Want to know the most ironic thing about relationships? The way someone handles the end of one—no matter which side they’re on—tells you everything you need to know about them and whether they’re worth dating. Chronologically speaking, is this helpful? Oh no, not at all. Sorry! But in the grand scheme of your love life, it’s incredibly useful intel.
That’s why it’s worth it to put your best face forward at the very end. Just like a super-punishing workout, splitting up may hurt like hell in the moment, but if you push through, it’s a huge growth opportunity that you’ll come out of stronger and better. Put simply: Being good at breaking up is like having an emotional revenge body. So, here’s how to do it right.
FOR THE DUMPER: SAY BYE, WITH FEELING
Resist the urge to ghost them.
Straight-up disappearing is a cowardly thing to do. It forces your partner to break up with themselves, which is cruel. Plus, “if you ghost someone, it’s likely that you’ll sit with guilt or shame,” says Jaime Gleicher, a licensed social worker who focuses on adolescents. Not only can that be psychologically unhealthy, but it can also make moving on harder because there’s zero closure (which helps you both recover). So have a brief in-person convo, or at the very least, send a text.
Give a legitimate reason for why you’re leaving.
No one who’s ever delivered a cliché like “It’s not you, it’s me” or “You deserve someone better” (gag) has actually meant what they said. “It’s a cop-out,” explains relationship therapist Jane Reardon, cocreator of Rx Breakup, an app that aims to help the brokenhearted. These are phrases you say when you are either checked out or just “not that deep and can’t come up with anything more original,” Reardon explains.
Instead, be honest and direct about exactly why you’re peacing out of the relationship. Try something like, “The way we feel about each other doesn’t match up, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon” or “I simply don’t trust you, so continuing to be with you is no longer working for me.” It may feel harsh to say the full truth, but most people would rather hear it than be kept in the dark with some generic breakup Mad Libs line.
Keep all the receipts.
You’ll probably be tempted to coach your new ex on how to be a better partner to the next girl. Hint: Don’t do that (unless they were being manipulative or abusive, in which case they’ll need more than just your help). “You don’t have to bring up every red flag and annoying thing you saw,” says Reardon. “I don’t think that’s anyone’s job.”
And your perspective is subjective: What you wish were different about them might be the very quality someone else will love. If they press you for feedback, offer a few reasons connected to your own preferences instead of specific personality pointers. No one likes a preachy defector.
FOR THE DUMPEE: GET OVER IT FASTER
Face the cold, hard facts.
Most people want to immediately skip the “feeling like shit” part, which makes sense, but it’s better to start the healing process by embracing the hurt. Sadness plays a big role in heartbreak recovery, says Ty Tashiro, PhD, author of The Science of Happily Ever After.
“It makes you contemplative about what you want to do and skeptical about things that haven’t been working,” he explains (e.g., if your partner dumped you because you’re focused on your job, that sucks, but it also tells you something about who you’re better paired with). “Sadness also draws people whose support we need closer to us—it’s a beautiful thing,” adds Tashiro. Admit what’s bumming you out about the split, and lean on friends during rough days.
Set a strict wallowing limit.
This is a firm amount of time you’re allowed to indulge in the depths of your sadness—all the ice-cream-eating, rom-com-bingeing stereotypes—before you have to get your act together again. Without deciding on a deadline, you may think that feeling like a loser is your new, permanent way of life. (It’s not!) There’s no rule on how long this period should last, but Tashiro says two to four months is typical (and it’s normal for sadness to pop up again later). Try your best to move into your fresh rebirth phase when your time is up. It’s a more fun and hopeful time (with better music!).
Look forward to the glow-up.
A 2003 study published in the academic journal Personal Relationships, coauthored by Tashiro, found something incredible: For every negative outcome people experienced from a breakup, they reported, on average, five positive changes too. These shifts ranged from a boost in self-confidence to learning how to be a better partner.
“When you have an event that disrupts your normal way of thinking, it creates this opportunity to reorganize things,” explains Tashiro. The most common benefit people noticed in the study was that a split made them want to choose different kinds of partners in the future—a true “thank you, next” bonus.
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This article originally appeared on Cosmopolitan.com. Minor edits have been made by the Cosmo.ph editors.