How to Break Up with Her–and Deal with the Anxiety

by Eric Disco
Sep 2

Anxiety.

There is probably no place a guy will feel it more than breaking up with a girl.

The fear of walking up to a woman and talking to her is nothing compared with the deep, dark emotional trauma guys will put themselves through when breaking up with a girl.

This is a fairly long, detailed article about how to break up with a girl–and how to deal with the anxiety of doing so.

There are two main reasons for breaking up with a girl. One is that you are no longer feeling things with her. The other is that she is causing you too much pain.

This article is mostly about the first type of breakup, where you aren’t feeling it anymore. It focuses on how to deal with the anxiety and feelings of ending a relationship that just isn’t working out for you.

It is not a guide for how to end things or get her back if for example, if she is being unfaithful or losing interest and causing you pain.

It’s over. You’re sure of it. But you can’t end it just yet.

You’ve been together for some time. And she’s a great girl. But it’s just not going anywhere. You don’t feel the fire you used to.

Maybe you want to meet other people. You’re starting to become possessive of your time and you don’t want to see her anymore.

You feel like such a jerk. If you’re over her, you should just break up with her. But it’s not that simple. You still care about her. How can you care about her and still not want to be with her?

Breaking up is one of the most difficult things for people with social anxiety. People with social anxiety have a huge fear of conflict. And there isn’t any more conflict than if you break up with someone.

The complete and total emotional separation. The transition from affiliative partnering to complete estrangement. Going from I’m-on-your-side camaraderie to complete antagonism. It’s one of the most difficult things to do.

I was 19 when I had my first girlfriend. After a few months in the relationship I was ready for it to end. But I continued the relationship for two years because I felt bad about breaking up with her. I didn’t want to do what was best for me. Instead, I was trying to do what was best for her.

People with social anxiety have difficulties with boundaries. We want everyone to like us.

A part of the hesitation in engaging people in the first place is that, if the need should arise, we wouldn’t know how to end the interaction in a way that is perfectly unobjectionable.

So if you’re not happy in the relationship, how do you break up with her?

There is no perfect way to end a relationship. There is almost always some pain involved. But it is possible to do it in a way that minimizes the suffering for everyone involved and allows you and her to return to a healthy life–apart from each other.

Mixed Feelings

Even though you want to break up with her, you may still have strong feelings for her. You find yourself feeling and acting incongruently.

When you’re with her, you want your own space. At the same time, you are still loving and kind.

Is that mean? Is it cruel to still call her up and want to be with her even though you’ve decided to end it?

There’s a pervasive thought in times like these, when you have mixed emotions.

I shouldn’t be feeling this way.

You are conflicted. You are struggling with this.

Just because certain things in the relationship aren’t working, does not mean that there aren’t strong feelings there. If you’ve been together for some time, you will most likely still have strong care-taking feelings for her, regardless of whether you want to break up with her.

You still depend on her from day to day. You are close friends. You interact. You share things. You help each other through struggles. She’s done a lot for you. She’s listened to you. She’s helped you through problems. She’s spent a lot of time with you.

She may know your friends and family. Maybe they like her. You may know her friends and family. You might worry that they’ll hate you if you break up with her.

It’s difficult because she is unique in all the world. That’s what a relationship is about. It seems like there is no one else like her out there. And there isn’t. It feels like she knows you better than any else out there. And she does.

But sometimes relationships go on divergent paths.The relationship isn’t just two individuals. It has a life of its own. And if it’s not working, it’s not working. It’s time to end it.

It’s okay to feel both a desire to leave and a desire to care for her.

Unless she did something to betray the trust, or she’s the one pulling away from you, chances are that you do not have a huge well of negative feelings toward her. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t break up with her. You should still do what’s best for you.

So if there are strong feelings there for her, how do you know when to end a relationship?

Warning Signs That It’s time to End the Relationship

Some warning signs might be:

  • You don’t want to have sex anymore.
  • When you are with her, you feel like you would rather be spending time doing other things.
  • You feel like the two of you are together indefinitely but that the relationship isn’t deepening or that she isn’t the love of your life.
  • You find yourself acting distant from her. You want to shut her out. You are becoming cold to her. Resentment is building. You aren’t appreciating each other.

And sometimes you just know when it is time to end things.

Take Some Time to Get Used to the Idea

It may take you a while to get used to the idea of breaking up. The first time you have the thought that you want to break up with her usually isn’t when you will take action.

