How to End a De Facto Relationship Positively

We have mentioned previously in several articles that there is no legal method for separations in de facto relationships. Sometimes couples or individuals come to us because they want to understand what might occur if they were to separate. Other times, they know they need to separate, and want to know how to end a de facto relationship positively. It is rarely easy but it doesn’t have to be as challenging as it can be. Taking steps to try to end it in a fashion that means you can both be proud of how you managed the end of your relationship, is what we see people able to achieve. However, as you’d expect, it is not without careful consideration and effort.

We’ve narrowed down what we see people who have ended their relationships amicably and as positively as possible, have done. We’ve turned them into questions for reflection. If you are invested in understanding how to end a de facto relationship positively, ask yourself these five questions throughout the process, to have the best opportunity for a conflict-free and amicable separation journey.

1. Where are we ‘at’ right now?

Upon separating, information gathering about your finances and assets is often the first stage of the formal process of separation. This is where conflict often arises even when the separation starts well. This is where you each share information who brought what into the relationship. It is also where you share information about how you each contributed during the relationship. There is a duty of disclosure and both parties need to be transparent.

If one person was blindsided or surprised by the end of the relationship, or not coping with the process, this must be considered. When we meet with our clients we take this into consideration to help both people end their relationship in the most positive way possible. If you ended the relationship, it is likely you are at a different ‘stage’ of the process to the other person. People go through stages at different times and in different ways. This can affect their ability to go through the steps at the speed you may desire.

It is important to consider the difference between where you are and where they are at each stage of the process. Reflecting on where you are ‘at’ and where they are ‘at’, throughout the process, is incredibly helpful. We see that this helps many people avoid escalating conflict and keeping the process manageable.

2. Where are we the Grief Cycle?

As people go through the stages of grief, they may display different behaviours or actions.

The Keibler-Ross Grief Model breaks grief down into five stages of loss:

  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

These steps are processes that you and your former partner, and your children if you have them, will go through.  It is important to be aware that this process is not linear. Each person may take a different amount of time to move through each stage.

Discuss the grief cycle with your former partner. Identify where you both are in the cycle. This is especially important when you need to have important conversations or make decisions.

3. What can be done to minimise conflict?

Being aware of the stage you are in is important. Being aware of the stage your former partner is in, is just as important.

If someone is in the anger phase or even having a challenging day for instance, this is important to know.

Checking in and being flexible about when to broach or discuss something can contribute to keeping things moving along positively. Communication, however positive or poor it has been in the past, is incredibly important throughout the separation process. We see that when people think about what actions, timings or events may contribute to a certain feeling or response, this can influence how the separation plays out.

4. Do they (or I) need time or space?

Sometimes people want their separation ‘wrapped up’ so they don’t need to deal with everything longer than they need to. However, as we’ve identified, often both people are in different stages of the grief cycle at any one time. Given that the end of a relationship is one of the most stressful life experiences, each of you may need time and space throughout the process, to think along the way.

Respecting each other’s need for time or space to process this transition period is essential for a good end to your relationship.

Recognise that your former partner may need time to grieve your relationship and require space to work through their feelings. You may already have been through this process, especially if you’ve been considering separation for some time.

Both of you will need to make decisions on pressing issues, however some issues can wait. Sometimes leaving a little bit of time to pass can be desirable, providing there is not anything urgent, or that might be detrimental to you not to have acted upon. This can avoid escalating a situation when the other person isn’t ready. Being mindful of the time you and they might need, is very important particularly early on in the separation process.

5. Do or will I need some support?

Ending a relationship is a major loss in people’s lives. Seeking support is important, no matter who initiated the breakup. We often witness people going through the stages of grief. They may believe they have reached a certain stage, but something can still happen that triggers a response or emotion. Your support may come through friends and family. It could also be with a professional, such as a counsellor or a coach. You may even benefit from all of these!

Even if you don’t think you need help, call early to secure an appointment. While you might not think you need it now or at all, it is often good to have them accessible at the time you really need it. There is usually a long wait for your first choice. Seeking support is particularly important in the early stages as you negotiate a significant period of change.

A positive end is achievable

Knowing how to end a de facto relationship well begins with keeping these five questions in the front of your mind throughout your separation journey.

As you navigate the steps ahead, know that you will be faced with challenges along the way but this time will pass. And if it is hard for you to see any silver linings along the way, know that our past clients tell us that while it was a very hard time in their lives, they got through it and there were some silver linings that presented themselves along the way.

Given you have come across this topic (and read this far) infers you have good intentions for an amicable end to your de facto relationship. If you see fit, share this information with your former partner. Navigating this path by being aware of what others have achieved can assist in helping you both benefit, even in the most significant of life changes.

If you would like to get some more detailed and personal advice about what you should do in your situation, give our team a call on (03) 9793 7888 or send us an email at