How To Break Up Like An Adult

Angie Dion, MFT, LMFT, Therapist

Posted by: Angie Dion
MFT, LMFT, Therapist

How to Break Up Like an Adult

You are in your late 20s/early 30s. You've been single for a while and dating actively for several months. You're dating online, meeting people through a recreational league and just plain ol' organically out and about in the world. Some people you really connect with, and others you don't really feel like you "click." You really want to meet someone and work towards a healthy relationship where the both of you thrive. Unfortunately, to get there, you're going to have to break it off with people you're not really feeling it with. Breaking up with people is difficult. It's uncomfortable and often unpleasant. It can seem like it would be so much easier to just drop off and "ghost" on your dating partner than it is to have a conversation with them about how your relationship isn't working out anymore. Read on for some tips on how to make the break up conversation feel more bearable.

One way to come to terms with why it's important to have this difficult conversation is to put yourself in your dating partner's shoes. If you really liked someone and they didn't want to date you anymore, you'd want the courtesy of a conversation, right? That's what I thought. Give your dating partner the same courtesy. Please, do me a favor and don't break up with someone by way of email or text message. If you've been on more than three dates with someone, they deserve to hear from you in person or on the telephone. Schedule a time to talk on the phone or to go for a walk. Some people find it's easier to have difficult conversations when they're side by side.

Be honest about what's going on for you. Do you feel that you aren't compatible? Are you finding that you’re not attracted to the person over time? Do you have different life goals and aspirations? What doesn't feel right to you? Think about these things before heading into your conversation, you'll most likely feel uncomfortable and nervous, so you'll want to have an idea about what you want them to know about why you're breaking up. It may feel easier to say, "it's not you, it's me." However, if you have some feedback to give to someone about what it was like to date them it could be invaluable to them moving forward into their next relationship.

Stress the reason for wanting to talk with them in person. You want to be clear that you respect them and wanted them to know that you appreciated your time together. Everyone learns something from being in a relationship, you learn about yourself and what you want/don't want in a relationship. Most of all you learned how to interact with another person. Hopefully you built some trust and intimacy and strengthened your communication skills. Those are things to be grateful for. Dating this person has moved you closer to the relationship best meant for you.

Know that your dating partner may be hurt and feel rejected by you. Be prepared for a range of emotions. Some people express sadness, while others express anger. From my experience, people only lash out when they have felt wronged or disrespected. Feel free to end the conversation early if you feel like it has become unproductive. You can always revisit the conversation when both of you feel calmer and in a better place to continue talking it through.

Your dating partner may ask to stay in touch. This will be up to you. Some people find that they are able to stay friendly with their exes, while others cannot manage it. It is up to you and your ex to decide either way. It may make sense to take some space first to disconnect romantically before attempting a friendship. If you do decide to stay friends, make sure to check in with each other regularly about how it feels. You don't want to put yourself in the position of getting someone's hopes up about the possibility of getting back together.

Finally, as uncomfortable as this conversation can be, it’s giving you practice strengthening your communication skills. You’ll also be practicing expressing yourself while building upon your capacity to sit with someone else’s uncomfortable feelings. You’re making it known that you are an emotionally mature person by making this conversation a priority in your dating life.