Let’s face it: no matter how regular you are with your meditation seshes or how many days a week you exercise to de-stress, nothing can prepare you for a breakup. Saying goodbye to a partner is one of the most painful things you can go through (hey, even friendship splits aren’t easy).
“Neuroscience has found that rejection lights up the same part of your brain as scalding coffee on the skin,” says Michelle Crosby, relationship expert and CEO of Wevorce, an online company turning the divorce industry upside down. “That’s why we always have stressed reactions when it comes to breakups.”
Painful, yes, but it doesn’t have hit level-10 drama. You can get through it peacefully if you organize your thoughts and approach it with a rational, respectful mind.
“Communication is key even through breakups,” notes Crosby. “It’s about connection. Having an amicable split rather than an explosive one is about minimizing the surprises.”
Before you delve into the inevitable “we need to talk” conversation, take a deep breath and follow these three tips for keeping it civilized.
1. Come up with keywords to guide you
Crosby advises you pick at least three words to use as your anchor as you go through this process. “The most common words we see chosen are ‘fast’ (because who wants to stay in that miserable situation?), ‘respectful,’ and ‘kind,'” she says. Having words that describe your ideal scenario will help guide your behavior.
“As you go through the breakup process, the words help you judge whether you’re acting or reacting the way you want to,” she adds.
2. Remember your relationship POV
Are you the one initiating? Or are you reacting to the breakup? Depending on which side you’re on, it’ll affect how you communicate. “If you’re an initiator, you’ve probably been thinking about the breakup for a while and have been slowly processing the grief a little bit along the way,” says Crosby. “Whereas if you’re the reactor, the pain will light up, especially if it’s a surprise.” (Here comes that scalding-coffee feeling.)
Each side will react differently, depending on how new the idea of breaking up is. Crosby warns that partners should give one another enough space to process, “as it takes time for [feelings] to unfold.”
3. Do a shared-life inventory
You might not see each other on a daily basis any longer, but it will be quite some time before you’re truly uncoupled. Think about the areas of your lives that have become intertwined and “look at how you’ve partnered together and how far into this relationship you are,” advises Crosby. “Know what the emotional, financial, and social (shared friend groups) issues are, as well as any legal implications (if you’re married). There are lots of things you have to begin to separate, so organizing the [basic] infrastructure underneath is key to getting through it amicably.”
Breakups are never easy. Sticking to your vision of what the outcome will be (as hard as it is right now to imagine actually getting there), recognizing you and your partner’s unique perspectives, and being organized will help you create a conversation—not a catastrophe.
There are few things as stressful as a split—try this outdoor meditation to clear your head or take some advice from yogis on how to stay calm even in fraught situations.