This Is How a Gentleman Ends a Relationship
Sometimes in a relationship, you’re not sure how to phrase a delicate subject or tricky topic. Sure, saying nothing at all is easy, but avoiding the subject doesn’t do anyone any good. Awkward Conversations provides you with a template for what to say — and what not to say — and why, so you can have those difficult discussions without them turning into full-blown fights.
Breaking up is a sad, difficult part of the human experience. Nobody enjoys breaking up with people, excluding possible psychopaths. There’s arguing, there’s tears, bargaining, and there’s the “What did I do? Just tell me what I did.” It’s the most awkward relationship conversation of all — so much so that you’re often tempted to chuck it and ghost. After all, if you block her number and move to Thailand, she’ll get the picture, right? There’s no need to have the actual breakup talk.
Well, as tempting as it is to disappear without a word, it’s an unequivocally bad idea. You’re hurting someone’s feelings by leaving them in the dark indefinitely. And, who knows — you might run into them again sometime in the future! Hey, maybe the boss at your next job will turn out to be the girl you ghosted two years ago. Think of the office tension. No, no, it’s not worth it. Being mature about it will save you both trouble (and an immense amount of buried guilt) down the line.
Here, we outline some ways for you to handle the breakup conversation with grace — and what common pitfalls you should avoid. It’s never going to be easy, but if you follow these simple steps, you’ll both walk away feeling that you respect each other and have clarity on the situation. People crave closure: that chance to tie a big pink ribbon on a relationship and put it away for good. And at the end of the day, that’s the least you can offer someone you dated.
In all these scenarios, we’re running with the assumption that you’re sure you want to break up. (If you want to have a relationship talk because you’re hoping she’ll change your mind, that’s an entirely different animal.) This is for people who have made up their mind and don’t know how to deliver the bad news.
Breakup approaches are generally dependent on the length of the relationship:
1. Breaking Up When You’ve Only Been on a Few Dates
“Can I break up with her by text?” Well, the answer is usually a resounding No. Dumping someone via text is rude and unacceptable. However, when you’ve only been on two or three dates with the person in question, it’s safe to assume that they’re not going to be that upset by it. You two don’t know each other very well yet, and it’s okay to send her a carefully composed text instead of meeting up expressly to dump her.
What’s a good, thoughtful text to send? Not a “Well, this was fun, but I’m out. Bye!” with a smiley emoji. Don’t be callous about it — even if this wasn’t a serious relationship, it’s still worthy of a better send-off. Here’s an example of a good breakup text:
Hey, Sheila. I wanted to say that I had a blast with you these last two weeks, and I’m so glad that we met on Tinder. I’m really sorry, but I don’t think I’m in the space to take this relationship further. I hope that this isn’t too upsetting — it’s nothing personal, and it would be great to be friends, maybe in the future. Take care.
This is a good breakup text because it’s polite, but clear. Yes, the “it’s not you, it’s me” is a cliché, but one that saves the other person’s feelings. If it’s only been one or two weeks, you don’t have to explain why you’re not feeling it! It’s super common for people to change their minds after a few dates, and she’ll likely assume that’s what happened here. Either way, this text does the job quickly, but cleanly.
2. Breaking Up When You’ve Been Dating for a Month or Two
This is trickier territory than breaking up after two dates, even though it’s still early enough that it won’t devastate them. If you’ve been dating for one or two months, you’ve probably slept over at each other’s houses. You’ve made each other breakfast, and you’ve gotten used to seeing each other on the weekends! At this point, you probably owe it to the person to break up with them in person, or (at the very least) over the phone.
This doesn’t mean that you should call them and say abruptly ‘Hey, I wanna break up, so cancel those movie tickets next week.” It’s going to come as a little bit of a shock, definitely, and that means you should cushion the blow. Ideally, something along the lines of:
Hey, Sara. So, I’ve been thinking a lot about us, and where I see it going. I’m feeling a little uncertain about the future, and I think that’s not a good sign. I feel like maybe this has run its course, and I’m so sorry that it has. You’re great, and you deserve to be with someone who is ready for a long-term relationship.
If you can sit down with them, and tell them kindly but firmly that you don’t see this going anywhere, that’s best. A phone call will do, in a pinch. Don’t beat around the bush — get to the point, but listen to her and be patient, whatever her response is. It’s unlikely that you’ll be met with much resistance, but you should give her a chance to say her piece before you say goodbye.
