Not all relationships are meant to go the distance. Sometimes two people grow apart, the romance fades, the bickering starts, and it’s time to go. That’s okay.
It may hard to break up with someone you care about, but, hopefully, you’ll both be a lot better off in the long run. You can mitigate some of the heartache of the situation by being honest and mature when you break up.
Here are some important do’s and don’ts for breaking up:
1. Do talk it out in person.
If you’ve been dating someone for a while and want to break up, a goodbye text message just isn’t enough. You have to be an adult and talk to them in person. I know it’s rough to look someone in the eye and explain why you want to break up, but that’s the mature way to do it. It’s important to show your partner some respect and show them the courtesy of breaking things off in person.
You should choose a relatively quiet and private place to talk things out together. If you’re in a public spot, try to make sure no one is close enough to overhear you because having an audience witness your breakup could make your ex feel humiliated and even more hurt.
2. Don’t ghost.
Ghosting (aka abruptly ending all communication with someone) has become increasingly common in today’s dating scene. According to an Elle.com study, over 76% of women and 63% of men have either ghosted or been ghosted at some point in their lives.
It’s one thing to ghost someone you’re chatting with on a dating app; it’s another thing to ghost someone you’ve been dating for weeks.
Ghosting is the coward’s way out. You don’t deal with the issues; you just walk away from them. It’s often more hurtful than talking things out because the other person never has the closure they need to move forward and grow.
3. Do give a reason.
You’ve probably thought a lot about breaking up in the last few days, weeks, or maybe even months. So you’re bound to have your reasons. You’ve noticed signs that you should break up. You have specific complaints or issues that lead you to think the relationship can’t work. Whatever it is that convinced you it’s time to part ways, you should share that with your partner so they understand where you’re coming from. Providing your rationale can help them cope with the bad news, and it can be therapeutic for you to share your thoughts in an open and honest discussion.
4. Don’t make it personal.
This is an emotional subject and a heated time, but you have to keep a cool head. Making personal attacks isn’t going to get you where you want to be—which is out of that break-up discussion ASAP. Maybe you have a good reason to be angry with your soon-to-be-ex. Maybe that person betrayed you or hurt you. Still, hurting them back won’t accomplish anything except adding more pain to an already painful situation.
I know it can be tempting during breakups to hit below the belt and say the thing you’ve wanted to say for so long. Like, “you’re a horrendously bad kisser” or “all my friends hate you.” But that’s not going to be constructive for anyone.
5. Do rehearse what you’re going to say.
Breaking up isn’t something you should do on the fly. Improvising could lead to a lot of “ums” and awkward silences, and then you feel nervous, and then you blurt out things you don’t mean, and then your ex doesn’t understand what’s going on at all… It’s a mess.
All of that can be avoided if you think ahead a little. You should plan out what you want to say during your breakup, and maybe run it by a friend you trust, so you go in with a clear exit strategy. Once you work out what you should say, you should also consider what your partner is likely to say and how you can respond.
Having a mental script or bullet points ready can help you stay on topic and avoid rambling and confusing breakups.
6. Don’t waver or let the person talk you out of it.
As a teenager, I was really bad at sticking to my guns when it came to breaking up. I’d look into their sad eyes, and I’d feel so guilty that I’d let myself be talked into staying in a bad relationship. But I wasn’t doing them any favors. And I certainly wasn’t making myself happy that way.
Once you’ve started the breakup, you have to follow through. Even though it’s hard, especially when you ex is arguing with you or crying, you have to finish what you started because your feelings and happiness are important too.
7. Do discuss logistics and how you want to move forward.
After you’ve gotten through the hard, emotional bit, you need to take a moment to discuss with your ex what you’re going to do about the fallout. You can’t always make a clean break in a day—especially when you’re getting out of a long-term relationship. Maybe one of you has to move out. Maybe you have to exchange stuff left at each other’s apartments. Maybe you have mutual friends and have to work out how to deal with that. This is your moment to take care of the complications before they arise.
Obviously, if your ex is too upset to talk about these things rationally, you can deal with them later, but it’s helpful to have a plan ready and set up expectations for the future. All it takes is a simple, “I’ll drop your things off on Tuesday” or “I can stay with my sister while I look for a new place.” You can save your ex some hassle and heartache by handling the logistics of the breakup sooner rather than later.
8. Don’t reach out to your ex after you’ve cut ties.
Seriously. Exes may say they want to stay friends after a breakup, but usually that’s just code for “maybe we could get together again someday.” You made the decision to break up, so you have to follow through. It’s not cool to give an ex false hope by sending the occasional flirty message (this is called breadcrumbing) and keeping him or her on the hook in case you change your mind someday. You’ve broken up. You’re not together. You have to give each other space. Otherwise, neither of you will move on.
When you break up with someone, you have to be clear, clinical, and considerate. You can’t let your emotions cloud your judgment. Hopefully, these eight breaking up tips can help you stay on track, say what you need to say, and get out of there.
Amber Brooks is a Contributing Editor at DatingAdvice.com. When she was growing up, her family teased her for being “boy crazy,” but she preferred to think of herself as a budding dating expert. As an English major in college, Amber honed her communication skills to write clearly, knowledgeably, and passionately about topics that interest her. Now with a background in writing, Amber brings her tireless wit and relatable experiences to DatingAdvice.com.