With every interaction and relationship, you may feel a myriad of feelings. No relationship is perfect. In even the best relationship you will go through periods where you feel you feel crowded, isolated, not attracted to her, or want to break up.

You won’t necessarily act on that impulse. Instead you want to see if that impulse passes.

If you’ve taken some time to think about this, when you do finally speak to her about the breakup, you can tell her that you have considered this for a while, that it’s not just something you were feeling in the moment.

Consider Taking Time Off

Maybe you need to take a break from her. Consider taking some time off. Take a week off from her. See how you feel after that. You want to see if that feeling is lasting or it’s just something brief.

If you do truly want to break up with her, it’s not something you want to take lightly. You don’t want to break up with her a number of times and keep getting back together with her. That would be torture for both of you.

If you do decide to take time off, don’t just tell her you need some space. It rarely does any good to say something like “I need some time off” without physically going and doing it yourself.

Physical action changes things. You can talk all you want, but unless there is some kind of physical action, things will not change.

Take a few days or a week away from her. See how you feel during the time away from her. See how you feel about her when you get back. See how you feel during the time you spend with her after you’ve taken some time apart.

If you still feel like you want to proceed with the breakup, you’ll have a better understanding of your own feelings.

The Pull-Away Method

In the past, once I had decided to break up with a girl, there were always two competing strategies in my mind.

Once you finally decide to break up, should you be kind to her and keep things going normally until you actually break up with her, or should you start to pull away from her and put some distance there before ending things?

If you are kind to her, it will be a clean break. She will feel it all at once. But she won’t be expecting it.

If you pull away from her before you break up with her, she may be expecting it more. She may be relieved when it finally comes because she knows something’s wrong. But it may cause more pain and unnecessary suffering in pro-longing it.

Ask any person this question and you will get a different answer for every person you ask, even from relationship experts.

My suggestion is this. If the main issue is that you are feeling crowded, try to take some time apart from her, a week or at least a weekend. Get your head clear.

Pull away from her if you can. Slow down on all the phone calls and text messages. “Get busy” with your life. You can even take up another hobby or something as an excuse to pull away.

Taking some time off can allow you to acclimate yourself to the break-up–how it would feel to be apart from her. And it begins to reduce, just a little bit, the chemical-physical bond you have, the day-to-day dependency on each other.

But be careful not to pull away for too far or too long without actually breaking up with her. Because then you risk other complications, like her finding someone else and you getting really hurt, etc.

In the best case scenario, she will bring it up and have a talk with you. She may ask you why you are so distant and if everything is okay. Then it’s a good time to “have the talk.” But whether or not she does this, you will ultimately have to pull the trigger and end the relationship.

Pulling away for a bit and continuing to see her after you’ve decided to break thing off isn’t always feasible. For me personally, there are times I have felt too much anxiety to continue to see her when I know I need to end things.

Anxiety in the Breakup

When it comes to anxiety, there is probably no place that guys feel it in such a deep emotional way than when he needs to break up with a girl.

You want to be the nice guy. That’s been your main operative since you were a child. You care about her feelings. A lot.

You’ll do anything to avoid being the bad guy. You are afraid to stir up conflict and incur her wrath.

When the time draws near for you to break up with her, she may not be expecting it. You may be tempted to rethink things. If you’ve already made the decision in a clear state of mind, don’t let anxiety change your mind. It will throw all kinds of excuses in your path.

What you think might be your love/caring for her, may actually be your anxiety telling you things like:

  • I can’t deal with causing her pain like this.
  • I can’t deal with the likelihood of her freaking out or getting angry at me.
  • I don’t know if I am strong enough.
  • I won’t be able to handle my own feelings.
  • I don’t know if I can go through with it.

These thoughts and feelings of anxiety make you want to put off breaking up with her. But it won’t help to wait two weeks or two months or two years to break up with her. If you aren’t feeling what you want to feel in the relationship, it won’t help to wait it out.

To deal these thoughts and anxieties, I use affirmations. One great affirmation I’ve found is

“I’m going to be okay. She’s going to be okay.”

This is the underlying idea for the entire breakup. It seems like a huge emotional trauma when you are in the middle of it, but you will be okay eventually and so will she. You will both eventually get over each other and will both eventually be better off for it.

