Breaking up can, quite frankly, suck. There's a reason for all those breakup songs, after all. Though there seems to be some societal suggestion that it's easier to be the person initiating the breakup than the person being broken up with, we maintain that it's incredibly challenging for all parties involved. It can be super tricky — and really painful — to navigate the end of a romantic relationship. Since no two relationships are the same, that means no two breakups are the same, either, so even if you know a relationship needs to end, you can still be unsure of how to end it. To help you navigate these challenges, POPSUGAR spoke to relationship experts to learn everything you need to know to answer the age-old question: how do you break up with someone?
Signs You Should Break Up
Before going through the actual process of breaking up with someone, you have to decide if that's what 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 are 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.
Pay close attention to the patterns of communication in your relationship, especially whether or not 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."
Another sign you should break up with your partner is if your safety is at risk in any way. "If there is any kind of risk to health, wellbeing, or life, or, if it's a destructive relationship," Lisa Bahar, MA, CCJP, LMFT, LPCC, of Lisa Bahar Marriage and Family Therapy tells POPSUGAR of indicators for a break up. "When it's destructive, some adjustments deserve to be made."
Signs You Should Not Break Up
If you're struggling with whether or not to break up, that's completely normal. As opposed to clear and concrete signs, seek out things that should be making you curious about whether or not you should leave your partner. If these are factors that you're willing to work on with your partner, and it's a healthy environment to do so, seeking out professional help could be worth it. "If there is love, a willingness to lean in and fix things, and you see a future with each other, it may be helpful to attend couples therapy," Dr. Casey says. And it's not always about breaking up permanently, either. "There are signs that might not mean you shouldn't break up, but instead consider separation with the option of possible reconciliation," Bahar says.
Assess Your Safety Before Initiating a Break Up
Before you even consider how you'll feel post-breakup, consider your safety first. "Ask yourself, 'Do I feel like my physical safety would be compromised if I break up with this person?'" Dr. Casey says. For those who are in an abusive relationship, or those who have partners that display characteristics and traits of domestic violence, this is especially important to consider.
If you feel like your safety could be at risk after breaking up with someone, create a breakup plan that ensures your wellbeing before you go through with the split. "In this case, you may want to consider virtual methods of breaking up, such as via phone, text, or email," advises Dr. Casey. "I would also suggest notifying a friend or family member of the situation so you have more support during the breakup." Remember that protecting your physical and emotional safety is the most important thing.
Manage Your Emotions Prior to Splitting Up
Learning how to break up with someone really begins with managing your own feelings and thoughts to the best of your ability before the breakup even occurs. "When you're breaking up with a person, avoid breaking up when you're in an emotionally reactive frame of mind," Bahar says. "Take a step back before making the decision."
Since you're likely in an emotional place when you're planning a breakup, Bahar suggests turning inward for help with gaining control of your emotions as the key to developing a foundation for a more positive, effective breakup. "Listen to your wise mind, or your own wisdom," Bahar tells POPSUGAR. "That's different for every person, and how they access that." Bahar notes that tuning into your own inner wisdom — whether it's through your faith, a spiritual practice, or any other means — will be a great starting point for initiating a breakup in a healthy way.
"Doing this plays a role in how you relate to yourself, and how you build relationships with others," Bahar says. "That is going to be your guide on what is healthy and congruent with who you are, and when you get that guidance from within, then you use healthy communication practices during a breakup."
How to Break Up With Someone
Once you've ruled out safety as a concern, being open and honest about the realistic desire for splitting up is a good approach to breaking up with your partner. The grounds for a breakup vary across the board. Maybe there is a lack of chemistry. Perhaps you've figured out you don't have enough common interests. You could have caught them cheating, or maybe their life goals don't align with yours anymore.
"Either way, you might have an in-person conversation, or conversation via text," Dr. Casey says. "It all depends on your comfort." Prior to starting the conversation with your partner, it could be beneficial to practice what you'll say. "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."
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 someone doesn't mean there are issues that love alone can fix. In some situations, breaking up is a better solution than remaining in a relationship that has unresolvable problems. "Maybe you love the person, but there's unresolved financial stress or communication issues that cannot be worked on," Dr. Casey says.
It may be hard to hear what they have to say, but 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. "I'd consider reaching out to friends for more information," Dr. Casey tells POPSUGAR. "Maybe they've seen things that we've overlooked, and they can also help us remember the reasons why we should break up."
Creating a list is also a beneficial tool for breaking up with someone you still have feelings for. "Making a few lists can be helpful as we consider breaking up with someone we love," says Dr. Casey. While jotting things down, a few important things to consider are the pros and the cons of breaking up — 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 or not 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 a breakup 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.
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 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.
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 go through a range of feelings, especially right after a split. "It is normal for people to feel sad, relieved, or angry after a breakup," Dr. Casey tells POPSUGAR. After a split, 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.
The aftermath of a breakup that involves an abusive partner, or a relationship that is categorized as domestically violent, will require you to put a safety plan into action. "When you're breaking up with someone that is violent, struggles with drug abuse, or has a history of abusive behavior, that might put your wellbeing at risk," Bahar tells POPSUGAR.
According to the national non-profit 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; breaking up virtually if you don't feel safe, or if it's in-person, breaking up in a public place.