Breaking Up Is Hard To Do * *

David A. Gershaw, Ph.D.

A Yuma reader wrote to me last month, asking me to write an article on "breaking up after a relationship." Since the beginning of a new year is seen as a season for many changes even painful ones it seems to be a timely topic.

As high as you may feel when you find someone you love, most of us will feel just as desolate and depressed if that relationship breaks up. Since most breakups are not by mutual consent, one of the partners typically suffers more than the other. There are no easy ways to dissolve a relationship. However, there are ways to lessen the pain.

The death of a relationship can cause intense pain,
but there are ways to reduce this pain.

Psychologists Hill, Rubin and Peplau (1976) conducted a two-year study of 231 college couples. The average couple had been dating for eight months, and three-fourths were dating each other exclusively. At the end of the study, only 128 couples were still together. In the two years, 103 couples had broken up. Over half (51%) of the breakups were initiated by the women, 42% by the men, and 7% were mutual. (As an aside, if the man initiated the breakup, the chances were greater the couple remained friends. Women seem to deal better with male-initiated separations, rather than the other way around.) Here are some recommendations for making a breakup less painful.

If you initiate the breakup:

If your partner breaks up with you:

In this new year, we hope your desired relationships will last. But if your relationship turns out to be one that does not last, following these recommendations should make the parting less painful.

* Adapted from Bryan Strong and Christine DeVault's Understanding Our Sexuality, West Publishing, 1988, pages 221-222.

Go back to "A Line on Life" page.