How to end a relationship?

Ending a relationship is never easy. The time spent united, the baggage gained, and the emotional investment in one another cannot be dismissed without pain. Ripping it off like a band-aid simply is not a good metaphor for a breakup. Instead, separation takes time, and emotional recovery takes even longer. However, there are some ways you can protect yourself when separating from a long-term partner. Today, we are discussing the healthiest ways to end a relationship as recommended by experts. We are going to be paying particular attention to the legal ramifications of a separation.

If you are reading this article, you’ve probably already decided to end your relationship. You may have realised you fell out of love, or tried to work through therapy and failed. Whatever the reason, take a deep breath. You are about to embark on a difficult journey. However, just because it is difficult does not mean it is the wrong decision. Separation is part of life, and sometimes it is ok to cut your losses, let someone go, and focus on your growth. With this being said, there are ways to be kind when splitting with a partner. There are also ways to ensure you are financially and logistically protected.


How to break up, according to experts

Beware that all the best-laid attention will get lost in the milieu of breakup anxieties. With this in mind, psychologist and author Guy Winch says honesty is the best way to move forward. “Find the one reason for leaving, because that might be useful for them [to know],” he says. This is not an excuse to unload emotional baggage. Instead, this is a way of allowing both parties to heal through clear understanding.

Remaining friends is rarely an option straight after a separation. Rachel Sussman, a New York Psychotherapist, writes in her book The Breakup Bible“Give it time,” the expert advises. “Offering platitudes makes it seems like there is hope, when in fact the decision has been made.” Psychology Today writer, Dr Loren Soeiro seconds this idea. “Break off the relationship cleanly,” he advises. 

“Cutting off contact for some time after a break up shows respect for your partner’s feelings. It also indicates that things have changed permanently.”

All experts emphasise that it is natural to go through your own period of grief and remorse. There is no easy way to work through this, other than allowing time to heal all wounds. Dr Soeiro says “you will need to consolidate positive memories of the relationship as you move forward. You will want to accept the reasons the relationship did not work while retaining the ability to look back on it with warmth.” Amid a breakup, this may seem like an impossible task. However, remembering a relationship with gratitude will do a world of good for your personal growth.

The legal ins and outs of separation

As if the emotional turmoil of separation was not enough, breakups can involve a lot of legal manoeuvring. The right way forward differs from the circumstance. For example; living together unmarried will see you dealing with a different set of struggles than spouses. Scroll down to your situation and see what the UK law says about your rights. Plus read our tips to protecting yourself in the nightmare that is a breakup.

If you were in a relationship… but not living together with no dependents

Legally there are no hoops for you to jump through. You also will not have the legal precedence of a half share. In short, get your stuff from their house, buy yourself some ice cream, and try to move forward.

If you were living together… but not married

Living together is sometimes called a common-law partnership or cohabitation. It has very few legal precedents in place for the division of money, property, and assets. Though it sounds stale and awkward, bear this in mind for the future. It is worth drawing up a legal agreement called a cohabitation agreement. This will outline a legal settlement of your obligations to one another. For example, if your partner earns more than you and covers more of the rent, this will be included in the cohabitation agreement. Otherwise, during a breakup, it might be counted as debt.

What the law does say about cohabitation is this: there is no formal legal process to go through. Instead, you can try working things out amongst yourselves. If these discussions dissolve, you can invest in a mediation service. In extreme cases, you can also contact a solicitor. Solicitors can be asked about legal mediation for a range of issues. These include debt negotiation, asset division, custody, and ways to divide pensions.

There are some simple rules of thumb. Legal precedent says that if you have had separate bank accounts throughout the relationship, then you are not entitled to any money from your partner. Any shared accounts will usually be divided equally after a collective debt is paid.

Example: My partner and I have been living together for three years. We are not married, nor do we have children. However, we do have a cohabitation and declaration of a trust agreement. This has everything in our collective possession listed, including our finances. It means that with level heads, we have made these decisions together. Was it awkward at times? Yes. Will it potentially save our relationship in case of something terrible? Yes. I strongly recommend having this uncomfortable discussion with future partners. It will avoid any animosity down the line.

If you were married

Getting a divorce means much paperwork. It can also mean many court appearances and can be financially consuming. If you have been married under a year, you can skip the divorce paperwork and apply for a legal separation. This is an agreement between the parties that annuls the marriage certificate. However, if you wish to get married again in the future, you will have to formally divorce.

If you are getting divorced, you have to choose a reason. These are known as facts or ground for divorce. You and your partner should try to agree on one of these facts. They are as follows:

  • one of you has cheated – also known as committing adultery
  • one of you has behaved unreasonably. This includes not helping with housework or working long hour.
  • your partner has left you, and you have lived apart for at least two years in total – this is known as ‘desertion.’
  • you have lived alone for at least two years, and you both agree to the divorce
  • you’ve lived alone for at least five years – it doesn’t matter if your partner doesn’t agree to the divorce

Once you decide on a reason for divorce, you can submit the forms via post. After this, you pay a fee of £550 and try to reach a civil agreement with your ex-spouse. If an agreement is not possible, you have to find a divorce solicitor and take the settlement to the court. This process can be time-consuming but it does ensure that you get the best possible legal deal from your divorce.

Whatever your situation and reason for separating, allow us these parting words. You spent your life (or a considerable part of it) with this person. Maybe you even have a child together. With the apparent exception of abusive partners, this person has played a pivotal role in your life and shaping who you are. While hurt and betrayal will fly high during a separation, try to take a deep breath and maintain some perspective. Moving through and from a separation with grace, gratitude, and kindness will make you a better person. Perhaps, it will even save some scrap of your relationship and leave you both on cordial terms.


Every relationship is different. You lived this one. You will know best how to proceed. The pain will pass, and the dust will settle, and this will just be another chapter of your life that you can reflect upon. We wish you the best of luck.

Do you need advice on separation or divorce-related issues? Ask a divorce lawyer on! If you need help on family law, divorce and relationship breakdown, find a specialist family law solicitor now.

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