Breakups suck — even if you’re the one doing the breaking up. This assumes you have a heart, since you’re reading this in hopes of avoiding jerk status.
Unfortunately, breakups are an inevitable part of relationship life. Think about it: every relationship you’re in can’t last forever, right? Sometimes you’re going to be the one getting dumped, and sometimes you’re the one who’s going to be deciding to split. To be a respectful human and have good break-up karma, you’ll want to have good breakup etiquette.
Here are 7 tips for breaking up in a way that won’t make you seem like a complete jerk.
1. Be respectful
Perhaps the number one tip is really to break up with someone the way you’d like to be broken up with. This person was your partner!
“Use the golden and the platinum rule. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you, but also treat others the way they want to be treated,” Cynthia Catchings, LCSW-S and Talkspace therapist advises, You know yourself, but must also know the person you wanted a relationship with at one point.”
Just because you’re ending the relationship doesn’t mean that you should treat them like a stranger or enemy, and disrespect them all of a sudden.
2. Do it in person
For the love of god, DON’T BREAK UP OVER TEXT MESSAGE OR SOCIAL MEDIA!
Sure, it would be way easier to just send a text and not have to look your partner in the eye and tell them it’s over…but that would be disrespectful and really lousy breakup etiquette. Your partner deserves an in-person break up!
This way, you can read each other’s body language and other social cues to better understand one another. If you’re in a long distance relationship and can’t meet up to do the deed in person, you still shouldn’t break up over text. Instead, try to do it over FaceTime or Skype.
Couples Therapy Online
Strengthen your relationship through couples therapy you can participate in together or apart, at your convenience.
3. Be completely honest
“Be honest and respectfully share how you feel or what went wrong. That benefits everyone,” Catchings says. “Many of us think that sugarcoating the truth or the situation can make the other person feel less hurt, but in reality, that can create more problems.”
Remember, it’s possible to be honest without being mean. Try to stay level-headed and keep and even tone in your voice while you explain your reasons for breaking up. Raising your voice or speaking in a condescending tone will hurt your partner even more.
Being completely honest is more likely to leave your partner with a sense of closure rather than a sense of “WTF just happened?” Be clear about the reasons you are breaking up, even though it can be hard to be so frank.
You can also give closure in a kind, loving way, telling them you enjoyed being in a relationship with them and getting to know them, and you will always cherish the time you shared (if that’s the truth).
4. Don’t play the blame game
While the reasons you’re breaking up with your partner may essentially be their fault, you shouldn’t make them feel like you’re harshly blaming them. “Avoid using ‘you’ since that puts all the blame or responsibility on the other person, Catchings suggests. “Use or describe the situation or behaviors that led you to realize that the relationship was not working.”
For example, instead of saying, “You are so immature and don’t care that I really want to start a family soon,” you can say something like, “Our values are really different when it comes to starting a family. Having children isn’t something that’s negotiable for me. Our views and long term goals don’t match up.”
Not only does this sound less confrontational, but it’s also more detailed and clear.
5. Listen, don’t just talk
Listen to what the other person has to say. Even though you’re the one doing the breaking up and making the final decision, the other person deserves a chance to voice their feelings and ask questions.
Although your decision is made, you shouldn’t hush your soon-to-be ex from saying what they want to say. You had your turn to speak, so give them theirs. That being said, don’t let them guilt trip you into revoking the break up. Be firm with your decision to end the relationship, and reiterate the reasons why you are doing so.
6. Don’t rush to update social media
Rushing to immediately change your Facebook relationship status and delete all the photos of you two together on your Instagram will make you look like a jerk, and it might be offensive to your partner.
You don’t want it to seem like you’re chomping at the bit to appear single on social media, ridding relationship evidence ASAP. Give it a few days or weeks, then you can go ahead and update whatever you need to update.
7. Be safe
While this doesn’t necessarily have to do with not being a jerk, it’s important nonetheless. Catchings says to remember the “diamond rule,” stating, “If you feel you are in danger while breaking up, do not hesitate and leave. Your safety comes first.”
This is especially true if you’ve experienced abuse in this relationship before. If you feel like you might be in danger when you initiate the break up, you may want to meet in a public place for your safety. And tell a trusted friend or family member where you’ll be going and what you’ll be doing.
Practice Makes (for a) Perfect (Breakup)
Utilize as many of these tips as you can for the best possible results. You can even do some practicing beforehand to make sure you’re prepared.
Nobody enjoys having difficult conversations like these, but hopefully these pointers have given you some useful insight. Stay strong, you can do it!
While your partner won’t be happy about the breakup, at least they’ll be happy you weren’t a jerk.
Talkspace articles are written by experienced mental health-wellness contributors; they are grounded in scientific research and evidence-based practices. Articles are extensively reviewed by our team of clinical experts (therapists and psychiatrists of various specialties) to ensure content is accurate and on par with current industry standards.
Our goal at Talkspace is to provide the most up-to-date, valuable, and objective information on mental health-related topics in order to help readers make informed decisions.
Articles contain trusted third-party sources that are either directly linked to in the text or listed at the bottom to take readers directly to the source.