Ending a bad relationship is never easy, and many people procrastinate and put it off, which only makes things worse. But to do it right, what are the best tips for ending a romantic relationship?
- Talk to them in person (no text, email, or social)
- Explain how you feel about the relationship (and its demise)
- Give them a chance to share their feelings (and really listen)
- Avoid making accusations or playing the blame game (for why it has failed)
- Be clear that you are wanting to end the relationship (vague can be misunderstood)
But those are just a few tips on how to do it, and hardly the only tips.
So in this article, we’ll not only dive deeper into each of those 3, but we’ll answer all of the top questions that naturally come up around this topic.
That way you’ve got all the information you need to end a bad relationship the right way, and in a way that doesn’t make you look like a jerk.
Let’s get started.
1. Make sure you have given them the opportunity to fix the issue
No one likes being totally blindsided and broken up with out of the blue.
That happened to me almost a year ago as of this writing, and it sucked. My wife asked for a divorce out of the blue. She claimed she had felt that way for 2 years but never bothered to say anything.
So before actually breaking up, ask yourself the following questions:
- Have I voiced my unhappiness with where things are at?
- Have I been specific about what I would like to see improve?
- Have I given them time to make those improvements?
- If so, has there been any improvement?
- Have you tried couples or marriage counseling?
If the answers to all or most of those questions are “no”, and you’ve been together a year or more, you really owe it to them to go through those steps first.
After all. Would you want to be treated that way?
If your marriage is failing, then check out this quick video on the 7 Steps to Fixing Your Marriage that will help get yours back on track.
2. Think about the breakup before it happens
Don’t just walk into the situation and mouth-vomit.
You’ll be running on emotions, reacting to what they are doing and saying, less likely to be clear and concise, and more likely to lose your cool.
No, instead, plan it out.
By that, I don’t mean script it. But like any important talk you might give, think about what you want to say and get across. Think about the best ways to say it to get the message clearly received.
Your conversation will go a lot more smoothly with a little preparation.
3. Make sure you do it in person
In this day and age, face-to-face communication seems outdated almost.
But if you were in a relationship with this person, even if it is ending badly or they no longer seem to be the person you thought they were, talk to them in person.
The obvious exception is if you are somehow unsafe.
But avoid texting, calling, or messaging them on Insta or Snapchat. It doesn’t have to be a lengthy conversation (but the longer the relationship, the more time you should take). And you can do it in a semi-public place if that makes you feel better or safer. But don’t do it within earshot of others.
But look them in the eyes when you break the news.
4. Do it in a private setting
While having the talk in person is important, the location is also crucial.
I once made the mistake of breaking up with a girlfriend in the middle of a busy restaurant. To me, the need to break up was obvious. But to her, it clearly wasn’t and she broke down right there at our table.
That was unkind of me.
So at your house or theirs, maybe a park or somewhere outdoors that isn’t heavily populated. You want the conversation to be private without being in the earshot of others.
Now if you feel physically unsafe, maybe in that situation a very public place is appropriate. Or maybe not even face-to-face at all. Your physical safety is top priority then.
5. Explain how you feel
Potentially argumentative discussions can almost always be made better by both asking questions rather than making statements, but also by talking about how something makes us feel.
So start by letting them know how you feel about the relationship (not how you feel about them as a person).
Say things like: “I feel like our relationship isn’t growing because we both want different things” or “we’re both at 2 different places in our lives and we seem to moving in opposite directions.”
It’s very unlikely they haven’t sensed there were problems.
And while they may not feel as strongly as you do, they probably can at least identify the issues. And it will probably come as some relief that you’re addressing those issues head-on in a mature way.
6. Avoid accusations
It takes 2 to create a relationship and it takes 2 to break one.
Sure, if they were abusive, or constantly cheating, that is obviously bad. But for most of us, both parties have likely contributed to the relationship’s downfall.
So avoid blaming them, bringing up all the things they did to damage the relationship, or accusing them of sabotaging the relationship.
Sure, if you’re having a conversation to see whether or not you WANT to break up, it can be helpful for both people to get stuff off their chests in a constructive manner.
But once you’ve made the decision to end the relationship, there’s just no point in rehashing all the drama. Be kind, be clear, and don’t get ugly.
7. Be clear about what you want
Dave Ramsey, renowned personal finance guru, likes to say “to be clear is to be kind”.
I actually think the quote originally comes from Brené Brown originally, but it’s so true. So often we beat around the bush, or are intentionally vague all while telling ourselves that we’re trying to spare the person’s feelings.
In truth, when we’re vague, unclear, or wishy-washy, it’s far from kind; especially given the high probability of our words being misinterpreted.
So don’t be brutal or uncaring, but do make your intentions crystal clear; “Our relationship is no longer working for me, and it’s time for us to end it”.
