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Mutual Breakup: Why They Happen and How to Recognize the Signs

How does it feel to breakup with someone you care about? It hurts. But sometimes a mutual breakup is the only way forward for both of you.

mutual breakup

When you’ve been with someone for any length of time, you form a certain kind of attachment which is difficult to break. Breakups are hard. The scandal, the surprise, the mutual breakup, the slow build. It doesn’t matter how, it still is a loss.

For instance, if you’ve been married for ten years, being separated can lead to feelings of extreme abandonment and confusion. This person was your rock for however many years you were together and suddenly everything has gone wrong. It’s enough to shake someone’s very foundations.

But time is no measurement of intensity when it comes to feelings. You can feel everything and the kitchen sink for a person when you’ve been together for one year, while a couple who’s been together for five years may have much less of that intensity. It’s about individuals, and any kind of breakup is painful. [Read: 14 real and valid reasons to break up with someone]

When you feel the end

When nothing in particular happens to cause the breakup *e.g. there is no cheating scandal, no big resentful issue, and no event to lead towards a huge argument* it can be even harder to end things.

Sometimes things just don’t work out, sometimes couples just don’t feel the same anymore, and they become more like friends than lovers. In this case, a mutual breakup is often the only way to set each other free.

Is it harder, or is it easier?

Confusing, that’s probably the best way to put it. [Read: Can you actually stay friends after a breakup?]

What a mutual breakup feels like

A very close friend of mine was in this very situation. She had been with her partner for six years, and they were engaged to be married. Everything was going okay, but it was never hugely passionate or exciting. They went about their business every day, had their dinner together at the same time on a daily basis, and gave each other gifts at Christmas time. It was fine, it was predictable.

My friend didn’t want predictable, she wanted something more. Her partner did too. Their relationship became more like brother and sister than anything else. One day, they both sat down and decided that there was more to life than being in a dull relationship. [Read: 15 common reasons why people get bored with their relationship]

They loved each other, but in a different way, and they both cared about the other one enough to realize that they deserved more. A classic example of a mutual breakup.

I asked her how it felt. I personally have never had this type of calm breakup. My breakups always included the fireworks, tears, screaming, and endless sobbing. In some ways I envied her, but then she told me how it felt numb. She felt very sad, and there was nothing she could do to change it, and nobody to blame made her even sadder.

The whole thing made me feel sad for them. [Read: Try these 13 things to help heal your broken heart]

A mutual breakup is the ultimate sacrifice of love

When you love someone but realize it’s not going to work, it’s a terrible, sinking feeling. When you both sit down and talk about it and you realize that no matter how hard you tried, it’s just not going to work out, you make a mature and brave decision.

You choose to let that person go and be happy, rather than being selfish and keeping them for yourself. You love them, but you’re not in love with them anymore.

It happens, and it’s not something to feel guilty about.

Choosing to allow the person you care about, someone you are now simply ‘fond of’ to go and find someone who can give them the passionate love they deserve is a selfless act. They do the same thing for you. The mutual breakup has turned into the ultimate declaration and sacrifice of love.

You see these kinds of mutual breakups in celebrity magazines and social media all the time. For instance a couple who have been married for x number of years will put out a joint Instagram post announcing that ‘after much soul-searching’ they decided to part ways, but ‘remain the best of friends and have a world of love for each other.’

This normally happens when a couple has children and decided to co-parent, separately. [Read: 12 real reasons why couples drift apart over time]

Dealing with a mutual breakup

I was by my friend’s side throughout the aftermath of her mutual breakup. The difference in the way she coped was stark.

My breakups in the past involved ice cream, Beyonce songs, and plentiful wine and wailing, but hers involved her quietly getting on with her life and trying to be positive. He moved out of the house and took his things the following day; her life had been attached to him for so long and now he was gone, but there was no huge event to blame it on.

She told me that in some ways she wished he had cheated, because she could shout at him and blame him. The way she felt was empty and sad, nothing more.

Of course, eventually she got herself together and managed to find happiness once more. Ironically she is now in a relationship which gives her everything she wanted, and she is still very good friends with her ex. [Read: How to find yourself again after a seriously low point in life]

A mature type of breakup?

This is actually a very common theme in mutual breakups, the desire to want to stay friends with the ex partner. While a mutual breakup may be confusing and life-changing in a less than firework-inducing manner, it is also the most mature type of breakup.

Dealing with a mutual breakup is about knowing that it is for the best. When you are sure of this fact, you are better able to move on with your life, taking your time and moving slowly. My friend decided not to contact or see her ex for the first month after they broke up. She said this helped her heal and as a result she is now able to have a healthy friendship with him. Most people would agree with her. [Read: How to end a relationship without the bitterness and drama]

Which is easier, a mutual breakup or a screaming breakup?

This really leads us to ask the key question, which type of breakup is easier? The answer is neither. Every type of breakup hurts in different ways. When we’re cheated on and lied to, it breaks our heart. When we realize that we love someone and can’t be with them, it breaks our heart. When we’ve spent years of our life with someone and it’s just not working, it breaks our heart.

Heartbreak is heartbreak. No matter how it happens, or who did the breaking up.

The key is in knowing that you did the right thing. If you have that peace of mind, moving on is far easier. For my friend, the brave joint decision to end the relationship and set each other free turned out to be the best thing they ever did, for the both of them. He is now married and expecting a child, and she is engaged and having a wonderful time.

[Read: 15 guidelines you need to follow if you want to forgive and forget]

A mutual breakup is just as painful as any other type of breakup. Being mature enough to sit down and realize that the love you have for each other just isn’t enough anymore is something to be commended. 

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Nicky Curtis
Nicky Curtis
Having stumbled from one relationship drama to another throughout her 20s, Nicky is now somewhat of a guru in the crazy world of life and love. Telling it how i...
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