While you may still care deeply for your partner, there is always a chance that the fires of romance begin to dwindle terminally. Or, also commonly, that you simply realize that it isn’t love that has driven you thus far. There’s no point being torn over a shift in feeling, or guilty at wanting something else, it’s a risk we all take — part and parcel of every relationship. We chose to willingly waive the disclaimer when we took our hearts with us on our leap of faith.
Due to the fact that you have taken the time to look for an outside opinion on the matter, I can confidently conclude that your shot at the relationship was well-intentioned, otherwise it would simply be a case of dropping off the radar. But attempting to protect his wavering ego and self-esteem from unnecessary damage can be taken too far, actually making the trauma worse in the long-run. It is important to side-step your fear of hurt and confrontation and treat the breakup, and your partner, with respect — both for your own sake (placating long-term guilt) and theirs. The single best way to do this is by being reasonably empathetic, but also firm and direct.
Don’t Feed Him Crumbs
Being informed that you don’t love him back is already traumatic, feeding him false hope in order soften the blow can keep the pain burning well past it’s assumed expiry date. This is often the prime cause for future resentment. A clean break is tough and initially traumatic, but it paves the way to acceptance as swiftly as possible. Some examples of letting someone down softly that can backfire are:
- It’s not you, it’s me. A dumpee can easily convince themselves that you are suffering from a temporary case of emotional unavailability instead of a through-and-through breakup. It also provokes a lot of confusion that can make moving on that much harder.
- Don’t ask for time off. Taking breaks and seeking personal sanctuary can be very healthy in long-term relationships. However, if your mind is set, asking for a break in the hopes that the distance will slowly accustom him to life without you will backfire. The reverse is usually true instead. The resulting insecurity from sensing something fundamental is amiss, coupled with your progressive detachment, lead to craving not indifference.
I also feel that well-intentioned white-lies such as blaming the breakup on something less harsh than a bottoming-out of love is ultimately damning for the dumpee. Relationships are above and beyond all else a chance for both parties to grow, not only as a couple — but as individuals. If mistakes were made, don’t deny him the opportunity to take his own responsibilities aboard and weigh them consciously. Once the pain begins to fade, these realizations may one day be of great use.
Go All The Way
You may have gathered by now that I’m not a fan of drawing the process out. Alas, telling him once that you don’t love him, no matter how directly you put it, is wishful thinking. Not only because his emotions, ideals and hopes aren’t willing to surrender just yet, but also because there is a chance yours aren’t either.
No matter how dysfunctional or tired a relationship becomes, there is always something you miss. In a difficult moment, even if you know you don’t love him, it can be easy to seek comfort by reaching out. Or alleviate a burning sense of culpability and guilt. These tangible crumbs (text messages, emails and other forms of contact) can be devastating for everyone involved. If you’re going to let go, go all the way.
This doesn’t mean shutting him off entirely, but it does mean establishing personal barriers that safeguard your new direction and life. If he is unable to respect your decision, then consider limiting (or eliminating) contact until denial has melted into acceptance.
How To Tell Your Boyfriend You Don’t Love Him Back
The how and when are important factors to weigh, although they may seem superfluous given the gravity of the context. In an ideal world, the appropriate setting can have a soothing impact. I would advise:
- Pick a neutral location: Being hurt will create a painful memory trigger. If you tell him the bad news at a bar in front of his house his everyday commute might become a little darker, as the location will jog his memory and trigger the painful memory.
- Pick a public location: We are hard-wired to erect more intra-personal boundaries outside of our private comfort zones, which may make the news a little (initially of course) more palatable. If he is notoriously impulsive it may also curb any overreactions and make it easier for you to be honest with him without fearing an outburst.
- Stick around: Although it may be painful, stay long enough to answer any questions and concerns he may have, but don’t make a habit of it. This is his moment, but after this it’s yours. Taking the time to discuss it with him openly and directly is the best way to lead to long-lasting respect.
Perhaps I’ve written a little to much win this article when the main gist is to simply go for it without bowing to fear or sympathy. But in my humble experience matters of the heart have a way of distorting objectivity. I hope, at the very least, to have presented a reasoned and consistent opinion. Please let me know if you disagree!