How to End a Relationship That Never Really Started

It's easier than it sounds to get rid of that annoyingly stressful relationship. Promise.

Photo Credit: Martin Barraud/Getty Images

By Lauren Schumacker

  • Not all relationships are clear-cut or long-term, in fact, some never even really get started.
  • Still, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll never need to end it.
  • It can be difficult to know how to do that, however, because if you’re not together, it’s sometimes hard to know whether or not there needs to be a big breakup or whether you need to use other techniques in order to end things.
  • You might actually find that it’s simpler to end things in this situation, however, because oftentimes a big breakup isn’t necessary.

Relationships that never really get started can be quite complicated, and stressful. Maybe they intentionally never really take off, maybe the timing just doesn’t seem to be right, maybe you’re keeping your distance, but if you’re dealing with a “sort of” relationship, sometimes you feel like you need to make it clear that things are ending before you can move on or before a new relationship takes off.

Ending a relationship that never truly started can seem sort of daunting, but it’s ultimately really not all that different than ending any other relationship, other than the fact that it may not always need to be as serious.

“You need to make it clear to the other person what your expectations are moving forward,” Talya Knable, LCPC, a licensed clinical professional counselor, told INSIDER.

“Sharing with the other person why you do not wish to continue in the manner you have been going can be helpful in setting these boundaries. Whereas in established relationships it might be necessary to discuss some past issues that lead to the desire to move on, this does not need to be the case here. Often times people get into these situations because they have not been on the same page in some way.”

You might be tempted to just lay off the texting and sort of fade out of their life, but you’re better off addressing things head-on instead. “If there is no ending, no communication, it is more upsetting to most people than it is if you just give a brief, non-confrontational reason,” Stef Safran, a professional matchmaker and owner of Stef and the City, told INSIDER.

Being upfront and honest can pay off in the long run.

“You never know if you will run into someone through dating to their friends, co-workers, etc. and it’s better (and maybe harder) to give someone rejection information, but it’s better than doing nothing. More of my clients complain over the people who disappear than the people who show up to say ‘Sorry this isn’t going to work.'”

It’s understandable that you wouldn’t want to cause conflict, because that’s hard for many people, and if you’re hoping (or have) to maintain some level of a relationship with the person, be it friend, coworker, or neighbor, you don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings, but that’s part of the reason you might need to actually end things.

“While there may still be difficult feelings, as the person doing the ending, you can rest assured knowing you clarified where you stand and you don’t have to worry about seeing this person or feel tempted to avoid them,” Julie Williamson, LPC, NCC, RPT, a therapist and owner of Abundant Life Counseling St. Louis, told INSIDER. “Having this conversation gives you both closure to move on and explore other relationships, without lingering questions about your relationship status or expectations of each other.”

When you’ve been in a relationship with someone for a while, you likely know them quite well and have experienced some level of intimacy with them, whether emotional or physical. That may or may not be the case with a relationship that hasn’t quite gotten off the ground yet, but continuing to go back and forth instead of ending things can send mixed messages.

“In a situation where the relationship has not started there isn’t this level of connection and intimacy so to allow a back and forth only creates a stronger bond for the interested party making it harder to end,” Michelle R Hammer, MS, LCPC, a licensed clinical and pastoral counselor, told INSIDER.

If you decide not to have a conversation and end the “relationship,” the other person may be hurt and confused, which probably isn’t what you wanted to do. Knable said that having the conversation and setting the record straight ensure that you both know where the relationship stands and leaves you both free to move on with your lives.

If you’re struggling a bit with the knowledge that the relationship never started, even though you wish that it had, you shouldn’t just ignore that — you should address it with yourself.

“It’s helpful to have a good perspective as to why things weren’t going to work out with this person,” Heidi McBain, MA, LMFT, LPC, RPT, a licensed marriage and family therapist, told INSIDER. “This can be gained through processing how you truly feel about them, negative relationship patterns that you felt might be repeated with them, etc.”

If you need help working through it, chatting with a therapist or another qualified professional can be a good idea, as can talking to a trusted friend or family member who may be able to provide some much-needed perspective.

Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more.

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