She Doesn’t Want You to Stay with Her If you Don’t Want To

Even though it seems like you are causing her a lot of pain in breaking up, it’s not in her best interest to stay with her if you aren’t happy in the relationship. Despite what she may say otherwise, she really doesn’t want you to stay with her if you don’t want to.

You need to make yourself happy. If you are unhappy in the relationship, there is no way she can truly be happy.

If you are unhappy in the relationship, there’s a good chance she’s sensing it, whether or not you intentionally pull away.

It doesn’t do her any good for you to stay with her for her sake. Your job in any relationship is to make yourself happy. Particularly now, you have to be selfish. You need to respect your own feelings and elevate them to a more important level than her feelings.

When you first got involved with each other, both of you were taking a risk. You were both risking that at some point in the future, you may break her heart or she may break yours. But you also trust that the other person will end it quickly, mercifully, and respectfully should the time come.

So how do you end it quickly, mercifully, and with as little suffering as possible?

When you do finally decide the day has come to end it, there are things that will make it easier.

What to Say

“I’m not feeling it anymore.”

The most basic way to end things is to tell the girl that you just aren’t feeling it anymore. You don’t need to give any other excuses.

It’s the best way to go because she can’t argue with that. And it kills all expectations for her.

You don’t want her to have expectations. If, for example, you’re going away to college and you say you want to be on your own for a while, she may expect to get back together when you return.

She may ask for specific reasons why things weren’t working. It’s a slippery slope to provide her with concrete reasons other than that you aren’t feeling it. Why? Because that provides an ¡Æin’ for her to say she will change those things.

If staying together with her is a possibility if she changes those things, then yes, you could give her reasons. But if it’s final in your mind that you want to end things, then it can be problematic to give specific reasons.

The fact of the matter is that your feelings have changed and rarely anything can be done to change that.

“I feel like this isn’t going to the next level.”

Another way to look at it is that the relationship isn’t going to the next level. You can tell her this.

This last girl I was with, we were together for about 8 months. She was a great girl. There were no fights. If we were fighting, it may have even been easier to have something to point to. But we hadn’t been fighting. I just didn’t feel like she was “the one.”

If you are going to be with someone that long, you want to make sure that you are really into her.

Where is the relationship going? Is it possible you want to be with her forever? What is the point of spending two years of your life together, only to end it?

It certainly is possible to enjoy things for what they are right now. That’s important. Not every relationship needs to end in marriage and a family. But being with someone indefinitely when they aren’t what you’re looking for will only lead to a lot of heart ache.

What Not To Say

Don’t tell her that you’re doing this in order to stop hurting her. She will try to deny that it is hurting her. You must do it for yourself.

You cannot care for her and draw boundaries at the same time.

To break up, you need to stop caring. You cannot simultaneously push her away and take care of her at the same time. That is too confusing and painful for her. Now is the time when you have to show her that you don’t care for her. You must be selfish at this point or else it makes things a lot harder.

If she truly cares about you, she will let you go.

Let’s be friends?

I don’t like to say “I hope we’re still friends.” And it’s even worse to say “I don’t want to be friends,” if you both really care about each other.

If there is any hope of you two being friends in the future, making predictions and setting up expectations to work on the friendship before you’ve done some getting over each other will only lessen the chance that you will be friends in the future.

Tell her you’d like to work on it, but that it’s too soon to start making promises.

You can say something like “I’d like to say that I hope we’re friends in the future, and I feel like that now, but only time will tell how we both feel in the future. Let’s just keep it open and see.”

Where to Do it

Don’t do it at her apartment. It will just associate her apartment with bad feelings. Don’t do it at your place either. It may become a problem getting her to leave afterward.

Instead, choose a neutral location, like a park. Preferably you want somewhere not too crowded so that if she gets upset, there aren’t a lot of people around.

With rare logistical exceptions, do not do this over the phone or e-mail. She needs to hear it in person, see the look on your face, and know that you are unwavering in this.

When to Do It

You may wonder if it’s a bad time of year to break up with her. Maybe it’s Christmas or her birthday. If things are going well for her, am I ruining it? If she has just heard good news, am I raining on things?

Even worse, if things are going badly, am I making it even worse? What if she’s depressed and I make her even more depressed?

You can try to make sure it’s not an extremely inopportune moment for her, like right before she takes her final exam. But beyond that, you can’t put this off indefinitely.

There is no perfect time to do this. It will cause pain and turmoil in her life and most of the time, the sooner you get it over with, the better.

