Breakups can leave you feeling insecure, confused, and hurt—especially when you’re on the receiving end. So when you’re the one ending the relationship, it is worth knowing how to do it nicely.
According to experts, there are ways to break up with someone in a nice way and help minimize the pain of breakups on both sides.
Here are their insights:
Deanna Fernandez, MHC
You’ve been dating for a while, for some months, maybe even some years and you’ve been feeling like you want out. Part of what keeps you there is you don’t know how things should end. You keep replaying terrible scenarios in your head and it’s scaring you from actually ending things. So you stay despite how you feel.
Each relationship is different, especially depending on what’s involved (living together, children, etc.) so you’ll have to figure out what’s best for your situation.
But here are some general guidelines on how to break up nicely:
Make sure you actually want to end the relationship
If you’ve been feeling like you want the relationship to end, chances are it’s time for the relationship to end. Whether you’ve been afraid to share these feelings because you don’t want to be the “one to end it” or because you feel bad about what’s going to happen to them, it’s better, to be honest about your feelings sooner than later.
BUT, make sure you actually want to end the relationship. Sometimes our feelings lead us to the conclusion that we may not truly want. No backsies!
Find a neutral spot
It’s safer for both you and your partner if you end in a neutral spot, such as a coffee shop or restaurant. If you end it in your place (or theirs), your car, or something intimate, you can get distracted. Also, harder to exit stage left if the person refuses to leave your home or car.
Make it about you and your feelings
This is not only responsible it’s harder to dispute. If you make the breakup about them (what they do or fail to do) there’s room for an argument. Make this about how you feel about the relationship and own it.
Sometimes it’s harder to take the high road but you’ll be glad during a breakup – especially if you want to end things on amicable terms. Who knows, maybe you guys are better off as friends. Crossing the lines during a breakup is guaranteed to place you on the shit list forever.
Tie up loose ends
How awkward is it when you have to arrange to pick up belongings from their house after a breakup? Make sure you tie up loose ends by discussing things in person. Make a plan to tie up loose ends before anyone leaves.
Know when to exit stage left
Set a reasonable time for this conversation. You don’t want to come off as cold-hearted and breakup in less than 2 minutes, but you also don’t want to talk for hours. Once you find yourself circling or arguing, it’s time to exit stage left. Staying in this mess could get real ugly!
It may be helpful to talk things out with your friends, family, or even a therapist to help you sort your feelings. Relationships are hard, emotions are running high, and it can be challenging how to express these emotions and identify what it is you need and want.
Take time to honor your feelings regardless of how challenging the outcome may be – you’ll be glad you did in the long run.
Breaking up with someone nicely is definitely more of an art than a science, but by following a few basic principles, hurt feelings or lingering hostility can usually be mitigated or eliminated.
In my view, the key to breaking up with someone nicely is to avoid language that communicates criticism, blame, or rejection. This is not always easy, as the first things that may come to mind are the things that are “wrong” with your soon-to-be-ex-partner, and in fact, some people might even find comfort by focusing on the partner’s perceived shortcomings as opposed to considering their own.
Further complicating the situation is the feeling of rejection that will almost certainly be experienced by your partner, and the natural defensiveness that this rejection will inspire.
That said, it’s imperative to:
- Not discuss perceived shortcomings or “what’s wrong” with him/her.
- Steer clear of assigning blame.
- Speak kindly and calmly, no matter what.
So while that covers what not to say and how to say it, what should you say? While every situation is different and there’s no exact formula to follow, here are a few recommended guidelines:
Focus on factual/indisputable differences
When possible, cite concrete differences that are beyond anyone’s reasonable control, and which render you unable to meet your partner’s needs or goals. (To underscore this point, be sure to speak in terms of YOUR inability to meet your partner’s needs—the very essence of the “it’s not you, it’s me” routine from Seinfeld.) Avoid expressing opinions or anything that can be argued or disputed. Also, avoid citing issues that can be fixed or addressed.
If solid factual differences don’t exist or would be hurtful or embarrassing to your partner, you can take a “gut feel” or “chemistry” approach. If one person “just isn’t feeling the chemistry”, no one is blamed or at fault, and most people can relate to this abstract feeling.
