How to End a Relationship as Kindly as Possible
By Callie Beusman
Ending a relationship is rarely ever easy, especially if you still care deeply for your partner and want to avoid hurting them. It’s important to acknowledge that the breakup may feel painful and confusing for one or both of you, but you can still have the conversation in a way that feels respectful, loving, and sensitive to your partner’s emotional needs.
What this specifically looks like will vary from person to person, but there are a few things to keep in mind as you prepare to break up. Here’s how to end a relationship as kindly as possible, according to relationship experts:
Don’t draw it out
If you’ve decided that you want to end your relationship, it’s best to take a “rip off the bandage” approach, as prolonging things will only make them worse. Once you make up your mind, have an honest, in-person conversation as soon as possible; remember that you’re not doing your partner any favors by staying together if you no longer want to be with them.
Accept that it won’t be comfortable
The breakup conversation might be uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be caring and respectful. Amy Chan, author of Breakup Bootcamp: The Science of Renewing Your Heart, points out that finding a way to make the talk comfortable shouldn’t be your goal. “The goal is to be honest and to do it with love, compassion, respect, and grace,” she says. As much as possible, try to honor your partner’s feelings and the time you shared. You can make them feel heard and understood while remaining firm in your decision.
Be honest, but not unkind
In order to give your partner a sense of closure, it’s crucial to explain where you’re coming from. Otherwise, they may feel blindsided or confused. Explaining why the relationship is no longer viable will give your partner “respect and peace,” says behavioral scientist Dr. Mariana Bockarova. “Be as honest as you can about the real reasons the relationship is ending.” But, she adds, you should be mindful of the border between honesty and cruelty—don’t bring up “minute or potentially embarrassing details,” and don’t focus on anything “your partner cannot help or cannot reasonably change.”
Don’t point fingers
Elise Dean, life coach at Blush Life Coaching, recommends using “I” statements, like “I have been feeling…” and “I think,” and “For me, I need to…” By focusing the conversation on yourself and your own wants, needs, and desires, you’re effectively taking responsibility for the choice, rather than laying the blame with your partner. “Avoid speaking to your partner’s experience and feelings,” Dean emphasizes. They might have a very different perception of the end of your relationship.
Make it a clean break
Even though staying in touch with your ex-partner may feel like the gentler, kinder thing to do, it will actually make things more emotionally difficult in the long run because it will be much harder for both of you to move on. “Open communication makes navigating the tough emotions of a breakup even harder, especially when you start seeing other people,” says Dean. “Cut the cord, set those boundaries, and walk away. That’s the best way to respect the needs of both partners.”
You don’t have to stop all contact forever, of course. Once you’ve both come to a place where you aren’t feeling hurt, angry, vulnerable, or still attached, it’s possible to form a lasting friendship. But it will take a while: Chan recommends cutting off communication for at least 60 days. Don’t contact your ex, unfollow them on social media, and don’t try to pry information out of mutual friends for information.
All of this will feel like a drastic, even painful change, but that’s because it is! Such is the nature of breakups. But remind yourself that splitting up is the best thing for both of you in the long run.