Breakups are an unfortunate fact of life but that doesn’t make them any easier to handle, right? Learning how to break up with someone nicely is one of those things that feels bad every time.
The thing is, dealing with the awkward and painful process of a breakup is actually the kind option. Staying with someone because you don’t want to hurt them is so much worse. Not only are you just delaying the inevitable but you’re robbing both of you of the most valuable thing we have — time.
In this guide, I’ll give you seven tips to make this process as easy as possible. If you’re sure a breakup is the right decision here, be brave and go through with it. No matter how you feel right now, within a month or two you’ll be glad you did it. So will your current partner.
Seven Tips for How to Break Up with Someone Nicely
Since all breakups hurt in one way or another, the best thing we can do is make it as kind as possible. Rather than adding insult to injury, let’s dive straight into the things you can do to make it better.
These are all tips I’ve learned to use throughout this process to go initiate a breakup nicely. I’m obviously doing something right since I’m still friends with all but one of my exes.
Handling a breakup nicely means you first have to understand why
Especially in long-term relationships, couples fight. We’re all emotional creatures and sometimes we get on each other's nerves. It’s just another fact about relationships that we need to be okay with (within reason, of course).
Before you start this conversation, it’s important to take some time to think it through. Breaking up with someone on a knee-jerk reaction is never a good idea. That’s how you become “that couple” that breaks up and gets back together every other month. It becomes an emotional rollercoaster for both of you. . . and your friends.
Think it through, talk it over with friends you can trust and make sure breaking up is the right decision for you. If it is, then there’s no time like the present.
Have the conversation in person — no text messages or post-its!
It’s a classic Sex and the City trope for a reason. . . ending a relationship with anything less than a face-to-face conversation is disrespectful if nothing else. It's the complete opposite of trying to break up with someone nicely!
It shows that you don’t care enough to talk to them about it. Perhaps more importantly, they don’t get the opportunity to ask questions, which means they’ll never get any form of closure.
Instead, plan a time for the two of you to sit down and have the conversation face to face. Allow plenty of time so you don’t feel pressured to blurt everything out in a hurry. Expect a lot of questions and be willing to answer them.
The thing is, if you aren’t willing to answer their questions, their ability to move on will be hindered. Was it their fault? Did they do something wrong? Was it something they said? Do you not like their friends? Basically, a wave of insecurities and mixed emotions that can be avoided with a short conversation.
It’ll probably feel a little awkward and maybe you don’t want to deal with it. Unfortunately for you though, if you really care to break up with them in a nice way, this is an important part of it.
Do it in private (unless you’re concerned for your safety)
If you’re worried they might flip out and get physically or emotionally abusive, public places are a good choice. I’ve been there, I know what it’s like and public places bring an element of safety.
Outside of that though, it’s best to do this in private. It’s likely the last intimate conversation the two of you will ever have. Doing it this way gives you both the opportunity to express your emotions openly with each other. No interruptions from your server or fears of the next table listening in.
If you don’t live together, heading to their place is the better choice. It means they don’t have to drive home afterward as they’re trying to process everything. You can make your exit once the conversation is over.
Likewise, if you live together, at home is still the best place to have that conversation. Just be sure to give them some space once it’s over. Go hang out with a friend or something and leave them to deal with it in their own way.
To break up with someone nicely, be honest but kind. Explain why it’s over.
Perhaps the most important part of breaking up nicely is allowing for closure. The better you can explain what motivated your decision, the easier they can come to accept your decision. When they can arrive at this acceptance stage, they can finally start to move on. After all, that’s what you want for them, right?
To take this a step further, make sure it doesn’t turn into the blame game. Do your best to use a lot of “I” statements rather than heaping the blame on them and walking away.
There’s a major difference between “You make me feel bad…” and “I don’t feel as happy as I should”. Both of these phrases mean the same thing and get the same point across. The first one is bound to make them feel bad and maybe even start an argument.
These explanations make it easier to cope with the breakup, both for you and your soon-to-be ex.
Nobody ever wins an argument
Leading on from that point, do your best to avoid the conversation turning into an argument. Emotions will run high and they may feel hurt. That’s normal.
With that said, it’s important that you do what you can to avoid or shut down an argument rather than fueling it. This means communicating without attacking. Listening without judging and refusing to take part if things start to get heated. If they do start yelling or getting upset, explain in your own way that you understand how they’re feeling and you don’t like it either.
Just know that in some cases, they may even need to hate you temporarily as their way of coping. It doesn’t necessarily have anything to do with you specifically, it was just the only way they know to let those emotions out.
I’ve definitely had that text a few days later saying “I’m sorry I acted the way I did. I didn’t mean what I said, I was just really upset” and I believe it. Let them vent, just don’t enter into a yelling match!
Stick to your guns and the relevant facts
Something else to prepare yourself for with breakup conversations is the tendency to have it derailed. To go off on tangents that have nothing to do with the actual problems.
It starts out with something important and before you know it, you’re fighting about something you said three years ago. Not only does this put you in danger of a nasty argument, it also drags the conversation out. There’s no sense spending hours arguing and only minutes discussing the actual problems.
Once again, it’s something that can happen to anyone when emotions are in control. The best way to handle this is to acknowledge the tangent then bring it right back to the relevant facts.
“I understand you’re frustrated about that but if it’s okay, I’d like to come back to [original point].” Calm, not condescending and it shows that you’re really making an effort.
Be careful not to give false hope
This is a trap I accidentally fell into once. Let’s just say I learned my lesson. You probably think you’re being nice in the breakup with phrases like “Maybe things will be different in a month or two, just not right now”. This is not how you can move on from your ex, and it will also make it harder for your ex to move on from you.
If someone is really struggling with the breakup though, this may be the phrase they hold onto. You think the relationship is over and you’re free to go your separate ways. Two months later you find out they’re still waiting for you because you said “maybe.”
This comes back to their ability to process things again. As difficult as it is, try to be very honest about things and clear that it’s over for good.
Work on moving on
Once you've successfully broken up with your ex, the next move is moving on. And, while it seems counterproductive, the best thing you can do is to recognize and process your feelings. This is different from dwelling on them. In fact, recognizing your feelings is one of the best ways you can start to move on from them.
Give yourself some time--a week, a month or maybe three months--to fully process how you're feeling. Then start living your life as normal. You might sometimes think of your ex, and that's normal. You may even wonder if your ex misses you like you miss them, and that's normal too. But as long as you do what you can to move on, you're on the right track.
Breaking Up with Someone Nicely is Never Easy
Once you’ve taken some time to think things through for yourself, it’s time to take action. Figure out a plan and what you want to say then get that ball rolling. If you feel like this is a temporary breakup, doing it nicely can help you win her back in the future.
None of us want to go through this process so waiting until you’re “ready” just means pointless delay. Be clear, be kind and communicate effectively. It’s the best thing for you both, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now. Good luck.