When you break up with someone, you should take these 10 steps:
Do it in person, if at all possible.
Pick the right place.
Do it ASAP.
Try to avoid special occasions.
Tell them the truth.
Don’t ask for a break.
Don’t ask for time.
Make it clear it’s over.
Let them dictate how things move forward.
If you’re reading this, then you’ve already made the decision, even if you haven’t quite admitted it to yourself yet.
It’s over. Whether you’ve been with someone for a few months or years have gone by, breaking up with them is never going to be easy.
You know it’s the right thing, and that you’ll both be better off in the end, but the thought of actually breaking up with them isn’t a pleasant one.
If you’re worried about hurting them, then chances are you’d quite like them to remain in your life in some way, shape, or form.
Whilst you shouldn’t expect someone you break up with to be your best friend straight away, if you handle the break up right then you just might be able to become friends again at some point in the future.
Here are a few things to think about before you break up with them, to try and minimize the hurt you’ll be causing.
1. Do It In Person, If At All Possible
You can normally get away with ending things virtually if you’ve only been on a handful of dates or haven’t been seeing each other long.
Just be sure to actually tell them, for the love of god. If you think ghosting is socially acceptable you can stop reading now. There’s no hope for you.
If you’ve started meeting each other’s friends, staying over at each other’s place, or just feel like things have gone beyond the initial stage of a relationship, then you owe them a face-to-face break up.
If it’s a long-standing thing, it definitely needs to be in person. My friend’s boyfriend of two years broke up with her brutally in a quick 10-minute phone call from the office. She’s scarred for life. Don’t be that guy, or that girl.
Organize to see them and bring it up quickly, as small talk isn’t going to be comfortable in this situation.
On the other hand, doing it in person isn’t always physically possible. If you’re in a long distance relationship, there’s no need to wait to break up with them in person if you won’t see them for months. If you know it’s over, it’s better to do it virtually so that you can both stop wasting your time.
2. Pick The Right Place
Preferably, do it somewhere private like their place (not yours, unless you live together – let them be on home ground!), so they don’t have to face the journey home with a tear-stained face.
At least pick somewhere that’s not particularly busy, so if they get upset then they’re not crying in front of crowds of people. A park is always good if the weather’s okay.
Please don’t pick somewhere seemingly romantic, or do it over dinner in a crowded restaurant.
3. Do It ASAP
The last thing you want to do is hurt them, so you probably keep putting it off, but they probably already know something’s wrong.
They can tell that things have changed. Very few breakups come as a complete surprise to the person being broken up with, even if they deny it.
The sooner you do it, the sooner you can both move on with your lives and be happy again.
4. Try To Avoid Special Occasions
If you can, try to avoid any significant dates that are meant to be happy occasions, like their birthday or New Year’s Eve.
Try to avoid any sad days too, like the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Just use your brain and think about how you’d feel in their shoes.
On the other hand, please don’t wait and do it the day AFTER their birthday. It’s not doing them a favor. You’ve given them some lovely memories on their big day, but immediately made those memories turn incredibly bitter, as they’ll know you were planning it all along.
5. Tell Them The Truth
I know you might think that it’s kinder to tell them you’ve just fallen out of love with them than that you’ve fallen in love with someone else, but it’s not.
They’ll find out the truth, and even if they don’t, they’ll still feel like something wasn’t right and you weren’t telling them the whole story.
Honesty is 100% the best policy, whatever your reason for breaking up with them.
Answer their questions honestly, without giving them any unnecessary details that will just make things worse.
How many couples do you know that have gone on a ‘break’ when things get tough and then got back together, and stayed that way? I thought so.
A break is often just used as an interim measure by people who want to break up with their partner when they don’t have the guts to do it straight away.
Although it might not seem so on the surface, this is a pretty selfish move. If you know deep down it’s really over, it’s time to finish it. Don’t drag it out.
7. And Don’t Ask For ‘Time’ Either
Another technique used by those who don’t have the nerve to just do it. Telling your partner you’re unsure about the relationship and then asking them for time to think things over is not cool.
They’re likely to spend that time obsessing over it and generally feeling miserable, when they could be starting the process of moving on.
8. Make It Clear It’s Over
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that leaving them with a shred of hope is kinder than completely pulling the band-aid off. It’s not. If they know it’s over, they can start getting over it.
If you leave them under the impression that there’s a chance of you two getting back together, then they might be determined to win you back.
9. But, Of Course, Be Gentle!
Whilst ripping the band-aid off sounds a bit brutal, it needn’t be! You do need to be firm and clear, but you should also be kind and gentle.
Don’t let yourself get worked up, and try not to cry if you can help it. On the other hand, don’t act like you’re made of stone, as you don’t want them to think you never cared.
It’s a balancing act, but it’s best to keep reminding yourself of how you’d feel if you were in their shoes and use that as the guide for your behavior.
Whatever you do, don’t tell them you think they’re overreacting.
10. Let Them Dictate How Things Go Forward
You might have the awkward return of each other’s stuff to deal with, or you might even be living together. Whatever needs to happen, it’s best to let them be the one to call the shots (although you shouldn’t be a doormat).
I always find that no contact is the best way to go when you first break up, to give both parties a chance to process things and start recovering.
If they want to keep in contact and you don’t think it’s healthy, let them know as tactfully as possible.
You can hopefully be friends down the line, but no one can seamlessly turn a romantic relationship into a friendship.
If you start seeing someone new (or you already were), be sure not to flaunt it. Keep it off social media for a while out of respect.
Horrible as the process might seem, try to keep it in perspective. You’ll be fine, and they’ll be fine. It’s for the best. You’ve got this.
Katie splits her time between writing and translation. She writes about travel and self-care and never stays in one place for too long. She’s currently based in beautiful Cornwall, England, after long stints in Brazil and Mexico. She spends her free time trail running, exploring and devouring vegan food.