3. Breaking Up When You’ve Been Dating for 3-11 Months
Say you’ve been dating for six months, and you don’t feel like you’re going to fall in love with this person. They’re just not the one. Or maybe you want to keep dating casually, or maybe you want to move and travel in Europe for a year. Whatever your reason for ending it, this is a situation that definitely requires an in-person discussion. You’ve spent six months hanging out with this girl- you can definitely afford to take an hour out of your week for the breakup conversation.
At this stage, you don’t know how she’s going to react to the B word. She may have seen it coming, because women are perceptive like that. On the other hand, she may have absolutely no idea that you’re unhappy in the relationship! There’s no way to know until you break it to her, which is why it’s not a great idea to break up on a crowded sidewalk. Take her to an empty coffee-shop, or ask if you can come by her place to talk. That way, if the conversation gets emotional, she won’t feel humiliated by being in public.
If there is a specific reason you want to break up, and it’s something that is out of her control, or that would hurt her feelings, don’t bring it up. This is one situation where total honesty is not required. An example of a breakup method that could backfire spectacularly:
You: Sandra, I don’t think it’s going to work out between us. I’m not attracted to you anymore.
Her: *crying* What? What’s wrong? Is it my appearance? What did I do wrong in the relationship? Is it our sex life?
You: Kind of…I wanted to be honest.
Her: *yelling* Did you meet somebody prettier? Where did you meet her? How long has this been going on? Tell me. I can’t believe this. I thought you were the one. I feel as if I’m nothing. And all this time, you were going behind my back.
You: *yelling* No, that’s not what happened. Can you just listen to me for a second? God!
Now you’re both upset, and confused, and not listening to each other. It’s an emotional minefield, which is inevitable: this type of conversation will bring out insecurity in the most confident person! Is it really necessary to tell her that you’re getting bored in the relationship? These kinds of statements are cruel, no matter how truthful they may be. There’s no need to make people feel bad about themselves when you’re leaving them.
Let’s try that again with a different approach.
You: Shelby, I need to talk to you about something.
Her: What’s going on?
You: I’ve been thinking about our relationship, and I’m concerned that I feel differently than I used to. I don’t think it’s going to work out between us.
You: I am so sorry, and I want you to know this is hard for me too. It’s going to be difficult to lose you, but I think we should break up.
Her: Why? How- I mean, why do you want to break up? I had no idea. I thought you were happy.
You: I know. I wish I’d brought it up earlier, but I feel like it’s not fair to you to continue with something I’m not sure about. Don’t beat yourself up over it. It’s just a feeling that I can’t shake, and I’m sad that it had to be like this.
This approach does a number of things right: firstly, it says Sorry. Sorry is important. Many people are averse to saying Sorry during a breakup, because they feel it’s not a crime to end a relationship. Well, it certainly isn’t, but it’s not meant as an apology. Here, the sorry is shorthand for “I’m sorry that we can’t be together any longer, and that this hurts your feelings. I’m sorry because I’m a decent human being who cares about other people’s feelings.”
Secondly, you’re acknowledging that this isn’t easy for you either. It’s tempting to fall back on glibness because you don’t want to be emotionally honest, and have an uncomfortable conversation. But if you act breezy or nonchalant about the breakup, it’s going to cause that much more pain to the other person (who isn’t nonchalant about it). We’re not saying you have to fake a weeping fit, but don’t suppress your own pain or sorrow about the situation.
Most importantly, this approach doesn’t place the blame on the other person, or trigger any of their insecurities. You’re framing this as your problem, as a feeling that you have about the relationship. That’s not something she can argue with, or reasonably resent. Chances are, she’ll accept it as peaceably as anyone would in that situation. Then, you can mourn the relationship appropriately, give each other back your favorite hoodies, and move on with your life.
4. Breaking Up When You’ve Been Dating for Over a Year
The longer you’ve been dating, the rougher it is to let go of someone — not necessarily because of the relationship itself, but because the other person has dug themselves deeply into your life. When you break up with your girlfriend of over a year, you’re losing a lot of tiny things: the monthly trip to your favorite taco place, planning hikes together, that one friend of hers that’s hilarious to hang out with. You’re not going to bounce back from this immediately, and that’s okay.
Expect the conversation to be messy and unpleasant. There will be tears. There might be yelling and most likely pleading and bargaining. Through all of this, you need to keep your cool, which is why it’s best to have a script of sorts before you go in. But be empathetic throughout — at least you’ve had time to get mentally used to the idea of breaking up. Your girlfriend hasn’t! Maybe she was planning your wedding, or the names you’d want for your kids. Either way, it behooves you to be as kind and considerate as possible. You’ll never regret being gentle when you had the opportunity to be.