Yes, you can add more to the story, discuss, and get their input.
But if you’ve already made up your mind, there’s no point in taking an hour to get to the conclusion, as giving them false hope, or wasting a large amount of their time in the hopes of them convincing you not to break up is also unkind.
8. Don’t talk down or criticize them
You may be bitterly unhappy and you may think they are 100% to blame.
In reality, there’s a really high likelihood that isn’t true and you probably did things to damage the relationship too. But even if you didn’t, there is nothing to be gained by yelling at them, namecalling, putting them down, or trying to make them feel like shit.
I don’t want you to be so fluffy and nice that your message isn’t clear. But don’t be an asshole.
9. Give them a chance to talk (and really listen)
If this is a surprise to them (shame on you if it is), they deserve to have a chance to speak. That’s still true if nothing they say will change your mind.
Give them a chance to talk and avoid the urge to defend yourself, interject, or even just wait your turn to talk. Really listen.
Them feeling heard and understood will go a long way towards this ending somewhat amicably.
10. But Don’t drag it out if you know you are done
Having said all that, there’s no reason to make this take 2 hours if you know you are done and nothing will change that.
Part of being kind is not dragging it out.
Be clear, be specific, be kind, and give them a chance to talk. But don’t make it take any longer than necessary.
11. Give them a genuine reason
Everyone deserves to know why they are being broken up with.
In reality, women especially don’t always really know. They know what they feel, but they can’t always articulate that. Sometimes that can lead to grasping at straws or giving a whole laundry list of little reasons that really aren’t at the root of the problem.
When my wife asked for a divorce, I didn’t see it coming.
But in retrospect, I know exactly what I did wrong. I had become complacent. I was taking her for granted that she would always be there. I wasn’t courting her. I wasn’t being a real man. A real man leads.
Don’t mistake that for chauvinism.
But men and women are biologically and psychologically different no matter what the media wants us to believe these days. And a man should be confident, decisive, and make sure his woman feels safe.
And I failed in that.
But she had no idea that was what had happened. So she gave me every reason under the sun from claiming to not have gotten over an affair almost a decade earlier, to being mad about my procrastinating on getting a vasectomy (and her getting pregnant with our 3rd daughter).
But those weren’t really what was producing the feelings she was feeling. So as much as possible, really dig deep and be honest and give them a real reason as to why you want to break up.
12. Don’t post about it on social media
I made this mistake too after getting dumped in 2021.
Granted I made a private post I shared with about 20 fairly close friends. But still, just avoid doing this. Acquaintances will eventually hear through the grapevine.
Everyone closer should get a phone call or text.
13. Avoid badmouthing them to your mutual friends
This is one my ex is guilty of and probably the reason most of our so-called mutual friends don’t speak to me anymore.
I won’t go into details about that, but be kind when talking to your friends about the situation.
Don’t lie, but don’t make stuff up or greatly exaggerate things just to make it easy to explain to your friends why you decided to break up.
14. Have a plan to quickly get your things (if you live together and you are leaving)
There’s nothing worse than breaking up when you live with them in their place.
Because after you have the talk, you still have to get your crap out of there. The best scenario would be to arrange to get your stuff while they are at work. And it would be best to do that within 1-3 days.
They don’t deserve to have to look at your stuff any longer than necessary.
And if you stop by to pick it up when they are there, that opens the door to either an unnecessary rehash conversation or them trying to hook up with you as a manipulation tactic (and let’s be honest guys; it’s hard to say no to that).
15. If they live with you, be compassionate about allowing them time to find a new place
Having said that, if they are living at your place, you need to be compassionate.
It’s not OK for them to sleep in the same bed with you. And crashing with friends would be even more ideal. But they will need time to find a place and arrange to move their stuff.
Having said that, I once had an ex hang out for 8 months after we broke up, and I shouldn’t have been so nice.
But a week or so is probably reasonable.
16. Don’t give them false hope of reconciliation if you don’t genuinely mean it
When breaking up, sometimes (especially if they are sobbing), it’s tempting to backpeddle a little or say things like “hey, who knows what might happen in the future”.
Now in reality, couples reconcile all the time.
So neither you nor they really know what the future holds. But for right now, if you’re certain you want to break up, don’t give them false hope.
You can be kind, compassionate, but still be crystal clear.
17. Don’t give them the “let’s just be friends speech”
No one likes to be friend-zoned.
That’s where I am now with my ex, although I wouldn’t be willing to accept that if we didn’t have kids together. After a breakup, a clean break is best.
When you try and pretend to be friends when there has been sexual history, it’s not likely to work well. And if you ever hang out as friends and alcohol is involved, that’s when bad decisions happen.
Plus you will never really be friends if the other person wants you romantically.