It is also something that cannot be argued or disputed. Works well in shorter-term relationships and along with a healthy dose of compliments about the person’s positive qualities.
Present a case that allows your partner to feel that this in his/her best interests
While this might not prevent the initial feeling of loss, it may help to mitigate feelings of personal rejection and provide a logical basis that may expedite the recovery process.
Keep it simple
One (or maybe two, tops) solid, indisputable reasons for the breakup is far better than dog-piling one reason after another after another.
Breaking up with someone nicely sometimes requires some thought and planning, which may make it seem manipulative, or perhaps even disingenuous. But I submit that it’s neither.
At no point would I suggest being dishonest; it’s simply a matter of thoughtfully selecting which truths should be presented—and how to present them — to best preserve your partner’s feelings and happiness.
Couples Consultant & Coach, Foundations Coaching
Be honest, but make it about you
The best way to break up with someone is, to be honest, but make it about you. Identify things you enjoyed about being with them. Then go into what you’ve learned about yourself from being with them and the things you know you need in a relationship that isn’t present in this one.
Maybe you want to take the relationship to the next level or maybe you want it to stay casual but they want the opposite. Maybe your life goals aren’t the same. You also want to thank them for spending time with you. That you appreciated getting to know them. That they have much to offer the right person, but that isn’t you.
Being broken up with is frequently painful. There is no getting past that. But having the respect to do it in person, not through text and certainly not by ghosting, is the kindest way to go about it. Being willing to sit with their hurt is an important acknowledgment of them.
Professional Relationship Expert | Strategist | Life Coach, Love Me Right
Lessen the impact of the breakup
Ending a relationship with someone is never easy, regardless if you have known each other for 2 months or 2 years. When you are ready to break up with someone no matter what you say and how nicely you tell it to them, they will still feel rejected by you.
Research shows that physical pain and intense feelings of social rejection “hurt” in the same way.
In most cases, the person does not want to cause pain to the other person, and there are some techniques to lessen the impact of the breakup to help the person being left behind not feel so bad about themselves.
Give thought to what you are going to say before you say it
It’s almost like preparing and practicing a speech that you have to give in front of your manager. You want to be prepared. Break-up with someone is ten times as important than speaking in front of your manager. You are about to take away something that is important to someone else, and it will be painful for them.
Be prepared for them to get defensive
In preparing what you are going to say anticipate they may feel personally attacked. It will be natural for them to want to say things out of anger and hurt. Acknowledge and validate their feelings but don’t retaliate by saying hurtful things back to them.
Make it about you and not about them
Even if you are leaving them because of things they have done or said, this is not the time to talk about things they have done wrong. Talk about how you feel, what you want, and what is next for you.
Give them time to process what just happened
Ending the relationship will feel like a punch in the gut or a knife to their heart. They will experience, abandonment, fear, rejection, and anger all at the same time. Be patient and answer their questions. They may want to talk about it the next day or the next week.
Be available for a few weeks to speak with them about what happened. This strategy will help them process what their new life will look like without you.
Don’t go back
After being patient with them and answering all the questions you can. Please don’t go back and date them again just because you feel bad how they feel even if they beg you to stay with them.
Allow your choice to be final and keep moving forward with what you said was best for you. Going back and forth will only cause more damage.
Leave on a high note
Be sure to end the conversation with how great and wonderful they are and sharing all the great things that make them unique and special. Give them hope that they will find someone who will give them the love they need.
Counselor | Life Coach
Have this conversation in a way that gives honor to the relationship
Often we tell our self that we are shying away from being honest during a break up because we do not want to hurt the other person’s feelings. Maybe we do not want them to be mad at us or have a fear of being involved in “drama.”
The truth is lack of honesty results in vague reasoning for the break up which gives your partner a lot of space for questions, wanting to re-engage and can even increase anger.
Crafting an honest, yet empathetic, break up conversation can be helpful in their ability to move forward, but also your ability to establish clear boundaries after you end the relationship.
Try having this conversation in a way that gives honor to the breadth of the relationship. If it was a fling (something short, both of you understood there was limited connection and meaning) you may be able to have the conversation over the phone.
