How To Break Up With Someone Nicely And Respectfully

It is possible.

They say, "Breaking up is hard to do," and it is, especially if you want to do it in a kind, respectful way. Even when you're the one ending the relationship, it's still a difficult — and yes, heartbreaking — process. That's why learning how to break up with someone nicely can help guide you in doing what's best for yourself and your ex-partner. Because while you may be ending a chapter in your life, there is no reason not try to exit the situation amicably, if possible. 

Here are 7 expert-approved tips on how to break up with someone respectfully

1. Make sure the break up fits the length and seriousness of the relationship.

Not all relationships are created equal, and neither are their break ups. If you've gone on less than 10 dates, it's totally OK to end your semi-relationship from behind the safety of your phone screen. By learning how to break up with someone over text or phone in a kind and respectful way, you can actually help the other person move on faster than if you'd had a drawn-out conversation. If you're ending a long-term, more serious relationship, however, relationship coach Natalie of With My Ex Again says in a video for Love Advice TV, "It should be face to face … try to give them that common courtesy because it may make all the difference in their healing process to feel of enough importance to get a face-to-face." 

If you're trying to figure out how to break up with someone you live with, you should still do it in person, though not at home. "Break up in a public place and have the day available to do nothing afterward," Kate Galt, The Break up Expert, tells A Plus. Choosing a public location that's neutral to both people can help you stay focused on why you want to break up and help your ex-partner accept the separation because they're not surrounded by reminders of the relationship. It also allows you to tell them you're moving out so they don't feel blindsided. Then, Galt suggests, "Plan a day, get buddies to help, and get out of there as soon as you break the news."

2. Keep it relatively short and sweet.

You should be completely honest with yourself about your reasons for breaking up, but you shouldn't tell them all to your ex-partner. "Break up in a calm 100 words or less," Galt says. "This isn't the time to go back and wonder where things went wrong. This is the time to move forward ... Tell them it was a good ride, but the ride is over." 

If they ask you "Why?" (which they probably will), you should try to avoid saying anything unnecessary that will just hurt them even more. "Don't have ten different reasons for the breakup ... Distill it down to your fundamental reason for doing this," dating expert Matthew Hussey explains in a YouTube video. "When you've got your strongest case, that's the one you need to go with and stick to it. And you may during the conversation need to be repetitive … If you know your reason, don't be afraid of stating it multiple times." 

To ensure your reason comes across as kindly as possible, frame it in an "I" statement like "I feel like I'm not a good fit for you anymore" or "I need to focus more on [my career, my family, myself] than on our relationship." It may even be helpful to write down your main reason for breaking up so you don't get caught up in the emotion of the moment. 

3. Think about timing on their terms.

You may have known you wanted to break up for a few weeks and just want to get it over with, but if you have the flexibility and emotional capacity to wait for the right moment, you should. Choose a time when other areas in your ex-partner's life are going well so a break up won't feel like it's piling on to a mountain of stress and sadness. "Everything has its time," Galt notes. "When you know it's over, don't drag it along. But do plan on how to break the news, since it is a traumatic event no matter how it goes." That means not breaking up with someone on their birthday, a holiday, right before an important work situation, right after they lost a family member, etc. 

Granted, there's no "good" time to end things. But even though you're trying to figure out how to break up with someone you may love, you still want the best for them. 

4. Do your best to avoid an argument.

Because you want to learn how to break up with someone kindly, it's clear you don't want to have an argument. Because the other person, however, is most likely in pain, they could lash out at you as a defense mechanism. Hussey advises people to prepare themselves for this possible outcome, saying, "Understand that they might try to turn it into an argument. They might try and make this something that's antagonistic so they can feel better about it. If they do, don't take the bait. Just be kind." 

Again, this is a time to put yourself in their shoes and acknowledge their feelings are valid, even if they manifest in an aggressive way. If you feel like you're on the verge of breaking into an argument, remove yourself from the situation. You can conclude with, "I understand you're upset with me, but I think spending some time apart is best for both of us right now, so I'm going to leave." If they try to stop you, stay firm and stick to that statement. By repeatedly giving them a dead end, this will show you're not here to rehash the relationship, only to end it. 

5. Break up the way you'd want to be broken up with.

Sure, no one wants to get broken up with, but taking the time to imagine your ideal situation is an exercise in empathy that will help you be as kind as possible when you actually do it. "It's so important to put yourself in their shoes. I really want you to spend at least 24 hours before initiating wondering how in the world you're gonna do it," Coach Natalie says. 

"... At the end of the day, I want you to behave in the way you would like to remember. How do you want to look back on this?" she continues. "… You don't want the final moments of your relationship to amount to frustration, anger, sadness, guilt." Chances are, neither does the other person. So while your break up probably won't be mutual, it should be mutually respectful. Even if your ex can't do that for you because they're in too much pain, you can still do that for them. 

6. But don't try to be the good guy.

While this might sound counterintuitive when you're trying to break up with someone nicely, Hussey brings up an excellent point in his video. "Our own ego has us often trying to break up with someone and also be the saint in the situation … We still want to be liked even when we're breaking up with someone, and that's not fair," he explains. "That's not fair because in an effort to be liked, you will start saying things that are perhaps disingenuous. You'll start giving someone hope where there is none, and you'll make the other person feel worse in the long term ... "  

While it's OK, and totally human, to want to break up with someone respectfully so you can feel good about yourself, that doesn't automatically mean the other person will feel good about you, too. That's their right, and if you're actually trying to be a good person, not just trying to look like a good person to your ex, what really matters is respecting that right.  

7. Once you're done, give your ex the time and space they need to heal.

Everyone processes a breakup process differently, but many experts agree that ex-partners should cease communication as soon as possible. "I would also go straight into no contact the moment it's over," Coach Natalie says. "It's important for you to let them heal, for you to distance yourself, and not to flip flop with your decision." 

Galt believes the person initiating the break up needs to go into it with the mindset of 100 percent letting go — emotionally and physically — of the other person. (That means absolutely no break up sex.) "Break up cleanly with no strings. Get all your stuff from them. If you forget something, it's gone," she says. "Don't go back and get it." 

If/when you find yourself thinking about your ex and feel tempted to text them, she encourages people to get busy on a project to help them stop connecting your ex with your thoughts. "When they pop up in your head, that's the time to rewire the brain to do something positive instead," she says. Focusing your energy on a positive personal project will make you feel fulfilled as an individual as you go through the break up process as well. 

Hopefully, all these tips will help you figure out how to break up with someone nicely.    

Cover image via Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

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