How to Break Up With Someone
The Best Way to Break Up With Someone, According to Experts
In any relationship, it's normal to have feelings of doubt or insecurity about whether the person you're with is the right person to be with — no matter how long you've been together. But while these feelings are absolutely valid, they don't always mean you should break up with your partner. Though there are many sources out there that can recommend signs you should not break up and signs you should break up, it ultimately comes down to your relationship and what you want out of it. After all, no relationship is the same.
If you do decide a breakup is the best option for you, however, you may need some clarity on how to end a relationship. Depending on your individual situation, you may be wondering how to break up with someone you love or how to break up with someone you live with. But once you figure out the logistics of how you'll do it, recovering from the breakup may be even harder.
To help you navigate these challenges, POPSUGAR spoke to relationship experts to learn everything you need to know about breakups — including how to break up with someone and how to cope with that breakup once you do. Trust that while breakups can be messy, they're almost always an opportunity for personal growth and self-reflection.
Signs You Should Break Up
Before going through the actual process of breaking up with someone, you have to decide if that's something you want to do. Though there are a million and one reasons why a breakup could be the best option, it generally comes down to this: you should break up with your partner if the issues you're facing cannot be reconciled and it feels as though you've tried resolving problems without success. "If couples have exhausted all efforts to make repairs — be it couples counseling, multiple conversations, lack of closeness although there's been attempts to connect — and they feel that the relationship is damaged beyond repair, it may be time to have a conversation about a breakup," Kristen Casey, PsyD, a clinical psychologist and owner of Evolve Psychological Services, tells POPSUGAR.
Another thing you can do is pay close attention to the patterns of communication in your relationship, especially whether your partner respects you. "If there is a lack of love or respect, it is usually a sign for couples to be curious about breaking up," Dr. Casey says. "An example of this may be if couples call each other hurtful or negative things without acknowledgment that this may be hurtful or harmful, like a lack of apologies."
You should also consider breaking up with your partner if your safety is at risk in any way. "If there is any kind of risk to health, well-being, or life, or if it's a destructive relationship," Lisa Bahar, LMFT, owner of Lisa Bahar Marriage and Family Therapy, tells POPSUGAR. For example, if you notice your partner gaslights you, tries to control where and with whom you spend your time, or seems to make you feel drained and empty after spending time with them, this could be a sign it's time to initiate a breakup. "When it's destructive, some adjustments deserve to be made."
Of course, you don't need a cut-and-dry reason, and sometimes a breakup has nothing to do with the relationship or your partner — you just want or need to be single at the moment. If you want to break up, you're allowed to break up.
Signs You Should Not Break Up
If you're struggling with whether to break up, that's completely normal. Unfortunately, though, there are really no clear and concrete signs that will provide you clarity on if you shouldn't break up with your partner. That said, "if there's love, a willingness to lean in and fix things, and you see a future with each other," then these could be good signs there's hope in the relationship, Dr. Casey says. In some cases, all you may need to do is attend couples therapy, as seeking out professional help could help you better communicate with your partner or process disagreements together.
If attending couples therapy is not an option, though, consider how your partner talks to you when things go wrong or you're navigating a difficult situation. If even in an argument or disagreement, they are respectful and refrain from belittling you or saying hurtful things, it may not warrant a breakup. Another sign it may not be necessary to break up is if there is a mutual trust between the both of you. If you can trust your partner and trust that they have your best interest in mind along with their own, that's a good sign you can navigate through most difficulties.
How to Break Up With Someone
If you've decided to break up with your partner, the first step is trying to find some inner calm. "Avoid breaking up when you're in an emotionally reactive frame of mind," Bahar says.
That may seem like a tall order — you're breaking up with someone, after all! But finding neutrality before you start the conversation will help reassure you you're making the right choice and will make it easier to stick to healthy communication techniques.
Once you feel settled, spend a few minutes considering your reasons for breaking up: a lack of chemistry or common interests, a mismatch in values or long-term goals. Then practice what you want to say, striving to be open and honest without being overly hurtful. "Have the conversation with yourself first as a test run," Dr. Casey suggests. "Looking in the mirror and talking to yourself about how you might word things can be helpful as a rehearsal."
