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How to Break Up With Your Lover Graciously and Gracefully

Updated on April 2, 2008

How to Handle Breaking Up


There is definitely some truth to the old saying that "breaking up is hard to do."

The actual act of breaking off a relationship is never a fun experience. In fact, it can be downright hellish. However, sometimes it is absolute necessary, cannot be avoided and should not be delayed.

How you should break up with a lover depends in large part on the status of the relationship as it nears its end. Your first concern should, of course, be your safety. Beyond that, how you proceed with a breakup depends on whether you would like to remain friends with your future former lover, whether you expect to have frequent contact with him after the breakup and whether you believe there is even a remote possibility that you may want to ever reconcile with this person in the future.

The decision to break up with someone is not one that should be taken lightly. Likewise, when breaking up with a lover you need to stay mindful of the fact that you are dealing with a real human being that has feelings, and it is imperative that make the process as tactful and minimally painful as possible, and that you do it in a manner that allows your future ex to maintain their dignity. Chances are that you will someday be on the receiving end of a breakup. Treat your ex the way you would want to be treated.

Break Up No-No's

Do not breakup with your spouse or lover via postal mail, email, fax, instant message, text message or courier. Don't even think about having a friend (or anyone else) deliver the bad news for you. I cringe every time I read about a celebrity breaking up with their steady via Federal Express or text message. This is tacky, insensitive and inconsiderate. Muster the nerve to meet with the person you are breaking up with and do it face-to-face.

If you just cannot handle a face to face meeting, call the person on the telephone-landline please; you do not want your cell phone to drop a call at a time like this-and tell them as honestly and kindly as possible that you are unable to be in a relationship with them at this time.

If your need for catharsis or your desire to not communicate with your almost ex has you bound and determined to break up in writing, be careful what you write because the printed or electronic document you produce may come back to bite you some day. It could potentially end up as part of a police report, as evidence in court or even on the Internet.

The only time I recommend not breaking up in person is when you have reason to believe that doing so could endanger you.

Dropping Out of Sight: Breaking Up By Attrition

If the person you are breaking up with is volatile, confrontational or abusive, it would probably be best for you to simply move on to a safe environment rather than officially ending the relationship-in other words, your soon to be ex will figure out that you have left him when he doesn't ever see or hear from you again. This may be possible even if the custody of minor children is at stake. Your attorney, a legal aid clinic or an abused women's organization should be able to advise you regarding this matter.

How to Break Up Graciously

Try to make the experience as minimally unpleasant as possible.

Be honest but not overly forthright. The person you are breaking up with does not need to hear a play by play announcement of everything they did wrong in the relationship.

Try to avoid allocating blame. Ultimately, it doesn't matter whose fault the breakup is. What matters is that you are able to put it behind you, heal and move forward with your life.

Do not break up on a holiday, your lover's birthday or a day that was significant to you as a couple during your relationship (e.g. the anniversary of the day you started dating.)

This should go without saying, but I will say it anyway: Do not behave as though you are gleeful about the breakup. It's not necessary to fake tears, but you shouldn't be turning cartwheels either.

Do not engage in an argument or participate in a shouting match with the person you are breaking up with. Their pain and anger is understandable, so, as long as their comments don't escalate to the level of verbal abuse or physical violence, try to hear them out without retaliating. If at any point they become abusive (verbally or otherwise), remove yourself from the situation immediately.

If at all possible, try to end things on a positive note.


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