The Respectful Break-Up


Yesterday I answered a question from a 20-something about breaking up. We all know it can be one of the hardest things to do. The question was whether to break-up in person or phone  in a newly long-distance relationship. One of the women who answered believes a person always deserves the respect and closure of an in person breakup. She went on to give her perspective on how to leave the person you are leaving with respect and honor. Her philosophy is based on advice given to her over the years from her dad!


‘To make them feel respected and honored, don’t tell them about what didn’t work. There is no point because it’s over. It’s not your job to teach them a lesson. They will either see it or they won’t …but it won’t be because you told them. That just leaves a bad taste in their mouths and opens up the door for arguments. No one will feel better after that.

So I tell them what I appreciated about it [the relationship] and what I got from it…and I thank them. Own what you did to contribute to it not working. Of course I have found situations where it was really hard to do that step …the only thing I could do is apologize for not leaving sooner. Then I wish them the best.

I just say, ‘This isn’t working for me’. In most cases the person already knows  – they can sense it.  But just say, ‘I’m not feeling this is right for me right now.’ Don’t say it’s not right for us. Sometimes the tendency is to say something about “us” or the other person. Keep it to you. Unless they have done something bad –then that is already on table.

But if not, you don’t have to say anything but this is not right for me right now. Don’t say you fell out of love with them. That is the most painful thing to hear. No one wants to hear that. If they ask why, just answer, ‘I can’t explain my feelings but they have changed.  My heart is not in it right now.’  If they ask whether you met another person, I would say, ‘No I didn’t and don’t know if I ever will.’

I have managed to stay friends with my exes in all but the one case where I didn’t get a chance to have a respectful breakup. In all cases I knew exactly why it wasn’t working for me.…but I’m not going to tell them and hurt their feelings. It’s heartbreaking and egos don’t get repaired that easily when someone tells you what is wrong with you if it’s a character thing.

I always say ‘don’t take what you don’t need’…their ego, their pride. Some people think it’s best to be open and honest ….but think about the potential long-term effects. If they still have feelings for you those words will stay with them well beyond being with someone else. Men seem strong but their egos are so fragile.”

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