Breaking up with someone you love is never easy.
In fact, it’s one of the toughest things you can do.
You’ve spent a lot of time with one person. You’ve built something special. They’re planning their life around you. They love you. Much of their meaning in life is built around you.
Yet in one instant, you’re about to destroy everything.
You’re going to break their heart and feel like a terrible human being.
But unfortunately, it’s something that you simply must do.
Because despite what people say, it takes incredible strength to break up with someone you love.
Do you know what would be really weak? Continuing the relationship when you know it won’t work out. It’s unfair on your partner, and it’s unfair on yourself.
And the longer the relationship goes on, the more it’s going to hurt when it ends.
It’s a difficult, emotional process — but it’s also necessary.
So if you’re unsure how you can properly break up with someone who loves you, we’ve prepared this step-by-step guide just for you.
1) Talk about trying to reconcile the relationship first.
Before you end the relationship, it’s important that you are sure of your decision.
According to Rachel Sussman, a New York City psychotherapist and author of The Breakup Bible,“Spend some time soul-searching, journaling, talking to a really good friend or family member or talking to a relationship specialist” to make sure you know exactly why you’re breaking up.
That’s why we recommend talking about your future and the options in front of you with your partner.
This is the way to start the conversation about breaking up. You don’t need to lay it on them as a surprise one day or just stop coming home; you can talk to them like they are a human being who has feelings and would appreciate a head’s up about where you are at in the relationship right now.
This conversation may spark some emotion, but it will also allow the two of you to make decisions about your relationship together so that you can both move on.
Whether you move on together or not, you need to take the lead and initiate a conversation about how you are feeling.
Sussman says that you owe it to your partner to air your grievances before calling it quits:
“The people that I see who have the hardest time after a breakup, it’s because they don’t understand.”
2) Try understanding what they want.
If you’re thinking of breaking up with someone you love, it’s clear you’re not happy being in the relationship.
And chances are your partner isn’t happy either.
One of the main reasons couples drift apart and pull away from each other is that you guys don’t understand what the other one wants from a relationship.
The simple truth is that men and women are different and we want different things.
If you’re a woman reading this, what do you think men really want from a relationship with you? Sex? Companionship? Surely love, right?
While these things are all important, I think there’s a deeper truth to what men really want from relationships. Above all else men want to feel like heroes.
There’s a new theory in relationship psychology that goes to the heart of why some men are happy and satisfied in a relationship, while others pull away.
It’s called the hero instinct.
Simply put, a guy wants to feel like he’s a protector, provider, and essential to the woman he cares about. And that she respects him for what he does for her.
In other words, he wants to feel like a hero. Not an action hero like Thor, but an everyday hero.
James Bauer, the relationship psychologist who discovered the hero instinct, has created an excellent video about it. Watch the video here.
While breaking up may be the best way forward for you, learning about the hero instinct has helped to save thousands of relationships.
I don’t often buy into popular new concepts in psychology or recommend videos. However, I think the hero instinct is a fascinating take on what drives men when it comes to relationships.
3) Make sure you are alone.
While many people might suggest you take your break-up to a restaurant or other public place so your partner can’t make a scene, this also puts them in an uncomfortable place to not be able to react emotionally either.
When surrounded by strangers, your ability to have an intimate and meaningful conversation about your relationship is lost.
It’s best to have this kind of conversation alone, and preferably in your own home so that you feel comfortable and nobody feels like they are being alienated or put out.
What’s important, according to Loren Soeiro in Psychology Today, is to be “physically present to show the relationship is important to you. Breakups by text may be common these days, but they hurt terribly and leave confusion in their wake.”
If you are leaving an abusive relationship, a public conversation may be necessary for your safety.
In that case, all bets are off and you just need to move on as fast as possible to protect yourself.
4) Talk to your partner beforehand.
One huge mistake you can do is blurting the topic of a breakup out of nowhere.
Send your partner a message online or through text that you want to have a serious talk.
It’s much better if you can say it directly. Do this a day before or at least several hours before you break up with your partner.
Giving this sort of reminder helps your partner know that something is up. It’s only right to help them emotionally prepare for whatever they’re about to hear.
Also, as I mentioned above, it’s important to keep in mind whether you’ve actually given the relationship a chance to resolve its issues.
So before you make the final decision, it can be helpful to engage in a conversation so if you can figure out if the relationship is worth saving.
Here are 2 questions you need to ask yourself and your partner before calling it quits:
1) Is this relationship really irreconcilable? Can the problems be fixed?
