How To Handle Wanting To Breakup When Your Partner Is Going Through A Lot

Let's be honest: there's no ideal time to break-up with someone. Even when your partner's in a good place in their life, the break-up can feel like a slap in the face — especially if they weren't expecting it. But if your partner is going through a bad time, then that's next-level pain. It's not just a metaphorical slap in the face, but essentially a "kick them when their already down" sort of scenario.

If you know, in your heart, it's time to end things while your partner is going through a difficult time, you have two options. You can wait until their situation gets better (although you may end up waiting longer than planned) or you can just do it, rip the Band-Aid off in one quick pull, and be done with it. No matter which you choose, if you're the one doing the breaking up, then you're going to be the villain anyway. That's just how these things go.

Even if your soon-to-be-ex partner may not realize during this challenging moment in their life, ending it and breaking free of them may be the healthier route for both of you.

Weigh the pros and cons

Consider what your partner is dealing with in their life right now. Has a close family member passed away? Have they just been laid off and are financially struggling? Are they dealing with some mental health issues? Are they in the midst of that existential dilemma that hits us all at some point in our lives?

Although no situation is easier to handle than the other, if you know your partner well enough, then you probably have a good idea of what their capacity level is for certain situations. With that in mind, weigh the pros and cons. Is it better to be upfront despite their current predicament, knowing they'll respect you for your honesty — or is it better to stay by their side and give them the support they not only need, but they may be expecting from you? If you know your partner is a tough cookie, so to speak, then there's no sense in delaying the inevitable. But if you know they'd have a hard time processing such information during a regular time (let alone during a time like the one they're in now), then you need to take that into consideration. However, keep in mind that people can surprise us in how they respond to things. 

Put yourself in their shoes

Although you may have not lost a loved or dealt with anything that your partner is currently dealing with, really think about how this is going to impact them before you make any move toward breaking up. While you may know it's for the best for both of you (despite the timing being horrible), it's essential that you think about how this will affect them. This is an important step in practicing compassion in your relationship with them. When you talk to them, make sure you tap into your empathetic side and put your empathy into action. 

"Empathy for the partner's experience of being broken up with, and the ability to express it, can go a long way to assuaging the inevitable pain," clinical psychologist Franklin A. Porter, Ph.D. tells Glamour. "If you've been on the receiving end of a breakup in the past you would probably have a good idea how it feels, and recalling those feelings beforehand would be beneficial in managing your message."

Even if you haven't been broken up with during a difficult time, you should still reach into your past experiences. Choose your words and sentiments wisely. 

Be honest, but don't tell them how to feel

When someone has a lot on going on, and their partner tells them they want to end things, honesty about why is paramount. Don't think you're sparing them by lying — that's just doing a disservice to you both and is insulting to your partner. They may be going through a lot, but you're not doing them any favors by not being honest about things. It all comes out eventually.

"Breaking up is a painful process; it means that our lives are about to change, and we will need to embrace the unknown," board-certified psychiatrist and couples therapist Dr. Sue Varma tells TZR. "Having a clear break-up with someone is civil, respectful, and allows the other person to properly mourn and ultimately move on."

But what's equally important is, amongst all this honesty, is not telling your partner how they should feel. Don't tell them it's for the best, don't tell them they'll get through this, don't tell them that all the challenges they're facing now will making them stronger — they don't want to hear it. When people are suffering on many levels, trying to point out the good that comes from experiencing pain is far from helpful. If anything, it's going to hurt even more because you're acknowledging that you are complicit in adding to this pain. That can make your attempt at subduing their anguish feel hypocritical. 

Offer your support

Although the likelihood that your ex will want your support after breaking up with them is low (after all, you just added to their turmoil), it's still a good idea to put it out there as an option. That's true even if they turn you down. If you know your ex-partner struggles with asking for help, then reach out to their friends and family, and ask them to be there for them.

"Being a source of support and creating a support system for a friend who has been through a breakup is vital," licensed psychotherapist Sola Togun-Butler, Ph.D., LCSW, tells Mindbodygreen. "People are better able to cope with transitions both planned and unplanned when they have a strong support system."

As much as you might feel like the bad person right now — or feel like you'll be painted as the villain for weeks and months to come — it takes strength and courage to let someone go when they're going through a lot. Even though you shouldn't say it to your partner in the moment, the fact remains that it's for the best — for both of you. It's not healthy to hang onto something longer than you should, even if it's out of pity for your partner's current situation. They're likely to resent you for it later.