Yes, You Can Break Up Without Being Mean
Breaking up is difficult, especially if you’re dating a generally kind person. Just because you don’t want to stay with your soon-to-be-former partner doesn’t mean you want to hurt their feelings, so we have some tips for how to break up without causing unnecessary pain and heartache.
Explain, don't insult
There’s a big difference between giving a reasonable explanation for breaking up and launching an all-out attack on the other person’s character. The kinder route is to hew closer to the former. Unless they did something malicious to trigger the breakup (such as cheating, disrespect or abuse), there’s no reason to get into details about their perceived personality flaws or wrongdoings. Focus on the reasons why you need to move on rather than what’s "wrong" with them.
If your explanation is concise and to the point, you can avoid dragging out the conversation and talking in circles.
Choose a private setting
Breaking up face to face is the right thing to do, particularly if you’ve been seeing each other for a while. Instead of trapping your partner in a closed setting, share the news in a place where they can escape or feel free to show emotion. Most people don't want to get dumped and then have to continue interacting with others at a restaurant or a party as if nothing happened.
Consider a few better breakup locations:
- Ask if you can meet after their work shift before they head home.
- Sit together at an outdoor cafe or coffee shop.
- Walk outdoors at the park or another neutral location.
Of course, if you feel unsafe, you're better off meeting at a public place with an additional support person or avoiding an in-person meeting altogether.
If it’s just a matter of being friendly acquaintances instead of romantic interests, a private and in-person setting provides the respect the other person deserves. For long-distance relationships, where meeting face to face is impractical, a phone call or a video chat is a better option than sending a text or an email.
End it sooner than later
When you procrastinate ending a relationship, you leave room for misunderstandings, awkward moments and unnecessary hurt. Once you know it’s over, don’t wait too long to clue in the other party. No one wants to feel like they’ve been deceived. Be brave and honest. People often hold back on initiating difficult conversations for selfish reasons. You may think you’re protecting the other person’s feelings, but really you’re just sparing your own (temporarily).
Commit to going separate ways
It’s only fair to lend a listening ear after you’ve said your piece about the relationship. But do so within reason. You can’t, or shouldn't, be the one to comfort someone after you break up with them. Doing so sends mixed messages and makes it more difficult for them to move on. Say what you have to say and encourage the other person to lean on their family and friends for support.
Don’t confuse matters by staying in contact or giving affection after your split. Maybe you can be friends in the future, but drawing a clear boundary after a fresh breakup is crucial to protect the other person during this vulnerable time. Consoling them will create false hope that undermines your intentions. Instead, be kind but firm in your decision.
Don’t be a ghost
Ghosting is one of the most cowardly and immature ways to end a relationship. You don’t owe the other person an apology—well, maybe, if you did something wrong—but you do owe them basic acknowledgment. Ghosting creates confusion and resentment. It’s ultimately more hurtful than if you face the issue head-on.
Breaking up isn’t easy, but it’s the responsible thing to do when a relationship has run its course.