Dear eNotAlone: My girlfriend and I have been together for seven years and engaged for two. We've talked about marriage and have a three-year plan that includes an old house on acreage, until now everything has been going as planned. In the past few months things have become tumultuous; we argue a lot and the relationship is on the rocks. I love her so much, but it has become clear that we want different things. She wants to stay in this town for the rest of her life but I desperately want to get out and explore the world.
I know that I need to break up with her, but I don't know how to say goodbye and leave without hurting her. How do I say goodbye and look forward without feeling guilty?
* * *
Facing the impending reality that your connection with your significant other is coming to an end can be overwhelmingly difficult. Ending a serious relationship such as your seven-year engagement can be intensely heartbreaking - as it involves memories, hopes and dreams that have been shared and no longer will be. While it's important to understand that both you and your partner deserve to explore what you are truly passionate about and fulfill your destinies, it is also vital that you make an effort to separate from your fiancé in a manner respectful to both your feelings. To help you through the challenging task of dissolving your engagement and addressing the guilt associated with it, here are some practical suggestions to keep in mind:
Be Honest and Direct
Before anything else, it is important to bear in mind the importance of being honest and speaking in clear terms. Instead of avoiding the matter and giving your partner the impression that all is well, address the situation head-on and take ownership for the decisions you're making. Although expressing your truth might confront painful emotions in both yourself and your partner, it is likely that these feelings will eventually come to surface anyway. As such, it is better to speak directly, as doing so could potentially benefit the healing processes of both of you in the long run.
Offer Explanation and Avoid Blaming
In addition to verbalizing your wishes to part ways, it could be beneficial to discuss the reasons for the breakup. This way, your partner can better comprehend your decision in a non-judgmental manner. Avoid any attempts at fault-finding or passing judgments – instead, focus on listening carefully to understand your partner's thoughts and validating their right to express them.
Allow Time to Grieve
Understand that even with your best intentions, the conclusion of any relationship may still bring up grief and emotional pain. Allow yourself and your partner space to process the change accordingly. Experiencing sadness and accepting the past events and your current predicament is part of the transition process, and it should not be overlooked. Take time to reflect, talk to people you trust, or journal in order to analyze the relationship and locate how you can look at it from a broader perspective in the future.
Practice Self-Care and Self-Love
Do your best to practice self-compassion. Aim to forgive yourself for the ending, and realize that it takes bravery and strength to recognize one's personal needs and boundaries. Understand that life is a journey of growth, and this will be ultimately beneficial for both of you. When parting ways with your long-term partner, always remember that although it can be profoundly painful, it doesn't necessarily reflect a flaw or inadequacy on either party's part.
Breaking up with someone isn't easy, and it can be especially wrenching when the breakup ends an extended period of time in a couple's lives. Leaving a fiancé may bring up varying conflicting emotions, resulting in complicated misunderstandings and pain. Despite its difficulty, preserving your true desires and respecting your partner's emotions should occur simultaneously. By being honest and direct, offering explanation and avoiding judgements, giving yourself and your partner sufficient time to grieve, and practicing self-care and self-love, you can undertake the challenging yet essential task with more ease and understanding.