In the first flush of new love, the prospect of planning your breakup may seem like a terrible idea. However counter-intuitive it may sound, it is an excellent time to figure out what you both need and want if your relationship needs to end or change shape dramatically. I’ll talk about planning relationship transitions in a later article, but for now I’m talking about why you should plan your breakup in advance. So, there are lots of reasons, from the emotional to the pragmatic.
1) Planning for difficult stuff when you’re feeling good is easier, and you’ll be kinder to each-other.
When you’re in a positive place in your relationship, it’s much easier to make plans that will be kind and considerate of each other. The goal of a breakup plan is to make sure everyone gets to leave the relationship with their dignity intact. Its easiest to agree what is going to feel good to both of you when you are both invested in the relationship and each other.
2) It helps you to get to know your partner.
Planning your breakup is likely to show you how your partner wants to be treated when things are tough. Are they a person that likes to retreat into solitude? Do they want to maintain contact? Do they want someone to act as a go-between? These things may give you a clue as to how they want to deal with conflict in your relationship.
3) It flags up potential incompatibilities.
It’s important to work out how compatible you are with potential partners. If one of you believes that exes should never, ever maintain any future relationship, and the other believes that you should never let go of someone you’ve been intimate with, you have a serious difference of world view to grapple with – one which is better discussed when everything is good than when the worst has happened and you need to work out how to move on from an intense or close romantic/sexual relationship.
4) It can provide security since you know what you can expect and what will be expected of you.
Again, it may sound counter-intuitive but breakup plans can help you to feel more secure. It might not make the emotional aspects of relationship breakdown easy, but it will remove some of the uncertainty. If you know how you’re going to handle the pragmatic stuff, contact and shared community; at least you don’t have those things to obsess about as well as the “but why?” and “did I do the right thing” questions. Breakup plans can be particularly helpful for neuroqueer folks who have trouble navigating expectations that are usually left unsaid. Making explicit what your expectations of each other would be in the event of a breakup, can help to reduce anxiety about not knowing what to do or how to behave.
5) It can help in making big life decisions.
Whether it is deciding to live together, adopt a pet or have a child, working out what might happen if you split up, and how you would like to handle the new responsibility in your life, is a good reality check. Things as simple as whether one of you could afford the mortgage if you live together, or who might have to move out, are important in making sure that everyone really is signing up to these kinds of decisions with all the information they need. Of course, it can be nice to stick your head in the sand or just hope for the best – but planning for a split can give you insight into your motivations for living together (co-parenting, buying a pet, starting a writing project together) and the practical realities if the relationship doesn’t work out the way you planned.
All in all, planning the potential end of a relationship can be a great way to get to know your new person, and a useful tool for working out areas of agreement and potential conflict. Given that most relationships do end in a breakup what is stopping you from making breakup plans with your people? You can find tips on what to include in a breakup plan in the next post.