It’s Not You, It’s Me: How to Break Up With Someone You Like

Toxic relationships can be tough to get out of, but ending a relationship with a person you sincerely care about can often be even tougher. Why? Because when you really like someone you may be willing to overlook things that would typically be total deal breakers for you. Or you may be so blinded by love that you aren’t able to see the initial red flags. It’s important to recognize that sometimes liking someone is not a good enough reason to stay in the relationship, especially if your relationship is characterized by things like a lack of respect, a lack of intimacy or poor communication. These are signs of an unhealthy relationship and indicate that you should break up.

In other cases, the signs are less clear, but you may feel like you have just lost the connection to your significant other. This is also an instance where you might have to break up with someone that you like. If you find yourself in any of these situations, know that it’s probably time to break up. Once you know it’s time to break up, it’s also important to know how to break up, especially if you do really like your soon-to-be ex. Breaking up in the right way (and by that we mean in a way that shows kindness and respect to yourself and your partner) will give you the appropriate closure you need to move on from the relationship. It also leaves room for a possible friendship (or at least level of cordialness) after the relationship is over. Here are some tips about how to break up with someone that you like:

Plan the situation

Breakups are not something that you should just spring on your partner in passing or at an inopportune time. It’s important to plan out the breakup so that you both have the space to process your emotions and talk through the things that need to be said. When you’re planning a break up, it’s important to choose a time when you’re both free and can take the necessary time to talk things out. AKA not during a lunch break or when they’re running out the door. It’s also important to plan where the breakup should happen. It’s probably a good idea to avoid crowded public spaces (in case of an emotional reaction), but also probably best to be a neutral space that both of you have the option to leave (AKA not in the car).

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Know what to say

When you are caught up in the moment, or feeling nervous about having a break up conversation, you might fumble with your words or forget to make certain points. It’s important to think about exactly what you want to say, and how you want to say it beforehand so that the emotions and nerves of breaking up don’t get you tongue tied. You don’t have to plan things out word for word, in fact it’s probably better not to, but it is important to have an idea of what you want to say. It’s also important to try and say things as kindly as possible. This is not an opportunity to overly critique your partner or put them down. Brainstorm ways to articulate your reasons for breaking up without putting all the fault or blame on your partner.

Breakup in person

In this day and age it’s tempting to rely on texting or phone calls or even emails to deal with difficult conversations. Saying things face to face can be very daunting, but it’s super important to have breakup conversations in person (if possible! Long distance can make this tricky....). Talking face to face creates a better dialogue and allows for better, more clear communication. Having an in-person conversation also shows both respect and kindness to your partner.

Be honest

When you’re breaking up with your partner it’s SO important to be honest about your feelings and your reasons for wanting to end things. Candidly talking about your emotions and reasoning will create an honest dialogue between the two of you as you work through the break up. It will also be super cathartic for you to say what’s really on your mind, especially if you are feeling hurt or slighted by your soon-to-be ex. In addition to being good for you, it’s also really important for your partner to hear the reasons the relationship is not working out. This will help them grapple with the break up, and it can help them move forward in future relationships. Understanding why things went wrong, and how their actions contributed to that can help your partner reflect and improve for their future partners. Being honest with them will also encourage them to be honest with you, which can afford you the same benefits.

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Prepare for different reactions

It’s really hard to know how your partner will react to a break up. In a perfect world, they are feeling the same way that you are and are totally on the same page/maybe even relieved that you’re the one who finally decided to end things. On the other hand, you could be totally blindsiding your partner and they may react with surprise, confusion, anger or sadness. Or all of the above. It’s best to try and prepare yourself for a range of reactions and think of ways to respond to each of the possibilities.

Get straight to the point

It’s best not to drag a breakup out for longer than it needs to be. Rip off the bandaid! Say your piece (as rehearsed, like we talked about) and allow your partner the space they need to talk things out. Knowing what you want to say beforehand will help you avoid babbling and get right to the point. Breakups are uncomfortable and can be super emotionally draining, so it’s better to get it over with as quickly as possible, while still allowing your partner space to respond and ask questions. Once you say the words, you will feel so much relief even if the conversation carries on for a while after.