If it was a more lengthy or meaningful relationship, have the conversation in person, if possible. Never break up over text and ghosting is always discouraged.
No matter what you say, breaking up is never easy and they are likely to be hurt. It’s not what you say, its how you say it.
Run your plan by a trusted friend, if you need to, to help you be your best self in a challenging moment. Be gentle, honest and clear in your communication when breaking up.
Clinical Psychotherapist | Relationship Counselor
The nicest way to break up with someone will still include taking and distributing a fair amount of emotional damage. Anytime you’re dealing with matters of the heart you will be playing with high stakes.
However, There are some things you can do to break up with someone nicely.
Face the person
This one may be difficult because it is hard to face someone you know you are causing emotional pain. However, facing them will convey respect and certainty. It doesn’t feel nice but being willing to look them in the eyes is important.
Don’t tell them all the things they did wrong
If you’re not willing to work with them to improve, it is just beating them down to make yourself feel better. Be concise and deliver the why, and then leave it. It’s not nice to drag it out. The nicest break up allows both sides to leave with their integrity.
Don’t be malicious
When people get to the point of breaking up with someone usually its accompanied with a fair amount of frustration and anger. Even if it’s merited, its best not to vent it in the breakup. You’re ending the relationship, you win. Don’t add insult to injury.
Don’t do the follow-up texts, the “I still love you’s” “I just need to know you’re okay.” They’re ok and they’ll realize it when you leave them alone and allow them to grieve and stop entertaining the notion you’re coming back.
Additionally, this will help keep you from being talked out of a breakup which inevitably will lead you to break up with them again. Don’t send third parties and don’t give false hope.
Don’t flaunt your new happiness
Don’t make them watch you fall in love with someone else and don’t broadcast the ease in which you move on. Usually, that’s overcompensation and even when it’s not… it is not very nice.
Nobody likes getting “ghosted” and I tell people to be nice out there and create a better dating environment out there for everyone.
If someone asks them out by text, it’s perfectly fine to say no by text, but bonus points for calling and having a conversation. Honesty is the best policy.
I recommend that they express gratitude for the person’s time and attention, compliment them on something they like about the person, and briefly state why they’re not interested (if it is early in dating, something like “I don’t feel the chemistry I’m looking for,” “I feel the connection between us is more platonic than romantic,” or “I don’t feel we are a good fit” will suffice).
It could sound something like this, “It’s been great getting to know you and I really appreciate the time and energy you put into it. I admire your kindness and sense of humor, but I feel the connection between us feels more like friendship than a romantic connection and knowing this, I wouldn’t want to take up any more of your time.”
Dating Coach, Meetopolis
Be very clear you are breaking up
If you’ve had anything approaching a serious relationship, break up in person. Never let mutual friends know you are going to break up with your SO before you tell him or her yourself.
Be very clear you are breaking up. Don’t use ambiguous language or allow for false hope or any confusion about whether the two of you will remain romantically involved.
Deliver the headline first, rather than an excruciatingly long and stressful windup about the status of your relationship, the ups and downs you’ve been through, and a bunch of other distractions before you tell this person it’s over between the two of you. There’s nothing worse than knowing your special someone is breaking up with you, but having to listen to him or her dither on and on before actually saying so.
Keep the focus on “fit” rather than “flaws,” and on yourself rather than your about-to-be former SO. You’ve enjoyed spending time with this person and getting to know him or her, but you realize for you the relationship “fit” just isn’t there and won’t ever be there. You are ending the relationship on what you hope is a good note. You had some fun together and you personally learned more about yourself in the process.
Don’t break up and bail, unless your counterpart insists on being alone. Instead, ask him if he wants to take a short walk with you, or share a final glass of wine with her. Be kind. Listen. Stay firm though because the relationship is over.
No breakup sex or even a sexy farewell kiss. That’s just messy and sends a confusing message.
Leave your ex alone on social media. Don’t like, retweet, share or comment about any of your ex’s posts. Step away from your mobile device. Grab a beer or glass of wine with your friends instead.
Don’t post details about the breakup in social media. It’s private.
