If Things Aren’t Working Out, This Is The Right Way To Break Up With Someone

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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.

It is practically inevitable that you will hurt your partner by ending the relationship, but how and when you break up with them will influence how upsetting it is for the both of you.

Here are a few things to think about before you break up with someone, to try to minimize the heartache you’ll cause.

17 Steps To Breaking Up In The Best Way Possible

1. Think about why you want to end the relationship.

You know you want to break up, but do you know precisely why? If not, that’s something you’ll need to figure out before you do anything else.

It’s important to have that clarity of mind when you sit down to talk things through with your partner. It will allow you to be clear in what you say, so that there’s no confusion.

It will mean you have the answers to any questions they might have, and you’ll be able to stand firm if they try to change your mind.

It will also give you more confidence in your decision. Your reasoning will be sound because you will have spent time thinking things through.

So what are your reasons?

Have you realized that you and your partner are just fundamentally incompatible?

Are you unhappy in the relationship, and have tried your best to remedy the situation?

Has your partner treated you poorly? Have they lied, cheated, or been aggressive toward you?

Do you simply not feel ready to be in a committed relationship right now?

Do a little soul searching and try to pinpoint ALL of the reasons why your relationship has no viable future.

2. 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, 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.

Breaking up with someone doesn’t allow you to treat them with any less respect. A face-to-face explanation of why you are ending things will help both parties to accept the finality of the situation.

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.

3. 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, and don’t do it over dinner in a crowded restaurant.

Caveat: if you have any concerns that they may get angry and act aggressively toward you, don’t do it in private. Make it somewhere public and in sight of others to ensure your safety. And let a close friend know where you are and what you’re doing and ask them to check in with you at a certain time to make sure you are okay. In fact, if your partner has ever been violent toward you, you might want to consider breaking up via a phone call.

4. 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.

That’s not to say that you should abandon a relationship as soon as you hit some rocky ground – relationships are hard and take work.

But if you can’t see a potentially happy ending to things, there is little reason to delay the inevitable.

The exception to this rule is…

5. 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.

6. Start the conversation the right way.

There they are sitting opposite you – your boyfriend or girlfriend. What exactly should you say to them?

How should you initiate the conversation?

Well, it might help to pre-warn them that you want to have a serious chat before you actually meet them. That way, you aren’t blindsiding them with the news that you want to split up. The possibility of a breakup will no doubt enter their head, meaning they are prepared for the chat. A simple text before you see them will do.

Let’s say you are going to their place one evening, as you often do. Rather than surprising them with your breakup speech the moment they open the door, you could text them when you are on your way saying something like:

“I’d like to talk to you about something important when I arrive, so don’t make the dinner just yet.”

Or earlier that day, you might say:

“We need to sit down and have an important chat this evening.”

When they inevitably respond by asking what about, you can just tell them that you’d prefer to speak in person.

Okay, so how about the actual conversation itself? How do you start that off?

The key is to keep your first sentence short and get straight to the point. But it can help to reaffirm that you care about them:

“I want you to know that I care about you and value the time we’ve spent together, but I think we should end the relationship.”

Or:

“You mean a lot to me, but I don’t think this relationship is working. It’d be better for both of us if we call time on it.”

The way you begin this conversation will set the tone for how the rest of it goes. So try your best to say whatever you say calmly and clearly. That might be hard in such an emotional situation, but the less emotional you can remain, the more serious your partner will take your wish to break up.

7. Tell them the truth.

Okay, so you’ve expressed your wish to go your separate ways. Now what? How should you handle the rest of the conversation?

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.

Of course, their first question is almost certainly going to be: “Why?”

They will want to know your reasons for giving up on what you have together (as they see it).

Answer this questions honestly, without giving them any unnecessary details that will just make things worse.

This comes back to the idea of a breakup based on respect for your partner. Lying or not providing any explanation at all is no way to show respect for someone you cared about.

But you can still explain your reasons tactfully and this is best done by talking about how you are feeling and not resorting to reading out a list of their faults.

