A woman breaking up with someone you love walking out of a doorway.

Breaking up is never easy. Even when you’re ending things for the right reasons, it’s still hard to call off something that was once incredibly meaningful and significant. Relationships end for a lot of reasons, and often times it’s not for big ones like cheating or abuse. In truth, most relationships end because of much more mundane (but still impactful) reasons like bad timing and simply wanting different things. All breakups are hard, but breaking up with someone you love is a whole other story.

It’s one thing to break up with someone when you’ve fallen out of love with them or never had particularly strong feelings for them to begin with. Those breakups are difficult, but most of the time, you understand why ending things is the right move. Alternatively, it’s another thing entirely to break up with someone when you’re still in love with them. When you’re considering ending things with someone you’re still in love with, it can quickly get messy and complicated.

When should you break up with someone you love?

The short answer: When you know that you shouldn’t be with them anymore, no matter how much you care about them.

The long answer: That moment will look different for everybody.

Maybe you want different things and are being pulled in two different directions. Maybe you’re not getting what you need and realize that you never will. Maybe staying together puts you in physical and/or emotional harm. When you have a moment of realization that you shouldn’t be with someone anymore, it’s time to break up. Don’t make excuses why you should stay—take action to protect your heart.

How should you break up with someone you love?

The short answer: carefully.

The long answer: Once you’re confident in the decision, have a conversation, and stand your ground.

Be prepared for your partner to protest and try to change your mind, but remember that this is your decision. You don’t have to stay with someone just to avoid hurting their feelings; you can be respectful while still being firm. You’re both going to hurt, but you will be okay. We promise.

How do you know if breaking up is the right thing to do?

The short answer: You have to trust your gut.

The long answer: If any part of you feels like you should walk away from a relationship, or if you can’t stop thinking about ending things, listen to that voice in your head.

Even though thinking about it hurts, it’s important to consider what that voice is saying and why it’s saying it. The best thing you can do is be honest with yourself. If a friend came to you in the same situation, what advice would you give them? Thinking about your relationship objectively can help you reach a stronger conclusion.

The decision to break up with somebody is entirely yours to make. There’s nothing that you “should” or “shouldn’t” do, because every relationship and situation is different. It’s not up to family, friends, or even articles like this one to sway your decision one way or another. It’s helpful to turn to trusted sources to talk things out and get advice, but ultimately, you’re the one who decides what to do. It might sound overwhelming, but try to see that in a positive light: You have the power to choose what makes you happy. And during sad times, that’s a comforting thought.

Elizabeth Entenman

Freelance Writer

Elizabeth is a freelance writer, editor, and advertising copywriter in Brooklyn. Right now, she’s probably somewhere Instagramming her dogs.