The Best Way To Break Up With Someone Respectfully

Pro tip: don’t do it publicly.

by Lea Rose Emery and Bustle Editors
Originally Published: 
The best way to breakup with someone
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There's a reason "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do" is still such a popular song decades later — it's so true. Breaking up with someone isn't easy. Sure, there are debates about whether it's better to be the dumper or the dumpee but, the truth is, either way is pretty difficult. But if you realize your relationship just isn't going forward, it's time to pull the plug — no matter how much you hate the idea of breaking up with someone.

"You should break up with someone if you continue to have the same couples' conflicts and arguments repeatedly and your partner refuses to support satisfying your needs," Beverly Hills-based child, parenting, and relationship psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish tells Bustle. "A healthy, working relationship requires two willing participates who want to please each other’s wants and needs."

So how do you do it? Well, it actually doesn't have to be as miserable as you might think. "There is an art to breaking up with someone," Audrey Hope, a celebrity relationship expert, tells Bustle. "If you do what needs to be done, you can sail through it." A little bit of planning — and a lot of respectfulness and compassion — means that you can get through the breakup without too much drama. Here's what you need to keep in mind.


Give It The Gravity It Deserves

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Especially if it's been a long relationship, it's important to make sure you break up with your partner with the respect the relationship deserves. "In this age of texting, please do not break up via text message," relationship counselor and clinical sexologist Martha Tara Lee of Eros Coaching, tells Bustle. "Besides coming across as cold and uncaring, a breakup text does not give the other person a chance for proper closure — to ask questions, hear your tone of voice, or see your facial expression on how you feel ending the relationship. The pain and the healing process may drag on, and your now-ex may continue to contact you — repeatedly. If you care about the person, do it in the best way possible."

Be honest, do it face-to-face — and don't leave any questions hanging in the air.


Be Honest About Why It's Happening

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When you're wondering how to break up with someone, try to keep honesty and openness at the center of the conversation. Being upfront now can save you a lot of hurt feelings and confusion in the long run.

"Tell them what you realized, tell them about your priorities and what you like in a relationship," Lee says. "This allows both of you [to] process why the breakup is happening, and have a direct conversation about it."

That being said, if you're the one who's been wronged, don't list all the ways your partner has let you down, she says. "Your partner will only become defensive, angry, not listen, and retaliate," Dr. Less says. "You could use 'I' statements that show how their actions have affected you, without blaming them. For example, you could say something like, 'When you… I felt... (nobody can argue with the way you feel). I decided I can't tolerate that anymore.'"


Make It A Clean Break

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It can be really, really hard to resist making a clean break, but it probably won't do you any favors in the long run to leave the future open. "Breaking up is uncomfortable for the dumper, but it's far worse for the dumpee," bestselling author and relationship expert Susan Winter tells Bustle. "The kindest way to break up with someone is to do it cleanly, and with clarity. Leaving wiggle room for your ex to wonder, 'Is it really over?' only serves to torture them in the long run. Being vague is not compassionate."

It's so common to fall into an on-again, off-again relationship with an ex — or just to live in ambiguity. Setting up ground rules on how to move forward, right from the very beginning, can make a huge difference.


Don't Do It Publicly

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A lot of people try to find the perfect breakup spot which, honestly, probably doesn't exist. But you can try to figure out the most compassionate place to do it. If you think your partner is going to be emotional, it's not fair to put them on the spot in public, where it ends up turning into a display in front of other people. It impacts the kind of discussion the two of you are able to have, and can even hinder the emotions that deserve to be expressed in this conversation.

"Make plans with your partner to talk in a private area where you're both able to express your emotions freely," Lee says.


Be Clear About What The Relationship Gave You

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If you're wondering how to break up with someone while still ending the relationship on a positive note, remember that you can touch on the good as well as the bad. As much as you're going to have to talk about the negative things about your relationship in a breakup convo, you should also remember the positive parts of the relationship and acknowledge them.

