Breaking up, as they say, is hard to do. Everyone needs guidance when it comes to ending things, but usually, advice focuses on how to know you want to break up or how to cope with all the emotions afterward. One of the worst parts, though, is actually doing the damn thing. According to stats culled by Preply, a global language learning organization, over half a million people around the world Google “how to break up with someone” every year.
A lack of communication might have played a role in the destabilization and demise of your relationship, but being clear with your language in the final moments is important. Here’s what not to say—and what to say instead.
Do not try to be irreverent or glib
Preply’s experts sent over some examples of what not to say when breaking up with someone, and they really boil down to this: Don’t be flippant. Don’t be glib. And, please, don’t try to take the edge off with some humor here.
Do not downplay the relationship or try to be dismissive, so don’t say, “We weren’t even together.” Do not make jokes, especially ones designed to sting a little, so don’t go for corny one-liners like, “Are you a dollar bill? Because you’re single.” It probably goes without saying, but you’re going to hurt this person, even if they’re sensing or also hoping for the breakup, too. You might think cracking a joke will soften the blow, but you’ll really just end up looking like an asshole and giving them the impression you don’t care—or are trying to look like you don’t, which is just as bad. You wouldn’t be planning this out if you didn’t care, so don’t try to go out in a blaze of glory or look too cool, even if this ending was caused by something harmful the other person did. Take the high road.
Don’t be vague or rush through it
You might want to get this over with quickly, but the other person is probably going to have some questions. If you want this breakup to work and you want it to stick, you have to help give them some closure, lest they spend the next few weeks mulling over unanswered questions and believing they might be able to get you back.
Explain yourself. Contextualize your decision. Give them a window into what you’re thinking so there is no miscommunication or opportunity for them to misunderstand. This means you have to say more than just, “It’s not working out and I want to break up.” While that’s direct (which is good!) it’s not sufficient. Preply’s language experts are clear on this one: “The worst thing you can do when breaking things off with someone is to give absolutely no context and no closure.”
You might worry about being too hurtful if you detail your full thought process here, but think instead about how hurtful it will be for them to sit around wondering why they got dumped—and how detrimental it could be to both of you if they reach out in the future with questions, anger, or an appeal to reconcile because you weren’t clear enough.
What to say when you break up with someone
Keeping in mind how important it is to be thorough, kind, direct, and sincere. Preply’s experts recommend saying something like this:
- “I’ve really enjoyed spending time with you over the last few months, however I am not in the right place to be in a relationship right now. I need some time to figure out what I want and I need to do that alone.”
- “You are an amazing person and I value everything about you and the time we’ve spent together, but right now a romantic relationship is not the best for us and I think we should break up.”
- “Although I have enjoyed spending time with you, I have realized that I don’t want to be in a relationship and am enjoying my independence at the moment. It is not fair to keep stringing you along, so I think we should end things now.”
Note that you lead with gratitude for the time spent together and follow up with the truth, whatever that looks like. If there’s room for a reconciliation down the line, say that, but be honest about how likely it seems. If there’s a specific reason for the breakup, say that, too, and have a fair, open conversation. Then, once you’ve both said what you have to say, walk away and stick with it. Don’t keep texting them or trying to hook up, or you’ll keep having to have this conversation—and it loses its value every time.