Would you pay someone to help you dump your partner in the ‘perfect’ way, or even to do it for you?

Written by Amy Beecham

Would you pay someone to help you dump your partner in the ‘perfect’ way, or to even do it for you? As Stylist’s Amy Beecham learns, break-up coaching is a complicated but growing market.

After catching her partner cheating, Rachel*, 40, knew their relationship had to end. Devastated and lost, despite knowing a breakup was inevitable, she couldn’t find a way to express the complexity of the emotions she was experiencing. She was hurt and angry, but still in love with the person she’d committed years of her life to. She wanted to scream, shout and throw things at the person who had betrayed her, but she knew she had to somehow keep her cool and get her feelings off her chest to finally gain some closure.

So, she hired Charlotte Murawski, a UK-based ‘breakup coach’. Together, they worked on a plan to help Rachel end the relationship on her own terms. Their weekly sessions involved unpacking the grief of the relationship, moving through the trauma of the breakup and learning how to heal afterwards.

Murawski coached her through the temptation to repeatedly check her ex’s social media. She was there with a listening ear when Rachel relapsed and briefly reignited the relationship. After six months, Rachel says Murawski had given her the tools not to go back and she’s now a stronger woman because of it. 

When we’re heading towards a breakup, it’s typically our closest friends that we turn to.We share teary bottles of wine, workshop the perfect time, place and way to break the news, and then fall into their arms for comforting hugs once the deed is done.But a growing number of people are turning to professional breakup coaches to help them through heartbreak.

Ending a relationship with someone you once held feelings for is no easy feat. A 2018 YouGov study in the US found that over half of people (58%) say that breakups are usually dramatic and/or messy, with much of the complication stemming from the fact people don’t know the ‘right’ way to do it. 

It’s this sense of emotional paralysis – of knowing that you want to end things but not how – that Andrea Binks, a breakup and divorce coach based in Essex, says her work aims to fix. “The people contacting me aren’t happy for some reason, and they genuinely just need a bit of help to get clear on where they’re heading and what they should do next,” she tells Stylist. “A breakup is a big, big decision. It’s taking a life that’s intertwined with someone else’s and suddenly separating it, so there’s a lot of consideration as well as high emotion involved as well.”

The clients that breakup coaches work with range from those in months-long relationships to marriages of over 30 years; however, Murawski insists that the longevity of a relationship doesn’t always translate into how painful an ending is.

“I’ll get people who have been together a very, very short time who tell themselves they shouldn’t be feeling so hurt or conflicted, but it doesn’t matter whether it was a few weeks or years or a marriage, how we feel about that person in the moment is perfectly valid,” she says.  

Is break-up coaching emotionally healthy or the easy way out?

Breakup guilt is another issue she deals with all the time. “People come to me wondering whether they’re making the right decision or not, doubting themselves and trying to reframe the relationship in their minds,” she adds. “They tell me things like: ‘Maybe it’s not so bad,” or ‘Perhaps we just need time,’ and it’s my job to help them get to a point where they’re really sure of what they’re going to do so they can take action without having any regrets.”

Interestingly, both Murawski and Binks share that their clientele is made up of “90% women”, but for US-based relationship expert and founder of myexbackcoach.com Lee Wilson, his clients are 60% men aged 25-34.

And while he and his team coach these men through being both the ‘dumper’ and the ‘dumpee’, he says he’s always open to helping people repair their problems rather than defaulting straight to separation. “I see people all the time who toss aside a relationship because they get upset or there’s an argument but without really thinking through the long-term consequences,” he tells Stylist.

“What I want to do is to figure out whether the relationship could or should be saved, and whether the person is open to that. I ask them: ‘If I could show you a way to make this work, would you be open to that?’ And sometimes they are, and sometimes they’re not.” 

For his clients that are firmly on the path to breaking up, he recommends being very direct. “If you are certain, then you don’t need to pretend anymore and you need to go ahead and get this over,” he says. “I tell them to say to the person: ‘I don’t want to be together anymore and I’m certain that’s my final decision and I don’t want to talk about it.’ That’s very difficult for the other person to hear, but at least they can start the grieving and healing process as soon as possible rather than being placated with any false hope or grey areas. 

In 2023, it seems like the general population is becoming more therapised than ever. Psychological buzzwords like ‘narcissist’ and ’attachment style’ have become part of our daily dialogue and the number of people accessing talking therapies through the NHS has increased by 21.5% since 2020.A quick search online reveals coaches for everything from career moves to manifestation, with varying levels of legitimacy.

Getting professional help for anything you may be struggling with should never be shamed or trivialised. But when it comes to breakup coaching and the outsourcing of emotional labour, where should the line be drawn between a healthy coping mechanism and laziness?

In 2015, the viral site The Breakup Shop made headlines in the US for its ready-made packages that seamlessly helped you dump your partner with no contact involved. According to The Atlantic, for just $10, you could purchase a text or email sent to your significant other informing them of your decision. While keeping your hands clean and expelling any shame or awkwardness, you could also hire a breakup phone call ($29) placed at the time of your choosing, as well as gift the freshly dumped individual anything from a DVD copy of The Notebook ($25) to a set of wine glasses ($15)from The Breakup Shop’s online gift emporium.

The site remains active, but according to its Instagram account, The Breakup Shop’s services seem to have ceased sometime around December 2016. And while this gimmicky ‘Uber for dating’ was understandably criticised for turning the delicate handling of the emotions of someone you care about into some kind of perfunctory admin, the question remains: if you could pay someone to help you plan your breakup, would you? 

For people like Rachel, the answer is clearly yes, and Murawski insists that the service is beneficial for all parties. She says that her role is not to be the architect of people’s breakups so much as provide a supportive framework for them to come to their own decisions themselves, as well as the necessary emotional aftercare too.

“I always have people messaging me asking what they should do next and I always say, ‘I can’t tell you,’ she shares. “At the end of the day, it’s not my decision to make, but it is my job to make sure my client feels like they’re in a place that empowers them to make whatever decision is right for them.”

“It’s about having the space to be able to talk through your decision freely with someone who is non-judgmental and empathetic to your situation,” agrees Binks. “When we [as breakup coaches] work with people, we’re trained to keep our thoughts, values and beliefs out of the room. We can be objective in ways that friends or family of the individual may not be, which can lead to the wrong advice being given that maximises the hurt for everyone involved.”

As for the ‘victims’ of these breakups, coaches like Murawski, Binks and Wilson also provide supportive coaching services. In these instances, they say, the person on the other side is often seeking a sense of closure or resolution that their partner didn’t give them.

“A lot of people I see still feel stuck in a place where they can’t seem to move on from heartbreak or they feel like they want to attract more positive relationships in the future,” says Murawski.

“People come to me to figure out what they want from their love life,” adds Wilson. “And I teach them that the most important thing to understand is that all relationships go up and down, and that the fireworks that you have in the beginning will not last with anyone. It will always fade and what is hopefully left from that experience – from that newness, that limerence – ishopefully commitment, companionship and intimacy. That’s the mature form of love we should all be searching for.” 

Images: Getty

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