You’ve come to the end of the road in a relationship, and now you’re trying to figure out how to break up with your boyfriend without burning bridges. You might be afraid of the confrontation, but I’m going to help you avoid nastiness and break up the right way.
A quick note: some people want to avoid confrontation to the point of staying in relationships that aren’t right for them or that are even harmful to their health and emotional wellbeing. You don’t want to do that. If you stay in the wrong relationship, it’s keeping you from finding the man who is 100% right for you. Breaking up with your boyfriend will require some courage, but I’m here to support you.
Why You Should Care About Doing it Gently and Respectfully
Look, I don’t know the reason you’re trying to figure out how to break up with your boyfriend. Maybe the guy is a lying, cheating heel. But even if he’s a terrible person, I still want you to end things with grace and dignity.
First of all, it’s good karma. Think about the times you’ve been unceremoniously dumped and how much that hurt. You’re a good person, and so is he (even if it’s under layers of jerkiness), and you need to treat him in this breakup the way you’d want to be treated.
No one deserves to be ghosted. Even if you haven’t been dating that long, he deserves to know why you’re ending things. It might feel like just ignoring his texts and calls is the easier option, but it may make it harder for him to let go of you and move on because he’ll keep asking himself, “what did I do? What happened?”
It’s better to be straightforward with him about why you’re exiting stage left so that he can process the reason and maybe do better in future relationships. If the reason you’re ending things is that he was narcissistic and selfish, he may have heard that from girlfriends in the past, and this might be his wake-up call to make changes for the better. That might not benefit you, but at least another woman won’t have to put up with his ways.
Okay, so all of these reasons for breaking up gently and respectfully have to do with him, but it can also give YOU closure to move on. If you know you’ve said your piece to this guy about what bothered you, then you can cut ties and be ready for the next relationship of your life.
How to Break Up With Your Boyfriend (in 5 Steps)
Okay, so now that I’ve convinced you that screaming, “it’s OVER!!” in the middle of a restaurant isn’t the way to go, let me provide you with some tips to make this breakup as simple as possible. I’m not promising you that there won’t be tears or raised voices. There likely will be, possibly from both of you. But in coaching thousands of women on how to improve their love lives, I’ve seen my share of breakups, and these tips do work to minimize the pain and stress.
1. Assess Whether Breaking Up is the Best/Only Solution
So obviously, not breaking up would be preferred, but that’s only if you can resolve whatever issues you’ve got. If you’re new to dating after divorce, you may be super sensitive to every issue in a new relationship and may assume that each one is reason enough to end things.
But consider what the issue is, and what it would take to resolve it. I always encourage you to try talking through your issues first. You might be surprised at where that gets you. Let’s say the issue in your relationship is that you feel like he doesn’t feel passion for you anymore. You were going at it like rabbits at the start of the relationship, but now you’re lucky if he looks your way with hunger in his eyes once a week.
You don’t know what the real issue for him is. Maybe he’s gained weight recently and feels self-conscious about it, and that is impacting his passion levels.
Talk to him first. Explain your frustrations, and yeah, maybe tell him you were considering ending things (so he knows how serious you are), but that you really want to work things out instead. See if the issue can be resolved.
NOTE: If you keep having the same conversation about fixing things over and over, nothing is going to change. He may get teary and promise to do better, but if you have this conversation every three months, you can safely assume that he won’t be able to change in any lasting way, and you both need to move on.
2. Write Down Why You’re Breaking Up
This sounds silly, I realize, but hear me out. Right now, you have a list of reasons in your head about why you want to end this relationship. You know you’re not right for one another.
But let’s fast-forward a month or two. He’s begging you to take him back. He shows up with flowers. He does all of the things you always wanted him to do. Suddenly that list of reasons he’s not right for you vanishes, and you’re trying to remember why you didn’t want to be with such a fantastic guy.
It’s easy to forget the negativity when you’re post-breakup. That’s why I want you to write a list of all the things that make you crazy (in a bad way) about him. Stick it in a drawer. But if he comes crawling back, pull that list out and remind yourself that you’re doing the right thing.
3. Rip the Band-Aid Off
If you’ve been deliberating about breaking up, don’t put it off. The sooner you do it, the sooner you can heal. This is actually backed by science: Researchers at Brigham Young University found that when it comes to hearing bad emotional news like a breakup, people want it directly and without fanfare.
Not sure where to start? The study found that those words, which drop like a rock in all our stomachs, “we need to talk,” will do the trick to open up the conversation.