That means doing all of what we’ve discussed previously. Sitting her down in a safe place, apologizing, explaining that something isn’t working for you personally, and giving her time and space to respond on her own terms. You don’t have to do a post-mortem on the entire relationship: if you feel like it isn’t working, it isn’t. That’s all you have to say.
But in these situations, you might be met with resistance, which is perfectly natural. After all, it’s not a two-date old relationship. She might want to talk about it. (Breaking up might take more than one conversation, and you have to be prepared for that.) She’s going to be resistant to the idea of losing you, and that means you have to approach the situation with tact and foresight.
Don’t make this mistake:
You: …and, Sophia, it’s not working anymore. I feel like breaking up is for the best.
Her: *cries* No, really? How can you say that? Do you want to throw away our entire relationship? All the things we went through together? I can’t bear this.
You: *desperate* Look, it’s not like that. Don’t be sad. Maybe down the line…who knows?
Her: So there could be a chance that we’ll work things out?
You: …sure. I guess. This is just for now.
This is a high-pressure situation — you’re under the pressure of managing somebody else’s emotions, and you don’t know what to say to make them feel better. So you want to throw them a bone. Mitigate the breakup by saying that this is a temporary solution. It will probably help in the short term, but this is unfair to do to somebody and will come back to bite you in the long term. All you’re doing by keeping someone on the hook is postponing the inevitable.
How do you deal with somebody’s emotions without giving them false hope? Remember, this is somebody you care a lot about. Act accordingly. Hug them. Reassure them that you care about them and that that won’t change, regardless of your romantic feelings. What she’s reacting to is the sensation of loss — show her that it won’t be as bad as she thinks right now.
You: Sophia, I think we have to break up. It’s not working, not like it used to. But you have to know that I care about you and your happiness. I’m not going to stop caring. I still have so much love for you.
Her: Then — you don’t think that maybe in the future you could change your mind? Things would be different, I promise. We can try again.
You: *gently* I can’t hold on to that hope. I think it would be too difficult for both of us. I’m not going to change my mind. This relationship didn’t have legs, that’s all. But I’m so glad that we had that time together.
Here, you’re showing your willingness to provide emotional support. She knows that you care about her feelings. Maybe (once you’re truly over it) you can even be platonic friends, and still be in each other’s lives.
At the same time, you’re making it clear that this isn’t a jumping-off ground for future negotiations. You’re breaking up with her, and you’re doing it in a way that makes it crystal clear you won’t change your mind. Saying your piece with finality won’t be easy, and it will hurt her. These types of breakups aren’t like Band-Aids: you can’t rip them right off. They might take a little time to sink in.
But even if you meet up to talk about it again, stick to your position. Reiterate your earlier statements. Communicate your feelings clearly, whether you’ve been dating for a day or a year. Be understanding and receptive of her emotions, and you’ll walk away feeling as satisfied as one can ever feel about a breakup.
How to Break Up With Someone You Love
Of all the necessary breakups, this is by far the hardest. There are many reasons why you might have to break up with someone you love and care about, and none of them are happy. Maybe it’s for your own good – or maybe it’s for hers. Either way, get ready for one of the hardest breakups you’ll ever have.
Two things are important here, above all: that you respect your loved one and you respect yourself. You’re not going to want to cause them pain, and that may lead you to downplay the trouble or even delay the breakup instead of ripping the band-aid right off. You need to be honest with yourself and with your partner, and end things swiftly. And next, and just as importantly, you need to take your distance from your ex. No post-breakup cuddles or dinners or lunches. No hanging on to all those photos you have of the two of you on your phone. The sooner you can get the relationship out of sight, the sooner you’ll be able to heal from the breakup.
How to Break Up With Someone You Live With
This is the trickiest breakup situation. It’s hard enough to end a relationship when you don’t split the electricity and Wi-Fi bills, or share a bed, or know each other’s morning routines, or rely on one another to do the grocery shopping each week. If you’re in this situation, and you’re the one initiating the breakup, you’re going to need to think ahead. Arrange for a place to stay for a minimum of two weeks before you end the relationship. You could stay with a good friend, or even move back in with your parents temporarily. It doesn’t matter. The important thing is that you’ll be able to give your now-ex some much-needed space to process the end of the relationship without having to see your face.
As for separating your clothes and possessions, you can try to schedule some time when you know your ex will be at work, or you can once again lean on that aforementioned good friend (hey, that’s what they’re there for) to do you a solid and rescue your clothes and other belongings. Play your cards right and you can extricate yourself with minimal emotional damage.
You Might Also Dig: