How to Break Up With a Long-term Partner

When we talk about breakups, we usually talk about how to get over being dumped. But initiating the breakup can also be very painful; just because you’re the one doing the dumping doesn’t mean you don’t feel sadness and regret. It doesn’t feel good to hurt someone you loved, or maybe even still love. But breakups happen. That’s why it helps to know how to break up with someone you’ve been with for a long time.

How to Break Up with Grace and Authenticity: the Do’s & Dont’s

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to break up with someone. In fact, it can be pretty difficult to digest all the differing perspectives. That said, one bit of advice always rings true: keep things simple. In any sensitive situation, emotions will be charged. That makes it all the more important to stay authentic, be honest and trust in yourself that you’ve made the right call. Here’s the knitty gritty.

Do: Know what you’re going to say.

When you break up with someone emotions and nerves run high. It’s easy to fumble your words and lose your train of thought, so knowing what you’re going to say will make a big difference. You don’t have to memorize a prepared speech, but having talking points can be helpful. 

If they ask, “Why are you doing this?” you don’t want to respond with, “I don’t know, because I am?” You want to explain yourself as clearly and as straightforwardly as possible. There’s also a chance they’re going to ask you to change your mind and stay together. Preparing a response to this scenario will make it easier to stay strong and get through.

Don’t: Rush through it

There’s nothing fun about breaking up with someone. In a perfect world, you’d tell them the news, then slink away without having to talk about it or explain yourself. But as convenient as that sounds, that’s unfortunately not how breakups work. Choose a time to have the breakup talk when you’ll both have plenty of time to process it and talk things out. 

Have the conversation in person and in private. Breaking up with someone you’ve been with for a long time over text or email is bad form. Don’t blurt it out when you’re heading out the door or when they have somewhere important to be. You were with your partner for a long time, you owe it to them to have one final conversation about your relationship. Is it fun? No. Is it sad, uncomfortable, and awkward? Yes, yes, and yes. It is the right thing to do though.

Do: Be honest

When thinking about how to break up with someone there’s one crucial rule: always be honest. Tell them things from your point of view and explain why you’re breaking up with them using “I” statements rather than attacking them with “you” statements. 

This is your last chance to explain why you feel this way, and there are probably a few key things you want to communicate—things like why you want to end it, examples of times you felt frustrated in your relationship, or things they did that upset you. That said…

Don’t: Be brutally honest

You should be honest, but you should also be kind. A breakup isn’t an excuse to tear into your soon-to-be-ex’s behavior and make them feel bad for things they did wrong during your relationship. It is a chance to explain why the relationship stopped working and answer all of their questions about your change of heart. Try to strike a balance between openness and empathy.

Do: Stay true to yourself

When you break up with someone, they might try to change your mind by promising that things will be different and that they will change. It might be tempting to take them up on their offer. But if this is a recurrent situation, things will probably go back to the way they were sooner rather than later, and you’ll be having this conversation again in a few weeks or months. 

If you’re flakey about your stance, it might confuse your partner and lead to even more hurt. So, if breaking up is the right decision, then trust your gut, be strong, and stick with it. It won’t be easy, but when it’s over you can call a friend and cry it out. And as Healthline notes, if your situation allows, it’s a good idea to set a “no-contact time frame” in which you avoid all communication after.

Remember that if breaking up is the right thing for you, then it’s the right thing to do. It’s normal to feel guilty for ending a relationship. You were with this person for a long time, and it doesn’t feel good to cause them pain. But you’re only human, and it’s okay to do what you need to do. Follow your heart and in time, you’ll be just fine. When in doubt, think about how you’d want to be broken up with and act accordingly. 

For more advice on how to break up with someone, read these helpful tips from a therapist on what to do before, during, and after that difficult conversation.