So you’ve tried to make things work, but for months now, things in your relationship have just felt…off. You’ve tried bringing up your concerns to your boyfriend, but nothing’s changed in him. You’ve talked about it with your closest friends, and they seem to think you have good reason to be unhappy. You’ve asked your mom for advice, and she’s all but told you it might be time to end things.
Breakups are no fun for anyone involved – they’re painful all around, even if you’re the one doing the breaking up. After all, when we still care about someone, the last thing we want to do is cause them even more pain by breaking things off hastily or hurtfully. And yet, sometimes, the breakup part of a relationship is inevitable. Still, we don’t want to do it “badly.”
So how can we break things off, but with class and kindness?
First, Be Totally Sure This Is What You Want
Assess whether or not a breakup is the answer for you. Is it more that you need a period of separation? Or are you settled on ending things once and for all? It’s essential that we’re clear with ourselves first about what we really want and need; breakups, even ones that we initiate, tend to get emotionally charged very quickly, so working out our desires and being solid in them beforehand is key.
Be Mindful of Your Timing and Setting
While no one hopes to get broken up with, there are certainly preferred times and places – and those that would be almost cruel. Make sure he’ll have plenty of privacy and time to process the breakup by opening up the breakup conversation in a safe, secluded place (assuming we feel safe doing this). Be mindful of whether or not he has a free schedule for the rest of the day or evening so he’s not rushing into work directly after being broken up with.
Make Your Intentions Clear
The worst thing we can do when breaking things off with someone is not be clear about our intentions. It’s tempting to say something like, “Well, maybe in the future we could reassess…” just to soften the blow, but if we don’t really mean that, it’ll only confuse and hurt him further. Being upfront will always be uncomfortable in the moment, but it saves us from dealing with more drama down the road.
Being upfront will always be uncomfortable in the moment, but it prevents drama down the road.
Being broken up with is like a kick in the gut; it’s embarrassing, disappointing, and upsetting. He’ll be feeling a whole slew of emotions during the conversation, so make sure to show empathy and gentleness. Validate whatever he’s feeling by saying something like, “I understand this is hard for you. It’s hard for me too. I’m sorry. The last thing I want to do is hurt you,” to let him know that while we don’t want to continue the relationship, we care about how he’s been affected.
Let Him Know What You Appreciated
Surely there were good times; reflect on what he did right or well, and let him know what was appreciated about him. This will help him feel valued and respected, even if the relationship’s over. Mixing in a bit of positivity can really go a long way when he would’ve been left feeling like a loser otherwise.
Transparency Isn’t Always Helpful
Sometimes, our reasons for ending things are more abstract (maybe our vision for life is different); other times, it’s a little more concrete (maybe we’re feeling suffocated by them). In the more abstract cases, it’s fair to be honest — after all, it isn’t so much a reflection on them being in the wrong as it is a reflection of a less-than-ideal match.
But in situations where we would hurt his feelings by telling him the real reason we’re ending things (for example, if we aren’t physically attracted to him, which is something he can’t necessarily change), it’s probably best to steer clear of letting him in on that. Total honesty isn’t always the best policy.
If we aren’t physically attracted to him, which he can’t necessarily change, then total honesty isn’t the best policy.
Be Prepared for Different Reactions
He might cry, he might put on a brave face. He might go quiet and still, or get upset and passionately try to get you to reconsider. We can’t totally predict how he’ll react to hard news, so be prepared for every reaction – not just to witness it, but to deal with it.
If he becomes emotionally heightened and difficult to communicate with, it’s okay to draw a boundary and let him know we’re uncomfortable continuing the conversation in such an emotional state. If he seems quiet and shellshocked, ask him to let us in on what he’s feeling. Prepare to handle a range of reactions.
Be Thoughtful of Your Social Media Posts for a While
No one wants to feel publicly embarrassed, especially after being broken up with — after all, he’ll probably be checking our social media in the weeks or months after the breakup. Depending on how the breakup went and if you left the conversation both wanting to remain friends or at least on good terms, deleting every picture of your ex on your feed right away or removing or blocking them altogether could come across as extremely immature. Additionally, flaunting our singleness (or an immediate rebound relationship) isn’t kind or thoughtful to our ex and should be avoided.
Turns out there’s a right way and a wrong way to break up with someone. If you’re faced with this uncomfortable responsibility, just remember to stay empathetic, clear, and mature.
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