10 Things You Should Never Say During a Breakup
Relationship experts say these words and phrases are ones you should avoid.
As the classic song goes, "Breaking up is hard to do." Whether you're delivering the painful news or are on the receiving end of an unexpected split, there's no right way to process the end of a relationship. However, there are a few surefire wrong ways. From ghosting to screaming to the silent treatment, there are many unhealthy behaviors to avoid when calling it quits. One you might not have considered? Your exact choice of language. Read on to learn the words and phrases relationship experts say should never leave your mouth during a breakup.
"This is all your fault."
Pent-up feelings of anger, sadness, and disappointment can easily devolve into a blame game, which is not healthy, says professional therapist Rich Heller, MSW. "We can feel it and process it, but acting it out in the breakup process allows us to build resentment and avoid personal responsibility," he explains.
Participating in a blame game might not only hurt your partner, but it could also negatively impact the way you grieve the relationship. "Blame leads to giving away our personal power and sense of choice," says Heller. "It gives our power to others."
By accepting responsibility, you'll feel more in control of the situation and future ones like it.
Statements like "I can't support your decisions," and "Our values aren't aligning," are better than "This is all your fault," because they acknowledge you in addition to your partner.
"Instead of blaming, try to use 'I' statements and remain objective in how both partners contributed to the breakup," says licensed professional counselor Rebecca Phillips, MS.
Jackie Golob, licensed professional clinical counselor and sex and spiritual wellness coach, adds that 'I' statements—such as, I think, feel, want, need, desire, require, would appreciate—are easier ways to guide the tone of the conversation. Using these statements ultimately helps to break the shame cycle that sometimes results from an intense breakup.
"For example, saying something like, 'I feel like the spark has gone out in our relationship and I am wanting to break up,' sounds different than, 'You aren't attractive to me anymore," Golob explains.
"Breakups often involve a variety of intense emotions so choosing your words wisely to avoid creating a bigger conflict is important," says Amber Lee, a dating expert and co-founder of Select Date Society.
Quick, dismissive phrases like "This is over," "We're done," or "This isn't working" are a few examples of what not to say. And Lee Phillips, LCSW, certified sex and couples therapist, notes that all of these phrases are hurtful and incredibly dismissive to the other person.
Instead, Phillips suggests: "'I think we had a nice run, but I do not think this is working. Nothing changes, which is why…(state your feelings), but I also want to know what you feel.'" This way, you're still actively trying to consider both people's feelings even through a breakup.
"You deserve better."
"Wording is powerful and shapes our emotional responses, especially during breakups," explains Lisa Lawless, PhD, CEO of Holistic Wisdom. Saying words that are unclear or negative like "You deserve better," doesn't offer a lot of information as to why the breakup is happening.
Lawless says this phrase can be especially damaging, as it is vague and implies inadequacy that may not be sincere: "People do not break up with a partner for being 'too good' for them; rather, there are intricate reasons, and speaking your truth is always the better way to go."
"Always" or "never"
Speaking in extremes almost always leads to defensive reactions. And, Christina Granahan, enneagram-informed therapist and coach, says it's because more often than not, they aren't true.
Abrasive generalizations leave less room for real feelings and open communication and more room for arguing and hostile behavior. "Instead, you can say, 'This thing that I've asked you not to do persists, and I've decided that it's a deal-breaker,'" Granahan tells Best Life. This way, you're being honest about your feelings while not entirely blaming the other person.
The word "should" is a similar no-no. "When we use the word 'should,' we are attempting to dictate how another person ought to be according to our own criteria," Rebecca Phillips notes.
"It's not you, it's me."
Using cliches should be avoided whenever possible. These phrases run the risk of being emotionally manipulative and can sometimes cross into gaslighting if you're not careful.
"'It's not you, it's me,' especially, minimizes the other person and shames them for feeling how they do," says Golob.
"It can inadvertently send the message that the speaker is disingenuous or insincere, eroding trust and deepening the pain of the breakup," adds Lawless. Instead, use sincere wording that reflects your and your partner's specific experiences.
"I never loved you."
Invalidating statements like "I don't know why you are reacting this way," or "I never loved you," not only discount the other person's feelings but also the great moments of the relationship.
"Instead, say something such as, 'My feelings have changed,'" suggests Lawless, who notes that this acknowledges the change in your feelings without denying the past.
"You don't have to share their anger, sadness, or whatever emotion they are experiencing, but you should still let them know that their feelings are valid," adds Lee.
"You'll never find someone as good as me."
Saying things like "You'll never find someone as good as me," can be incredibly damaging to the other person. Both Lawless and Lee describe this behavior as narcissistic.
"It's implying they are not worthy or will be unsuccessful in future relationships," says Lawless. Lee points out that these types of phrases can stick with that person for a long time.
If your relationship is ending, it doesn't necessarily mean either of you is unlovable, it just means that you're no longer a compatible match.
Slinging insults or hitting below the belt can quickly turn the breakup hostile. While these words can come out in the heat of the moment, it's best to avoid them altogether.
"If you've been with someone for a long time, you know which buttons to push, but if it isn't necessary, don't do it," says Granahan. You're intentionally trying to hurt the other person, which doesn't help anyone move forward.
"Let's stay friends."
"Don't say 'We can still be friends' because you think it will let them down easily," Lee explains.
Maybe you and your partner can be friends down the line, but suggesting it as soon as the breakup happens won't allow either one of you to get the closure you need.
Lawless says to be clear with the other person about what you require concerning separation and set boundaries. If you need to block them on social media or avoid contact for a while to heal, then those requests are valid.
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