Don't decide on friendship

This is often one of the hardest tips to follow, especially if you really do like you soon-to-be ex. But it’s important that you don’t make any decisions about the future of your relationship with your ex while you are breaking up. It might seem like a great idea to stay friends and to stay in contact with one another, but this can often make the breakup much, much harder. Instead of agreeing to stay friends right after a fresh breakup, you and your ex should take some time apart. Being friends is always an option later down the line, but not something that you should be navigating right at the end of your romantic relationship to one another.

Make a plan for what to do afterwards

There isn’t exactly a playbook for what to do after you breakup, and your plans will be very different depending on the seriousness of your relationship. But regardless of where your relationship was before the breakup, you will need to make a plan with your partner for what to do now that the relationship is over. Do you need to grab your sweatshirt from their house? Do you need to talk about how you will break the news to friends and family? Are you currently living together and need to figure out your lease and future living arrangements? Is there a pet involved? Talking through these kinds of things will ensure that you and your ex are on the same page, which will make recovering from the breakup much easier. Making plans and sticking to them will also show respect for your partner and it will make sure that you are on as good of terms as possible after all is said and done.

At Relish, we understand that breakups can be hard. Our relationship coaches have heard it all, and just like a good friend, they are always there for you to turn to. Connect with a coach free for one week - click here to get started.

Don't stalk your ex on social media

As tempting as it may be to stalk your ex on social media, it can be really important to have a clean break after the break up, which means that you don’t need to know everything they’re up to. We all know that social media is not representative of what our lives are actually like, so reading too much into social media posts really isn’t worth your time. Additionally, being too invested in their social media presence will just make you think about them more often, which is not a good thing when you’re going through a breakup. For a lot of people it’s really helpful to block your exes altogether. This isn’t necessarily a petty thing to do, especially if it helps you move on more easily! You can always unblock them or follow them back when you are over them.

Don't reach out

In a moment of weakness it might seem like a good idea to reach out to an ex and see how they’re doing, but this is almost never a good idea. Especially right after the breakup. You and your ex can worry about your future relationship with one another after all the dust has settled, but until that point, it’s best to stay on your individual paths and learn to live without each other. Going cold turkey can seem a bit hard at first, but it will keep the breakup from getting messy and complicated, which will help you and your ex remain friendly. Plus, it’s important to learn how to move on with your life without relying on your ex for support. Instead of leaning on them, reach out to friends or family and focus on things that help you get over the relationship.

Don't bad mouth your ex

No matter how the breakup goes, it’s important to remember that you really liked your ex at one point in time and that you should not bad mouth them. It’s okay to be upset with them, especially if they did something to cause the breakup, but it’s better not to talk any trash. It might temporarily feel good to call them a name or complain to a friend, but this also might make you feel guilty, and complicate your emotions about the whole thing. Additionally, you probably have similar social circles and whatever you say will likely get back to them... If you have any hopes of being friends in the future, it’s better to keep your negative opinions to yourself. After all, if you don’t have anything nice to say, better to not say anything at all. And if you don’t say anything at all, you might have an easier time moving on. Out of sight (or speech in this case) out of mind!

Don't hold onto mementos

This is along the same lines as our tip about social media, but it’s best to get rid of pictures, gifts, mementos, etc. when you’re going through a break up. Having things around you that remind you of your ex will only make you think about them more and make it harder to move on. We’re not saying that you need to throw photos away or anything like that, but taking them off your bedside table and moving things that remind you of them into storage can help with the coping process. If you really care about holding on to these types of things you can always just store them and look back on them later, when you are more over your ex.

Accept that it’s over

Once you breakup, you should commit to staying broken up. Most of the time the reasons/causes you broke up in the first place will not change over time, even if you still really like the person. Have conviction in your decision to end things, and use the tips above to help yourself get over your ex in a healthy and (hopefully) speedy way. Accepting that it’s over and moving on might mean that you and your ex can never be friends, or perhaps you can still be friends but move on romantically. This will look different for every couple, so it’s important to listen to both your emotions and your partner so that you can find the best way to move on.

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