13 Breakup Tips for When You Need to End a Relationship
This is how to break up with someone while doing the least amount of damage.
Breakups are always a challenge, even if you're the person ending things. But just because it's not easy doesn't mean you should make it even harder on you and your partner. Instead of letting emotions go awry and blaming everything on your soon-to-be ex, remain calm and kind to give someone the breakup you would want in return. These breakup tips won't necessarily keep your partner's heart intact, but they'll leave you feeling like you did the best you could under the circumstances.
Thoroughly plan beforehand.
Breaking up with someone, especially if they're someone you've been together with for some time, needs to be intentional. Don't spring the conversation on them on a whim, unsure of what you're going to say or why you're even doing it. Nancy Ruth Deen, a professional breakup coach with Hello Breakup, recommends making time to have "The Talk" by scheduling an interruption-free evening with you and your partner.
And deliver the news in person.
That interruption-free evening must be in person. Licensed therapist Christine Scott-Hudson, MFT, owner of Create Your Life Studio, says that even though ghosting someone or breaking up via text or through social media may seem "momentarily easier" at the time, common decency should still prevail. After all, this was someone you cared enough about to enter into a relationship with in the first place. A breakup should be done by having a face-to-face conversation, and if you're long distance, at least a phone conversation.
Be clear, but not hurtful.
Yes, you don't want to leave your partner questioning "why" you broke up with them, but there's no need to go into every single thing you don't like about them. Be clear about the important things that led to your reasoning, but don't go out of your way to be hurtful, says Lynell Ross, founder of Zivadream.
"You have your reasons for breaking up, but may not need to share all of them," Ross says. "You may want to share why your differences don't support your life's goals, or simply say that you aren't a match, but there is no need to list all the annoying things they do."
Apologize for the mistakes you made as well.
While you may think your partner's actions are what ultimately caused the relationship's demise, don't make it all about your partner and their faults. Neither person in a relationship is perfect, and it's OK to acknowledge that you played a part in some less-than-ideal moments in your relationship as well. Scott-Hudson says that before you part ways, you should make it a point to apologize to your partner for anything you may have done or said within the relationship that was hurtful.
Use "I" statements, not "you" statements.
In the same vein, make sure you're making the conversation about why you want to break up and why you decided this, not about what your partner did or didn't do. Leslie Shull, a health and wellness coach, says a simple way to do this is by using "I" statements rather than "you" statements. This allows you to take ownership of your feelings and the situation, rather than blame your partner and make them feel at fault for what you decided to do.
Keep the conversation short and to the point.
There's no reason to drag out your breakup conversation, as it will only lead to more confusion for you and your partner. Kevin Darné, author of Avoid the Catfish!, recommends keeping it "short and to the point." And while you should expect to be asked why you decided to initiate the breakup, keep in mind that "there is no answer you can give that will cause them to feel like you are making the 'right decision.'" Over-explaining yourself or continuing the conversation just for the sake of it may lead to you saying something hurtful or that you don't actually mean.
Set boundaries and expectations.
Clear plans need to be made for what is going to happen following a breakup, says Sara Sedlik Haynes, a licensed marriage and family therapist in California. "Be clear about what is expected going forward between the two of you," she says. If you don't think it's a good idea for either of you to reach out, make that clear. If you share friends, talk about how to handle that in the future. Being clear about what will happen post-breakup leaves less room for uncertainty or awkward situations.
Give your partner a chance to talk and really listen to them.
Don't cut your partner out of the conversation. You may have had time to mull over and really think about your decision, but chances are, they didn't. Just as they've given you the chance to say your piece, give them the same chance to say what's on their mind and how they feel. Scott-Hudson is a big believer in "treating others how you want to be treated," so respect your partner by hearing them out as well.
But no matter what they say, stick to your decision.
Wishy-washy behavior is unkind, even if, in the moment, it feels like the only thing that will stop your partner's heart from breaking. While it's OK, and even recommended, to hear your partner out, don't let whatever they say alter your decision. Being unclear or saying things that might lead them on—when you don't want to stay or get back together—can give them false hope, when they really need to resolve their feelings and move on, says Ross.
If you live together, have a housing plan before you initiate the break up conversation.
If you live with your partner, a break up requires extra steps and preparation. Darné says you need to have found another place to stay or made alternative living arrangements before breaking up with your partner.
"Having to remain under the same roof after a breakup is living life on a high tension wire without a net. Should you feel uncertain about your ability to quietly stay in the relationship until the lease expires, review the consequences for breaking the lease. The cost of freedom is never too high," he says. "And, in the event you are married, it is advisable to meet with a divorce attorney or paralegal to get guidance. Since you are the one ending the relationship, there should be no reason why you aren't prepared. Anticipate how your future-ex will respond to the news, and be ready."
Let your partner have space following the breakup.
Even if it's not what they think they want, your ex needs space after a breakup. "You are the last person who can help someone get over you," says Darné. "Remove yourself from their world as much as possible. Unfriend them on social media accounts, avoid places you know they frequent, block emails, texts, or calls. It is best to observe the no-contact rule for six months to a year. The best friendships between exes usually occur when there has been a major gap in time and both people have become involved with others. In the meantime, turn the page and spend time with your friends and family."
Write down your thoughts.
A breakup doesn't end after you have the conversation with your partner. Healing is a process that takes time, on both ends. After you've broken up with someone, Carol Queen, PhD, author of The Sex & Pleasure Book: Good Vibrations Guide to Great Sex for Everyone, recommends journaling through the experience.
"When you're ready, do some introspective thinking about what went wrong," Queen says. "Often relationships go awry because you and your partner had ideas about what you wanted from a relationship that just didn't mesh. Before you leave your nest and try again, try to get as specific as you can about what love and a good relationship mean to you."
Take as much time as you need to heal.
And while you're on your path to healing, don't be afraid to take all the time you need. Breaking up with someone is always hard, even if you're the one who ended things. Your ex may be trying to recover, but don't forget to work on recovering on your end, too.
"Cry hard, punch pillows, eat ice cream, enjoy good wine," says Treva Brandon Scharf, a dating expert and life coach. "Practice self-care, spend time with friends, stay active and social. Or, recover privately, and lick your wounds by yourself. Whatever feels right to you."