How to End a Relationship Properly

If you're wondering how to end a relationship, this couple figured it out.

You’ve been mulling it over for a while now and the time has come to breakup with your partner. For whatever reason, vows were broken or you just know they’re not the one, you’ve made up your mind to break things off. But it’s hard to know how to end a relationship the right way. Often, many will opt to breakup over text or even tell their partner they “just need a break” as a way to soften the blow. But, you’re only postponing the inevitable and dragging out the pain for both people.

Don’t say you need a break if you’re set on terminating the relationship, said licensed marriage and family therapist, Dr. Paul Hokemeyer. “The best time is when you’re 90% sure that it’s the right thing for you to do. Don’t wait for the decision to be 100%. You’ll be waiting around in relational purgatory for far too long and wasting a lot of precious time there if you do.”

A breakup is rarely smooth, so here are some tips for how to end a relationship properly:

Choose the time and place carefully.
Decide on a time when you know you’ll have the privacy to talk it out. “Don’t ruin a special day for them or do it when both of you are on the way to work. Choose a time when it can be discussed respectfully and the other person does not feel ambushed,” said licensed clinical psychologist and author of “Should I Stay or Should I go? Surviving a Relationship with a Narcissist” Dr. Ramani Durvasula.

Break it off in person.
You may be tempted to take the easy way out and text, since it’s normal to want to avoid conflict. “Schedule a face to face meeting in a neutral and public space with a distinct beginning and end. A neutral space will allow you to enter and exit with autonomy and strength. The public nature of the space will keep the process contained,” said Hokemeyer. If you fear your partner may physically retaliate or it’s logistically impossible to break up in person, as a last resort you can break up over the phone.

Be direct and honest, yet gentle and respectful.
Nobody wants to be left, but when you know it’s over, there is no point in prolonging the agony. “You’ll be compelled to hedge your truth, but don’t,” said Hokemeyer. “It will only drag the process out and add to its messiness.” In the same sense, don’t make it a laundry list of their failures. It also doesn’t help to just talk about ephemeral stuff like magic and connection. “Relationships end often because of behavioral stuff (e.g. what someone did or did not do), so stick to the facts,” added Durvasula.

Choose your words wisely.
Stick to “I” phrases. For example, “I need to tell you that our relationship is not working for me and I am going to call it off”. Be honest with your reasoning but don’t spend all your time defending yourself and your decision to end the relationship. Hokemeyer says to avoid trite phases, such as “this isn’t about you, it’s about me.”  “Of course it’s about them. If they met your needs and expectations you wouldn’t be breaking up with them,” he said.

Don’t offer false hope.
You may feel propelled to offer a continued friendship with your now ex, but unless that’s what you really want, don’t make promises you can’t keep just to assuage their sadness or you may risk having to start this whole painful process again. “Make sure you are firm and unwavering in your commitment. It’s all too easy to waffle and be pulled off course by your partner’s disappointment and ego injury so don’t get sucked into the whole perpetrator victim drama,” says Hokemeyer.

Give them space to process.
Your now ex is going to be upset, but it’s not your job to fix their emotions nor are you the best candidate to comfort them right now. “Let them have their emotions and opportunity to vent. It may hurt to hear some of it—athey have the right to feel the way they feel. Ask them what would feel better—a you there or not there—and then act in accordance with their wishes,” said Durvasula.

Take care of yourself afterwards.
You may feel like scum after the deed is done, but don’t. “Don’t beat yourself up for standing up for yourself and honoring your needs. You deserve to be happy and aspire to personal and sexual fulfillment in your romantic relationships,” said Hokemeyer. It’s best to have a social support system in place as you’ll need the comfort and support of your friends and family immediately after you deliver the news and for the weeks and months after.

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