How to Break Up Without All the Heartbreak
She said, “When I can’t sleep, I want you to stay up with me.”
“I can’t do that. I have to get some sleep for work.”
It was 3:00 AM and I had to leave for work in a few hours. The girl I’d been seeing for a couple months was an insomniac.
“Well I don’t care, as long I’m your girlfriend then I expect you to stay awake.” She snapped.
That was it for me. I lost it.
“Get out of my bed and get your stuff. I’m taking you home.”
We drove 20 minutes to her house in silence. I dropped her off and the only thing I said was, “I’m sorry but this isn’t working. I don’t think we should see each other anymore.”
She muttered, “Okay,” and left. I think she was shocked at how abruptly I kicked her out into the cold night and broke off our relationship.
I never spoke to her again.
I’m not proud of the way I handled the situation. I was young, immature, and an asshole.
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I’d already known for weeks that the relationship was over. I had just been delaying the inevitable because I didn’t want to hurt her.
She struggled with inner demons from a rough childhood and would take it out on me when feeling insecure. She didn’t understand boundaries even when I clearly expressed them. She wanted me to fix her and resented me when I couldn’t.
She simply wasn’t in a good place to have a healthy relationship. Nor was I, to be honest.
I thought delaying the breakup would make things easier. I thought I could protect her. But all I did was bottle up my emotions until they exploded in frustration.
Breaking up with someone the “right way” is difficult. You’re rejecting them and it can be devastating if handled poorly. It’s important to learn how to let someone down with honesty and tact.
Do: Break up in person if you’ve been seeing them for more than a couple months
If you had any kind of substantial connection with someone, have the decency to end it in person. It shows compassion and that you value them as a human being.
Preferably, you want to do this in a private location since it is a sensitive subject. The one exception is…
Do: Break up in a public place if you’re worried about your safety
If you’re breaking up with someone specifically because of their temperament or anger issues, consider doing it in a public area. You don’t want to be alone and vulnerable if things get out of control.
You can also let a close friend or family member know you’re going to do this. Tell them where you’ll be and keep them posted, just in case.
This all may seem a little extreme but it’s better to be safe than stabbed. When someone feels rejected, they have a lot of intense emotions to process.
Don’t: Think distancing yourself will make it better
I understand how hard it is to look someone in the face and tell them it’s over. But the worst thing you can do to a partner is ignore and isolate them, thinking they’ll get the hint. That’s the coward’s way out.
Many people do this and claim it’s because they can’t bear to see the other person get hurt. But leaving them clueless and uncertain is disrespectful and only results in more pain.
Don’t: Stay in a sexless relationship just because you’re comfortable
This is something many women do when they’re no longer attracted to their partner. It’s the old saying, “I love him, but I’m not in love with him.”
You care about this person. You feel comfortable around him. But deep down you know that he isn’t the end-all be-all romantic man for you.
So you decide to stay with him but let things get more platonic. You stop having sex as often, or not at all. You make up excuses for why you don’t want to be intimate.
Shutting out your partner only makes the situation worse. They feel unattractive, rejected, and have no idea what’s going on. They also have their own needs which are not being met.
What ends up happening is that your partner gets frustrated and starts pressing you about the issue. They may even guilt you into having sex with them.
You feel annoyed, disgusted, and subsequently resentful. The inevitable break-up becomes much messier for both parties.
Don’t: Wait until you have someone else on the line
A lot of people don’t like being lonely (which is another topic in itself). So they don’t break it off with someone until they’re sure they have a backup plan.
That’s not fair or caring at all. It’s selfish. You’re staying with someone you don’t want to be with so you don’t have to feel alone. All you’re doing is leading your current partner on and not allowing them the time to heal or meet other people.
Don’t: Wait for the perfect time or allow them to guilt you into staying
So you’re ready to break up but something devastating happens to your partner. Maybe they lost their job or a loved one. You don’t want to make things worse so you think you should wait for the “right time”.
How exactly do you know the right time? Is it a month? Six months? Why not a couple years then?