18. Once the break is done, avoid calling, texting, or interacting on social
After things are done, the best course of action is to stop following them on social media and delete their phone number.
You don’t necessarily have to block them (unless they get stalker-ish). But a clean start will better ensure you aren’t stalking them socially or drunk-dialing them.
You and they need a clean break where each of you is out of sight, out of mind.
19. Don’t booty call them or try to occasionally hook up
It’s tempting to hook up after a breakup.
I know. My wife and I did 4 times after she asked for a divorce. And it was fun. And it felt good. And let’s be honest; being celibate not by your own choice sucks.
And in the case of my wife and me, the last 3 times were fine as I had long since dropped any expectation of reconciliation.
But especially when the break is fresh and the other person didn’t want it, avoid booty-calling or hookups. It might feel good to both of you, but it’s really unfair to them.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do you end a relationship easily?
End a relationship easily by being to the point, avoiding accusatory statements which will cause defensiveness and likely make the conversation take longer than necessary, but also by being as kind as possible.
In short, follow the golden rule; treat others as you want to be treated.
Don’t drag it out if you have no intention of changing your mind. Don’t blame them or shirk all responsibility. Do share your feelings enough so they have a clear understanding of what’s happening.
But then end it, and move on, and avoid the urge to call or text them when you later feel doubt, remorse, guilt, or lonliness. You will feel some or all of those things.
But the only thing worse than a breakup is doing it again a 2nd time.
Finally got my break up text…? pic.twitter.com/FRoXEcfjAv
— damita jo (@KiaSpeaks) January 12, 2021
Is it bad to end a relationship over text?
Ending a relationship over text is bad, even if the relationship was brief. Always breakup in person, and if that is not possible, at least do it over the phone.
Ultimately, we’re talking about another person here.
This person took the time to engage with you, get to know you and chose to spend their time with you. So unless they were abusive or unfaithful, they are deserving of your respect; even when ending the relationship.
So take the time and the trouble to end the relationship in person.
This isn’t always the easiest choice which is why so many people these days opt for things like texts or messenger to communicate a break-up.
But unless you’re in high school or middle school, that lack of maturity just isn’t acceptable.
Talk to this person, let them know you want to talk, and then kindly, but clearly, let them know what you’re thinking and feeling.
I had two guys break up with me through text. I honestly don’t mind now I almost welcome it. It’s like cool, now time to move on. pic.twitter.com/xgjeY34bAT
— Tania Zarate (@TaniaZa26340322) September 11, 2020
Why do guys break up over text message?
Guys break up over text message when they lack the emotional maturity to have a direct conversation. A text breakup allows guys to avoid conflict, and avoid the guilt of seeing their partner hurt or angry given the impersonal; nature of texting.
But guys who are that immature, are immature about a lot of things.
So it shouldn’t be a surprise when they do this. You will likely have seen many other instances by the time it reaches this point that let you know this guy is an immature jerk.
- He makes fun of others behind their back
- His sense of humor is always crude
- He’s inconsiderate of you and others
- None of your friends like him
Relationships, despite their complexity, aren’t rocket science.
And chances are, despite how attractive he may be, or how exciting it is to be around him, deep down inside, you know if he’s emotionally mature.
And if he’s not, and especially if he has a history of not treating others well, don’t be surprised when he treats you immaturely.
break up kiss pic.twitter.com/u6wr1UCyTw
— kary (@greysfuturee) January 12, 2021
How do you know when it’s time to end a relationship?
It’s time to end a relationship when the negativity, drama, and arguments take up more time than the good times do. Additionally, it’s time to end things if the issues have previously been discussed without improvement, especially if the couple has already engaged in therapy.
In other words, don’t just ship at the first sign of trouble.
But if you continually are seeing drama, fighting, and tears much more than spending time together enjoying one another’s company, it may be time to call it quits.
That’s even more true if you or your partner have brought up the issues previously in an attempt to resolve them. Every relationship will have stormy seas on occasion.
And no one should be dumped without warning.
So talk (constructively) about the problems you see. Seek out a couple’s counselor or therapist. Make an effort to fix things. But if you’ve done all that, and it’s still not working, there’s no benefit to either of you to keep dragging out the inevitable.
So in this article, we explored the unfortunate situation almost all adults have had to face at one point or another; breaking up with someone.
A breakup is never fun, even when it’s sorely needed or long overdue.
But done incorrectly, a breakup can have devastating long-term effects on both of you. But more importantly, doing it the wrong way, or taking the easy way out can make you look and feel like a bad person.
And that’s not only how they will see you, but all of your mutual friends as well.
So take the time, trouble, and maturity to do things the right way. You’ll sleep better at night knowing you were respectful, timely, and straightforward with how you communicated it.