Sure, their behavior may be one of the main reasons for your decision, but now is not the time to point the finger of blame.

And framing the breakup as being based on you and your feelings gives them less opportunity to say they’ll change.

Try to keep your answers and statements short to avoid confusion and also to not draw out the whole conversation.

Don’t be afraid to pause before you say things or answer their questions. This will give you a vital few seconds to gather your thoughts and consider your words carefully.

Keep bringing it back to your feelings on the matter. Start your sentences with “I…” to remind you and them that this breakup is your choice and your reasons are what matter.

Talk to an experienced relationship expert to help you figure out exactly what to say and how to say it. They’ll also be there to help to deal with the aftermath. Connect with one of the experts from Relationship Hero now.

8. Be positive about your time together.

Whilst always sticking to the truth, try to express to your partner that you will look back fondly on the time you have spent together.

It will be easier on them if they don’t feel like you regret the whole relationship.

Tell them that you wish them well and that you hope they find someone with whom they can be truly happy.

These simple words can help your partner to see a positive outcome to the breakup and see the relationship as a worthwhile part of their journey.

9. Don’t ask for a break.

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. 

10. 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.

11. 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, they might be determined to win you back.

12. 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.

13. Disentangle your lives.

Depending on how long you’ve been together, your lives may have become interwoven in many different ways. Now is the time to start picking apart your life from theirs.

If you rent a place together, you should ideally find a way to end that arrangement as soon as possible. If you own a property together, that’s going to take longer to figure out.

Either way, it’s best if one of you moves out as soon as possible. Since you have initiated the breakup, that might have to be you. Though if you know they have a place they can stay, you might ask if they’d consider that instead.

If you don’t live together but have stuff at their place, you will need to get that stuff back. You have three choices here: if you have a key, you could do it before even having the conversation. Or, after the breakup, you could ask when they will be out so that you can come and get your things (posting the key through the letterbox as you leave). Or you could ask a friend to collect your things at a time when your now-ex is at home.

Other things you’ll need to think about are: shared bank accounts, major purchases you made together (such as cars, furniture, etc.), and even pets. If your partner is reasonable, you’ll be able to figure all this out in good time. But not all people will act reasonably in these situations. If in doubt, seek expert legal or financial advice to be clear on your options.

Social media is another area where your lives will have overlapped. You and they may appear in lots of photos together, you may have an official relationship status that is visible to all, you may have befriended their friends and vice versa. There is no single way to deal with all of this, but it’s something to think about.

14. Agree on contact rules and boundaries.

You may want to draw a line under this relationship, move on, and never see them again. That’s your choice, but they may not agree.

If they want to keep in contact and you don’t think it’s healthy, let them know as tactfully as possible.

No contact is often the best way to go when you first break up, to give both parties a chance to process things and start recovering.

However, your ex may want to talk about things some more to get closure and to understand your decision. If this is something you think you can handle, you can agree to be available in one form or another for a short period after the breakup. Whether that’s in person, on the phone, or via text is up to you.

Either way, you should make it clear what your boundaries are if you are okay with them contacting you. You might set a date after which you will cease all communication. You might ignore any texts after a certain time of night. You may say that if they try to convince you to change your mind, you’ll stop responding.

Perhaps you can be friends down the line – it does happen, and more often than you think. But no one can seamlessly turn a romantic relationship into a friendship. It’s good to have some space from them before deciding whether or not you want to keep them as a part of your life (assuming the feeling is mutual).

15. Accept that it’s not going to feel good.

Breaking up is never a fun or pleasant experience – for either party.

As the one who is ending things, you may feel all sorts of emotions such as guilt or regret. As the one being broken up with, your partner is likely to feel sad or hurt or angry or any combination of other emotions.

Be in no doubt, if the relationship has been going for even a few months, ending it is going to be hard.

