Splitsville: Ending A Relationship

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Welcome to Splitsville. This weekly column will focus on parenting after a divorce, break-up or one-night stand that didn’t end like a Katherine Heigl movie.

Parenting is difficult, we all know that. It adds a new layer of complication when you have to negotiate and compromise with another person. Another person who you used to sleep with. But to begin, we need to look at how things end.

Sorry, I love an obvious play-on-words. Ending a relationship when you have a child is a lot more complex than just changing your Facebook status. There’s no way to split up and never speak again or pretend to be pleasantly nonchalant if you bump into them while shopping for groceries. When parents part, they have to find a way to communicate and work together for the good of their children. It takes a lot of time, thought and rational conversation. Which is exactly what my relationships normally end with, rational conversations. Break-ups in general lend themselves to logic and communication, I think.

I’m not going to give anyone reasons or how-to’s on deciding to leave your partner. That’s a personal decision and it’s impossible to explain or judge. We all have our own stories. Whether you wanted the split or your significant other decided, whether it was amicable or bitter, the whole thing is emotionally devastating. Personally, I wrote at least 20 “break-up letters” to my boyfriend before I actually ended our relationship. I cried. I stressed. I agonized. It was the most difficult decision of my life. But one night, I took my infant daughter to my parents house and I sat down to end my relationship with her father.

I won’t tell you if you should break-up, but I do have some advice for how it can be done with minimal damage.

  • Get prepared.
    Have lists of things that you need to discuss and agree on before you’re done. There are a lot of things to decide on and it’ll be easy to wonder off topic. Having everything written out will ensure that you don’t miss important details.
  • Send the kids to their grandparent’s house.

    Or anywhere. Just don’t have them in the house. If things get heated or passionately angry, you don’t want them waking up to it. Also, it frees you to have as much wine as you need to once the whole thing is done.

  • Get the emotional stuff out of the way first.
    The break-up itself needs to happen first. Don’t spend time bringing up past arguments or assigning blame. Neither one of you wants to be angry or defensive. Just explain that the relationship isn’t going to work out, but that there’s still a lot more to talk about.
  • Be positive.
    Don’t plan this talk if you aren’t sure. Your whole family is about to go through a lot of turmoil. If you guys keep going back and forth, together and not-together, your children will be even more confused. Make a clean break and let them start to adapt.
  • Be positive.

    Ya know, a different kind of positive. It’s hard, but try not to focus on all the negatives. Hopefully, you both love your children and really want what’s best for them. Start there. Build on what you want to do for your children, not what you have to take away from each other.

  • Set boundaries early.
    It’s easy to think that you’ll iron out the details as you go. However, once you get into a routine, confrontation will be the last thing you want. So write out your rules and have both of you sign them. You can make things more official later, but having them written means you both agree.
  • Be honest.
    If you aren’t ok with something, don’t agree to it. Yes, you’ll both have some compromises to make. Lots and lots, actually. And nerves or stress or heartache might encourage you to speed up this process. But you need to take the time to make sure that you’ve said what you need to say.

Breaking up is never easy. Breaking up when you have children is horrible. But by keeping your kids’ happiness your primary focus, you can get through this. Just try to keep a level head and remember that you’re going to spend the rest of your life dealing with this person. Good luck!

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