How to Break Up With A Partner (Nicely)

By Deanna Fernandez, MHC

You’ve been dating for a while, for some months, maybe even some years and you’ve been feeling like you want out. Part of what keeps you there is you don’t know how things should end. You keep replaying painful scenarios in your head and it’s scaring you from actually ending things. So you stay despite how you feel. Each relationship is different, especially depending on what’s involved (living together, children, etc.) so you’ll have to figure out what’s best for your situation. But here’s some general guidelines on how to break up nicely:

  • Make sure you actually want to end the relationship.

    If you’ve been feeling like you want the relationship to end, chances are it’s time for the relationship to end. Whether you’ve been afraid to share these feelings because you don’t want to be the “one to end it” or because you feel bad about what’s going to happen to them, it’s better to be honest about your feelings sooner than later. But - try to be sure that you’re feeling concrete about ending the relationship. Sometimes our feelings lead us to a conclusion that we may not truly want. It also may help to seek therapy or talk to someone you trust. Therapists are trained to help you uncover your healthiest life, so if you’re grappling with this decision, reach out!

  • Find a neutral spot.

    It’s safer for both you and your partner if you end in a neutral spot, such as a coffee shop or restaurant. If you end it in your place (or theirs), in your car, or somewhere more intimate, you may get distracted and struggle to follow through on your decision. Also, it’s harder to exit stage left if the person refuses to leave your home or car.

  • Make it about you and your feelings.

    This is not only important for taking accountability; it’s also harder for your partner to try and dispute. If you make the breakup about them (what they do or fail to do)  there’s room for an argument. Make this about how you feel about the relationship and own it.

  • Be respectful.

    Sometimes it’s harder to take the high road but you’ll be glad during a breakup - especially if you want to end things on amicable terms. Who knows - You may find that you’re both a better fit as friends. Crossing these lines during a breakup is guaranteed to burn the bridge forever.

  • Tie up loose ends.

    How difficult is it when you have to arrange to pick up belongings from their house after a breakup? Make sure you tie up loose ends by discussing things in person, or make a plan about how to end the practical aspects of relationship before anyone leave.

  • Know when to exit stage left.

    Set a reasonable time for this conversation. You may not want to come off as cold-hearted and breakup in less than 2 minutes, but you also may not feel like talking for hours. Once you find yourself circling or arguing, it’s time to exit stage left. Staying in this mess could make the ending even more painful! Finding peace and balance in the way things end can be helpful for closure on both sides.

It may be helpful to talk things out with your friends, family, or a therapist to help you sort your feelings. Relationships are hard, emotions are running high, and it can be challenging to identify what it is you need and want. Take time to honor your feelings regardless of how challenging the outcome may be - you’ll be glad you did in the long run.