Just Out Of A Relationship? Here’s How To Tell People About Your Breakup
Breaking up is hard. But the agony doesn’t end at parting ways—not when we have to relive the painful experience time and again by letting people know. And while the split isn’t something we have to talk about immediately, it’s something we have to announce eventually because the last thing we want is confusion within, and needless questions from, the circles we move in.
Plus, few people are as concerned as they are nosey, so aside from having to process painful emotions, we often also have to deal with insensitive reactions. Not sure how to make telling people about your breakup easier on yourself? We got Cherlyn Chong, a breakup recovery and dating coach, to share some advice.
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1. Decide if it's best for you to tell someone immediately, or if you should wait
“Sometimes, not telling anyone for a few days or weeks helps you process your emotions. Sometimes, telling a close confidant right away helps with that more. It’s up to you to determine what’s best for you. If you do decide to talk to someone, I recommend telling one or two close friends or family members whom you know will listen without judgment.
The keyword here is ‘listen’, because people who don’t listen well tend to shift the conversation to themselves and may say very unhelpful things like, ‘I told you to leave’ or ‘Why didn’t you listen to me?’ They may even recount their own breakup experiences, which is a phenomenon known as ‘conversational narcissism’. They draw the focus away from your grief and onto them, leaving you with little to no emotional support, so be careful about whom you share your emotions with.”
2. Think about the people you should tell, and how much you should tell them
“Draw a small circle on a piece of paper. Then, draw larger circles around that circle. Write the names of friends and family members you trust within the small circle, and the names of more distant relatives and friends in the larger circles.
This helps you figure out who you should share the most information with: the smaller the circle, the more you’re allowed to vent or share intimate details about your relationship, and the larger the circle, the less you should share with them.”
3. Tell people exactly what you need from them
“Many people have no idea how to comfort someone who has just suffered a loss. This can result in an awkward conversation or even them backing away. Give them some direction by telling them exactly what you need. It can be as simple as saying:
‘Ben just broke up with me. Can I talk it over with you?’ or ‘Ben just broke up with me and I’m devastated. I could use a hug right now.’
If you don’t need anyone to give you advice or try to fix the problem, just say:
‘It’s too painful for me to say more right now, but if you want to help, could we go out and get dinner?’ or ‘I don’t want to talk about it right now, but I’d appreciate it if you could just sit with me.’
You may be surprised by how well people respond to you when they know exactly how to support you.”
4. If harsh feedback about your breakup is unavoidable, only talk about it when you can respond, not react, to the statements
“Your parents in particular may have an ‘I know best’ attitude or even adopt a victim-blaming stance, where they question if you did something to deserve the breakup. Even though this may be how they solve the problem, their reaction can be emotionally damaging to you, specially in your vulnerable state.
As such, tell certain people about the breakup only when you’ve taken time to process the split, and won’t react to criticism with anger or tears. The best way to avoid prolonged questioning is to keep the conversation short and sweet, with a firm conclusion at the end. You can say:
‘Ben and I have talked about it and realised that it’s best to end our relationship. Though I am sad, I wish him all the best. I’ll need some space for a while and I’d appreciate your love and support.”
The less drama for people to dig out, the better.”
5. Assure people in your outer circles that you'll be OK
“You don’t owe anyone in your outer circles any explanation as to why you broke up, but if you still want to make an announcement, you can say:
‘Yes, Ben and I have decided to end our relationship. We tried our very best and we wish each other nothing but love. I’m OK and keeping busy. Thank you so much for your support during this time.’
One statement that was very well received on my Instagram was:
‘Hi guys, unfortunately, Michael and I are no longer together. I am not OK, but I will be. Life’s way too short to be unhappy.’
If you have to tell your superiors at work, simply tell them that you’re undergoing a trying time, but that you’ve got it under control. Bosses who genuinely care for your well-being will always understand that life happens even to the best of us.”