You don’t want to make the drastic decision to end the relationship based on emotion. Think about it and talk with your partner in a logical manner about whether you can resolve your issues.
2) Have we done all that we can?
If the relationship is truly important to you and them, then you need to ask what you can do.
If it is a fairly serious relationship, have you considered relationship counseling? Remember, all serious relationships have rough patches, so maybe this is yours, and you’ll eventually crawl out of it.
5) Talk about how it will work.
If you are able to initiate the conversation and your partner is being amicable throughout the situation, you’ll need to talk about how your break-up will work.
Who will move out? When will that happen? If children are involved, you’ll need to spend time thinking about how you will co-parent, or if that is even an option.
According to Hack Spirit, “having supportive people around will keep you emotionally stable during this tumultuous situation.”
Because every relationship is different and needs different things, when break-ups happen, they trigger sides of people that you might not have seen up to this point.
Your best-laid plans might get tossed out the window when an angry partner refuses to cooperate.
The best thing to do is continue to try to be the bigger person, keep the conversation on the rails, and move forward.
6) Commit to being kind to one another.
According to therapist Samantha Burns in The Cut, it’s important to prepare for the fact that your partner might feel hurt and shocked:
“Be prepared that your partner may be very hurt and in shock, and need time and space to process the news and how they’d like to manage communication. You’ll likely get emotional too. Your partner was your emotional home, the person you depended on, and with whom you shared your life.”
Breaking up can be made easier if both parties decide that they will be at least civil to one another, instead of trying to take the other for all they are worth.
It’s definitely tough news for you to say, but it’s also tough for them to hear.
You need to be prepared that they will be shocked and very hurt. After all, in one instant their life is about to change a great deal.
Keep in mind that you’ll also be emotional, too. You two have depended on each other emotionally for the length of your relationship, so it’s not going to be an easy conversation.
But you’re not making the decision to break up lightly, so don’t doubt your decision just because the emotions are bubbling up.
Fortunately, there has been research on the best way to compassionately break up with someone.
Research by Sprecher and colleagues noted that these following strategies enabled a more compassionate and positive breakup:
– Telling the partner that they did not regret the time spent together in the relationship.
– Honestly conveying future wishes to the partner.
– Verbally explaining in person the reasons for wanting to break up.
– Emphasizing the good things gained from the relationship in the past.
– Trying to prevent leaving on a sour note.
– Avoid blaming or hurting their feelings.
– Convincing the partner that the breakup was better for both parties.
The study concluded that if you have to end a relationship, doing so in a positive and open way appears to be the best.
7) Decide to stand your ground.
There’s no doubt that this may be one of the hardest conversations you’ll ever have. When you find yourself in the throws of discussion, you’ll likely also find yourself starting to question your decision.
It’s very important that you decide ahead of time that you won’t back down.
You may mistake love and kindness during a break-up as true feelings for this person, but rest assured, that is just your brain trying to get you to remain the same.
Gary Amers, an expert relationship coach, offers some great advice in The Cosmopolitan:
“Be kind and respectful as you begin to distance yourself, however, be strict with your boundaries because if you’re not totally clear, your partner may get mixed signals and end up staying around much longer.”
We don’t like change, and our brains really don’t like having to readjust everything, so when you feel your sense of obligation starting to falter, stick to your guns.
Remember why you wanted to end the relationship in the first place and continue to commit to being kind while ensuring you get to live your life the way you want to live it.
8) Be clear about your needs.
Breakups are rarely mutual. There is usually one partner who is unhappy, while the other is unaware or chooses not to pay attention to what is really going on.
If you are thinking about ending your relationship, you need to get clear on what you want and need.
This will make it easier for you to have a conversation with your partner and take ownership for the choice you are making.
According to therapist Samantha Burns in The Cut, “the best breakup conversations convey clear reasons why the relationship isn’t working, since the hurt partner may waste a lot of time afterward searching for evidence about what went wrong.”
One of the hardest parts about breaking up is that one or both parties feel responsible for the relationship falling apart, so if there is any room for you to stand up and take responsibility for your thoughts and feelings, do it.
It makes things easier on everyone and you don’t have to feel guilty about doing what’s best for you.
9) Don’t be mean.
When we enter into a relationship with someone, whether by marriage or partnership, we commit to love and care for one another.
