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Ending a Relationship Respectfully

Breaking up is hard to do, whether you are the one who is ending the relationship, or whether you are the one being broken up with.
If you are in a situation where you need to break up with someone, you will want to do whatever you can to end things respectfully.

Sometimes good things fall apart so that better things can fall together.

Think about how you would like to be treated if someone was ending things with you. Try and do it with the least confusion and hurt as possible, and in the most respectful way possible. 

Think about what kind of relationship you want to have after the breakup, if any. Would you like to stay friends? This won’t be your decision alone. Maybe the other person won’t want a friendship with you. Or would it be better not to see each other anymore, period? This might be hard if you go to the same school, hang out with the same friend or live in the same neighbourhood.

If you have feelings for someone else, end things before you cheat. This isn't fair to anyone, especially not the person you are already in a relationship with.

Don’t start dating another person until you’ve broken up with the first person. This isn’t fair to anyone, including you. You cannot bring your best to a new relationship when you are being dishonest about an old one.

Be honest, but try to be kind. And try to relax. If this is how you really feel, you are doing the right thing. You might say something like, “I’m sorry, but you and I just aren’t right for each other. I think it’s best for both of us if we break up.” Or, “I’m sorry, but this wasn’t meant to be.” Or, “I’m sorry, but I don’t feel the way I used to about you.” Of course, you’ll come up with much better words. No one else can tell you how to say this.

Do it soon. There’s no point in letting the relationship drag on if you know you want to end it. Don’t wait for someone else to come along, or stay together for a wrong reason because you don’t want to be alone, because it’s convenient, because the world sees you as a couple, because the other person wants you to stay together.

Don't cry because it's over, smile because it happened.

Do it in person, not over the phone, not in a letter, not by email or an instant message. In person. Face-to-face. Privately, not in a crowd. And don’t send someone else to bear the bad news. The only exception to this rule is if you feel unsafe around the other person.

Don’t blame the other person. Saying, “This is your fault,” or, “If you were different, this might have worked out,” or, “You’re not the right person for me,” is unnecessarily hurtful. Plus it invites the other person to say, “Wait! I can change!”

Don’t pick a fight. This might be a fast way to break up - plus a fight is proof that you don’t belong together - but it is mean and disrespectful. Plus, it doesn’t give either of you a chance to talk openly and honestly.

Be firm. If you’ve made your decision, stick to it, no matter what the other person’s reaction is. There might be tears, anger or pleading, but it is never a good idea to stay with someone out of pity or guilt. The other person wouldn’t want that either, when they get a chance to think about it.

If the other person wants to talk, listen. Even if the person tries to get you to wait, or rethink your decision, or give them another chance. Hear the person out, and then say something like, “I’m sorry, but I’ve made up my mind.”

If the other person just wants to get away from you, let them go. Maybe they are too upset or hurt to talk right now. You can talk another time.

For more information about ending relationships visit:

Get the Facts – ending relationships

headspace – dealing with a break up


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