Just remember that you can’t control how they react. And whatever it is they feel, those are valid feelings to have. You may think they are overreacting or attempting to make you feel bad, but people feel emotions in different ways and with different intensities.

You don’t have to accept responsibility for their feelings or how the breakup affects their life. Even if they tailspin down into depression, that is not on you.

You can still care about them from a distance, but try not to let their emotional reaction to the breakup seep into your life and your thinking. Keep your thoughts and feelings separate from theirs.

16. Don’t have breakup sex.

Perhaps this one doesn’t need to be said, but having sex with your partner (now ex-partner) directly following the breakup is not a good idea.

You may want to feel close to them in that way one last time. You may do it out of pity for them. You may see it as a way to cheer them up and lessen the blow.

But don’t do it. There isn’t really a good reason to now that you’ve split up.

All it will do is confuse them. It may even give them false hope. Or they may feel as though they can pressure you into sex at a later date too. Or that you’re up for making the relationship a no-strings arrangement. 

17. Take care of yourself.

The breakup is not going to be easy on you, even though you are the one who is initiating it.

Which is why it’s important to be kind to yourself, look after yourself, and do things that combat the pain and sadness you may feel.

This should definitely include letting your friends and family know about the situation so that they can be there to spend more time with you and support you through it. This will help with the loneliness you will potentially feel after cutting someone you cared about out of your life.

Yes, you should feel free to wallow for a little bit. That’s natural. It may include ways to numb the pain such as comfort foods or even some alcohol. Just don’t let it become your new norm. The moment you start to feel a little better, swap the junk food and booze for healthy meals and exercise.

Breakup FAQs

Besides the act of breaking up itself, there are some other things to consider.

Here are some of the most commonly asked questions that might help you get through this experience as smoothly as possible.

What if I live with my partner?

A healthy breakup is difficult when you’re under each others feet all the time, so if you know you’re going to end the relationship, try to arrange some temporary accommodation elsewhere.

Ask to stay on a friend’s couch, move back in with your parents, or see if there is an affordable hotel or B&B nearby that you can make do in for a short while.

In the longer term, one or both of you will need to find somewhere else to live and this process should start immediately.

The longer you live with your now ex-partner, the harder it will be for you both to move on.

And, sadly, there might be some ill feeling between you which can erupt into arguments if it’s allowed to fester for too long.

What if I still love them?

You might see that the relationship isn’t healthy or simply isn’t meant to be, but this doesn’t mean you don’t care about your partner.

You may even love them quite a lot, but love is not always enough to keep two people together.

Love is a reason to give a relationship every chance of succeeding, but it is not a reason to persist with something that isn’t in either of your best interests in the long term.

When deciding whether or not to break up with someone, try to separate your feelings from the more practical and realistic points.

Don’t allow feelings – even love – to keep you in a relationship that is doomed to fail eventually.

What if they aren’t expecting it?

While most people will sense that something isn’t quite right in a relationship, it’s not always the case.

This is especially true if you have never spoken to your partner about how you are feeling.

If someone isn’t expecting to be broken up with, the news will hit doubly hard. But the advice doesn’t really change too much…

…don’t delay it, be honest, be clear, and be firm.

What if they don’t want to / won’t let me break up?

When being broken up with, some people will try really hard to prevent it from happening.

They might insist that you give things “one more chance,” even though you’ve already given the relationship every opportunity to succeed.

Don’t give in to any demands and stand firm in your decision even if they are trying to guilt trip you, use emotional blackmail, or simply because they seem so devastated by events.

Don’t feel like you have to justify to them why you are ending the relationship.

Offer a clear explanation to begin with, but don’t then feel the need to provide further details.

If you have made your decision and it is something you have carefully thought through, you must stand firm and keep repeating that it is over and there is nothing they can say or do that will change your mind.

Be prepared to end the conversation and walk away if necessary.

And if they persist with trying to win you back, just refuse to engage with them when they bring that topic up.

Sure, you may have to still talk to this person for various reasons, but you don’t have to talk to them about your relationship.   

h3>I feel really bad, what should I do?

