There are times when things don’t work out as planned. For example, the relationship that once brought you laughter now brings you tears. You rationalize the breakup by thinking that some things in life aren’t meant to be. I’m always impressed by couples who part ways as friends and end their relationship with dignity and grace. We can learn from the example they set. Even though breaking up is sad, and emotions are highly charged, the way that you handle it can affect you and your loved ones for years to come. Instead of launching a scorched-earth attack on the person you once loved, recognize there’s nothing to be gained by acting that way.
Don’t think every battle has a winner and a loser…many times there are just losers.
Some couples keep things in perspective. They remember the love they felt for each other, the good times they shared, and the happiness they brought to each other. They also prioritize the well-being of their children and don’t want to cause them additional pain. As such, they make every effort to be kind during the separation and treat their spouse in a compassionate, dignified, and equitable way.
Breaking up doesn’t pertain only to marriage. It applies to any relationship — including ending a friendship, terminating an employee, letting a contractor go, or dissolving a business partnership.
Winning at Any Expense Can Be Costly
Remember, the way you end a relationship can have a ripple effect far beyond the direct parties involved. For example, it can affect relationships with friends of the individual, the trust you’ve engendered with other business partners, and the way you’re perceived by your employees, as well as your reputation in the marketplace.
If you’re thinking about breaking up, consider the following:
- Are you proud of the way that you’re handling yourself during the process?
- Are you making a valiant effort to settle the breakup amicably?
- Is it more important for you to get even or to put the relationship behind you?
- Are you seeking revenge by launching a scorched-earth attack?
- What’s the cost to your health and well-being of harboring anger and resentment?
- What message is your sense of compassion and fairness sending to others?
- What impact will the separation have on your other relationships going forward?
- How will people view the way that you handled the situation?
- How will the breakup sidetrack you from other things that matter to you?
- How would you feel if you were on the receiving end of the arrangement?
Your behavior during the process will affect you down the road.
You can’t unring a bell. Some people let anger, resentment, and their ego speak for them. Don’t let emotion get the better of you. Once you say something, you can’t take it back.
Preserve the dignity of those you oppose.
You have to face yourself every day. Some people behave irrationally when relationships go sour. All they care about is winning. I understand that emotions run high in these situations, but trying to win at all costs will cost you dearly. Will you be ashamed of what you said? Will you regret what you did? Will you harbor guilt for the way you behaved? After all, you have to live with yourself for the rest of your life.
The future awaits you. Will your harsh behavior prompt folks to view you differently? Will your employees continue to trust you? Can your reputation be restored? The fact is, if you leave a lot of damage in your wake, you may not be able to put the pieces back together again.
Breaking Up with Dignity and Grace
Breaking up is hard to do. So don’t make it even tougher on yourself. Instead, hold your head up high, act with honor and grace, and do what’s right. Period. In so doing, keep three things in mind. First, preserve everyone’s dignity. Second, take the shoe-on-the-other-foot test. How would you feel if you were on the receiving end of the arrangement? Last, remember why you entered into the relationship. Be kind and fair, and treat everyone with decency and respect. Breaking up is hard to do, but the path you take should be an easy choice for you.
How Do You Feel About Breaking Up?
Please leave a comment and tell us what you think or share it with someone who can benefit from the information.
Take the Shoe-on-the-Other-Foot Test
The Secrets of a Successful Marriage
How to Create a Win-Win Relationship
Compromise: Redefining Winning
Why Do You Trust Some People and Mistrtust Others?
Living the Golden Rule
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Andrea Palmer says
Amazing read. Just yesterday I wrote a blog about the wonders of marriage and the odds of divorce and some things I went through with mine. People need to forgive and forget and remember that in the past the person that we are breaking up with was a special part of our life. Breaking up with dignity and grace is so important not only in romantic relationships but in every single relationship we have in our life, including work relationships for that matter. You mentioned 3 steps very important in order to succeed at breaking up, if we are able to preserve dignity, taking the shoe on the other foot test and be kind and fair, breaks ups would be an opportunity to be in that person’s life in another role. The future is uncertain, and you never know who could help you down the road and vice versa. Is better not to burn any bridges because you may need to cross them at some point.
Very insightful and inspiring post.
Thank you for sharing.
Frank Sonnenberg says
Well said, Andrea. The way I see it, why do people learn solely from their own mistakes when they can learn from the experience of others? I hope that folks heed your wise advice.
Thanks for taking the time to write.
Jill Pontiere says
Thank you for an important article regarding how to break up with dignity and respect. I have a dear friend I will share this with, as she is dealing with a situation that she would benefit from reading the article.
Frank Sonnenberg says
Thanks Jill. I’m glad you like it.
I hope that your friend takes my message to heart. As Buddha taught, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
Thanks for taking the time to write.