What if waiting longer means they’re more invested in the relationship and it will only hurt more in the future? What if they handle bad news better at once rather than consecutively? What if something else happens to them in the meantime?
Life will always be full of hardships. Sometimes they come at unfortunate moments. But you’ll never know the right time because there isn’t one. It’s varies from person to person and situation to situation.
Again, the best thing to do is end it as soon as you know things are over.
Occasionally, I’ve seen the person who’s dealing with the traumatic event try to guilt trip their partner into staying. They may call you heartless or inconsiderate for leaving them in such a vulnerable state.
Don’t give into that kind of pressure. It’s not your responsibility to be in an unfulfilling relationship just to make someone else happy. That’s not going to create a healthy connection together. If they truly care about you, they won’t use manipulation tactics to get you to stay.
Do: Tell them the real reason
This is probably the toughest discussion in a breakup…the “why?”
Some people think it’s best to be vague and sidestep awkward confrontation. Some people blame themselves (“it’s not you, it’s me”) out of guilt. And some people claim they aren’t ready for a relationship to minimize the damage.
All these answers are dishonest and won’t help the other person potentially grow.
If they find out you lied to them, it makes you look worse and further tarnishes any connection you had. If they have a huge problem, explaining that to them politely may help them consider working on it once their emotions settle down. It did for me.
Obviously, be tactful. Also, use “I” statements to describe how you felt in the relationship rather than attacking them with all the problems “you” have.
For example, think …”I felt like I was the only one putting effort into our intimate connection even after I addressed my concerns. I just don’t feel that chemistry anymore.”
Don’t say… “You never gave a crap about our romantic life. You don’t turn me on like you used to and I don’t find you attractive anymore.”
Don’t: Give them hope things could improve in the future
This is what I call the “half break-up”. You don’t want to crush someone completely so you slip in, “but maybe there’s a chance for us in the future.” Sometimes, it’s because you want a Plan B if you don’t find someone better.
Whatever the reason, you’re making it difficult for the other person to move on. If they still have feelings for you and believe they’ll have a second chance, they’ll often try everything to get you back. Or they’ll wait around for the day you change your mind and come running back to them.
Be upfront, “I don’t see us being together in the future but I wish you the best of luck.” If you have a change of heart later, deal with it then.
Don’t: Take a “trial” break, either
This is an excuse to see other people while keeping your current partner on the hook if things don’t pan out. Or you’re just afraid to admit it’s over and have them walk away.
Someone always gets hurt and it’s usually the other person. They go along with the charade of a “temporary breakup” but then can’t handle it once you actually starting dating other people. It only leads to more jealousy, arguing, and suffering.
Cut ties cleanly so there are no misunderstandings. There’s nothing stopping you from initiating a connection later on if you both want to.
Don’t: Try to be their best friend right after.
From my experience, women have an easier time transitioning to friends than men. This is most true when the girl is the one breaking it off.
When you still like the guy as a person, it makes sense that you want to maintain a friendship. Sometimes, it’s nice to have the attention while you’re getting used to being without them.
The problem is many guys will still have feelings for you. They will hang around and hope that you change your mind. And often when things don’t go back to the way they were, they get frustrated and may even take it out on you — especially when you start seeing other people.
Take a real break to allow them time to heal and move on. It reinforces that this isn’t a temporary setback and helps them accept that reality. You can always be their friend down the line when you both can actually be just friends.
It may also be unavoidable that you two will have to see each other and be cordial. Set the right expectations and tell them you want to be friendly but you both should still see other people. Reiterate your platonic and they should not wait around for you to come back.
If they can’t handle that arrangement (get jealous, still try to convince you they’ve changed) you will need to go no-contact until they can be a legitimate friend.
There’s a running theme throughout this article….
It’s that a communicative, concrete breakup as early as possible is the best for everyone.
This way, you’re not stuck in an unfulfilling or unhealthy relationship. You avoid resentment. And you can focus on finding a better connection for yourself.
And this prevents you from leading the other person on and only hurting them more as their feelings get more serious. They’ll have more time to move on and eventually find a better fit for them, too.
Breaking up is not callous, it’s considerate.