How to Break Up Gracefully

Breaking up is hard to do. Well, not only is it hard to do but it is hard to handle the aftermath and the emotional complications that bubble out of us when we are in such a vulnerable state.

Breakups are also tricky because they are as unique as the relationships that spawn them, which makes giving advice on how to deal with them quite complicated.

The key to a graceful breakup and a healthy recovery depends on a variety of factors. We will do our best to guide you through the principles on how to handle a break up graciously.

Always Do It in Person

Unless they did something totally out of line like flirt with your friends (or leave you 43 tearful voicemails in one night) and if you have any respect for them at all (often a legitimate question), then always do it in person.

Yes, it is harder but suck it up and if possible, don’t do it in public. Being in public makes people feel limited in what they can express, whether it be final words they would like to say to you.

Never Make a Scene

Making a Scene
Couples fighting in public

Feeling distraught is okay. Being torn apart from the inside out is fine and expected. Wishing fiery hell and brimstone onto your ex and feeling the urge to dismantle their life and everything they hold dear piece-by-piece…isn’t totally out of the ordinary either. But any attempt to do so will just make you look like a child throwing a tantrum. Control yourself, grieve and express your pain but don’t do anything stupid. Do it in private and with someone you trust.

Do Not Try to Make the Other Person Feel Better

Once the relationship is severed, the other person’s emotions are no longer your responsibility. Not only is it no longer your responsibility to help them cope but comforting them will likely make them feel worse. It can also backfire in that it will just make them resent you more for being so nice while dumping them.

After the Breakup, Respectfully Cut All Contact

This is the second thing that many people don’t muster the courage to do. A lot of people get hung up on remaining friends and try to force contact when it is causing them more emotional stress.

Research on relationship breakups finds that people who limit contact with one another emotionally recover much faster.

Not only is it reasonable to refrain from seeing/speaking to each other for a brief period of time but it is also healthy. The more contact you have, the more you run the risk of setting off an emotional time bomb, relapsing and ending up in that messy no man’s land of “we are not together but we are still kind of together but we are definitely not boyfriend and girlfriend”.

Talk to Somebody About It

Conversation between friends
Talking to a friend

This one may seem obvious but it is crucial to do it. If this is a particularly serious relationship, talk to a trusted friend or family member before making the decision. Take their advice seriously as we are often poor observers of our own relationships but our friends can see how it affects us better than we can.

Allow Yourself to Be Sad/Angry/Upset but Don’t Judge or Blame Anyone

Even negative emotions are healthy and normal but judging and blaming people doesn’t get you very far. It does not mean you should not distinguish between good or bad behavior. Learning from your errors and what went wrong in your relationship will go a long way to helping you move on.

Start by recognizing that maybe they were not as great as you thought and there were some things you did not like. Accept the things you did not do well and how you could have been a better partner. However, do not blame or trash the other person. Everyone goes into a relationship with the best of intentions. Most people come out of them feeling hurt and betrayed in some way. Some even come out having messed up royally somewhere along the way. There is nothing uniquely wrong with you or that one person. Just learn from your mistakes and move on.

Invest in Yourself

The longer you spend in a romantic relationship, the more your sense of identity melds with theirs. Being together with someone in such an intimate space for so long creates a third, overlapping psychological entity that comprises both you and them. However, when that entity suddenly dies, not only is it painful but it leaves a temporary void in who you are.

This is why the best and most crucial post-breakup advice on the planet is to invest in rebuilding your personal identity. Rediscover your old hobbies, focus more on your work, start that new project you have been putting off for months. More importantly, spend time with your friends. Your friends will not only reassure you and make you feel better in the moment but they will also help you reinforce your identity again. Friendship is the best medicine for heartbreak.


Let us know in the comment section whether you feel these tips could have helped you during your last break-up, or if you have any other tips to share.

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