"Speak to them with warmth and love for what you had, while being very clear that your relationship is over," Winter says. Making it clear that there were things you appreciated about the relationship can make the goodbye a lot easier to handle.


Be Kind

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This rule really should be remembered every step of the way — be kind, even if it feels harder to do. Have the conversation, instead of ghosting someone.

"Be honest about why you need to break up with them, and be as kind as possible," Camille Virginia, founder of Master Offline Dating, tells Bustle. "Ghosting is not kind, and that's horrible dating karma that's coming back to you eventually."

And, whenever possible, try to put yourselves in their shoes and think about the best way you can go about the breakup for them. If you keep them at the forefront of your mind, the path to an amicable breakup can seem clearer.


Remember Your Needs

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No matter how difficult the conversation gets, remembering that you need to end the relationship for your personal growth can help. If they start emoting and bringing you in, ground yourself by remembering why you need this.

"When they wanted more and you tell them that you just don't want to be in this anymore, but that you love them, care about them, want the best for them, but are 100 percent clear that this is over, then you've done it right," dating expert John Keegan tells Bustle. "By being kind and loving and honoring what you've had, you will have taken the path of personal growth. Breakups are never going to be easy, no matter who does the breaking up, the pain of loss is inevitable." Sometimes, you have to remind yourself that this is for your own good.


Don't Drag It Out

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Once you realize you want to break up with someone, it's best to just get on with it. As soon as you can, have one big conversation without dragging things out. It can be easier to wait for the ideal moment — or hope that things will change, even when it's clear they won't — but it won't do you any good in the long run.

"Be as honest and up front as possible," relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW, tells Bustle. "Many people know that they want to break up but then feel bad letting their partner know directly. So they often drag out the breakup and the partner senses something is up but really has no idea what. You might think you are sparing their feelings but this way of breaking up actually makes it worse. Once you are clear within yourself, do everyone a favor and break up cleanly and directly. Your partner might need to have one or two more conversations about the relationship than you do and helping accommodate this is always nice."

It can be hard to do, but try to rip off the bandaid when it's clear that the relationship needs to end.


Don't Offer To Be Their Support System

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As much you might hate to see them hurting and feel guilty about it, you are not the person to help them through this. "Don’t offer to be their friend or be there for them," Susan Trombetti, matchmaker and the owner of Exclusive Matchmaking, tells Bustle. "You aren’t what they need right now and, as a matter of fact, you are the last person they need in order for them to move on." It's best for both of you if you let them find another source of support through the breakup.

There's no perfect method for breaking up with someone, but if you keep these in mind, you may be able to make it more bearable. Kindness and a clean break can make a world of difference.


Set Boundaries

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Discuss how you’ll handle communication going forward, especially if you work together or share mutual friends — or even a pet. This ensures you’re on the same page about your post-breakup interactions when you do come into contact and won’t leave room for confusion going forward (for example, why they didn’t reach out on your birthday or why you didn’t invite them to a group dinner).


Follow Through With Your Choice

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Once you've broken up with your partner, stick to the decision and avoid sending mixed signals by texting them or calling them, especially if you’ve agreed to take space to heal. You may miss them or miss their attention, but it’s important to be respectful of their feelings and give them time before you try to establish a friendship.


Respect Their Privacy

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As much as you may want to rehash your convo with all your friends, it’s best to keep the details of your discussion between the two of you, especially if you have mutual friends.


Audrey Hope, Relationship Expert

Dr. Fran Walfish, Relationship Psychotherapist

Martha Tara Lee, Relationship Counselor and Clinical Sexologist at Eros Coaching

Susan Winter, Author and Relationship Expert

Camille Virginia, Founder of Master Offline Dating

John Keegan, Dating Expert

Aimee Hartstein, LCSW and Relationship Therapist

Susan Trombetti, Matchmaker and Owner of Exclusive Matchmaking

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