How to Break Up with Someone, According to Experts Who Want to Help Make the Process Suck as Little as Possible

From taking your heart out of the equation to cutting off communication afterward

how to break up with someone couple looking at each other seriously
Carles Navarro Parcerisas/getty images

As the song goes, breaking up is hard to do. Still, it’s often a necessary, albeit painful, step. “Breakups are generally extremely difficult for at least one person involved,” says Gabi Reyes, LMFT, the resident relationship expert for the dating app Chispa. “It’s not often you see an amicable split where both parties feel good about it and move on with only kind things to say about each other.” But, Reyes, concedes, “They are a necessary part of moving forward, of walking towards something better.” Below, Reyes and Laurel House, eharmony’s in-house relationship expert, provide their tips for how to break up with someone in the least painful way possible.

Meet the Experts

  • Laurel House is an eharmony relationship expert. She helps daters of all ages from around the world find love and analyzes the results of consumer members surveys developed by eharmony to identify the latest dating trends and relationship sentiments.
  • Gabi Reyes, LMFT, is the resident relationship expert for Chispa, a dating app made for Latinos in the U.S. Reyes’s areas of expertise include depression, anxiety, improving communication, relationship issues, life transitions, dating anxiety, self-esteem, trauma, addiction, stress management, LGBTQ+, BDSM, erectile dysfunction and commitment issues.

1. Take Your Heart Out of the Equation and Go Head-First

House tells us that, according to eharmony’s Dating Diaries Heartbreak report, while 28 percent of singles knew they wanted to end their most recent relationship within month one, only 23 percent actually ended their relationship at that time. That’s because, she says, the decision to break up is a big one. So how can you get out of your own way and do what you know is the right thing? “Remove your feelings from the equation, and even remove your partner from the equation,” House explains. “Clearly think about your real relationship needs in this moment, and then consider your partner’s needs in a relationship.”

In other words, ask yourself if you’re ready to be in a relationship right now and if you’re willing to dedicate your time, energy and your heart. From there, it’s crucial, House stresses, to be honest with yourself about which of your needs are being met and not met in your relationship. “Once you have clarity, it’s time to put your heart and your partner back into the equation. Consider how they might feel about you. Are they fully invested? Will a breakup be blindsiding? Now reverse the situation and put yourself in their shoes. If you felt the way your partner feels, how would you want to be broken up with? Then have a conversation with your partner.”

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how to break up with someone woman laying in bed on her phone
Oleg Breslavtsev/getty images

2. Don’t Ghost

Boy can it be tempting, but disappearing isn’t the answer. “Ghosting makes imaginations run wild,” Reyes explains. Ghosting, she says, leaves a lot of room for interpretation, which makes it “quite possibly the unkindest way of breaking up.” Without the closure of a “this isn’t working” conversation, the partner who’s broken up with will likely wonder, Am I not enough? Smart enough? Kind enough? Pretty enough? Strong enough? Too kind? Even though breaking up is uncomfortable, ghosting is a cop out that shows a lack of respect for your partner. Rip the Band-Aid off, don’t leave them in the lurch with their thoughts.

3. If You’re Ending a Long-Term Relationship, Don’t Make the Breakup Sudden

Being blindsided is never fun. House says that if you’ve been in a serious, long-term relationship, it’s better to float the idea that you’re not feeling completely fulfilled—thereby giving yourselves the opportunity to fix things—rather than out of the blue telling your partner you’re done. “Even though it's likely coming to an end, this person who you once cared so much for deserves some advance notice that you are unhappy, as well as the opportunity to try to change and fix it,” she tells us.

So how do you leave these breadcrumbs? House explains: “Say something to the effect of ‘I have been thinking about my needs in a relationship, and you fulfill many of them. I love how you make me feel x, y, z…But there are several very important needs that aren’t being met and I am wondering if these are things that we can work on, or if we aren’t right for each other.’” From there, explain what those unmet needs are, and ask what your partner’s needs are (since a relationship isn’t a one-way street). “Come up with a plan together on how you both can work on fulfilling them,” House continues. “If improvement hasn’t happened over about a month, then you need to have another conversation, that will likely end with a goodbye. By being honest and vocal about your needs, you could be surprised that your partner is actually able to fulfill them, saving your relationship.”

4. Don’t Say You Don’t Want a Relationship If What You Really Mean Is ‘I Don’t Want a Relationship with *You*’

It can be tempting to try to ease the blow of a breakup by telling the little white lie that you’re not looking for a relationship right now (when, in fact, you are, but this isn’t the right person). Reyes stresses that being honest about what you’re feeling and why you’re making the decision to end the relationship is the way to go. “Attraction doesn’t follow our rules or abide by our check list,” she says. “Sometimes we meet someone who seems perfect on paper, attractive, kind, driven, fun, funny, etc., but there’s just something missing. Tell them exactly that. It’s OK if you can’t pinpoint what’s missing, it isn’t easy to explain. You’ll cause more pain in the long run, however, if you insist you don’t have the time for a relationship and a month later end up finding the one.”

5. Once the Breakup Happens, End All Communication

Both House and Reyes agree that it’s necessary to cut off all communication (at least for a while) after a breakup. “It’s hard to suddenly and completely never speak with the person who was not just your lover, but maybe your best friend, confidant, first and last call of the day,” House admits, but adds, “Just because they are part of your past doesn’t mean they need to be part of your future. And honestly, they don’t want to know about your dating life or new partner. It is hurtful.” Reyes echoes that communicating after a breakup is tempting (as is breakup sex), but that reaching out after ending your relationship will make it harder for both of you to move on. “Avoid going to their favorite breakfast spot, mute them on social media and tell friends not to talk to you about them,” she tells us. “There will be enough to remind you of them, don’t make it harder than it has to be. If you’re able to get a clean break, do it.”

sarah stiefvater

Wellness Director

Sarah Stiefvater is PureWow's Wellness Director. She's been at PureWow for ten years, and in that time has written and edited stories across all categories, but currently focuses...