Be Decisive

When you do break up with her, do it in a humane, decisive quick way. Be confident with her. Don’t waver. Look her in the eye and tell her that it’s over.

She may do whatever she can to keep you. She may be sobbing and crying. She may tell you she wants you back.

Hear her out. Listen to what she has to say. Say you understand. But also be confident with her. Tell her you are not changing your mind.

Keep Reminding Yourself Why you are Doing This

As you break up, you’ll be tempted to remember all the good things about her. How much you’ve learned and grown together. What you’ve taught each other. What she’s meant in your life.

But, at least for the actual breakup, you need to focus on what wasn’t working. You must keep reminding yourself how you felt when you were with her. Keep remembering why you felt the relationship wasn’t working.

You can even write down your reasons for breaking up with her ahead of time before the breakup. Write down how you’re feeling.

You may feel very different during the breakup itself, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t stick to your guns.

You may be down, depressed, want to change your mind, but if you weren’t happy with her when you were with her, it will be the wrong move to go back to her.

Stick to your guns. Don’t go back to her. Those feelings you felt–or didn’t feel–whenyou were with her were real and true. Instead let this heal. Let yourself heal. Let her heal so you both can move on and be happy in the future.

Pitfalls to Avoid

She may try different tactics in order to get you to change your mind.

She may argue with you. She may try to get you to reconsider. She may get angry. She may yell at you.

She may try to make you angry. She may try to make you feel guilty. She may try nostalgia.

She may accuse you of not caring. She may say you are abandoning her. She may accuse you of lying to her. She may plead and beg.

She’ll try to tell you that you shouldn’t have been so caring or shown affection if you knew you were going to break up with her.

“Why did you hang out with me and do so-and-so if you knew you wanted to break up with me?”

Your response: You wanted to make sure how you felt. You didn’t want to rush into any decision to end things.

And at the same time, she may try to tell you that you didn’t put enough effort into this to make it work.

“You didn’t give us a chance! You didn’t even really try!”

Your response: Simply that you feel you did give it a chance.

She may question you and ask why you haven’t brought this up before.

Your response: “There are a whole range of feelings in any relationship, both good and bad. Sometimes you feel trapped and that feeling doesn’t last. Sometimes you feel great. I didn’t make any sudden decisions. I thought this through carefully.”

Give It Some Closure but then Move On

She may try to keep discussing the relationship with you and “get closure” indefinitely and pull you back in.

People usually need closure at the end of a breakup. Whether a half-hour conversation or a more is required will all depend on how serious you were, how long you were dating, and how mutual the break-up is.

It’s even possible that sometime after you have your breakup conversation, she wants to meet again to discuss some things. Meeting once to discuss things is okay.

But up to a certain point, more talking won’t help the situation. After a certain point, when you’ve answered all of her questions and it’s been discussed, people start repeating things. If she wants you back she will begin to use tactics.

Don’t Just Verbally Breakup with Her

It’s one thing to verbally break up with her. You tell her “We’re breaking up.” This is an important first step. It must be followed up with a commitment on your part to physically follow through with the breakup. This means physical separation from her for some time.

You can’t just say “I’m breaking up with you,” you have to show her. You have to get off the phone with her or walk away. That is your job. It is your job to physically move on after you’ve communicated your intentions with her.

This might mean ignoring her when she tries to contact you. It might mean not returning her texts.

She may try to contact you and take other measures to get you to change your mind. She may summon all she can to try to get you back. She may be overly emotional and irrational.

She may play nice and try to remain in contact with you under the guise of friendship. She may try to pretend everything is just as it was when you were together. She may shoot you texts or e-mails that don’t have anything to do with the relationship, that are maybe just something funny she read or saw.

She may send you long, involved e-mails asking for more explanation or trying to get you to change your mind. Some explanation can be helpful. Your first inclination will probably be to help her. You don’t want to leave her high and dry after everything you’ve been through.

But at a certain point it does more harm than good to respond to her. It strings her along. If you really want to break up with her, you have to show her instead of just tell her. There is no other way for her to get the message.

It may seem cruel to you. But in actuality, it is cruel to continue to give her false hope. Every time you respond to her, even if you are telling her it’s over, you are still responding to her. You are still giving her physical confirmation that maybe it isn’t over.

You Cannot Define a Boundary and Comfort Her At the Same Time

You cannot help her get over you. Anything you do or say to console her will only bring her closer to you. You have been on her side for so long that whenever she is having problems or you are having problems, you help each other.