Guy Winch, a New York City psychologist and author of How to Fix a Broken Heart, tells Time that while it’s important to express your reasons for ending the relationship, it is a license to unload all of your complaints and pent-up grievances.
After all, listing every annoyance isn’t productive and will only prolong an already painful conversation.
That should be adhered to throughout the breakup as well. Just because your relationship didn’t work doesn’t mean you are bad people or that you aren’t worthy of being respected.
The best breakups happen when both partners can agree to continue to care for one another during this difficult time. What often happens, however, is that people yell and scream because they are hurt and don’t know how to manage their emotions.
If you decide to keep things above the belt, you’ll be better off now and in the long run.
10) Clear every existing problem between you two.
During the breakup conversation, you should open up about any hurt you’ve been keeping. Ask your partner to be honest as well.
All the hurt that’s been swept under the rug should unfold here. Cry as much as you want. Trust us, this is good for your emotional well-being.
Letting go of emotional baggage as soon as possible will help both of you.
Remember what made the relationship crumble in the end and explain your side.
Doing this not only allows the two of you to part ways on good terms but it also prevents the need for closure, which can end up as you guys getting back together again or at least having second thoughts about the breakup.,
11) Don’t send a text.
Whatever you decide about your relationship, don’t send the message via text or email. Imagine getting that kind of notification while you are at work or at a family function.
It would be devastating. Don’t devastate anyone when breaking up with them. Just do it face-to-face and allow the emotions to run through you.
We often hide behind technology for these kinds of things because we don’t want to seem vulnerable or deal with the fallout of our decisions.
If you can muster the gumption to talk to your partner face-to-face, they’ll be glad you did.
Plus, you’ve put in this much work up to this point, what’s one more conversation? Do the right thing by them and tell them in person.
Guy Winch tells Time that you should do a break-up by text if you fear for your safety in any way, or you’re in a long-distance relationship. Other than that, it’s better not to do it via text.
12) Let them ask questions.
Don’t be closed off to the idea of talking to your partner. They have been an important part of your life up to this point and they deserve a chance to hear why you want to end things.
Make sure you have thought this through and that you are confident in your decision because there will be plenty of opportunities for your partner to try to change your mind. It’s par for the course at this point.
When you are unhappy with the way someone is acting or you don’t love them anymore, many promises of change will appear in front of you.
Allowing them to ask questions and having clear and concise answers is the best way to allow the conversation to continue without pressuring yourself to make further choices that might keep you in the relationship.
Loren Soeiro in Psychology Today says that it’s important to “listen to the other person, without defending yourself. Hear your partner out. Answer any questions as honestly as you can.”
13) To break up with someone who loves you, don’t blame them.
Whatever you do, don’t try to point blame in any direction. You don’t even have to accept any blame for what is going on.
You are allowed to change your mind and you are allowed to make different decisions than you made in the past.
Accept that responsibility and don’t feel the need to overcompensate for your reasoning.
Maintain your story and your intention and accept how difficult the situation is for everyone.
You do need to recognize that you will be hurting the other person, and that hurt is part of the process.
You can have no control over how they react to your breakup, so don’t try to control them or throw their behavior or reaction in their face.
Whatever you do, don’t say, “this is exactly why I am leaving you” because it isn’t.
Their reaction to your breakup isn’t why you are leaving them. It’s an example of the kind of behavior that turns you off of the relationship, but don’t generalize.
They don’t need to change. If you weren’t willing to accept them for who they were, regardless of what that might look like, don’t blame them for that.
14) Be honest with yourself.
When it comes to breaking up, the most important thing is that you continue to consider your needs and wants.
There is some reason that you want to end things, so don’t sell yourself short by saying that it’s not a good enough reason to leave someone.
Any reason you come up with is a good enough reason if you believe it and are willing to stand by it.
If you aren’t sure of why you want to leave but have a sense that it’s just not right, trust your instinct here too.
Our bodies and brains often know things before we see them. If you feel drawn to something different for your life, follow that path.
Gary Amers, an expert relationship coach, offers some great advice in The Cosmopolitan:
“If you’re trying to build the strength to break up with a partner, banish that thought. Focus on the top five negative moments of your relationship. Remember what you saw, heard and felt during those times. Keep repeating the process.”
Being honest with yourself makes it easier to be honest with your partner and smoothes out the break-up process so that you can be calm and collected during this difficult time.
15) Ask if friendship is still possible.
It’s okay to keep an ex-lover in your life.
What’s important is both of you know what’s done is done, that there are boundaries that aren’t meant to be crossed again.
