Navigating a breakup in a healthy way is challenging, especially if partners have been together for a long time. When complications like combined bank accounts or shared belongings are thrown into the mix, breaking up becomes a more difficult.
No matter what the situation involves, experts recommend approaching the conversation head-on.
“It is best to have a face-to-face break-up conversation,” said Assistant Director of Portland State Student Legal Services April Kusters. “Having your soon-to-be ex come home to your absence, or ‘ghosting’ or texting might seem attractive because it’s conflict avoidant, but ultimately it’s not the most mature thing to do.”
Being transparent from the beginning of a relationship can also make breakups easier.
“You have to be honest with yourself,” said Lisa Heinsdale, Mentor Program Coordinator with the Women’s Resource Center. “You [also] have to have good communication throughout the relationship to stay consistent.”
“Set a certain time for the conversation, don’t catch your partner off guard and be honest with your feelings,” Heinsdale said.
According to Heinsdale, the partner initiating the breakup should write down their feelings before they start the conversation. This list should include specific examples of past or current bothersome behavior.
Heinsdale also suggested using “I” statements instead of “you” statements, which can help the other person feel less defensive. “You have to be careful when talking, [and] watch how you phrase your words,” Heinsdale said. “Remember that blame is not effective.”
Kusters suggested cohabitant partners examine their lease contract if they rent an apartment together.
“Often breaking a termed lease before the term is up will cost a month and a half rent,” Kusters said. “Check your rental agreement, [because] the lease-break fee is required to be in there to [make the lease] enforceable. Who will pay this fee? Can one of you stay and cover the rent? It’s important to do some searching and looking at your budget before having the breakup conversation.”
Kusters added if partners share belongings that are difficult to divide, they can make a list of items each person wants, or they can divide possessions equally. “Keep in mind that it’s just stuff, and most personal property is replaceable and not worth fighting about if your ex really wants to keep the item,” said Kusters.
Ending a toxic relationship
When deciding to leave an abusive relationship, it’s best to have an idea of what to say ahead of time and to have the conversation in a public setting. “If your partner is abusive, let friends know and be aware of the situation,” Heinsdale said.
Heinsdale stressed the importance of having a support system around to offer perspective when leaving an abusive partner. “Pay attention to red flags,” Heinsale said. “People usually ignore them because they think [they] can change.”
Students needing support navigating a breakup can drop in for counseling at the Center for Student Health and Counseling at 1880 SW 6th Ave. or by calling (503) 725-2800.