There’s no denying that breaking up with someone – especially if you love them – is a hard thing to do.

You are bound to experience some pretty unpleasant feelings such as guilt, remorse, sadness, and even an emptiness of not knowing what comes next.

There is no magic pill to help you get rid of these feelings, but it is worth remembering why you are taking this action in the first place.

Have your reasons clear in your mind and use these to help remind you that you are doing the right thing.

And don’t allow your partner’s sadness, anger, or disappointment to weigh on your shoulders too.

You may have been the one to initiate the breakup, but a relationship is about two people and their feelings are not yours to own or deal with.

What if I have second thoughts?

If you break up with your partner and then experience second thoughts, don’t worry, this is quite common.

If you have been together for any great length of time, you’ll have no doubt become integral parts of each other’s lives.

Having to face the decoupling of those lives and the stark uncertainty of the future can be a huge practical and emotional upheaval.

It’s understandable to wish that everything could go back to how it was.

Only, how it was wasn’t working for you and you have to keep reminding yourself of this until you have adjusted to your new reality.

What if they have depression or other mental health issues?

Ending a relationship with someone who suffers from depression or some other mental health issue may feel doubly difficult.

You may feel responsible for their emotional well-being and stability, but the truth is that as much as you may help them cope with their condition, it is still their condition.

If the relationship is not healthy for you or them or both, ending it is still the right decision.

The advice above still holds true, and it isn’t easy to be any gentler than you might be with someone who doesn’t have mental health issues.

The only thing you might wish to do differently, particularly if you have been with this person for a long time and know their friends and family, is to let them know after you have broken up with your partner.

It may feel like you are going behind your partner’s back, but if you believe they will need support and could pose any risk to themselves, it is a kind and sensible thing to do.

I’m scared of breaking up with my partner, what should I do?

If this relationship has been a big part of your life for a significant period of time, ending it can be a source of fear.

This fear can come about because of the inevitable pain that you and they will experience, the unknown future that lay ahead, and the prospect of actually saying those words.

Fear is natural, but it can also be overcome. You must just keep your mind focused on the reasons why you wish to break up with your partner.

These reasons will help you push through the fear and reach the point where you actually take the action and split with them.

What if they say they’ll change?

A common response to being broken up with is to insist that you will change and that the relationship will become better.

If your partner says this, you should take what they say with a pinch of salt. People don’t always do what they say, and real change is not simple or quick.

Then there is the issue of whether them changing would make any difference to the way you feel. If your decision was less to do with them and more to do with you, their promises of change won’t matter.

Of course, this is all assuming that you’ve previously discussed things with them in terms of how they could make you happier in the relationship, and they haven’t listened or adjusted their behavior in any way.

What if they did nothing wrong?

Perhaps there isn’t anything majorly wrong with the relationship. Your partner hasn’t done anything wrong.

Well, then, you have to ask what is driving your decision to break up. Why have you decided that this relationship is no longer right for you?

Are you just scared of committing to them even more than you have already (for instance, moving in with them)?

Have you never really had any great feelings for them, but somehow found yourself in a relationship?

Are you simply not in the right headspace to be in a relationship right now?

When it comes to having that conversation with your partner, you should make it abundantly clear that you ending things is not their fault.

They may not understand, and you don’t want them to start questioning everything they have done in the relationship – that sort of doubt can last long after your relationship is consigned to memory.

But if your heart is not in the relationship, it’s not fair to continue with it either, even if your partner is loving and kind.

Should you apologize?

Since you are the person who is calling time on the relationship, you may feel an urge to apologize to your partner.

That’s okay, as long as you are apologizing for the right thing.

By all means say sorry for the hurt and pain the breakup is going to cause. If you care about them, of course you’re going to regret inflicting that pain upon them.

But don’t apologize for breaking up with them. If you truly believe that it is the right thing to do, you have nothing to apologize for.

Still not sure how to go about breaking up with your partner? 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 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.