The End. The Best Ways to End Relationships According to Science

the end relationship

Are you wondering how to best end a relationship? Or, have you been left in a particularly bad manner?


Apparently there are 7 ways to leave your lover, not 50.

This Psychology Today piece describes 7 ways that relationships end and evaluates them for their impact on the breakee. They explore the relationship between attachment styles (formed in childhood) and the types of leaving that someone may gravitate towards.

It’s interesting, as I was reading, I was picturing these ways of breaking up on a graph, with courage on one axis and self-image on the other, both traits listed for the one doing the leaving.  So, being the math geek that I am, I made a sketch to share with you.

Open confrontation, although the label sounds negative, was rated as the best outcome for the one who was left. It’s clear, upfront and shows a degree of respect for the person. Notice that this method requires a high self-image and a high level of courage. The person leaving needs to face the fear of the discussion and needs to be confident enough to handle any negative blow-back from an angry dumpee.

Having trouble summoning the courage to have a difficult conversation?

The two methods that rated the worst were avoidance and distant/mediated, both characterized by a low level of courage. These are both tactics used by people who did not develop secure attachment styles in childhood. One is favored by those who have a very low self-image and want to protect their fragile egos. Whereas the other is used by those who see themselves as somehow better than their partners. Either way, they are indirect and leave the partner feeling disrespected and disregarded, often with valid questions.

I know many of you have faced the tsunami of the pretend-everything-is-normal-and-then-just-disappear kind of breakup. Apparently the researchers didn’t think that it deserved its own category.

Been abandoned? Pros and cons of a disappearing act.

What are your thoughts? What types of breakups have you experienced (from either perspective)? Do you agree with my graphical analysis, or would you place some of them in different areas?

Looking for more guidance?

How to End a Marriage

Should You Divorce? 12 Questions to Consider

Thank you for sharing!

19 thoughts on “The End. The Best Ways to End Relationships According to Science

  1. I’ve been the one to totally ignore him despite having a lot of courage and a lot of self image. It was my intention to hurt him as much as I could because I knew it would bother him more than confrontation. I’m actually known for being very strong confronting people (I need to find my assertive words instead of my aggressive ones at times though). To ignore someone is abuse and I wanted to inflict pain on him for betraying me. I know I hurt him, he went off the rails. Revenge doesn’t feel so good after all. I wish I did it the right way.

  2. I really like the graphic you made! I would completely agree that C: open confrontation would be the best option for me. As someone who has been dumped countless times, via text and phone and what not, it would be nice to hear the words come from the mouths of the guys who have dumped me.

    I think I have experienced all the other types of break-ups but I have only had the “good” break-up once. And it blindsided me at the time because the things the guy was saying were hurtful. But he was the easiest to get over. I tried to text him after and he said, I don’t know why you are texting me. So simple. So easy.

    My most recent break-up, if you can even call it that, was premature. He ended it via text after acting very distant (option F) which shows me that his self-image is overcompensating for his beliefs/emotions/actions. But it also shows me that he does not have courage.

    And though I feel like the world’s biggest wimp a lot of the time, I have more courage, more backbone, than he would ever dream of possessing. Knowing that he is too much of a coward to deal with the situation appropriately shows me that there might be a day when I feel better off without him.

  3. Reblogged this on aksararaska and commented:
    Well, I agree for most of them depends on the implementation to ones problem. We can note that if the person is NOT ready to overcome his/her FEAR, then this tips would be worthless.

  4. JoAnna – On the East Coast of the USA – An open minded, tree-hugging Jesus follower, former counselor, and life-long lover of animals, I'm returning to my creative roots and have published my first book: Trust the Timing, A Memoir of Finding Love Again as well as the short version: From Loneliness to Love.
    JoAnne Silvia says:

    Very interesting analysis! Self image can be tricky. If there is risk of violent reaction, then open confrontation could be dangerous. A person could be secretive and withdraw, in order to protect her/himself, but still have high self image, though usually self image deteriorates in abusive relationships. Fortunately, I have not had to do this, but have worked with women who’ve needed to be careful to protect their lives or their sanity. Otherwise, identifying needs/boundaries to improve the relationship, then an open, honest goodbye if that doesn’t work, is the best. I would not use the word confrontation though. Open Assertiveness, maybe? Thanks for following me at “Loving Me, Too!” I look forward to exploring your blog 🙂

  5. I went the self blame route, as I do. He physically hurt me. And he wasn’t able to accept what he’d done. He wanted me to lie etc. After trying to help him heal from hurting me (while the stitches were still in my face)… he told me he wished I would cheat so he could leave me. I know it was a scared jealous moment of his, but those words rang so loudly. I had a friend, since my ex and I had dabbled in swinging, so I decided to numb my heart, cheat, and then we could end the misery and I’d be the one to blame for cheating. At the time, that made a lot of sense.

    1. Isn’t it wild how our emotions and our pasts can convince us that a certain choice is the right one even when we know otherwise when we can see clearly. It’s also so sad how abusers like to capitalize on those prone to self-blame.

      1. Oh it is! And it was easy for me to forgive. It cost him his family. So I just let go. The self blame can be very harmful. I like to think I just love people deeply, but I think I ignore people’s flaws or make excuses for them. I enabled him to own up (what, did I just blame myself again?)… Once I stopped doing that, even after I cheated, anytime i took the blame, he thought I wanted to get back together. I took too much responsibility for our decay. I know that now. I also have good friends who remind me that it wasn’t all my fault. 🙂

  6. elizabeth2560 – ABOUT ALMOST SPRING Two and a half years ago my 37 year marriage ended suddenly through no choice of my own. I survived the heartache. I have taken control of my present. I am planning my own destiny, which is moving onwards to a life of purpose and meaning. This is my journey.
    elizabeth2560 says:

    I suppose I was ‘dumped’ by method ‘C’ – over a cup of coffee in a public place. There he knew that I would probably not react as I may have done in private. He was right. In that moment of total disbelief and shock, I froze.
    I agree this method improves the leaver’s self-image as they feel they have ‘won’.
    But, no, it is not courageous. It is cowardly to break-up in a public place by open confrontation. Any break-up of any kind by any method that silences the other person, that does not give the leavee a right of reply, in my opinion is completely disrespectful to the leavee as well as being shattering to their self esteem.

  7. Very interesting analysis! This line caught my eye: “The person leaving needs to face the fear of the discussion and needs to be confident enough to handle any negative blow-back from an angry dumpee.”
    This presumes that the dumpee is a relatively well-adjusted adult and has basic coping skills. This graph goes out the window if the person you are trying to break up with is a sociopath, has major anger issues and/or a history of manipulating you to get what he wants. I’m not proud of using method A, but when B-G have failed and it’s clear that you are dealing with someone that has zero conscience, remorse or the ability to separate the truth from his lies, you do what you have to do.

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