resolution. These prompts are only for those who have no hope left for their relationships and who are ready to call it quits. To begin, you need to choose the right venue. If you feel safe enough, make sure you’ll have privacy for at least several hours. If you have kids, make it a time when they’re out of the house. Turn off your phones and computers. And, as always, use “I” statements when possible and take responsibility when applicable.
If you’ve been staying in the relationship for your partner:
I know we’ve been going back and forth with this for awhile but I’m more certain now than ever that I really can’t do this — us — anymore. I know this is heartbreaking but making a clean break may be our best bet at finding some peace and happiness. I know you say this isn’t what you want — and that pains me — but our relationship isn’t what I want anymore. For me to stay in this relationship — just because you want me to — isn’t healthy for either one of us.
If you’ve kept your spouse in the dark:
You’re probably wondering what’s going on with me lately. I know I’ve been distant and that’s because I just couldn’t figure out how to approach you. I’m sorry I haven’t been more open about my feelings. Seems we have a history of not communicating well and this is just another example of that. I really don’t want to hurt you (or the kids) but I think we both know this relationship has run its course. We’re both miserable and it’s not fair to either one of us to be living this way.
If “It’s not you, it’s me”:
There’s no good time to do this and I’ve been dreading this conversation because it’s such an awful one to have. There’s no easy way to say this but… I just can’t be in this marriage anymore. Maybe I’m selfish — and you might agree — because you’re a wonderful person and a devoted partner. This has been the hardest decision of my life. I hope we can end this amicably and I know that will be challenging because you’re angry. But I’m hoping we’ll strive for that.
If you’ve been a jerk and can admit it:
I know my recent behaviors have hurt you beyond words. I’m so sorry. I really am. I haven’t handled myself or my life in a respectable way — and I’ve disappointed a lot of people, especially you. But I’ve realized that my (affair, alcohol/substance abuse, long hours at work, meanness) was just a way of inappropriately expressing my unhappiness in this relationship. And I know it was wrong. But that doesn’t change the fact that I can’t be happy here.
If your partner’s high emotions scare you off:
I’ve known this relationship has needed to end for a long time now. But every time I approach you, you fall apart — and that’s why I haven’t been able to follow through. I care about you — and your sadness — but that can’t be the glue that keeps us together. I no longer believe our relationship is fixable and I just can’t let your tears stand in my way anymore. This really needs to be over.
If you can’t forgive your partner:
I hope you see that I’ve really tried to get past (your affair, your abuse, your betrayal). I’ve put my all into it because this relationship is the most important thing in my life. But after a lot of soul-searching, I realize I can’t move beyond the pain. I know you’re a good person who did a bad thing but I can’t sign us both up for a life of resentment and anger.
And if you’ve found you really can’t do this alone, you may suggest seeing a couples counselor to break the news to your partner with some support:
If you need to call in the troops:
I asked you here today because every time we try to talk about splitting, we go around and around with no resolution. I’ve reached the point where I really can’t be in this marriage anymore. I’m hoping we can use therapy to help us end this as peacefully as possible. I know we both want what’s best for our family and maybe counseling can help us reach that goal.