How To Have The Least Painful Breakup Possible, According To Experts


There’s no such thing as a good breakup, but some breakups are worse than others. And there are a number of simple ways to make your breakup less awful. If you think through how you’ll do it, you can walk away feeling sad but at peace with the situation, rather than torn up and confused.

While it may feel more natural to stay together for as long as you can and then break up when you snap in a fit of anger, it’s important to plan your breakup in advance and get to it as soon as possible. Otherwise, you risk ending the relationship on a bad note. “In terms of wording, think carefully about the way you want this delicate conversation to unfold,” clinical psychologist Daniel Sher tells Bustle. “If necessary, word it to yourself and ‘practice’ beforehand so that you can focus on promoting understanding rather than potentially hurting or insulting your partner. On the other hand, whilst you want to have thought things through, you also don’t want this conversation to seem contrived or inauthentic.”

Here are some "do's and “don’t"s to keep in mind if you want to have the least painful breakup possible and maybe even preserve the opportunity to be friends with your ex afterward.

DO Practice

Breakups can get emotional, and it’s easy to lose your train of thought if you haven’t thought about what you’re going to say. It’s also easy to back out or sugarcoat the breakup if you haven’t committed yourself to making certain points. Rehearsing what you’ll say in advance can help you stay on track, says Sher.

DO Talk In Person

“This communicates respect, care, and empathy,” marriage and family therapist Jim Seibold, PhD LMFT tells Bustle. If you can’t do it in person, at least do it over video chat or phone rather than through a text or email. The only exception to this rule is if your partner has the potential to blow up and you want to protect yourself.

Sher agrees: “It is incredibly difficult (if not impossible) to convey empathy and show that you care unless you are with them in person,” he says.

DO Be Honest

If your partner doesn’t know the real reason you broke up with them, they may not get closure, says Sher. Downplaying your problems may leave them with the impression that there’s something they can do to fix the relationship, even when there’s no hope left. And being vague can leave them puzzling over the breakup for days, weeks, or months, prolonging the period it takes them to get over you.

DON’T Be Brutally Honest

That said, be as forgiving and generous toward your partner as possible. Don’t express anger or resentment toward them, play the blame game, or rehash problems. Just lay out the facts and focus on yourself, says Sher. For example, instead of saying you can’t date someone with your partner’s political views, say that you think you two are too different. Instead of saying they’re disorganized, say you’re the kind of person who has trouble going with the flow. There’s no point in trying to improve their behavior or make them aware of it because soon, you won’t even have to deal with it anymore.

DON’T Use Cliches

Phrases like “it’s not you, it’s me” and “I love you but I’m not in love with you” sound scripted and disingenuous, says Seibold. Your partner deserves the truth rather than a confusing phrase that’ll leave them wondering what you’re really thinking.

DON’T Sugarcoat It

You might think you’re softening the blow by saying “this doesn’t feel right to me right now” or “I’m just not looking for a relationship,” but these phrases leave your significant other with hope that there is something between you and it could work out one day, which can prevent them from moving on, says Seibold. There’s nothing wrong with acknowledging that you two are incompatible, as long as you’re not painting it as a shortcoming of your partner’s.

DON’T Do It During A Vulnerable Time

If your partner was just laid off, is sick, or recently had a death in the family, give it a few days or weeks before breaking up, says Sher. Doing it when you’re both sleep-deprived or in a bad mood can also make the conversation more difficult. Find a time when you’re both in a decent mental state before breaking the news.

Even after following all these suggestions, your breakup probably won’t be easy, and both of your hearts have the opportunity to get broken. But at least you can walk away with the clean conscience that comes from knowing you minimized the damage.