NOTE: Don’t use the phrase “taking a break.” Use the words “break up” so that it’s crystal clear that you have no intention of getting back together. You must be firm and deliberate in the words you use, even if you think it’ll hurt him more. Having hope of getting back together would give him more hope, so really, you’re doing him a favor by being blunt.
4. Be Ready for His Response
Here’s where things can go off-script because every person deals with being broken up with differently. He may say, “whew! You’re totally right! I was planning on breaking up with you, too!”
He may get sad. He may get angry. He may storm out. He may try to change your mind.
You just don’t know what his reaction will be, so you’ve got to be prepared for any possibility.
Try to stay calm through the conversation. Sure, you may shed a few tears. That’s okay because it shows him that you do care about him, but that you recognize that you’re simply not right for one another.
He may not stop calling and texting you, but I encourage you to tell him you’re enforcing the No Contact Rule. Don’t see each other, call, or text for at least three weeks. This gives you both time to adjust to being apart. Relationships can be like addictions. Even if he knows deep down that you aren’t right for one another, he’s used to talking to you all the time, and he’ll want to continue to feed that addiction. But if he has time away from you, he may have space to realize that you’re not a good fit, and that will make letting go easier.
NOTE: If he shows up at your house unannounced, refuses to leave you alone, or gets violent in any way, call the police. You’re within your rights to do so to keep yourself safe.
5. Move On!
Whew. The hard part of how to break up with your boyfriend is over, though you still need time to recover and heal. This time is all about YOU, so enjoy it!
Be single for a while. Hang out with your friends again, especially if you spent less time with them when you were in a relationship. It’s important to realize what a rock your friends are in your life. They are there for you through relationships and breakups, and they’re usually there longer than any man in your life will be!
Assess who you are now, after that relationship. You may have changed. What did you learn from the relationship about who you are and what you want? Sometimes it’s easier to see what you don’t want in a future relationship when you’re post-breakup, but consider the qualities of your ex and of the relationship that you did like so you can look for that in the future.
Focus on what makes you happy. You have no one to make happy except yourself. Binge Handmaid’s Tale and eat popcorn for dinner. Lounge in bed all day. Right now, self-care should be your top priority.
Distract yourself. If you’re struggling to get over the breakup (understandably), try distracting yourself. Researchers at the University of Missouri – St. Louis found that, while distraction didn’t eliminate love feelings post-breakup, they did make subjects feel happier.
Lead author Sandra Langeslag, assistant professor of psychology and director of the Neurocognition of Emotion and Motivation Lab at the university, said:
“Distraction is a form of avoidance, which has been shown to reduce the recovery from a break-up.”
How NOT To Break Up
Now that I’ve given you tips on how to break up with your boyfriend the right way, let’s cover a few things I see people do with disastrous results.
Don’t do it to make him chase you or give you what you want. You’re not a child, so stop playing games. If you threaten to break up with him (or actually go through with it) to get your way, you should be surprised that he puts up with you…and don’t expect that he’ll do it forever.
Don’t do it in the heat of the moment. Couples argue, but if you really want to break up with your boyfriend, spend some time with the decision. The heat of the moment is not the time to say something you might regret. You need time to consider other options (Step 1) and work out what you’ll say to him.
Don’t do it without considering the consequences. If you live together, you’ll have to find another place to live, so you don’t want to kick yourself out (or him) without a plan. If you have kids together, that’s a whole other can of worms to consider.
Don’t do it if you know you’ll get back together (and break up…get back together…). It’s called relationship cycling, and it’s unhealthy. In another University of Missouri study, researchers found that a third of participants had broken up and renewed relationships with the same partner as much as eight times. They all exhibited signs of distress, anxiety, and hopelessness. If you’re stuck in this pattern, you have to realize that things aren’t going to change if you continue to break up over the same issues.
Breaking up is hard to do. I’ll give you that.
But you shouldn’t feel like a failure if you realize that a relationship has reached its end. Not every relationship is supposed to last forever. Kudos to you for seeing that it had stopped serving its purpose in your life and doing something about it sooner rather than later. The sooner you end the wrong relationship, the sooner you free yourself (and him) up to find the right one.
Talk to me in the comments below. Are you struggling with how to break up with your boyfriend? What are you afraid of?
But what if after you break up, you realize you want him back? My Heal Your Heart and Win Him Back program can help you determine whether getting back together is right…and help you do it. Get instant access here.