Don’t assume that breaking up will devastate your ex. There’s a lot of ego packed into that. Just as you will recover and move on, so will your ex. Don’t act as though you think he or she is fragile or will never get over having been dumped by someone as wonderful as you. Everyone will be fine.
Don’t reference your ex in your online dating profile, even with a between-the-lines reference that only your ex would understand. And especially don’t do this in a negative way. For example: If your ex was an attorney, do not state that you won’t date attorneys in your dating profile because they are unethical, emotionally unstable and jerks.
Jovica Grey, LMHC, NCC
Licensed Mental Health Counselor | Founder, Grey’s Counseling Services, LLC
Do it in a setting or location that does not draw much attention
Breaking up with a partner can be challenging, especially when you want to minimize as much hurt as possible.
One way to break up with someone nicely is by doing it in a setting or location that does not draw much attention to them and gives them space to grieve and process in their own way.
A good location could be in a small outdoor setting, such as a coffee shop or over a light dinner, again, does not draw attention to either one of you.
Alternatively, in private, this could be in their home so that you openly and honestly express why the relationship is no longer working for you and are able to remove yourself if things become too emotionally overwhelming.
Sherry Richert Belul
Author | Founder, Simply Celebrate
The first step of breaking up with someone nicely is to spend some time remembering what we love about that person. I know this may sound counterintuitive, but it is possible to break up with someone without anger, hatred or dislike.
We can break up with all the love we can muster. And why not? We were attracted to this person once. We laughed together. We shared many great memories. It isn’t necessary to erase all of that just because you’re breaking up!
Once you’ve gotten yourself into a place of peace and love, you can set up a time and space for the breakup conversation in a way that is most loving. Don’t do it when you’re both exhausted from work. Don’t do it when you know he/she has to be somewhere soon afterward. Find a time that allows for as much spaciousness and privacy as possible.
The third step is to have that conversation in a way that there is absolutely no blame directed at the other person. Let this be a time of letting go. Let this be a time when you take the high road and choose to focus on compassion and understanding. Let this be a time you give, rather than demand.
If it is possible for you, try to express as much gratitude to this other person as possible. Recall places where you learned something, where you grew, where you truly received joy from this person. (I promise, it will feel really good. Much better than being disappointed and regretful.)
The last step: if you say you want to remain friends, then make that happen. Don’t offer if it isn’t right for you. Don’t offer if it will cause more pain. But do offer if what you two shared was enough of a foundation for a friendship.
Oftentimes, we can love people as friends when we just couldn’t make it work romantically. (I still live with my ex-husband and we are raising our son together. It is possible to transition to a new kind of relationship!)
The last step is extra credit: remember that time you spent recalling what you love about this person? Consider jotting some of those things down and sending it to him/her. Let them know what is wonderful, unique, and oh-so-positive about them. Celebrate them. It will do your heart (and theirs!) good.
Owner, Wisdom Within Counseling
Breakups are very challenging in general. However, if you know your partner is not right for you, do it sooner than later. If it’s November and you have thought about and come to the decision you will break up with your partner, do not wait until after Christmas. Your partner deserves to know sooner than later.
Do it in person
When you break up with your partner, do it in person, because this is respectful. It’s important to honor the time you have shared together and the fun moments, even if you know it will not work out in the future. Break up in person and show emotion. It’s OK to cry together.
Don’t be rude
Allow your partner to share their feelings and their concerns as well. If you’re breaking up with someone, I always do it in a calm manner.
Breakups can be really difficult if you have children, so books like “Dinosaurs Divorce,” can be really positive to read or “I Don’t Want To Talk About It.” Even if you and your partner weren’t married, these books can be helpful for children to understand what’s happening in their life through your break up.
Certified Life Coach
Break-ups are emotionally devastating and special care has to be taken when you have decided that you want out of the relationship. Especially if this comes as a surprise and you think that they should have caught on your signs, this will still be unsettling for your partner.
Make sure that you break up face-to-face. Yes, it’s much easier to break up over a text message or an email, but being respectful to your partner will lessen the feeling of rejection.
