Breakups are hard no matter which end you stand on. Being the one to end the relationship, especially when you still care about the person, is not any easier than being the one blindsided by, “We need to talk.”
If you don’t want to be romantically involved with someone anymore, but don’t want to erase them from your life completely – or you just don’t want things to end badly – there are a few things you can do to make sure the breakup goes as smoothly as possible and ends on as calm a note as possible.
Here are five tips for breaking up with someone without them completely hating you.
1. Do it in person
No matter what, at first, breaking up with someone is going to make you both look and feel like a jerk. Nobody likes being dumped. Sometimes, you have to do it … but don’t make it that much worse by being disrespectful.
If you are going to break up with them, do it in person. Ask them to meet you in a quiet place that will not make them feel trapped if they feel uncomfortable afterward. It is not convenient. It is hard to look someone in the eye and tell them you do not want to be with them anymore. It is hard to watch someone be upset. Doing it this way, though, is one of the most sincere, respectful things you can do considering the circumstances.
Never, ever break up with someone over the phone or through a text message or email. If it is a long-distance issue and you physically cannot meet up face to face, at least talk to them over video chat where they can see your facial expressions and see that you are being as gentle and sincere as you can.
2. Get to the point
Getting straight to the point isn’t actually as insincere as it seems. What you really need to do when you are breaking up with someone is be completely open and honest about what is going on.
When you do finally meet up with them, don’t spend the first five minutes of your time together acting like everything is all fine and normal when it isn’t. This can come off as deceitful later, which is exactly what you don’t want if you want them not to hate you.
They came all this way just to have you break up with them, which seems extremely hurtful, but if you have made up your mind, there is no reason to put off what you need to say well into a normal conversation. Just take a deep breath and say it.
3. Make it about you
If you’re the one who wants out of the relationship, it might be because of something the other person has done or said or that they have acted a certain way. That may be the case, but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to blame them for the breakup. If you don’t want them to hate you, make the breakup about you instead.
The last thing you want is to make the other person feel like they have done something wrong or that you don’t want them because of who they are. Breaking up shouldn’t be about putting the other person down, but if you focus it on them, that’s how it will end up even if you don’t mean for it to.
Focus on you, and be honest but gentle. Explain that things have changed and you don’t feel the same way about them as you used to. Use “I” statements. Say, “I see my life going in a different direction” instead of, “You’re holding me back.”
4. Let them speak
Whether a relationship is at its beginning stages or approaching its end, communication is essential. The same way you do not want to simply break up with someone over a text, you don’t want to immediately close off the line of communication between the two of you just because you’re breaking up. It is only fair that you give them a chance to speak after you’ve had your turn.
Don’t just say what you need to say and walk away. If you really care about them, you will stay with them in that safe place you have chosen and have an actual conversation. Give them the chance to respond and talk out their reaction.
If they don’t want to talk about it though, that is completely up to them. The point is to offer them the opportunity to express their feelings in any way they need to. This shows them that you still care and want the best for them, even if your romantic relationship is coming to an end.
5. Don’t make promises you won’t keep
Your first instinct right after a breakup, if you want to stay friends with the person or don’t want them to feel completely abandoned, might be to immediately say something like, “Call me if you ever need anything.”
Sure, it sounds sincere on the surface, but look closely at the underlying meaning here. By telling him or her to “call you whenever,” you’re not only dumping them, but literally dumping unwanted responsibility on them, too. You just told them you don’t want to be romantically involved anymore … but you want them to call you?
Don’t promise to be there if you’re not sure you will. Don’t promise to answer the phone if they ever do decide to give you a call. Instead, keep even the post-breakup a compromise between the two of you. Agree to either keep in touch or don’t. Here’s some more advice on what not to say when breaking up with someone you truly care about.
Just because you are breaking up does not mean things have to end on bad terms. Just make sure you talk with them in person. Say what you have to say, but don’t make it about them. Give them a chance to say what they need to say, and be careful about your closing remarks. Only make promises you intend to keep.
Breakups are hard for both of the people involved. Be gentle, but be honest. Sometimes, ending things really is for the best for both of you.