It is not easy to tell someone goodbye forever but it sometimes has to be done. There are several situations in which this may become necessary, including ending a toxic relationship, moving to another country, or ending a business partnership. Each of these should be handled somewhat differently.
So how do you tell someone goodbye forever?
Give the other side some hints in advance, focus on your feelings, share contact information when needed, and keep your tone positive but stay clear and consistent throughout the whole communication.
The following sections will illustrate these principles in more detail.
Discuss terminations beforehand
It’s never pleasant to be approached with the idea of a breakup out of the blue. If you are having an issue with a person, discuss it with them. It may not be a good idea to just get up one morning and end the relationship, without making any attempt to discuss a problem or find solutions.
Therapists and psychologists discuss termination with their clients long before their last session. This allows both individuals to be on the same page. This is a good way to handle other relationships too, to avoid the negative impact of a sudden break for both people in the relationship.
If for example, a friend is leaving the country and you would like to end the relationship with them because staying in contact will be too much work, discuss it with them.
Ignoring their calls and hoping they get the hint is not the best way to go about it. It can result in a lot of hurt, especially if you were best friends before they told you that they were planning to leave for work or other reasons in a year or a few months.
Discuss the termination for a few months or at least a few weeks before it will occur. Psychologists and therapists take this formal approach because, without it, patients can end up feeling abandoned.
Similarly, if you suddenly end a relationship without giving the other person a warning long before, they can feel abandoned.
Breaking up with friends
Ending a friendship can be heartbreaking, even if you’ve only been friends for some years. This is true for children and adults and you should never underestimate the hurt sustained by your children who have lost a friend. Tweens and teens can be careful about ensuring that they have kind but firm breakup conversations with their friends.
Researchers at UCLA found that women are more likely to adjust to stress by using tend-or-friend instead of fight-or-flight. S. Levine, Ph.D., says that the process of ending a friendship involves analyzing the relationship.
The type of conversation that you have to end a friendship may depend on whether you see the person more like a casual acquaintance, a public friend, or a temporary BFF. Your approach must bear the other person’s feelings in mind.
These break-up conversations should be had after you have repeatedly expressed your needs and given the person time to change.
For example, you might say:
“I enjoy your friendship but I would also like to spend more time with other people.”
You could also say:
“I cannot be friends with you anymore. Nothing is wrong with you but I need more space than I can get from you.”
Ensure that you both view the relationship within the same context. You may be the type of person who enjoys having a BFF for a few months, not forever.
However, your friend may be the type of individual who invests in relationships for the long term. It is honest to not only say goodbye honestly but to also make your intentions clear in future relationships.
Write a letter
A goodbye letter can be helpful in several contexts. For example, you may choose to write a goodbye letter to colleagues at work. This helps you to move on from your job gracefully and professionally.
You may also write a farewell letter to your neighbors if you decide to move or write a goodbye letter to a romantic interest.
In all cases, a letter allows you to leave on good terms. While saying goodbye to people in your professional network, you never know when you may need their help professionally in the future. Similarly, when you move from a neighborhood, your former neighbors may assist you in the future. Writing a letter can be a polite thing to do.
You can use an email or print your letter. Always send it before you leave, since sending it after makes it seem like an afterthought.
Say thank you in some way. If you wish, you can share contact information, such as an email address. Always ensure that the tone is positive.
Writing a letter to the person you’re saying goodbye to can help to make your thoughts clear. If the goodbye conversation was unexpected, it can seem like a sucker punch when a friend tells you that they want to end your relationship.
Talk to your friend about what you want and why it is important to you. Also, consider writing down your feelings in a letter. Make sure you focus on your feelings, instead of passing judgment or trying to make the other person feel bad about themselves.
Remember, this is a decision that you are making for your good. If you have decided that it is time to say goodbye, it’s about how you feel, so don’t try to blame anyone else for your choice to end the relationship.
Saying goodbye to a romantic interest
Goodbye letters, or “Dear John” letters, were used frequently in the past when people did not have access to mobile phones. Since we have better means of communicating in modern times, if you wish to separate from a romantic partner, it is usually a good idea to have that conversation face to face. Give the other person the respect of talking to them, instead of just sending a text or an emoji to end the relationship.
You could use phrases such as:
“You cheated on me and I do not want to be in a relationship with you any longer.”
“I need to be in a relationship that has direction.”
“I need a sense of stability and commitment in a relationship at this time in my life.”
“I don’t think we are helping each other to be our best.”
“Although I’ve been trying for years, I still cannot communicate effectively with you and I don’t think that is going to change.”
Saying goodbye to a person with destructive behavior
Some people have several good qualities but they may have a habit or personality trait that is destructive. For example, they may spread gossip about you or steal from you to fund a drug addiction.
You may have tried repeatedly to get help for them and they don’t want to change. It’s time to say goodbye. If this person is used to getting money from you, they won’t let you go easily.
You’ll have to say goodbye via:
- Calmly let them know you want to end the relationship.
- Be prepared for any verbal or nonverbal tactics they may use to try to make you change your mind.
- Physically staying away from them.
Saying goodbye to an abuser
There are some cases where you may need the help of a social worker, family, pastor, or other qualified individuals to say goodbye forever. In these situations, it may be dangerous for you to say goodbye on your own.
If you want to end a relationship but feel that your life will be in danger, seek help.
It may be difficult to admit that you are in that type of situation but getting qualified help could save your life. Perhaps you’ve tried to speak calmly to the individual about their abuse in the past. Maybe they deny doing anything wrong or try to minimize their wrongdoing.
Perhaps they even say it’s your fault. This is not usually the type of situation where you need to give a warning. You may need to leave quickly, moving yourself and any children involved to safety. Seek the help of law enforcement with a restraining order that clearly says goodbye.
A study done by Coker et al in 2002 in America, has found that 29% of women and 23% of men experienced intimate partner violence during their lifetime.
If this is happening to you, whether you’re a woman or a man, get help. Your partner can occasionally change if they are willing but it takes repentance and hard work on their part. In many cases, you’ll need to say goodbye.
If your spouse is your abuser, you’ll probably have to get the help of a divorce lawyer to say goodbye forever. All communication can be done through your lawyers, so you can avoid contact with your abuser. If your abuser is a malignant narcissist, they won’t want you to say goodbye, so it is important to get help from a lawyer who has experience in dealing with this type of disorder. Always be clear and firm about the fact that you want the relationship to end.
Sophie Hammond is a journalist, psychologist, and freelance speechwriter for people in politics and business. She lives on the edge of the Rocky Mountains with her dog and a lifetime supply of books. When she’s not writing, she can be found wandering through nature or journaling at a coffee shop.