Ending a long term relationship is never an easy thing to do. Figuring out how to break up with someone you live with? Oof. I wish I could offer a magic solution that makes it all nice and easy.
Since there’s no such thing, here’s what I’m going to offer you instead: A list that’ll help you get through this process as easily as possible. That might sound underwhelming, but factoring these into the coming weeks will help you a lot.
They can be the difference between a breakup filled with anger and broken plates or an amicable, respectful ending.
Time to Talk about How to Break Up with Someone You Live with
Until recent years, I was a long-term relationship guy. That’s neither right or wrong but it does mean I’ve been through this several times. My last serious relationship ended months after moving to a new city together, six years in.
All of this is to say that I understand where you’re at. I remember what it feels like and you can consider this a list of tips I’ve come to learn the hard way.
No immature, conniving garbage you might hear spurted by the likes of Call Her Daddy. Instead, it’s a process that’ll keep things constructive and civil. There are no winners in a breakup.
Think your decision through for a few days
Once you’ve started the conversation, there’s no turning back. Before you do that, just give yourself some time. Sit on the decision for a few days to make sure that’s what you want.
We’re all human and emotions can sometimes dominate our decision-making without us realizing. By giving yourself a few days, you avoid that knee-jerk reaction. This is how you avoid being that on-again-off-again couple that we all love to hate.
Schedule a time to chat
This isn’t something you want to spring on your soon-to-be-ex midway through breakfast. Catching them off guard can leave your partner feeling attacked, which pushes them to be defensive. This you vs. them dynamic is how arguments form.
Instead, this is where the classic and notoriously terrifying “we need to talk” line comes in. Work out a time in the next day or two where you can both sit down and talk things through.
Giving your partner time to mentally prepare is your best chance at a mature, constructive conversation.
Go into it with a plan
Since you’re taking things slow, you have ample time to plan things out. Emotions are about to run high and that isn’t the time to be improvising or trying to make a decision. So start with figuring out when to break up, where to do it and what to say to make things go as smoothly (and possibly painlessly) as possible.
Before the conversation even begins, plan out what you want to say. Have an exit strategy in mind and be prepared to lead your partner through this initially. They’re going to be hurting, lost and dealing with a mix of emotions.
If you can stay calm and constructive (but not cold), you’re paving the way for more constructive conversation. Without this, breakup chats tend to go in circles for hours while the other person tries to figure things out.
The conversation when you break up with someone you live with happens in two parts
I think this is something we’ve all been guilty of at some point. In figuring out how to break up with someone you live with, you’ve gone for the band-aid approach and it just doesn’t work. Trying to communicate everything from breaking up to logistics in one conversation is asking for trouble.
A breakup conversation is inherently emotional. Of course it is, you both care about each other a lot and nobody wants to lose someone they care about.
Discuss the end of your breakup initially then give it a day or two to settle. Once emotions are under control, then you can have a useful conversation about everything else.
You’ll need to figure out how to split up possessions, who’s moving out, finances and all the other fun stuff. As much as you might just want to get it over and done with all at once, I assure you splitting these topics up is the better option.
Check your anger at the door
Scheduling a time to have this conversation isn’t just about letting your partner prepare themselves. It’s an opportunity for you to get your head in the right space too.
Even if you have every right to be angry, now isn’t the time to vent that toward them. By letting anger get in the way, you’re only throwing fuel on the fire you’re about to ignite.
By focussing on calm, constructive conversation, you’re saving both of you from unnecessary pain. I promise you if you go into this filled with rage things will blow up and you will get burned. Don’t hurt yourself in an attempt at spite.
Be kind and understanding
Following on from this point, do your best to put yourself in their shoes for a minute. Even if they’ve done something unforgivable, be kind and understanding while you work through this.
You’re about to break up with them, which is going to hurt. They're about to lose their partner and emotions just might get the better of them for a moment.
Do your best to anticipate that, see it for what it is and be the voice of reason. Remember, you’ve had the benefit of knowing and being in control. If you can stay kind and understanding in the coming weeks there will be a lot less pain involved for you both.
There are no winners in the blame game
Another element we’re all guilty of as we work out how to break up with someone you live with. These conversations can quickly drop into a back and forth of “you did this,” “that’s because you did that!” and it goes nowhere.
Since the only thing this achieves is rising emotions, do your best to stay constructive. There’s a reason that word features so often in this article!
Think about the way you phrase things and avoid the word “you” as much as possible. There’s a massive difference between “you don’t give me what I need” and “I’m not getting what I need.”
The first one is a personal attack. The second is an explanation of your own feelings. They’re the exact same point but only one will start a fresh argument.
End on a positive note
This is a theme that runs throughout the article but it still deserves its own section. As you learn how to break up with someone you live with, keep this as a focus the whole way through.
Even if you don’t plan to remain friends, go into this with the aim of ending amicably. Whether we want to admit it or not, every fight hurts. Every argument takes a toll and you just never know how it could affect the future.
I’m friends with every one of my exes partly for this reason. The other part being that, to me, it seems like a waste to shut out someone special to me. We don’t have to work as a couple for me to respect them.
Stay strong and consistent
It’s normal to go through moments of weakness. Although you might be making the right decision, doubt will creep in there. You’ll be tempted to go back to “normal,” but that’ll only drag things out even longer.
It’s so important that you stay strong and consistent throughout the breakup. Remind yourself why you’re doing this and avoid giving your ex mixed signals. False hope is cruel, even if it is unintentional.
Take some time to digest and adapt
You’re both setting out on your own separate journeys from here. This means you’ll need time to adjust.
The best way to avoid the temptation of going back? Take some time apart. Get used to living without them and start exploring this new direction.
To do this effectively, make it clear that you need at least a week or two of zero contact. No text messages, no social media, nothing. A simple “I miss you” text 5 days after a breakup is a great way to have you both hurting all over again! So if you want to get over a breakup, avoid any contact at all for a while
Stay busy with other things
Last but not least, it’s so important that you keep yourself busy. I can tell you from personal experience, sitting at home alone will easily double the number of times it takes to move on. You might even be tempted to be friends with your ex just because you miss her.
One way or another, you will move on and there’s no sense in dragging out the hurt.
Exactly how you stay busy is completely irrelevant, honestly. Pick up a new hobby, hang out with friends, go join a nomadic tribe in Mongolia, it really doesn’t matter as long as you stop thinking about your ex for a while.
There’s an entire world out there for you to explore. There’s no excuse for you to sit alone on the couch dwelling on the negative.
Breaking Up with Someone You Live With Is Never Easy
There’s no doubt about it, figuring out how to break up with someone you live with is hard. Unfortunately though, it’s also necessary sometimes and you owe it to yourself to push through it.
Take this advice on board, chat with your close friends and focus on how much happier you’ll be in the future. Allow yourself to dwell on your feelings, but give yourself a time limit. And once that's done, you can decide what to do next (whether that's forgetting your ex or trying to be friends). You’ve got this.