If they do want to keep in touch, tell them to stay away for now. The two of you need time to heal and adjust to a life without each other.
Yes, that person still matters to you. But don’t ask how they’re doing a day after the breakup.
This only leads to confusion: Are you really just being friendly or are you flirting?
If your ex-lover doesn’t want to stay friends, that’s perfectly fine as well! Remove them from your social networks and delete their contact numbers.
But breaking up with someone nicely means that you’re willing to be friends with them as well.
16) Focus on the future.
At the moment, it may be difficult to imagine how breaking up is the right thing to do, but if you discuss it like adults and focus on how you can both benefit from the breakup, it might be easier for you to move on.
Don’t worry about staying friends – so few relationships end in a friendship that it’s almost not worth attempting.
If you naturally come back together on your own later, that’s great, but don’t force it.
Sometimes, you need a little space and time between you to forget all the reasons you broke up in the first place.
This is true of high-school sweethearts, early-life loves, and first marriages. Often, age is a driving factor in why a relationship ends: you both just don’t know enough to know how to make it work.
As you get older, you come to your senses a little more and have the ability to rationalize what happened between you.
Don’t focus on the past. It’s done and gone and there’s no need to dwell on what could have been done differently.
(If you’re looking for a structured, easy-to-follow framework to help you find your purpose in life and achieve your goals, check our eBook on how to be your own life coach here).
17) Get rid of anything that will remind you of the relationship.
The period right after breaking up with someone who loves you can be difficult. One way to avoid overthinking is to remove the things that will remind you of that person.
Throw away the love letters and the printed selfies of you together, or at least store them away.
Delete or hide any romantic posts and photos on social media. Update your relationship status if it’s visible to online friends.
18) Don’t think you’re the bad one for breaking up.
Yes, you were the one to initiate the breakup — but is that a bad thing? Absolutely not.
Feelings of pain and loss are perfectly normal. What isn’t okay is when you feel so guilty even months after the event.
Be proud that you took it upon yourself to move on from a relationship that wasn’t meeting your expectations.
19) Enjoy your time.
Don’t rush things. You’re single and ready to mingle, but that doesn’t mean you should. It’s up to you to decide when you want to take a chance at love again.
While you can find a rebound, it’s better if you don’t. Not only will this hurt another person once you’re over them, but it also doesn’t help you move on.
Moving on is about prioritizing yourself. Go clubbing and drinking to have fun, but reject any romantic offers.
For now, just focus on yourself.
Perhaps you’ve neglected a beloved hobby. Pick up that book and finish that video game.
Learn a language and try playing a new instrument. Spend more time with your family and catch up with your friends.
Staying busy and being happy will take your mind off the previous relationship. Appreciate the concept of self-love.
(If you’re looking for a guide on how to practice self-love, check out my ultimate guide on how to love yourself here).
Breaking up with someone you love
Love is a wonderful thing, but it’s not the only thing that matters in a relationship. There should be an effort to improve oneself while maintaining the strong, intimate bond between two people.
If you don’t see a bright future with a person, leave. Your partner wouldn’t force you to stay if they really loved you.
You will experience a whirlwind of emotions before, during, and after the breakup.
Pain, sadness, disappointment, anger, longing — all these will appear. But right on the horizon, you’ll also develop a sense of freedom, happiness, and love that does not suffocate.
Cherish the memories, but don’t let them keep you trapped. In time, someone will come into your life with love and so much more.
Remember: Love can be expressed in a multitude of ways. And sometimes, the best thing you can do to a person you hold dear to your heart is to let them go.
Whether or not this is your first breakup or your hundredth, there’s no need to set out to hurt someone intentionally.
The breakup will hurt enough.
Be clear, be honest, focus on the future and don’t pass the blame on to anyone, including yourself, and you’ll get through it.
Breaking up with someone and letting them go is never easy, but if you want to learn
Breakups can take a toll on you if you don’t plan for the aftermath. While being in the wrong relationship can be difficult, many people choose to stay with their partners because they fear what breaking up would look like.
Often, we do things out of obligation and feel like we need to remain committed to someone, even if we don’t love them anymore. It’s okay to change your mind. It’s your life, after all.
But that doesn’t mean you need to break someone in two while breaking their heart.
There is a way to break up with someone so that they don’t feel like jumping off a cliff afterwards. Follow the above advice and you’ll be on your way to a new life without the guilt of breaking things off.