How to break up with someone if you *know* you’re at risk of getting back together but shouldn’t

Breaking up with someone is one of the hardest things we do in life. Yes, the world is a dumpster fire and going through a breakup can feel like a champagne problem compared to all of the other struggles people have, but it’s not. It’s an emotional nightmare, especially if you’re breaking up with someone you’re scared of getting back together with.

It’s easy-ish to breakup with someone who is a complete jerk. When you’re angry or scorned, you can power through the breakup on that energy alone. It’s not better, really, but when you have a *thing* you can point to as a guiding light to keep you a hundred percent broken up with someone, the boundaries are clearer.

But sometimes a break up is just the beginning of an on-again, off-again relationship.

It’s in our nature to want to be connected to people we care about. There are lots of approaches to attachment theory, but one of the important things to remember during a breakup is that it’s normal for it to feel totally “unnatural” to separate from someone, even when we know it’s not the healthiest relationship. Cutting someone out of our life can feel like cutting off a limb, especially when you throw rejection and loneliness into the mix — which is exactly why we reconsider the whole thing when it starts to hurt too much.

Here’s how to breakup with someone you know you’re at risk of falling back into a relationship with.

1Be really firm about taking space from each other.

When you know you might get back with someone after a breakup, the key is to reduce the chances of that happening at all costs. Be really clear about asking for space. It’s not petty to skip a party or a hangout where you know they might be early on — you’re just protecting yourself. When you’re enmeshed with someone, you might think it’s OK to *just* meet for coffee or hang out “as friends” right after the breakup to make it hurt less in the immediate future, but you’re really just dragging this thing out.

Try setting a 30-day “no contact” goal to start and reassess later. After even a month, a lot can change if you give yourself time to get over the breakup without that person in your face all the time.

2That includes social media and phones.

Again, it can feel immature to block someone’s number or mute them on social media. Especially if you know you have little self control about reaching out to this person when things get rough and you start to miss them. But do it! Tell them that you’re doing it not to be an a**hole, but because it’s hard for you at the moment.

3Enlist your friends for help.

Self control, when it comes to texting, can be really hard for some people. Ask a friend if they’ll be a stand-in. So, instead of sending that one long block text to your ex about how you feel or whatever, text your friend instead. Instead of engaging with your ex, you get the bonus of engaging with someone who cares about you and can make you feel better. If you don’t have that option, text out what you want to say in a note or into a voice memo on your or in a journal — literally whatever works. Just redirect. It might sound silly, but it will help scratch that itch to connect and also help you think about why you’re reaching out to your ex in the first place.

4Do things that you love to do.

It’s hard to get back our there after a breakup but if you’re going to not be stalking their social media profiles and refraining from break-up sex, you’re going to have a lot of time on your hands. Be slightly obnoxious about making plans with other friends, signing up for extra gym classes, or reading all the books in your “to read” pile finally. The more you validate yourself and your time, the stronger you’ll be in the long run. And a little more likely to resist when your ex tempts you with a hang out or calls to hash things out yet again.

5Celebrate all of your hard work.

Again, breaking up is hard! Some experts even liken a breakup to dealing with an addiction, which is why you should steal some tried-and-true strategies for battle strategies. One that’s very important: Celebrate the small successes. For every weekend that passes without a booty call or time that you actually put your phone away and ignore their emails, celebrate that success with whatever you consider a reward. You’re doing really hard work, and you should be proud of it. If you do cave and let them back in or close to you for a day (or longer), don’t consider it all over. Just accept that you fell off the wagon and then get right back on it. A breakup is a process, so be excited about your incremental change. You got this.

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