How To Break Up With Someone Without Being A Dick

Breaking up is hard to do… but sometimes you’ve just got to do it. If it isn’t a positive force in your life, you’re probably better off ending the relationship. There are many ways to break up with someone, and not all of them are good. Ghosting, benching, and breadcrumbing are all cruel ways to end things. Basically, if it has a trendy name, it’s probably not a good idea. Classics like being honest and treating your soon-to-be-ex with respect are always a good bet — but if you’re worried about your ex’s reaction, prioritise your own safety, even if that means breaking up over text.
Although it might be difficult in the moment, ultimately, breaking up with your partner is better than staying in a relationship that doesn’t work for you. And it's definitely better than sabotaging the relationship so that your partner will be the one to end things. “I've found that people feel guilty about wanting to be out of a relationship, so many times they do things to sabotage it, instead of having the self respect and understanding that they don't have to stay in it if it's not working for them,” Jennifer DeSarro, a Miami-based marriage counsellor, previously told Refinery29. “Remember, you’re allowed to break up.” Here's how to do it.

Be sure you want to break up

If you’re still going back and forth on whether you want to end things, don’t take action until you know you definitely want to break up. If you’re not sure on where you stand, your partner may be able to persuade you to “take back” the breakup. And then you’ll find yourself stuck in a relationship that isn’t working.

Choose a time and place to have the conversation

Be respectful and kind about when you break up with your partner. Don’t break up with them on their birthday, and don’t spring the news on them in the morning right before they head to work (or via text while they’re at work). If you’ve been dating for a while and aren’t long-distance, a face-to-face breakup in private is generally the most respectful way to go. (Though again, if you’re worried about your safety, forget everything else and prioritise that.)

Explain why you’re breaking up

Generally, honesty is the best policy during a breakup. “We all want to learn and understand why things happen — that’s how humans are,” Joanne Davila, PhD, a professor of psychology at Stony Brook University and the author of The Thinking Girl's Guide to the Right Guy, previously told Refinery29. “If you give no information, the person has to start searching for that, like, ‘What’s wrong with me?’ And that makes it harder to move on.”

Be kind about why you’re ending the relationship

However, if the truth is something like “I hate how you kiss,” balance honesty with kindness. You might decide on something that's still true but less brutal, like, “I don’t see us together long-term.” “You have to be honest and you have to be kind,” Davila said. “Sometimes, those things seem like they don’t go together, but they can.”

Don’t stick around after the breakup

Your partner will understandably have some feelings about the breakup, and likely, so will you. After you’ve broken up with your partner and discussed your reasons, make an exit so you can both process the end of your relationship. (This is why breaking up at a restaurant is a bad idea — you have to wait to finish your meal and pay the bill before you can leave.)

Don’t try to be friends after the breakup (at least at first) 

Sometimes, an ex can make a great friend. But you both need some space first. Otherwise, it won’t feel like a breakup. So go no contact, at least temporarily. After some time has passed and you’ve both healed, you can try re-establishing a friendship, if you both want to.

Whatever you do, don't have breakup sex

It's only natural to be tempted to hook up with your ex. Don't do it. If you do, “you are establishing an emotional bond whether you like it or not,"  Renew Breakup Bootcamp founder Amy Chan previously told Refinery29. "So if you’re trying to get over someone, literally, do not get on top of them! Sex with the ex is prohibiting those bonds to break, keeping you more attached.”

More from Sex & Relationships

R29 Original Series