Sometimes, a relationship needs to end – even if you care about or even love the other person. Maybe you’re on different paths in life, maybe you’re not compatible, or maybe you’ve met someone else. Whatever the reason, these are our no-bullshit tips for breaking up with someone you respect.
Don’t draw it out
Chances are, you’ve spent a lot of time with this person. You know more about them than anyone else, and you respect them – but it’s time to close this chapter. Once you’ve made that decision, do it sooner rather than later. The reality is, you’re probably going to break their heart and feel like a crappy human being – but it’ll hurt them more in the long run if they find out you’ve been thinking about this for a while. It takes incredible strength to break up with someone you care about, and it’s not fair to drag out the process.
Think carefully about the time and place
Out of respect (the keyword of this article), choose a private place where you’ll be able to break the news and answer any questions they may have. This will give the other person the dignity they deserve. At the same time, you want to be able to leave when you’re ready.
If you don’t live together, consider breaking up with them at their place.
If you do, try a private place near your apartment, or accept that you may need to sleep elsewhere for a few nights (or more).
On the other hand, if you don’t feel safe or you think the person may react aggressively, break the news in public, and ask a friend or family member to be nearby. In extreme situations, you may want to do it over the phone. But generally, no matter how nervous you are, it’s unacceptable to break up with someone over text, voicemail, email or social media. It’s impersonal, and plain rude – especially when you’ve invested so much time in each other.
As for when to do it, there’s never going to be a ‘right’ time to break up with someone you care about. But there are not-so-ideal times, like:
- When they’re in the middle of a crisis, such as dealing with a death in the family, getting sick or losing a job.
- When you’re in an intense fight. People say things they don’t mean in fights, and you want to make sure your partner knows you’ve thought this through.
- In front of other people. If you decide to do it at a restaurant, for example, find a quiet table in the corner in case the conversation gets emotional or heated.
In a long distance relationship? If you’re not seeing the person anytime soon, opt for Skype or the phone instead of text/email.
Use ‘I’ statements
Now that you have the time, place and intention, think about what you want to say. Start the conversation gently, by saying something like: “There’s no easy way to do this, and I don’t want to hurt you, but I need to end this relationship.”
Be honest, and whatever you do, don’t place blame. That never ends well. To avoid attacking the other person, use “I” statements that get your point across without passing judgement. In other words, explain what isn’t working for you from your perspective.
I don’t mean: “It’s not you, it’s me.”
I do mean statements like this:
- “I’m traditional, and want to get engaged and married in the next couple of years.”
- “I feel like kids are in my near future.”
- “I want to explore the world on my own.”
- “I’m really trying to focus on my career.”
- “I think I need to spend more time on my own to figure out what I really want.”
- “I’m not a party girl, and I want to enjoy a slower lifestyle.”
You have the right to feel however you feel, and they can’t argue with that (though they might try, and you should be prepared for that).
Be sure to take your partner’s lead, too. Some people will want the nitty-gritty details for closure, while others will just want to get out of there ASAP.
Still struggling? Turn the tables and think about how you would like to be broken up with.
Accept that the other person may not want to stay friends
After a breakup, even if you wanted it, you may feel like there’s a gaping hole in your life. But before you text your ex about the crazy thing that happened at work, or tag them in the most hilarious Insta meme, consider the possibility that they may be too hurt to be friends. Or that you might find it too hard or confusing. (As for the post-breakup bang, here’s what we think!).
Once you’re broken up, it’s a good idea to take some time apart and reflect on the relationship. A little bit of distance is healthy, and it’ll give you a chance to think about what you’ll be to each other in the future.
Work out the logistics
Many long-term couples live together or share finances and friends. It’s important to sort out the finer details as soon as possible.
Should you have events coming up, talk about who will go, or how you’ll treat each when you’re there.
Living together? Discuss how you’ll divide up your belongings, and whether one of you will move out or stay somewhere else temporarily.
If you have stuff at each other’s places, return them in the way that makes the most sense – whether it’s a quick in-person meeting, or via a friend.