Tell the truth of why you are breaking up without blaming your partner. It’s your decision to leave the relationship, so you have to tell them the reason(s) why you’re are ending it. You’re already leaving your partner, why make them wonder “why” day-in and day-out.
Reassure them that they are a great person and that they will find someone perfect, however, that person is not you. Emphasize that if you stayed together neither one of you will be happy and your partner will constantly wonder if you will leave.
Senior Manager, People Looker
Five Steps to Breaking Up:
Say, “I want to break up.” It can be the case that in an attempt to show compassion towards the person with whom we are breaking up, we aren’t clear with our intentions. This leads the other party to feel uncertain and confused.
When breaking up with someone, it’s important you are clear with the other person that you are choosing to end your relationship with them. Directly stating, “I want to break up,” should make your wish clear and not leave any room for misinterpretation of your intention.
Be honest. When breaking up with someone, openness and honesty will be instrumental in making sure nothing is left unsaid. You want to avoid creating a situation where the other person is left wondering why you broke up with them.
Be honest regarding what led you to your decision. Be honest about your emotions and be open to receiving and answering questions from the other person. The more honest you are at this point, the closer you may find yourself to reaching closure.
Use “I” statements. Statements that begin with “you” can put the other person on the defensive. Beginning a statement with “you cause” or “you make” releases you of any ownership of the situation.
Once the other person suspects they are being held solely responsible for the break-up, they may stop listening and tune out to many things you are attempting to convey. Using “I” statements shows that you accept responsibility for your choice to end the relationship and own your emotions.
Do not blame the other person. Apart from being cautious to avoid using words that may give the perception you are blaming them, you should refrain from directly blaming them for the break-up. Most often, a relationship ends due to circumstances that both parties were responsible for.
For instance, perhaps both people have different personal and professional goals that are resulting in the pairs growing distance. Show the other person that you accept that a relationship is a partnership, where both parties are equally responsible for the success or failure of the relationship and, consequently, you don’t hold them any more accountable for the relationship ending than you do yourself.
Show compassion. Often a break up triggers intense emotions for both people involved. You may have the same emotional reaction as the other person or it could be quite different depending on how you process your emotions. Regardless of how you feel, show compassion for what the other person may be experiencing.
For instance, giving the other person the news and then walking away is not how you want to handle the situation. Rather, give the other person space to process that you are ending the relationship and wait with them through their emotional response.
Why is it important to plan a breakup? It’s a sensitive matter. You need to think it through so that you can execute it in the most open, honest, compassionate way. There are several things to consider, such as your reasons for doing it, where and when you want to do it, and how you want to do it.
Other things to consider are the logistics such as living arrangements. Perhaps you and your ex have been sharing a home for the last year. Where will you live after the breakup? Where, when, and how you execute the break up could be influenced by your partner’s temperament.
For instance, if they have the tendency to become aggressive when they are upset, you want to end the relationship in a place you feel safe and have access to support should you need it.
Marketing Manager, 10 Baby Things
Breaking up with someone you spent time and best moments is a really hard job and to do it nicely requires more courage, patience, and concentration.
Breaking up with someone is for me is the same as in war victory leads to defeat. Where once you are victorious, overwhelmed, and happy and then you realize that you can’t control an area for such a long time for many reasons which makes u sad and leads you to give up.
Same is breaking up with someone where you conquer someone ’s heart with great efforts and love but you need to say goodbye for many reasons such as the clash of ideas, choices, family interference and so on but saying it nicely is an art.
It’s always really hard for me to say goodbye to anyone but it becomes really harder when u have to say goodbye to someone u like or love.
I believe it’s always a good idea to arrange a meeting in a nice, calm and relaxing place with your ex and give her a hint in advance that what’s going to happen, so both are mentally prepared.
When I had to say goodbye to my ex last time, I was mentally prepared for it with a positive mind and with the clear intention that why I want to finish my relationship.
During the same time I was precise and to the point trying not to get into argument with each other. I heard calmly what she said and respected her feelings but at last, I had to say goodbye last time. I left the place and didn’t look back. It was a really tough and hard situation but it was for good reasons.
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to get out of the relationship for the betterment of each other and it healthy for both if it’s done nicely.
