Episode 113: "How do you break up with someone who might fall apart if I leave?"Support the show
On today’s episode, we’re answering a question from local teens about how to handle breakups when you’re worried about your partner’s mental health.
This is Jessica Skultety, Outreach and Prevention Manager at Safe+Sound Somerset. We are Somerset County, New Jersey's lead domestic and sexual violence response organization, providing services at no charge to survivors for over 40 years.
Today's question from local teens is: “Dear Ava, how do you break up with someone who might fall apart if I leave?”
Break ups can be a very difficult thing. It can be even harder to do if we’re worried that the other person may fall apart if we leave. This is more common than we think, unfortunately. Many people may feel responsible to stay in the relationship, so the other person’s mental health doesn’t decline. This is a big responsibility though, one that no one should have to have.
It's important to remember that we are responsible for ourselves and our actions alone. This is easier said than done, but the other person is also responsible for their life. This means that they are responsible for the ways that they cope with the relationship loss and their feelings.
Although the person leaving might mean well and deeply care how the other person reacts, it creates a power imbalance when someone stays to save the other person. The person leaving may feel guilty or at fault. Their partner may pressure them to stay in the relationship even though they want to end it. If someone threatens to hurt themselves or others or uses other threats or manipulation to change someone’s mind or decision, it is not a healthy situation and can make someone feel unsafe.
If we want a relationship to be equal, in terms of power and control, we have to respect boundaries and decisions. When someone wants to leave a relationship, they have every right to, no matter what the reason. If you feel uncomfortable or worried about how your partner will react, here are some ways to break up in a safe and respectful way.
1. You can bring a trusted adult or friend. They can support your decision but also ensure that the other person is safe after the news. It takes away the responsibility from you having to give emotional support to the partner you are leaving. It also protects you if the person you are breaking up with begins to guilt trip, gaslight, or shame you.
2. You can also choose to end the relationship in a public space. This can help you physically walk away from the situation with witnesses around if it were to get worse.
3. You can speak with a trusted adult about the situation, so someone knows what’s going on. If the person you are breaking up with goes to your school, you can bring attention to the situation by talking with a guidance counselor, teacher, or a coach. Or a family friend, parent, a friend’s parent, or any of those people.
4. If you are really concerned that someone will hurt themselves or others after a breakup, call 911 and tell a trusted adult immediately.
Leaving a relationship isn’t always easy, but it should always be safe. People have a right to do what is best for them which includes changing their mind or leaving a relationships. If you feel concerned and would like more information, our helpline is available. You always deserve to feel safe in relationships and when you leave them.
To speak with an expert about relationship or sexual violence, call or text the Safe+Sound Somerset 24/7 confidential helpline at 866-685-1122 for supportive listening, information, and safety planning.
Want to “Ask Ava” a question? Visit our website at www.safe-sound.org/ask-ava. Thank you for listening today. Join us next time here on Ask Ava.