Leaving a long-term relationship is never easy, even if it is the best option. You’ve invested time and energy on one person for an extended period, and how you must work to untangle yourself. In addition, you might have children, property, or a business with this person that makes the process even harder. Here are some guidelines to hopefully make the separation less painful.

Be Clear and Up Front

Sometimes your leaving is not a surprise to the other person, as you two have been discussing it for a while. Other times, one of you might feel blindsided by the announcement. If this second scenario is the case, your partner might start experiencing a grief reaction to your news. They will ask you the inevitable question: why?

Work out an explanation for this question. Keep your message clear, and try not to blame the other person. Be as calming as you can, even as they begin to poke holes in your argument. Avoid dumping on too much information at once. You will likely need to revisit this conversation multiple times for you both to process it. Do not try to avoid future work by piling on.

Communicate the Bottom Line

What are you trying to accomplish here? What are the next steps? Sort this out on your own ahead of time. If you want a divorce or a separation, you will need to be able to express this. Don’t mince words, and don’t beat around the bush. If you are not clear about what you want, then be honest about this. Being vague to spare someone’s feelings only offers them hope that you will change your mind.

Plan Going Forward

You will likely need to work out the next steps together, but having a general idea will help steer the conversation. How are you going to explain the situation to your children? Is one of you going to move out? What is the timeline? What is the plan for a worst-case scenario? Also, work out what you’re going to say to family, friends, and co-workers, as they will naturally inquire about what happened. Decide who should know and who does not need to know right away. This is much better than trying to come up with answers on the fly.

Consider Counseling

A mental health professional or spiritual guide can provide a safe place to untangle yourself during couples counseling. You get a chance to have deeper conversations about the relationship and make sure your message is heard. Be clear about what you expect out of counseling as well – one person can not think this is meant to save the relationship, and the other does not. You can work out together how best to support the children and how you two will cooperate. If you are concerned with the cost of couples counseling, check out our guide about finding cheap couples counseling near you.

Get Support

Divorce or separation is a difficult life transition for anyone. Make sure you have people in your life you feel comfortable turning to for support. If you lack support from friends or family, consider individual counseling to help you. There is no way to avoid the stress this change will create, but you can help yourself by being as clear, consistent, and compassionate as you can.


Leaving a long-term relationship is a difficult life transition for anyone. Make sure you are clear upfront about your intentions and expectations. It does not help to be vague to spare someone’s feelings. Work out you’re ‘why’ before you speak to your partner. Communicate if you are looking for a divorce or a separation. Agree on a plan together; how you will support your children, and if you plan to go to counseling. Throughout the whole process, make sure you get support. If you can not get support from family or friends, consider individual counseling to help with the transition. You can not avoid feeling the stress of leaving a long-term relationship, but you can take steps to manage the emotional burden better.

Family Strategies Counseling and Mediation provides Individual and Couples Counseling, as well as trauma-based therapy services for adults and children. We also employ a few interns to serve our community better. They offer therapy and counseling services for $10 a session. Check out our about page to see which of our interns are currently booking new clients!

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