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What do you do when you’re afraid of breaking up with someone for fear of hurting their feelings?


What do you do when you’re afraid of breaking up with someone for fear of hurting their feelings?—Beach Girl, 16, NC

Shayna Answers:

Dear Beach Girl,

Whenever someone else’s heart is involved in the decisions that we’re making, we can intentionally and unintentionally hurt them. Breaking up with someone is a good example of this. Likely you and your significant other will hurt as a result of the breakup, but there are definitely things you can do to avoid making it worse.
For many teenagers their family members and pastors usually know their significant others and have served as mentors and advisers. It’s important to talk to your parents and youth pastors, to listen to their advice, and to have someone to pray with you about this. Asking God, and adults you trust, to guide you as you end this relationship is the first thing you should do. 
Then, privately talk to your boyfriend. Even if the two of you are usually alone when you hang out, you should take special care to ensure that you’re in a neutral place—neither your house nor his. Go to a park or for a walk, so nosy siblings or friends can’t interrupt you.
Have your reasons for breaking up clearly outlined before you go. If you need to, write some of them down. When emotions start to flare during the conversation, it’s important to stay focused on what you really need to say and not succumb to yelling or crying because of the tone of the conversation.
When you talk to your significant other, make sure you point out the good things he’s done, as well as the reasons why the relationship isn’t going to work. Also, make sure to acknowledge the mistakes you’ve made, and take the time to listen to what he says to you. Listening to feedback from a significant other is invaluable in helping to become a better person for future relationships.
Finally, be honest. Proverbs 24:26 says: “An honest answer is like a kiss on the lips” (NIV).* You probably already know from personal experience that being lied to is more hurtful than hearing the truth. This is no different for your boyfriend. It’s important to say why the relationship has to end. Then, if your significant other has questions for you, answer them as openly as possible.
Depending on the circumstances of your relationship, it may not be easy or feasible to have a face-to-face conversation. If it’s not, try talking to the person on the phone. Or, if you have to, send an e-mail. Choose the method that will limit the number of people who can potentially hear or see what is said. After all, most of the pain that a couple experiences because of a breakup is related to behavior after the breakup—not what happened during the relationship.
For example, if we gossip or start rumors about our boyfriends, or they talk about us, we usually end up humiliating or angering each other. Worse, we raise doubts about our character. Our bad behavior can even sabotage future relationships. A good rule of thumb for all relationships is found in Matthew 7:12: “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.”
Remember, God has a plan for your life. Jeremiah 29:11 reminds us of that. Ask God to show you what His plan is for your life, including whether or not to be in certain relationships. God is willing to guide you, if you pray earnestly for His help.
*Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. 

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