Then start the conversation. While old-school etiquette demanded an in-person convo or at least a call, you can meet face to face or over text depending on your comfort level and your relationship, Dr. Casey says. Then repeat your script, resisting the urge to overexplain yourself.
Understand that your partner may have questions or exhibit emotions ranging from anger to sadness to confusion. If you feel comfortable doing so, it can be helpful to hear your partner out and process the breakup with them in those few moments afterward. For a lot of people, this is the closure that they need in order to move on.
There is an exception to this strategy, Dr. Casey says: if you feel like your safety is at risk. For those who are in an abusive relationship or those who have partners who display characteristics and traits of domestic violence, it's imperative to create a breakup plan that protects your well-being above all else.
According to the national nonprofit One Love Foundation, safety measures for breaking up with an abusive partner include identifying and leaning on your support system before, during, and after a breakup; allowing friends, family, or another trusted adult know you're breaking up with your partner; and breaking up virtually if you don't feel safe or, if it's in person, breaking up in a public place. If you can, enlist the help of a professional. The National Domestic Violence Hotline may be able to help, for instance. Remember that protecting your physical and emotional safety is the most important thing.
How to Break Up With Someone You Love
It's tough to leave your partner when you still love them. But just because you love or are in a healthy relationship with someone doesn't mean there are issues that love alone can fix. "Maybe you love the person, but there's unresolved financial stress or communication issues that cannot be worked on," Dr. Casey says.
In these cases, just going through with the breakup can be tough, even when you know it's the right choice. So if you're wavering, enlist loved ones to provide their thoughts and opinions about your relationship to remind you why you're breaking up with your partner in the first place, Dr. Casey suggests. "Maybe they've seen things that we've overlooked, and they can also help us remember the reasons why we should break up." Though it may be hard to hear what they have to say, they likely have a perspective on the situation that you do not.
Creating a list is also a beneficial tool for helping you go through with a breakup with someone you still have feelings for, Dr. Casey says. Imagine what you'd gain and what you'd lose by ending the relationship. It's also helpful to note what attributes and dispositional traits you want in a partner and compare whether those characteristics align with the person you're currently with. Finally, how would your life look if you stayed with your partner?
When it comes to actually breaking up with a partner you still love, allow the principles of love — respect, friendship, caring, and consideration — to guide the way you communicate and react throughout the breakup process. "If you're breaking up with someone you love and care for, pull from those elements that go along with love, and that will drive your response on how to break up and how to care for your partner as you go through the breakup," Bahar says. In other words, be respectful, caring, and considerate when breaking up with this partner. Show them the love that you would receive in return, and allow some time to let your partner ask questions and seek closure.
How to Break Up With Someone You Live With
OK, so you want to break up with your partner, but you're still sharing an internet password, a utility bill, and a bed. "If you are considering breaking up with someone you live with, it's important to have a plan before you break up," Dr. Casey advises. Find new living arrangements and work out any financial issues prior to breaking up. In your planning phase, Dr. Casey also encourages people who are breaking up with someone they live with to consider factors like separating pets and working out lease agreements.
Once you've thought ahead and squared away most of these details, you can initiate the break up. The breakup conversation will look a lot like a regular one, but also be sure to talk with your partner about your post-breakup plan and how you two will navigate what you previously had tied together.
How to Cope With a Breakup
Coping with a breakup is all about putting yourself and your emotions first. It's likely that you'll feel grief, especially right after a split. "It is normal for people to feel sad, relieved, or angry after a breakup," Dr. Casey tells POPSUGAR. Honor those emotions, and allow yourself to feel them while redirecting the focus back onto you as an individual. Dr. Casey encourages those who are dealing with a breakup to spend time with friends and do things that involve a lot of self-care, whether that's a spa day or reading a good book.
Ultimately, as you navigate the end of a relationship, you'll want to reinvest time into yourself by doing things that you love and know will make you happy. While it's healthy to have sad days to grieve the relationship, you should also be prioritizing what you need in order to find closure in that relationship. For some people, it could be the gym, and for others, it could be signing up for a painting class. Give the breakup some time, and before you know it, you'll feel much, much better.
— Additional reporting by Taylor Andrews