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

Ending a romantic relationship is never easy – whether you wanted it or not. So, when it is a mutual breakup it might be even more confusing for you.

mutual breakup

When you’ve been with someone for any length of time, you form a certain kind of attachment that 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, but any kind of breakup is painful.

[Read: Why does love hurt when it goes bad? The truth you need to hear]

What is a mutual breakup?

Usually, when we think of a couple breaking up, we think that one person does the breaking up and the other person is heartbroken about it. But in a mutual breakup, both people equally want to part ways.

It doesn’t even matter how long the couple was together, both of the people “aren’t feeling it” anymore. It could be for a variety of reasons such as fighting too much, no affection, they’re not compatible, they grew apart, or they fell out of love.

So, it doesn’t matter why the two people want to break up, the fact of the matter is that they both are done with the relationship. In some ways, it’s easier, but in other ways, it’s not. [Read: Am I falling out of love or am I just stuck in a rut in life?]

Why are mutual breakups so hard?

When we get into a serious relationship, most people hope it will last and they will live happily ever after. It’s almost as if they construct a fantasy in their mind of what it will be like.

But then, reality hits them. The real-life relationship is nothing like they had envisioned it to be – for either of them.

So, if both of you want to break up, why is it still so hard to do? Well, think about it. First, it’s not only the death of a relationship, it’s the end of the fantasy or dream you had planned for the two of you. It’s almost as difficult to let go of that image as it is the person you are breaking up with.

Next, when you are the one doing the breaking up, you still can “feel good” about yourself if the other person still wants to be with you. But if the other person doesn’t want to be with you anymore either, it can be a bit of a blow to your ego. [Read: 20 best questions to as an ex after a breakup to find closure]

So, not only are you dealing with a breakup, but you also have to face the fact that a person doesn’t want to be with you anymore.

You might start feeling down on yourself and ask questions like, “What’s wrong with me?” or “What did I do wrong?” or “Why don’t they love me anymore?”

Another reason a mutual breakup is so hard is that you saw it coming. You might have wanted to ignore it and avoid the breakup as much as possible, but your intuition told you that it was on its way.

Maybe the two of you are still friends, but the romance and sex are gone. Or perhaps you hate each other’s guts. Either way, you know it’s not a good relationship and something needs to change. 

Regardless of whether you want it or not, you will still be hurt. It’s still a loss even if you wanted it. So, it’s normal to grieve the end of it, so allow yourself the space to do that. [Read: How long does it take to get over a breakup – The real timeline]

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: Relationship feels like friendship? The best ways to naughty it up]

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: 20 honest 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: Is it time to let go? 14 reasons why good relationships end out of the blue]

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 else 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. However, they 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 that 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. The mutual breakup may be confusing and life-changing in a less than firework-inducing manner. But 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. [Read: The no contact rule – What it is, how to use it and why it works so well]

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 hearts. 

And when we realize that we love someone and can’t be with them, it breaks our heart. If 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. [Read: How to get over a breakup and pick up the pieces of your heart]

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 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.

How to get over a mutual breakup

As we said earlier, a breakup is still a breakup – an ending – even if it was mutual. So, you might not be happy and relieved *although you might be*. But here are some ways you can get over a mutual breakup.

Spend time with friends

It’s not uncommon for people to spend less time with their friends when they are in a romantic relationship. It’s a natural thing because it’s expected that couples spend more time with each other than they do with their friends. [Read: Breakup anxiety – how to deal with it and overcome your biggest fears]

But, that doesn’t mean you haven’t missed out on some fun times with your friends while you were in a committed relationship. So, make sure you reconnect with everyone you love that you didn’t spend as much time with when you were in a romantic relationship. This is a perfect time to do it.

Distract yourself

You can distract yourself in a lot of different ways. You can focus more on work, family, get a new hobby, and as we said above, spend more time with friends. 

Read the books you have been putting off reading, go pamper yourself with a massage, or learn a new skill or hobby. It doesn’t matter what you do.

The point is to keep yourself busy so you don’t notice the void that the mutual breakup has created. When your life is full, you won’t feel as bad about the breakup. [Read: What to do after a breakup – 16 heart-soothing tricks to help you heal faster]

Start dating again

When you feel like you’re ready after a mutual breakup, then get out there and start dating again! Just because this relationship didn’t work out doesn’t mean the right person isn’t out there for you. But, they aren’t going to come walking up to your door to find you. You have to go find them.

So, get on dating apps. Go to places where there are single people to meet. When you start looking for more fish in the sea, you will quickly start feeling better. Plus, you will have some fun along the way.

[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. It 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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