How to Break Up With a Serious Boyfriend

A couple's hands holding coffee cups while they are having a break up conversation.

Dear Joan Actually,

I’ve been with my boyfriend for over two years. When we met, I wasn’t looking for anything serious and neither was he, so the dating was great. We fit together from the beginning. The dates escalated into a relationship, and with the exception of minor spats, it sorta evolved. It’s all kind of a blur, really. I don’t think I could imagine a better guy; he encourages me, loves my family, and takes a genuine interest in making me happy. Since we’re in our early 30’s, the marriage conversation keeps coming up. He says things like “when we get married” or “our kids would be funny”, and I feel overwhelmed and disengaged. I don’t know why I feel this way, but I do. It’s been two years without problems, so why can’t I see a future? I can’t imagine meeting someone better, but I don’t want to hold him back from finding all those things he’s ready for. He’s perfect, I feel crazy, and I don’t know how to cut the cord or if I even should. 

-Arlington, VA

Relationship uncertainty is like treading water: you can only stay afloat for so long. Juggling a boyfriend you love with the inescapable feeling that you can’t move forward with him is heartbreaking, and the gnawing feelings will persist—and worsen—until you or he decides that your relationship has run its course.

Spending your time figuring out why he’s not the one is a waste of time; matters of the heart frequently defy logic. Perhaps you’re not ready, perhaps he’s not the same guy you started dating; the reason  is irrelevant because these are problems you can’t solve. Accurately diagnosing your relationship will not lead to a cure, it will only prolong the agony inherent in a relationship that’s not meant to be.

Don’t let the fear of being alone guide your decision making; it’s not a good enough reason. Decide what you need to feel, and if your boyfriend is capable of making you feel that way. If something is missing, stop negotiating with yourself and start listening to your gut. Negotiating not only delays the break-up that should happen, it also forces you to settle. Don’t let him be the one you settle for; he’s doesn’t deserve that.

Parting on good terms hinges on breaking up appropriately and sparing him as much pain as possible. If you’re wondering how to break up, here are a few key things to consider.

1. Deliver the news in a semi-private place. Go for a walk or use a park bench. Do not break up at home; you will both need space and privacy after talking.

2. Do it in person. Unless there is substantial distance involved, you owe your partner face time. Phone is second best. Email or text is not acceptable.

3. Consider the time. Wait until the end of the work day. A Friday evening break-up will give you both a chance to regroup over the weekend.

4. Finally, be clear, be considerate, and be firm. “I love you, but for reasons that I can’t quite explain, I can’t give you the future you want. If I could change my feelings I would, but I know that I need to end our relationship.”

When you love someone, you owe them your honesty. And, to end the wrong relationship with a man you love will hurt and will be devastating, but you’ll bounce back because you know, in your heart of hearts, that you did the right thing.

Joan Actually

Dating Expert

Joan is a writer and dating expert.

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