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Breakup Advice: How to Be Respectful While Calling It Off

A man who took this breakup advice hugging his ex girlfriend after breaking up with her in a respectful way.

Simply put, breakups suck. They’re not fun for either party and, no matter how hard you try, someone always ends up getting hurt. But we’ll tell you a secret: Even though you may feel awful about breaking up with someone, it’s okay. In fact, it’s not just ok, it’s necessary. You need to prioritize your happiness, and if things aren’t working out with the person you’re with, you owe it to both of you to say something. It’s ok to break up with someone, but what’s not okay is doing so disrespectfully.

Breakups happen. At some point, you’ll break up with someone. At another point, you’ll be broken up with. If you want to call things off in a nice way, it’s important to initiate—and maintain—a breakup in a way that you’d want to be broken up with.

Here’s some helpful breakup advice on how to be respectful while calling it off:

1. Take the conversation seriously.
If you want to break up with someone respectfully, there are a few things you can do in the moment that will make a big difference in the future. For starters, break up with your partner face to face. Yes, it’s awkward and more painful than digital alternatives, but it’s the decent thing to do. It’s also important to know what you’re going to say, choose your words carefully, and be honest.

2. Set clear boundaries—and stick to them.
Decide what post-breakup boundaries you need, then communicate them during the breakup conversation politely but firmly. Do you want them in your life moving forward? And in what capacity? Are you staying friends? Is calling okay? What about texting? Know the answers to these questions and others going into the breakup and communicate them as clearly as possible. It might be tempting to waver once you’re talking with your partner in person, but remember: You decided to set these boundaries for a reason. It’s best to stick to them.

3. But be prepared for your partner to break those boundaries.
Depending on how the breakup goes, your ex might not respect the established boundaries that you set forth. They might be hurt, upset, outraged, or a combination of all three. You can’t control whether or not they go against your wishes after the breakup, but you can control how you respond. If they do, be prepared to politely but firmly stick to your guns.

4. Be honest about what you do and don’t want.
In the heat of the breakup, you might be tempted to tell some white lies to ease your partner’s pain. Things like “Sure, we can stay friends,” or “You can still call me anytime you want to talk.” But if you don’t mean something, don’t say it. You don’t have to be a jerk about it, but it’s best not to set false expectations or get their hopes up with false promises that you secretly have no intention of keeping. The most respectful thing you can do during a breakup is be honest. It might hurt in the moment, but they’ll thank you in the long run.

5. Avoid arguments.
Many breakups start respectfully but turn into arguments. Be prepared for your partner to protest or get defensive about their behavior during your relationship. But the breakup is what it is; you’ve made up your mind, and at this point, fighting about old pain points isn’t worth it. Just stick to your talking points, avoid being needlessly combative, and know that the hardest part is behind you. You might have to bite your tongue a few times, but it’ll be over soon.

6. Treat them how you’d want to be treated.
Your partner probably isn’t going to be thrilled that you’re breaking up with them. Even if they saw it coming, it’s still going to hurt. Chances are you’ve been dumped before. How did it feel? Probably not too great, right? Put yourself in their shoes and remember to treat them how you’d want to be treated during a breakup. Taking the high road never hurts.

Unfortunately, breaking up is part of the dating game. But even if you’re ready for a relationship to end, you can still break things off with kindness and respect. As long as you stick to your talking points and keep a cool head, you’ll both be okay.

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