But you cannot define a boundary and take care of her at the same time. That is something she is going to have to do for herself.

Don’t continue to see her afterward

If you are serious about the break-up, you should minimize any texting, phone calls or hook-ups.

We all slip up, and it’s not the end of the world if you do hook up with her a few weeks after the break-up. But it is crucial if that does happen that you not to continue to see her again soon because it is very easy to get back into a relationship at that point.

After the breakup, you may be in a whirlwind of emotions. You may be tempted to take her back. Of course, that is always an option. But again, as during the breakup, you need to remember how you’ve felt the previous weeks/months.

You do not want to get back into a relationship in which you were unhappy only to have to go through the pain of breaking up all over again–or worse–to be stuck forever in an unfulfilling relationship.

At times you may question whether it was the right choice to end things with her. That’s okay. Let some time pass and see if you continue to feel that way. Try and put as much distance as possible. The more time that goes by without the two of you not talking, the closer you will get to how you really feel.

Watch Out for Whiplash

As you end things with her, also consider the fact that the situation could be completely the other way round.

In the beginning of the relationship with my last girlfriend, I was the one chasing her. I was the one left unfulfilled by how much I was getting. At a certain point it shifted and she was in that position. She was overly focused on me and it left me a bit stifled. Eventually when we broke up, I was not feeling it any more with her.

But watch out. Sometimes it is the injured animal that is the most dangerous.

Even though she may be wildly into you, seemingly distraught beyond belief that you would pull away from her, consider the fact that it could have been the other way around–and still could be.

It may seem like she’s giving you all the love in the world. She may protest the breakup to the bitter end. She may have a look in her eye like she’d rather give her right arm than lose you.

If so, you should be all the more careful.

Even though you are the one ending it, you may experience as much loss, hurt and sorrow as she does. Don’t downplay your own feelings. You have a right to your feelings. Or you may not feel as hurt over her over the break-up. You’re leaving her, after all.

But never underestimate the power for her to hurt you. She may move on from you quicker than you could possibly imagine. Her love may turn cold faster than you could ever predict, leaving you in a whirlwind of hurt.

She may start dating your best friend. It happened to me recently.

Do not doubt that when the love is gone, a woman can come back to bite you and make your world a living hell. Don’t underestimate the danger of an ex-lover. Be careful how much you take care of her once the relationship is over. The most important thing you can do, for both you and her, is take care of yourself at that point.

Breaking Up Less Serious Relationships

Most of this article is about breaking up a serious, monogamous relationship, because that’s the most difficult. Many of the principles apply, but there are differences when it comes to less serious relationships.

Here is a brief synopsis of how to end other types of relationships.

You’ve gone out on a date or two with her. You can’t assume she’s heartbroken or super interested in you or hasn’t moved on. It’s lame to call up a girl with whom you’ve had very little intimacy with and say “This isn’t working out for me.”

Simply don’t call her. And if she calls, don’t return her phone call. If she does continue to contact you, then you may want to be verbally explicit with her that you aren’t interested.

You’re seeing her casually. Let’s say you are seeing her less than once a week, not talking more than twice a week on phone or text. Use the pull-away method. Lengthen the time in between when you see her. If she asks what is happening, then have a conversation with her and talk through the break-up.

It’s okay to simply not return a phone call or pull away from women, but if a woman seems upset at the situation, it’s the right thing to sit her down and have a conversation with her depending on how much both of you have invested.

You DO NOT need to put up with verbal abuse or anger or any craziness from a girl. If that starts to happen then you should absolutely shut her out of your life.

But if she requests a closure conversation I would almost always oblige. And consider the fact that maybe this girl would make a good friend. I have made several close friends with ex’s. Usually, the less serious the relationship, the easier it is to be friends with her afterward.

You Will Get Over Each Other

After all the drama and wrangling, all the anxiety and turmoil, if you commit to your actions and act with consideration, you can successfully end an unhappy relationship with a minimum of suffering.

In time, you will both get over each other. She will get over you. You will get over her. It’s not the end of the world for either of you.

Learning to break-up positively is a very important relationship management skill.

Managing space is one of the most important aspects of becoming better with relationships, deciding how close and committed you want to be with someone and how close you allow them to get to you.

And ultimately, if you are not happy in a relationship, having the ability to end it could be the most important relationship skill of all.

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