11 tips to break up with your long term partner and end things gracefully

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You’ve been in a relationship for a long time.

And over that time, you’ve gotten to know your partner better than anyone else. Your lives have become deeply intertwined.

You’re not sure what life is going to look like without them, but you’ve come to a decision. For whatever reason, you’ve decided that the relationship has run its course.

It’s time for you both to move on.

If you’re reading this, then you want to make sure you break up with them respectfully and leave things as well as you possibly can.

After all, you’ve loved this person for a long time and the last thing you want to do is hurt them.

But to be honest, you’ve no idea where to start. How can you put an end to something so long-lasting and life-changing?

Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula that you can use to make sure that they take the news well.

But there are some tips that might help you end things on the best possible terms.

1. Make sure you’re both in the right mindset.

This sounds very basic, but it can make a big difference.

A bad situation is always made worse if one of the people involved in a chat like this is hungry, tired, or stressed.

If you can, plan to break up with them when you know that they’re in a relatively good mood, and when you are too. It’ll make you more rational and eloquent, which is extremely helpful in situations like these.

2. Pick your venue wisely.

Where you end the relationship is something you should think about carefully. If you live together, it should probably be in the privacy of your own home.

Public places are rarely a good idea, especially if you think there will be emotions of all kinds on display.

If you do pick somewhere public, try to avoid anywhere they really like, so you don’t ruin that place for them. Or anywhere that seems romantic, so they don’t have visions of a romantic date brutally crushed.

You should volunteer to be the one to leave after you’ve spoken, but it might be that they’d rather be the one to go, so they’re not surrounded by memories of the two of you. 

3. Once you’re sure, do it sooner rather than later.

Making decisions like this is incredibly hard, and you’ll probably change your mind a million times.

But once you’ve decided, deep down, that the relationship doesn’t have a future, there’s no point in dragging things out.

You can’t live with that knowledge, pretending everything’s okay. It’s unkind to them and to yourself to put on an act. 

If there’s an important event coming up, it can be a bit tricky.

After all, you don’t want to ruin their birthday or whatever it is by breaking up with them just before it, or on the day.

But you also don’t want to break up with them just after it, as the happy memories will be destroyed when they realize you’d been planning the breakup.

A friend of mine was in a long-term relationship with a guy, and he decided to wait until the very end of a dreamy summer holiday with her to break things off.

He said he wanted her to have those last memories, but she just felt betrayed, and like he’d been playing a part for the whole holiday. Needless to say, they’re not on good terms. Don’t be that guy.

4. Do it in person.

This is someone you’ve shared your life with for years. The least you can do is be brave enough to end things in person.

The only exception to this is if the two of you are miles apart, with no chance of seeing each other anytime soon.

In that case, it might be kinder to do it virtually so that they can start to work through it. The sooner they know the relationship is over, the sooner they’ll be able to get over it.   

5. Stay as calm and collected as you can.

Do your best to stay as calm as you can, given the circumstances. If you get all worked up, you might say things you don’t mean or explaining yourself badly.

They might well get upset or angry with you, so be prepared for this. You know each other so well, and that means you know how to hit each other where it hurts.

Be ready for them to throw you some low blows, and don’t be tempted to retaliate.

And whatever you do, don’t make it seem like they’re overreacting if they get worked up.

Whatever’s happened between you, remember how much you’ve loved them and treat them with care.

6. Be honest and respectful.

Your relationship was, hopefully, built on honesty. And now isn’t the time to stop being honest with them.

They know you well, so they’ll know if you’re lying to them about why you’re ending things, or what the catalyst has been.

If you’ve fallen out of love, then they need to know that. But if it’s more than that, try your best to explain.

Just make sure you don’t end up being too brutal. You can be honest without hurting their feelings, even if the end of the relationship has a lot to do with things that you feel they’ve done badly.

Respect needs to be the name of the game at all times.

7. Make the situation clear.

If they still want to be with you, then the worst thing you can do is to give them the impression that this might just be a temporary thing, and that you might get back together at a later date.

This is especially true if you’ve been together for a long time and you had everything down to the names of your kids picked out.

Let them know that things really are over once and for all. It’s far kinder in the long run, as it’ll mean they’ll be able to get on with their lives rather than holding out hope and pining for you.

What seems like kindness right now could actually be far crueller in the long term.

8. Be wary about asking for a break, space, or for time to think.

When a relationship is on the rocks, it can be tempting to ask for a break to give you time to think. Or “space.”

If you really, genuinely think that having some time apart might make you realize that you love them and want to make things work, then maybe putting them through the uncertainty of a break might be worth it.

But if, deep down, you know it would just be putting off the inevitable, don’t fall into that trap. Don’t use a break as a kind of half-way house. It’s not letting them down gently; it’s stringing them along.

9. Suggest that you don’t have contact for a while.

After a breakup, it’s important for you both to have some mental and physical space to work through your thoughts and feelings.

If it’s at all feasible (you don’t share children, or a business, and you don’t live together or you have somewhere else to stay) suggest to them that the two of you cut off contact for a while.

Take some time to process what happened and give them the space they need to come to terms with it too.

If you don’t live together, you could even exchange your things without seeing each other, by dropping them off with a mutual friend.

Who knows, the two of you might be able to build a friendship in the future, but it’s important to have this time apart before you can start to think about that.

10. Let them take the lead.

If the two of you have been together for a long time, then you can’t just walk out the door and forget all about them. Your lives have to be untangled, and that can be awkward, tricky, and messy.

The two of you need to come up with some kind of plan, but it’s probably best to let them dictate how this is all going to happen, whilst, of course, not letting them walk all over you.

11. Think about the practicalities.

You probably live together, which means that one or both of you will have to move.

If you co-own a place or have signed a long-term lease, it’s going to be complicated for you both to move on.

You also need to think about things like splitting your belongings, so you need to be clear about what it just yours/theirs, and what you bought together. Be prepared to be conciliatory over certain things if you don’t want it to get petty.

Bear in mind that it might not be possible for you to stop living together immediately after the breakup. If that’s the case, then discuss ground rules around privacy and co-living. If you’ve got the space, sleeping apart is preferable.

You could also set rules about what can and can’t be discussed to avoid pointless painful conversations.

If the two of you have kids, or own property together, then you might need to seek legal advice to help you figure out how things will work going forwards.

Whatever you do, just be gentle and kind to both yourself and them. This isn’t going to be easy for either of you, but it’s for the best.

Still not sure how to end things and need further advice? Chat online to a relationship expert from Relationship Hero who can help you figure things out. Simply click here to chat.

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About The Author

Katie is a writer and translator with a focus on travel, self-care and sustainability. She's based between a cave house in Granada, Spain, and the coast of beautiful Cornwall, England. She spends her free time hiking, exploring, eating vegan tapas and volunteering for a local dog shelter.