Originally posted on Bustle.
When you’ve decided to break up with someone, it can feel like the hardest thing in the world, but then you have to actually figure out how to break up with them. And that can be even tougher. “There is an art to breaking up with someone,” Audrey Hope, a celebrity relationship expert, tells Bustle. “If you do what needs to be done, you can sail through it.”
And, though it can be be confusing to know what the best way to handle it is, remember that you probably want to do it as nicely as possible. I mean, if the person was a total jerk and you’re trying to make a point, that’s one thing. But for many us, the situation is a lot sadder and more bittersweet than that, so you’re going to want to let them down gently.
Now, make sure that you’re keeping in mind everything you know about you partner — ways that they like to be spoken to, things that make them feel comfortable, the type of clarity that they need. You can, and should, tailor a breakup to your specific partner and relationship. But if you want to make sure that you’re breaking up with kindness and mindfulness, this is where you should start.
1. Do It Face-To-Face
“Don’t do it by text or by post-it!,” relationship therapist Aimee Hartstein, LCSW tells Bustle. “Today’s dating and communication has gotten so ‘casual’ that people do not always treat each other the way they themselves would like to be treated. My number one tip for breaking up mindfully is to do it clearly and directly.” Now, you may think that this is a given — it’s really not. I don’t know how many times I’ve heard friends have been dumped by text or thought that they could just send an email. Doing it in person means you can make sure you’re giving your soon-to-be ex the support and explanation they need.
2. Make It Clear
Some people think that the the nicest way to do it is to slowly fade out so there’s no confrontation, but that is torturous for some people. No ghosting. None. “Don’t drop out and ignore the person you are trying to end things with,” Hartstein says. “Don’t make them come after you to find out if you are still dating because you have been ghosting them for a week. Make a clear decision. Then be a grown up and tell them that things aren’t working out and that it’s over. No good comes from doing a slow ignore and fade out. It’s disrespectful to them and it’s not a conscious, mindful way to be living your own life.” You need to make your reasons clear — but also the fact that you’re not going to change your mind.
3. Do It In Private
Doing it in private gives the other person to emote in a safe space. “I think in private is more comfortable and respectful,” Hartstein tells Bustle. “People sometimes choose public so the other person can’t make a scene. But I don’t think that most people really do make a scene when they are broken up with. They might be sad or cry or be angry, but most likely they will just want to talk. And if it’s a relationship of more than a few months, an involved talk or discussion is pretty warranted.” They definitely deserve that.
4. Ask Them How They Feel About The Relationship
“I think engaging in a conversation about what people want individually in their lives is helpful,” licensed psychologist, and founder and CEO of Rapport Relationships, Dr. Jennifer B. Rhodes, tells Bustle. “Oftentimes there is no communication or we are dating someone who is not emotionally available enough to have such a conversation. Opening up the dialog will give you the data you need to decide if the relationship is worth saving.” If you take the time to actually talk it out with your partner, they’ll probably see that breaking up is the right move — or at the very least, they’ll have a proper understanding of where you’re coming from. They don’t need to have those questions floating around in their heads.
5. Don’t Do It When You’re Angry
Letting someone down gently means that it’s thought through — and not just done in the heat of the moment. “Too many times people, generally out of anger and impatience, assume that their partner is stubborn and ready to call it quits,” Armstrong tells Bustle. It should be a proper conversation— with you being ready to answer any questions they might have.
6. Set Ground Rules For What’s Next
Just like you need to provide clarity about why you’re breaking up, you should set up what happens after the breakup. Are you stopping all communication? Will you have a period of not talking then get back in touch? If they’re getting dumped, you also don’t want them sitting around wondering if you’re going to get in contact. Make it clear beforehand, so their mind can rest easier.
7. Follow Their Lead
When it comes to deciding what’s next, follow their lead. They’re the ones who have been dumped, so you need to be respectful of their needs. If you want to be friends but they don’t think they’re ready, you should really listen to that. Don’t agree to anything that you’re uncomfortable with, but if you can then try to make them comfortable. It’s the kind thing to do.
You can’t make a breakup completely smooth — especially if the other person doesn’t take it well. But you can make it open, clear, and honest. And that’s the ultimate way to let someone down gently.