Frequently Asked Questions
What should I do if my partner reacts negatively to the breakup?
It’s normal for people to react negatively to a breakup. So be prepared for various emotions, including anger, sadness, and denial. Stay calm and empathetic, and avoid engaging in arguments or blame games.
If your partner becomes aggressive or the situation escalates, be mindful of your safety and remove yourself from the environment. Remember that setting boundaries and protecting your well-being are essential during this difficult time.
How can I ensure that the breakup conversation is respectful and considerate?
Choose an appropriate time and place for the discussion to ensure that the breakup conversation is as respectful and considerate as possible. Avoid breaking up during significant events such as birthdays or holidays, and choose a private, quiet place to have the conversation without interruption.
Give your partner your undivided attention, set aside any distractions, and maintain eye contact to show that you’re genuinely engaged in the conversation. Finally, remember that the tone of your voice and body language affect how your message is received, so pay attention to your nonverbal communication.
How do I handle mutual friends and shared social circles after breaking up?
Dealing with mutual friends and social circles can be challenging after a breakup. It’s essential to talk to your friends about the situation without pressuring them to take sides or share details of the breakup they may not need to know.
Encourage your friends to maintain relationships with you and your ex-partner, and be open to renegotiating the dynamics of your social group. This may include setting boundaries or finding new ways to interact with your friends that don’t involve your ex-partner.
Respecting your friends’ feelings and giving them space to process the changes in your social circle is crucial.
Can I maintain a friendship with my ex-partner after the breakup?
Maintaining a friendship with your ex-partner is possible. Still, it depends on several factors, including the nature of the breakup and your level of trust and respect. Giving yourself and your ex-partner time and space to heal and adjust to the new dynamic is crucial before attempting to establish a friendship.
Setting clear boundaries and expectations can help create a healthy foundation for the friendship. It’s important to realize that not all relationships can transition smoothly into a friendship and that, in some cases, it’s best to part ways completely for the well-being of both parties.
How do I deal with possible feelings of guilt or regret after breaking up with someone?
Feeling guilt or regret after a breakup is normal, especially if you care about the other person’s well-being. To deal with these feelings, remind yourself of the reasons you chose to end the relationship and the importance of prioritizing your happiness and well-being.
Understand that you cannot control your ex-partner’s emotions and that managing their healing process is not your job. Acknowledge that your decision was made with the best intentions, and allow yourself to let go of the guilt. Get support from friends, relatives, or a therapist to help you process these feelings and gain perspective on the situation.
How long should I wait before considering a new relationship after a breakup?
There is no exact timeline for when it’s appropriate to enter into a new relationship after a breakup, as everyone’s healing process is different. You must have had enough time to process your feelings, learn from the experience, and regain independence and self-worth.
Rushing into a new relationship can sometimes be a way to avoid the pain of a breakup, leading to unresolved issues and unhealthy relationship patterns. When considering a new relationship, ask yourself if you’re truly ready for a new one or looking for a distraction from the breakup. Listen to your intuition and prioritize your emotional well-being to make your best decision.
How do I deal with questions from others about the breakup without revealing too many details?
When discussing your breakup with others, it’s crucial to strike a balance between maintaining the privacy and providing an appropriate amount of information. Prepare a brief, respectful statement that doesn’t delve into the intimate details of the relationship or assign blame to either party.
You might say, “We realized we had different goals and values, and we decided it was best to part ways.” Setting boundaries with those you speak to and asserting your right to privacy is essential. Politely let them know if you’re uncomfortable talking further about the breakup or if you’d rather focus on other topics.
How do I handle the healing process if my ex-partner is still part of my daily life?
Navigating the healing process can be especially difficult if your ex-partner is still part of your daily life, such as a coworker or classmate. First, set clear boundaries for your interactions and maintain a respectful and professional demeanor.
It’s essential to separate your personal feelings from your professional or academic obligations, which may mean focusing on tasks or projects that have nothing to do with your ex-partner.
If needed, get support from supervisors, colleagues, or classmates who can provide understanding and help during this time. To ensure your emotional well-being, it’s also important that you take care of yourself and maintain a healthy work-life balance.
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