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How to break up with someone when you feel obligated to stay in the relationship

I have a dear friend who went on several dates with a guy she liked!

On one date, a traumatic accident happened, putting him into the hospital. Even though she wasn’t at fault, she felt obligated to remain in the relationship because she was there during the accident. That obligation left her feeling guilty for wanting to end their relationship.

Eventually they broke up and went on to marry other people. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Some people spend years in these guilt ridden or obligatory relationships.

Maybe you were going to break up with him, then found out he lost his job. Or perhaps she bought you an expensive gift the night you were going to end things. Maybe you’ve lost your romantic spark, but your family adores her — is that reason enough to stay together?

These and other scenarios can keep you in an unwanted relationship, especially if you are worried about a person’s emotional stability. But you shouldn’t feel obligated to stay in a relationship; you can still be supportive even if you aren’t dating.

Here are different ways to break up (and the pros and cons of each):

Rip off the band aid

It’s hard, but it’s usually the kindest way. Even if things are falling apart in their lives, dragging out a relationship just makes it all worse. When you use this technique, come prepared to explain the reasons for the breakup and be kind, but don’t feel guilty about ending things.

Part of being kind with this technique is being thoughtful for when you decide to break up. If someone has died, wait until after the funeral. Avoid breaking up on holidays or birthdays.


Slowly disappearing out of a significant other’s life is the coward’s way of dealing with a breakup. You cause them pain by walking out of their life only to make matters worse by reappearing to break up with them.

The only good thing about this technique is the other person probably expects the breakup to happen, but don’t think that rationalizes it. It may seem like the easy way out, but it causes more harm than good.

Ominous texts

“We need to talk.” Well, your partner will have a pretty good idea about what is coming next. He or she could quietly accept it, or this conversation will end in an argument about whose fault the failed relationship is.

A little warning is nice, but with this technique, they will have more time to prepare for the pain…sometimes it is better to be blindsided.

The letter

This is a good idea if you are afraid you can’t say what you want in person, or if you are in a long distance relationship. But if you are close enough to break up in person, do it. The breakup will already hurt the person, so don’t back out by just writing a letter. If you are worried you are going to mess in person, write a letter explaining your feelings, tell your lover you are breakup with him or her, hand them the letter and leave.

Trick them

You don’t want to feel guilty about breaking your partner’s heart, so you do things that will push them to breakup with you first. This is just avoiding the problem. You are already breaking their heart by “forgetting” a birthday, breaking promises and not being there for them. Don’t be a coward; just rip the band aid off yourself. Don’t slowly pull it up with the goal of hurting them just enough so they rip the rest of the bandage off themselves.

It’s all me

The infamous line, “It’s not you, it’s me” always backfires, though the sentiment behind it is important. It’s a good idea to recognize that you have a role in the breakup, but it’s also important to explain why you it’s just not working! Every good breakup should include a discussion. This will help the other person know exactly what happened in your relationship on your part and theirs.

There will never be a good time for you to breakup with someone, so all you can do is to pick the best day possible (not a holiday, funeral or special occasion). Be kind, honest and succinct and address the problems head on and in person. Though the other options seem more gentle at times, they will just cause the pain to linger.

Stacie Simpson is a journalism student. She loves listening to, gathering and sharing stories and advice to help others improve their quality of life. She spends most of her free time with her husband, ballroom dancing, reading and writing.

10 secrets to becoming yourself and stop trying to please everyone

Want to live life as your most authentic self and stop worrying about what other people think? You can, by following 10 simple guidelines.

1. Learn to recognize people-pleasing behavior

Distinguish the difference between being helpful and being a people-pleaser. Helping people is good; it’s healthy and makes you a nice person. People-pleasing is different. When you sacrifice what you want to make everyone else happy, it makes you a victim. As this ABC news story points out, people-pleasers are the biggest targets of bullying, particularly in adulthood when bullying becomes subtler and more manipulative.

2. Accept the reality

Sometimes any course of action will upset someone, so choose to do what’s right for you as often as possible. You really can’t please all the people all the time, so you may as well please yourself most of the time.

3. Develop your confidence

It’s easy to spiral into self-doubt when you’re under criticism, especially when you weren’t that sure of yourself to start with. Learn to research your options and keep your own counsel. Develop the discipline to keep your decisions to yourself until you’ve really weighed the pros and cons and are sure of your choice. That way you’ll be prepared to defend your decision, and be well-informed enough to stay confident if people pressure you to change your mind.

4. Set your priorities

Decide what matters to you and those closest to you. Define your top priorities and most important values, then live them. It’s easier to stay true to yourself and not be influenced by the crowd if it’s your deep-seated, well-thought-out priorities and values versus their opinion.

5. Remember it’s not about you

People’s opinions of you and reactions to your choices are just that: opinions and reactions. Often, it’s all about them and has very little to do with you. People who have their lives together don’t tend to spend all their time criticizing others. Some people just need to take this snippet of advice from H Jackson Brown, Jr:

Let the refining and improving of your own life keep you so busy that you have little time to criticize others.”

6. Don’t over-estimate your own importance

Ironically many people-pleasers lack confidence but still over-estimate the impact they have on other people.

Susan Newman, the author of The Book of No: 250 Ways to Say It – And Mean It and Stop People-Pleasing Forever, points out that usually after you say no to a request, the other person is more focused on who they’ll be asking for help next than your so-called betrayal.

You’re rarely someone’s only option. The impact of not doing what others want is often much smaller than we think it is.

7. Beware of ‘reflectors’

It took me a long time to realize this, but when people say, ‘you can’t do that’ they almost always mean ‘I can’t do that’. If you’ve come up with a plan, researched it and made a decision, you’re a lot better placed to know if you can do it than someone else is. A lot of negative reactions are based on where the other person is in their life right now — they’re irrelevant to where you are.

8. Focus on living your best life

Particularly when it comes to your wider circle of acquaintances, you have to eventually get to a point where you just don’t care what they think of you. Focus on you and yours. Live your best life and nurture what’s in front of you.

9. Learn to say no

No is a complete sentence. Sometimes it’s appropriate to add ‘thank you’ but you don’t need to add a list of excuses. It’s OK to say no to something for no reason other than you don’t want to do it. Add a little humor when appropriate. Try saying, ‘Thanks for inviting me, but that sounds like my worst nightmare,’ or ‘I would, but I really don’t want to.’ It’s fine to have your own likes and dislikes. Not everyone enjoys big parties, or fancy dinners or fly fishing.

10. Be proactive

Offer to help in a way that works for you. Name the day you can come and help paint your friend’s bedroom or suggest the dish you’ll bring to the pot luck. This way you’re being helpful without always having to cooperate with other people and their pre-planned arrangements.

Becoming your own person doesn’t mean you can’t be pleasant, helpful and cooperative — it just means you get to do it on your own terms.