In most breakup situations you’d love to be able to say that an honest, straightforward and mature discussion about why your relationship is now over *read: it sucked* would earn the respect and understanding of your soon-to-be-ex boyfriend, but that’s rarely ever the case.
As most people know, maturity and understanding seem to go out the window, when someone is facing rejection. This is an understandable reaction when not only is your ego being bruised, but you’re losing someone you care deeply for.
If you’re not the kind of person who wants to abhor their ex post-breakup, and are looking to be sensitive with their feelings, whether it’s because you respect them and love them as a person, or simply because you don’t want the hassle of them trying to get you back, then you’ve come to the right place.
How to break up without the mess
Breakups are often very messy and dramatic, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t attempt some sort of damage control. Here’s what you should do.
#1 Take baby steps. While it may seem dishonest to start baby-stepping your way out of the relationship, this will make it a much easier blow to handle, when you do decide to call it quits.
You need to subtly and slowly “wean” him off of your relationship. There is no reason to be rude or cruel in this situation, simply start spending more time apart, and don’t be afraid to show you have distance between you. This will make the breakup seem less shocking, when it finally does happen. After all, you’d rather him sense it coming than be taken aback by a seemingly “out of the blue” breakup to what he thought was the perfect match.
#2 Be nice. This may sound bizarre, considering you are breaking up with the guy, but you need to remember to be nice. Yes, this is a man whom you are now done being with, but you still need to show him the respect and kindness you would afford any other human being, considering this is someone you gave your heart to and whose deepest secrets you’ve been privy to.
#3 Be honest. When you break up with your partner, you need to be honest about what isn’t working. Don’t be brutal with the poor guy’s feelings, but be frank enough that he won’t feel like you’ve left loose ends to cling to. If you hide your issues from him, you’re only inviting him back to try and fix things later.
If he asks if you still love him, you need to tell him no – at least not in the passionate sense anymore. He needs to know that this is over, and there will be no repeat business. While this may sound harsh, this will be better for you both in the long-run, as he won’t feel the need to chase you around for a second chance.
#4 …but not too honest. A delicate breakup rule: Don’t tell him you like or are already with someone else.
Even if it’s true, even if you already have your next great love lined up around the corner, this would be an inappropriate time to tell him about it. If he asks mid-breakup if there’s someone else, carefully avoid answering or deny, deny, deny. This is no time to needlessly upset him, and it certainly won’t help you avoid any messy post-breakup behavior.
If you ultimately decide to stay friends, it would be in your best interest to talk openly about just how friendly you want your conversations to get. For example, if either of you are seeing someone new – do you want to know, or would you rather be kept out of the love-loop, unless it becomes serious?
#5 Don’t take the coward’s route. The coward’s route, ever popular, is simply not the way you want to go. This will not do anybody any favors. Sure, you could simply lie to him about why you’re breaking up: say your parents don’t approve and you don’t want to ruin your relationship with them, or tell him you’re holding him back, or whatever other excuse you can think of.
However, most people know when they are being lied to, especially in breakup situations. The whole “it’s not you, it’s me” routine is usually a thin veil for an abundantly clear: “I’m not feeling this anymore.” This is not something you will be respected for in the long-run, and what’s more, it may leave him feeling like there’s still a chance.
#6 Allow him closure. Unfortunately at some point, you’ll need to have the closure talk, which can be both uncomfortable and painful for both parties involved. When engaging in the closure talk, be friendly, gentle, but not lovable. Don’t be overly familiar, just because you feel bad for him. You both came here to talk about why it’s over, not to rekindle a spark. The less you lead him on, the better.
#7 Don’t reveal horrible things afterwards. When trying to have that elusive “closure” talk, make sure you pick a place that’s neutral and public. Public is good. The public setting says: “I probably can’t yell at you, scream, or cry because hey, guess what, there’s a ton of people around.”
While having your closure talk, fight any urge you have to reveal any less-than-charming anecdotes about your relationship. Yes, closure conversations are meant to get it all out in the open, but have some restraint. Does he really need to know how much his chewing annoyed the pants off you, how he was awful in bed, or worse: that you secretly cheated on him?
Revealing these things will only paint you as the bad guy and create needlessly hurt feelings for your ex-partner.
#8 Don’t be friends if you don’t actually want to be friends. If you don’t want to be friends after all is said and done, don’t lie and say you’re cool with the idea just to be nice. Having an ex hang on like a leech in the hopes of having a friendship or winning you back isn’t going to be good for anybody. All this will lead to is more resentment in the future, and frankly, a messy situation for you. Leading him on post-breakup is cruel so as hard as it may be, bite the bullet and tell him the truth.
HIM: Can we stay friends?
YOU: I’m sorry, I just don’t think that’s going to work for me.
#9 If you stay friends… If you’re on the route to staying friends and you think you’re doing a pretty good job, then there’s just one thing to keep in mind – don’t go on dates. This may seem confusing at first, since nearly everything can seem like a date: dinner, a movie, watching the game at his place, but you’ll learn to get the hang of it.
DO: Lunch. Friends lunch, lover’s do dinner. Hang out in social groups. This way you’ll both still get to enjoy one another’s company while remaining in a safe environment.
DON’T: Rest your head on his shoulder. Let him pay for meals or outings. Hang out alone.