Once you’ve decided you need to end a relationship, you will have some other matters to think and pray about. I would like to offer some advice on three important questions most people ask themselves when they have to part ways with someone who has been valuable in the past:
- “How should I think about this situation?”
- “What do I say when I actually bring an end to the relationship?”
- “How do I respond to others when they ask why so-and-so and I aren’t friends anymore?” This applies to business partners, ministry colleagues, and many other types of alliances.
How should I think?
I want to encourage you in two ways as you think about ending a relationship. First, be very clear about where God is leading you and why that requires the relationship to change. This understanding will give both you and the other person a clear rationale for ending a relationship, and the boldness to do it. Second, you must understand and believe that just as God brought the person with whom you are ending a relationship into your life, God will bring others into your life as well. Be patient, be prayerful, and be watchful, because he will bring you the people you need.
What should I say?
Let me suggest several things to consider if you have to tell someone you need to end a relationship.
- Be sincere. People know when someone is not being authentic.
- Be honest, but speak with love. The need for honesty does not give you the right to trample on anyone’s feelings, so choose your words wisely.
- Be clear about where you are on your life’s journey and what you need from a relationship. Clearly communicate why you need to make a change, using phrases such as, “Here’s what I really need . . .”
- Do not assign blame. Take responsibility for your role in ending the relationship and avoid calling attention to the other person’s flaws.
- Share what you have learned from the relationship and what you are grateful for. Be appreciative and thankful—and be specific.
- Create an opportunity for future reconciliation if appropriate. You never know what God may want to do later on, so avoid doing anything that would permanently prohibit the restoration of the relationship in some way at a later time.
- Let the person know you will continue to love him or her. The fact that a relationship is ending does not make the individual a bad person.
What do I tell others about the situation?
When you have been in close relationship of any kind for a long time, whether personal or professional, people know it. When that relationship comes to an end, they will notice. The best way to respond if they ask about it is to say as little as possible, as positively as possible. For example, you could say something like, “Yeah, we don’t spend as much time together anymore, but I think he’s a great guy,” or “Well, we needed to go different directions, but I sure did learn a lot from her.”
Acknowledge the change, but make that a minor point, while majoring on the positive points about the other person. The principle of loyalty applies even after a relationship ends.
Most Importantly, Allow the Holy Spirit to lead you constantly.