One of the hardest things to do when you’re in a relationship, is making the decision to leave someone you love. Whether it’s because the chemistry isn’t there, there’s a lack of fulfillment, you feel like you’re being held back, or something else, breaking up with someone you’re still in love with can be devastating.
If you’re faced with the dilemma of having to break it off with someone you still have intense feelings for, here are some tips on how to handle it.
1. Be honest about why you are leaving but avoid long narratives.
You’ll want to offer an honest explanation for why you can’t be with your partner anymore, but don’t dive too deep into the issues. You’ve decided to leave, so now’s not the time to try and fix what’s broken.
“You are informing your significant other of a decision, which is very different than engaging in a dialogue designed to work through something,”explains psychologist and dating coach, Christine Carpenter. “Your partner will undoubtedly want to work it through. Keeping things short will help you avoid getting drawn into a long discussion and possibly misrepresenting your intentions.”
2. Do it face-to-face.
There are several ways to breakup with someone these days—a text, email, or phone call to name a few—but make the time to meet in person to tell them that the relationship is over. It’s the least you can do for the person you still love. And never ghost someone. It’s the most hurtful and disrespectful way to break up with someone you’ve been in a relationship with.
3. Don’t try to get your partner to understand or agree with your decision.
“If that’s your goal, you could get locked into a discussion that never ends,” says Carpenter. “As long as your partner refuses to understand or agree, they’ll be able to keep you engaged. If you’re engaged, it will seem like there’s room to convince you to change your mind.”
Again, you’re simply telling them what has changed for you and that you have to leave the relationship. It may feel like a cold approach, but participating in long talks about it only offers false hope. It also allows your feelings of guilt to intensify, which can lead you to make choices for the wrong reasons.”
4. Resist the urge to stay friends.
It could be tempting to offer friendship as a means to soften the blow of a breakup, but offering friendship can cause more damage.
“Friendship immediately following a breakup often leaves one or both people longing for more because they’ve chosen to have their ex in their life as a way to not lose them completely. It makes moving on more difficult,” says psychotherapist and founder of “Let’s Talk Divorce,” Shirin Peykar.
Avoid stating anything that may give your partner hope that the relationship can still work out.
5. Set boundaries for the discussion.
Carpenter says, this can include having someone call you or come to pick you up at a planned time. That way you know the conversation won’t go on forever and that there’s an eventual end coming.
“You could have the conversation before one of you has to be somewhere or at a location that has a closing time,” suggests Carpenter. “Again, you may take some heat for the poor timing of an important conversation but prolonging the talk isn’t helpful.”
6. Prepare yourself for what happens post-breakup.
“If you live with your partner, you may want to make sure you’ve researched your next steps on where you’re going to live now and have talked to people in your life who can be there for you as you make the transition,” says professional counselor, Michelle Terry.
If you shared friends, you may need to distance yourself from them for a while and be prepared to be thought of as the bad guy for breaking your their heart.
7. Don’t question your decision.
It’s inevitable that you’ll feel guilty for hurting your partner’s feelings, but that doesn’t mean you’re making the wrong decision. Peykar suggests creating a list of all the reasons that you’re ending the relationship so you can refer to it for strength when you’re doubting your decision. Those days will come, and you’ll want to be prepared.
Despite how you feel about someone, there are a lot of reasons they may not be the best choice for you. Maybe you love them, but they aren’t willing to commit to the relationship in the way you need. Maybe the way they love you back is unhealthy and stifling. Or maybe you know they’ll never love you back in the same way. Whatever your reasons, walking away from someone who you still care about is hard. Remember the reasons for you decision, focus on getting through the current moment, then take it one step at a time moving forward. It won’t be easy, but one day you’ll look back and be surprised at how much happier you are for having done the hard, but right thing.