Breaking up with someone is a skill. And like most skills, it takes practice to be good at it, but it’s not like anyone aims for accumulating a ton of breakups. No one wants to hurt someone else (and probably themselves) over and over and over again. But staying in subpar relationships is not good for your mental health, nor is it any way to end up happy, so knowing how to cut ties is essential. There are ways to break up with someone that will make it feel like a good idea to everyone involved. Feelings might still be hurt and someone will be more bummed than the other person, but when you do it right, everyone can lean back in their chair after recounting the tale to their friends and say, “But you know what? It’s for the best.”
It’s not about toying with someone — it’s about how you frame the conversation.
We tend to break up with each other by not telling the whole truth or leaving things open-ended in the name of trying to spare someone’s feelings. But that’s the worst thing you can do to someone when you’re breaking up with them. Hope dies last, so make sure that if there is no hope, you kill it dead on your way out the door. And you really can do this without anyone walking away feelings super gutted. Here are some ways to tweak your breakup style so that everyone can get on board with it.
1. You have to show up.
Breaking up with someone is a thing you really ought to do in person. If you’re long-distance, wait till you see each other again (or at least Skype, because plane tickets are expensive). It sucks, but do not give into the temptation of emails or texts. When you’re sitting physically together in some neutral spot, talking it out like grownups, you can make sure everyone leaves with closure necessary for both of you to feel like moving on is really the best thing.
2. Don’t lie about your feelings.
No one wants to hear that their adoration for a person is unrequited. Don’t overdo it when it comes to telling someone how you feel about them. This can often just be the difference between a “really, really, really care about you” and a “I like you, but…” Putting on an act will give the other person the wrong idea and lead to problems later on.
3. Remind them of how good things were — and point out how good they aren’t anymore.
Don’t dwell on the old days, but it’s good tactic to make sure everyone remembers that this relationship wasn’t an entire waste of time, because that feeling can be the source of a lot of breakup blues.
4. Be honest about the future.
Don’t go around giving out false hope. If you can, tell the person why you don’t think it’s going to work out. They might even agree with you. When it’s harder to tell the person exactly why you’re jumping ship, don’t leave them with a “it’s just not the right time.” Unless you *actually* mean that once you graduate from law school or your dog turns four you’re going to be ready to date them. It’s usually always the right time when you find the right person.
5. Let the other person be sad.
If your new ex isn’t totally convinced yet that this breakup is a wonderful idea, they might be seriously sad. Instead of trying to alleviate their pain, let them feel their feelings! But…they don’t necessarily need to have those feelings around you. You don’t have to text back or make it all better or give them one last hangout. You’re not the person for that. Be respectful, maybe don’t be a jerk about the random late-night texts they send, but do your best to ignore their emotional outreach post-breakup. Their friends will finish the job of making sure they’re happy about the breakup for you.