How to break up a relationship and still stay friends.

Breaking up is a difficult thing to do, irrespective if you've been dating a week, a month or years. It is hard for both, the one doing the breaking up and the one who is dumped. The individual who initiates the break up feels guilty; because he is going to inflict pain on the person he has professed to love so far, and will possibly be at the receiving end of some really serious grief. The one who gets dumped feels the heartbreak and anguish of wondering what went wrong and dealing with being alone again.

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Most relationships that do not culminate in a walk down the aisle (and even some that do) have to break up at some point. And either to assuage a guilty conscience, or, born out of a genuine need, not to totally cut the other person out of our lives, comes the suggestion to stay friends. But is it really possible for two people who were once in love and shared passion, to eliminate all sexual and romantic feelings and remain 'just friends'?

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Irrespective of how feasible it may be, the best start lies in the breaking up. If you do want to stay friends with your ex, it requires a great deal of commitment from both sides. Both partners involved have to mutually agree and cooperate after breaking up the relationship, while you carve out parameters for your new friendship.

The ideal scenario, when it works to remain friends after breaking up a relationship, would be when the break up is mutual. And what would help even more is if you were friends before you became lovers. Like it happened with Steve and Claire. They'd both been friends and part of a larger group who used to go out together, clubbing and the like. Then when the group started disintegrating, they somehow found themselves going out as a couple, and it became a habit. A few goodnight kisses led to more and soon they found themselves involved. But after going out together as a couple they found they didn't really have a lot in common and were better of remaining strictly friends, which they still are.

Of course, not all partings are as amicable as this, and if you've shared a volatile and passionate relationship, chances are the break up too wasn't on the best terms. However if you'd really like to stay friends, you might want to consider the following:

I. If you're the one breaking up the relationship, it matters.

1. Where and how you do it

Let him/her down gently. Try and lead up to it and don't drop it on them like a bomb. Just because you're breaking up the relationship doesn't mean you shouldn't treat him/her well, especially if you want them to stay in your life. That means not just calling it off on the phone or the street corner. Just like you'd have taken trouble over a date, choose a nice, quiet place and make it as painless as you possibly can.

2. Why you're doing it

You have a better chance of staying friends if you're choosing to break up the relationship over a really genuine reason. If you've taken a fancy to her best friend or worse yet if you're are cheating on him, the friendship line won't stand a hope in hell. Whatever is the reason you're choosing to break up, try and explain it as delicately as possible without assigning any blame to your lover.

3. How you hate yourself

Make it clear that you despise yourself not so much for breaking up the relationship (as it was a necessary evil in your eyes) but for the hurt you're causing him/her. Deride yourself. And make it clear that you wish you didn't have to do it but you weren't happy, and no one would they prefer that you go on pretending that you are.

4. Why you'd like to be friends

Make them aware that although you're the one initiating the break up, how you could see it coming. See if you can cite instances. And tell them that while it would not work romantically, you still like him/her as a person, which is why you were attracted in the first place. Stress on some wonderful times you've had and how you would not like to see it end in bitterness.

If they're not too emotional at this point, tell them that it's akin to eating something that looks really nice, but turns out it tastes odd. It didn't live up to its promise, but you don't remember so much how good it looked to start with, but the bitter after-taste it left in your mouth. Explain to them that you'd like something good to come out of the relationship, by forming a successful friendship.

5. How you're ready to wait

Be prepared that everything won't go off very smoothly. It is a moment fraught with emotion, tensions and anxieties of the past and yet some very good times, culminating in this anticlimax. So don't expect your tentative offering of an olive branch to be eagerly grabbed by your soon-to-be-ex. Since expectedly, you've been doing all the talking so far, barring some sound effects from your partner, give them a chance to talk and hear them out.

Then ask them if they'd like some time on their own to think about the friendship angle when they are in a more balanced emotional state. Let them know that you will be around whenever they decide to call or if they do. Ask if it would be ok if you initiated contact after maybe a month. Let them know that you would only like to explore a friendship and if it shows no signs of working out or it is not what they want, then you will opt out.