Breaking Up Respectfully: How to End a Relationship With Tact


Ending a relationship takes courage, not convenience.

Most people scour the internet for advice on how to make a relationship succeed (well, that and porn). But, sometimes the opposite advice is needed; sometimes people need to know how to end a relationship. Now, the answer to this is fairly simple: there are about as many ways to end a relationship as there are Disney Dalmatians. That’s right, there are 101….I’ve counted them.

But, knowing how to end a relationship is different than knowing how to end one with tact. Anyone can send a text, leave a voicemail, or tell their partner they are moving to Guam on a super-secret CIA mission that involves Claire Dane’s character from Homeland and Jason Bourne. Anyone can do that, but ending a relationship in a respectful, adult manner typically takes more effort.

So, the next time you are wondering how to end a relationship, remember the following:

Don’t use technology: Yes, technology is convenient and, as such, we want to use it for everything. But, technology is also impersonal. It’s because of this impersonality that using technology to end a relationship isn’t something that should be encouraged. Instead, break up with someone face to face. Yes, it’s more awkward and ups the odds of you having a pitcher of water poured over your head, but it’s also the mature thing to do.

Don’t use lines: If you were to google “how to end a relationship” there is a good chance you would come across a script, one full of cliché lines that read like a newscaster’s teleprompter. The problem with these lines is that people see them for what they are: lame -and rarely honest- excuses. Things like “it’s not you, it’s me” or “I just am not looking to date” do nothing for your partner other than piss them off. So, keep these lines off the table and instead try being truthful. You might feel like an ass telling your soon to be ex “well, you’re not a good communicator and I can’t date someone who won’t talk to me,” but your candidness helps them in two ways. First of all, by being sincere you allow them to know why you’ve really ended things, and this helps them get closure. Second of all, by pointing out their flaws, you give them the chance to work on themselves, which may bode well for them in future unions. But, this walks a fine line: telling them you wish they’d communicate more effectively is fine, listing twenty-seven things they need to improve is a bit of overkill.

Don’t send them mixed signals: One of the most unfair things people do when struggling with how to end a relationship is sending mixed signals. They tell their partner they want to breakup, but then they continue to call them. They say they want to see other people, but then they insist on spending Friday night at their ex’s home. They tell their ex to start dating again, but then they become angry the instant they do. All of these mixed signals are highly selfish, and pretty ridiculous: if you want to break up with your ex, then break up with them, don’t do it halfway. In other words, consider breaking up like pregnancy, there’s no half-ass about it: you’re either broken up, or you’re not.

Breaking up with someone is never pleasant, whether you are the dumpee or the one doing the dumping. Yet, breaking up with tact will always be superior to ending things in a way that only takes your convenience into consideration. Thus, keep it classy – not only because you owe it to your ex, but also because, down the road, you just might find yourself wanting to reconcile.

To learn more about how to end a relationship or how to keep a relationship, click here.