How To Break Up With Someone

Last updated on : February 08 2023

hand on window pane

Breakups are complicated, and there is no one size fits all solution for breaking up with somebody - especially if you don't want to hurt their feelings. 

However, the following ten steps, broken into three sections, should guide you sufficiently through a breakup - so that you can break up respectfully and gracefully with your soon to be ex-partner. 

The advice applies to romantic relationships and equally to all sexes. It also applies, with some small tweaks to friendships that you no longer want to continue. 

SECTION 1 - Before The Breakup

Carry out the following four steps before the breakup to ensure you arrive at the correct decision and plan appropriately for the event.

Step 1. Take Your Time, And Understand Your Reasons

Before pulling the trigger on your relationship, consider your motives for wanting to break up with your partner. You might be acting on impulse and better off not breaking up - or you might need confirmation that your reasons are sound and the strength to go ahead. 

Here are some possible considerations to help you understand whether breaking up is the right thing to do and the potential repercussions.

Read each, assuming they are isolated issues. In other words, you still love and care for your partner but are troubled by the particular problem concerned.  

A. Your relationship is toxic, or you are suffering abuse. 

If your relationship is toxic, you have a sound basis for ending the relationship, and you should do it sooner than later, especially if you are suffering abuse. 

B. Your partner has serious financial issues. 

If you've just met and you discover your partner has severe money or debt issues, then it might be in your interest to leave the relationship.

However, if you are married or have a long-term commitment to each other, and perhaps you are also partly to blame, you might find it more rewarding to work through the financial issues

C. Your partner is not meeting your sexual needs and is no longer affectionate towards you. 

If you're still in love with your partner, test the relationship by pulling away first. Withdraw your affection and intimacy and see what happens.

If your partner responds by chasing you, then perhaps you have a basis to rekindle the relationship instead of breaking up.

When pulling away, follow the principles in this article

D. You're unhappy with something physical about your partner. 

You might be disappointed with the way your partner dresses or physically looks to you. Perhaps they've got overweight or are embarrassing you in front of friends and family. 

These feelings are often temporary and not a sound basis for initiating a breakup, especially if your relationship is long term

Speak with your partner, lead by example, and give yourself a bit more time to see if your feelings change. Remember, you are not perfect too.

E. You've met someone else and are intimately involved. 

If you've met someone else and want to leave your current partner because of this new person, you might be making the right decision - but not for the reasons you think. 

Know that your behavior is selfish and shows immense disrespect to both your current and the new partner, and as such, you may not be deserving of a relationship with either. 

You must also realize that monkey branching from one relationship to another is not healthy, and there is a strong likelihood your new relationship will fail because of this. 

If you decide not to leave your current partner, ensure you end your affair and commit thoroughly to your relationship. And consider telling your partner about your affair.

F. Your partner has cheated on you. 

Dealing with cheating is a tough one, but it is also a solid reason for initiating a breakup, especially if it isn't the first time your partner has cheated. 

A cheating partner is unlikely to have the characteristics you want for a long term successful relationship, and you should give serious consideration to starting again. 

G. You continuously see the grass is greener elsewhere. 

If you're unhappy because you generally want more, know that you are unlikely to find what you wish for elsewhere - the grass is often not greener. 

Instead, critically assess your real motives to understand better what decisions to make. Try to be grateful for what you have, and find happiness in the present. 

If you are continually looking for something else to make you happy, you might never find your true happiness. 

H. You want your partner to change. 

In this scenario, you are threatening a breakup to force your partner to change something about themselves, their behavior, or habits. But you have no intention of carrying through with the separation.  

Please know that this behavior is manipulative and immature and isn't conducive to a healthy relationship. If you are considering this approach, question whether you are ready for a relationship at all.   

Step 2. Talk To Someone About It

When your relationship is long-term, with serious commitments, like kids, for example, then it's proper to talk with someone first before initiating the breakup. 

However, realize that family and friends might not have the answers you want, and in fact, could give you bad advice - simply because they are unlikely to be experts in relationships. 

Instead, speak with a relationship therapist or a family member or friend already in a long-term, successful, and happy relationship.  

Step 3. Provide Time For You And Your Partner To Fix Things

If your relationship is otherwise positive, share your concerns and dissatisfaction with your partner and tell them you are considering a breakup. 

Don't issue an ultimatum but explain that the way you feel is significant enough for you to end the relationship. 

By sharing your feelings, you are providing an opportunity to resolve the issues as a team. And you are removing the surprise from an impending breakup. 

Step 4. Plan The Logistics 

If you and your partner stay together, share finances, have kids, or have lives comingled in any other way. Then you want to plan for at least where you will live after the breakup and how you can secure your finances.

SECTION 2 - On The Day of The Breakup

Talking over coffee

Carry out the following three steps to ensure the breakup conversation you have with your partner gets the results you want - and is respectful to your partner.  

Step 5. Try To Do The Breakup In Person And Privately

There is never the right time to carry out a breakup. Often you'll look for an excuse to do so, like an unrelated argument or some bad behavior by your partner. 

However, try to be honest with yourself and your partner and not use an unrelated excuse to carry out the breakup conversation. Doing so will set your partner off on the wrong track and likely tie you into a conversation you don't want. 

Instead, find a quiet time to have a conversation in person. If you're living together, make sure you have all the logistics planned out upfront so that you can leave shortly after the discussion.  

If you don't live together, try to have the conversation at your partner's place so you can leave soon afterward. 

If you cannot do it in person, perhaps because you are scared of repercussions, then a video call, a telephone call, and lastly text, are the preferred options, in that order. 

Step 6. Keep The Conversation Short, To The Point, And Respectful

If you've given the breakup some thought as you should have, then you will now have solid reasons to convey to your partner. And if you communicated your feelings earlier, it will not be a surprise either. 

