5 Tips for Breaking Up With Someone With Integrity

I was recently talking to one of my friends who just broke up with his long-term girlfriend.  I asked him how it went breaking the news to her, he said “It went okay I guess…I mean, no one ever tells you how to break up with someone….so I just kinda fumbled through it.  I just did the best I could, though I’m sure it could have gone better.”

Thinking about what he said, I knew that what he was saying was so true.  People don’t know how to end a relationship with dignity and integrity.  I know from my own personal experience.  My (now-ex) husband informed me that our marriage was ending over tea in a Starbucks.  Another long-term relationship of mine ended over Skype (neither were ideal, but the Starbucks one really takes the cake). 

I get it…sometimes you have done everything you can to try and work on a relationship, yet it really just isn’t working out for you.  For many people who have been with someone for a long time and still care about them, they usually want to end the relationship as pain-free as possible.  They just don’t know how to do it (and they feel a little scared), so it comes stumbling out in this awkward, inopportune way.

So based on my experience (and my client’s experiences) of being dumped in ways that were less than ideal, I’ve come up with 5 tips that I believe allow you to get the job done with integrity, while minimizing the hurt as much as possible.  If you can walk out of a break-up session with the other person sad, but still respecting you, don’t you think that’d be preferable?  Here are 5 tips to help make that happen.

  1. Do it in person and in private if at all possible. Breaking up with someone in public is the worst.  I would say it is almost as bad as being broken up with over text.  Don’t do either, as you will go down in the books as the biggest D-Bag in history.  Doing it in public doesn’t keep you safe from the crying, yelling and screaming.  It just makes you look like more of an jerk.  Don’t do it.  Wait until you can have a conversation with them privately and in person (if possible) – and give your soon-to-be-ex the dignity of their process as they find out that you are breaking their heart.
  2. Give them a reason why.  If you are going to end a relationship with your significant other – it’s important to be honest and explain why this is happening and where you’re coming from.  Ending a relationship is hard for you both, yet being able to communicate why it isn’t working for you is crucial.  Your ex might not understand it immediately, but giving them a real reason is so much better than leaving them high and dry with no explanation at all.  Telling them it’s over and walking away just isn’t fair.
  3. Be vulnerable.  Unless you really don’t care about that person and just want to get away, you don’t have to be guarded.  This isn’t working for you, fine.  But you don’t have to be mean about it.  Being shut down and cold during this process is not stepping into integrity, it’s practicing avoidance and only makes the other person feel worse about the whole situation. Try to open your heart, listen deeply and speak openly and honestly.  This will help avoid many questions of “but I just don’t understand!” that may come bombarding your way in the future if you don’t chose the latter.
  4. Don’t continue to lead them on. If you are super clear that you no longer want to be in this relationship, then don’t continue to lead the other person on and give them hope.  It creates a lot of confusion and pain on the other side.  Perhaps you think that you are being nice by giving them some hope, but really it just draws the pain out even longer and makes it harder for them to get over you.  So if you are clear that it is over, then be clear about that in your communication with them.
  5. Take care of yourself.  While you are the one doing the dirty deed of dumping your ex, the change to being single again may ultimately be hard at times.  Find ways to take care of yourself and fill yourself up with things that you loved doing alone prior to being in a relationship.  Take time to really find yourself again and become strong in YOU.  Figure out what you want and who you are before diving head first into another relationship again.  By taking this time now, it will only set you up to be a better partner in the future.

I hope these ideas help.  Breaking up and being broken up with are never fun, no matter the situation.  But by taking the above tips into consideration, it could prevent a bad situation from getting worse, and you can walk away with your dignity intact.  Good luck!