Straightforwardly communicate your thoughts. Being as honest as possible about your reasons for ending the relationship is healthy and should allow your partner to better process the breakup.   

If more manageable, you can acknowledge your hurt and the hurt you are causing your partner. 

Step 7. Stay Calm And Never Create A Scene

Your partner will likely try to bargain with you, promise to change, or beg and plead for your forgiveness. 

Try not to create an opportunity to allow them to do this - if you provided ample time for positive changes before, then it is too late now. Emotions will run high on the day, but you are under no obligation to appease or give in to your partner at this point. 

Answer your partner's questions if you can, but remember it's just respectful to get the breakup over with fast and limit your partner's chance to make any breakup mistakes. 

Stick to your decision. If you change your mind on the day or shortly after, you'll likely need to go through the break up again.  

Section 3 - After The Breakup

Dead flowers

Carry out the following three steps to ensure you recover as fast as possible from the breakup, learn from your mistakes, and provide enough space to your ex-partner to process their emotions. 

Step 8. Go Into A Period Of No-Contact

Realize that you are inflicting severe hurt on your ex, and so you must give them the space to recover. 

Giving your ex space means not being selfish by staying in contact or remaining friends, or looking for validation from them. They are not your backup plan, either, so don't use them this way. 

Instead, leave them alone to process the breakup. Don't try to make your ex feel better. Your ex's emotions are not your responsibility, and comforting them is likely to make them feel worse. 

If your ex tries to contact you, be polite, but don't try to meet or stoke up any old feelings. Focus on staying in no contact to allow them to recover. 

At what point is it ok to contact your ex - you probably don't want to make contact with your ex again unless a significantly long time has passed. For long-term relationships, it might take your ex longer than a year to recover. 

So consider why you might want to contact your ex, and if it's for selfish reasons, then don't do it. This behavior is respectful to both you and your ex.  

Step 9. Allow Yourself To Be Emotional But Don't Blame Anyone

After the breakup, you will feel relieved that it is now over. But you might also feel angry and some resentment towards your ex-partner, blaming them for the failed relationship. You might also feel extreme guilt for hurting them. 

It is better that you accept these emotions but don't act on them. They will go away as you reflect on the breakup and as time passes.  

Understand that you need to grieve the loss of the relationship. 

Your feelings in this respect might not be as severe as your ex's. However, you still need to emotionally process the breakup to the point where you have entirely accepted your new reality - and this will take some time and may leave you feeling emotional. 

Step 10. Invest In Yourself And Learn From The Mistakes

Take time after the breakup to invest in self-care. You want to prioritize your physical and emotional health. 

You might want to enjoy your new freedom but do it positively and healthily. 

Stay away from alcohol and other stimulants, and get enough sleep. Practice meditation and learn new skills to maintain a positive frame of mind. 

Also, take time to reflect on your past relationship and why it might have failed. Learn from the experience, invest in becoming the best version of yourself to ensure you don't carry the same mistakes into your next relationship.     

BONUS SECTION - I Broke Up With My Ex But Now I Want To Get Back Together

Try to understand whether you regret the breakup or you are just missing your ex. Missing your ex is normal, but it doesn't mean it's time to get back together

However, regret implies you made a mistake, or the circumstances around the breakup have significantly changed, and you want to reconsider. 

Give yourself some time for your feelings in this respect to settle down - wait at least one to three months after the breakup to see how you feel.  

If you believe you regret the decision after this time, consider approaching your ex politely, apologizing for what you did, and asking them to reconsider a relationship with you. Be prepared to discuss how you have changed and why you want to reconnect. 

You can only make this approach once, and then you need to wait for your ex to respond. You cannot badger or expect your ex to drop everything for you, so you should also prepare for rejection. 

If your ex agrees to get back together, don't take the decision lightly, and work hard as a team, to build a lasting and prosperous relationship. 


Girl feeling free

This article's guidelines help you break up with someone you don't want to hurt - respectfully and gracefully.

Breakups are never easy for both parties, and often, dumpers don't fully understand just how much they hurt their dumpee exes. 

Therefore, as the dumper, you should prepare adequately for the breakup event to ensure you carry it out respectfully and gracefully.

Frequently Asked Questions

These are the questions most frequently asked by our readers:

1. When is the right time to break up with someone?

There is no one right time to break up with someone, but it's essential to do so when you feel that the relationship is not serving your emotional and mental well-being or if it is toxic or harmful.

2. How do I know if it's time to break up?

Some signs that it may be time to break up include lack of communication and intimacy, growing apart, persistent conflicts and arguments, or general unhappiness in the relationship.

3. How do I initiate a breakup conversation?

Finding a private and quiet place to have an honest and open discussion with your partner is best. Be clear and direct in your communication, express your feelings and reasons for wanting to end the relationship, and listen to their perspective.

4. How do I break up with someone without hurting them?

Breaking up is never easy; your partner will likely experience some hurt and pain. However, you can minimize their pain by being honest, direct, respectful, and compassionate in your communication. Avoid blaming or criticizing your partner, and focus on why the relationship is not working out.

5. What if my partner doesn't want to break up?

If your partner is unwilling to accept the breakup, it's important to remain firm and transparent in your decision. Avoid getting into arguments or trying to convince them, as this can lead to a negative and potentially harmful situation. Instead, be respectful and offer support in navigating the process of moving on.

6. How do I deal with the aftermath of a breakup?

The aftermath of a breakup can be challenging, but giving yourself time and space to heal is essential. Avoid contacting your ex or engaging in negative self-talk, and focus on moving forward positively and healthily. Surround yourself with supportive friends and family, engage in self-care activities, and consider seeking therapy or counseling if needed.

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