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The Break Up Guide: How To Let Them Down Easy, Or Build Yourself Back Up

how to break up with someone

Breaking up sucks. No matter what side of the break up you’re on, it’s a painful ordeal. Most of us will go through one or several break ups in our lives, and they never get any easier. There’s just no avoiding the fact that ending an intimate relationship is painful. We can’t (and shouldn’t try) to reduce the pain of a break up, but we can reduce the suffering. What does that mean? Aren’t pain and suffering synonymous?

Actually, no. Pain is getting kicked in the shin. Suffering is all the mentalization and turmoil that comes afterwards—I didn’t deserve that, it’s so unfair, I hate getting kicked, what if everyone I ever meet from now on is going to kick me in the shin, etc.

In a break up situation the pain is the loss of a once loved companion, and that pain can go on for a while. We don’t want to avoid that pain, we need to feel it and move through it. But we can minimize some amount of suffering, both for ourselves and our former partner. This break up guide aims to give you the tools and mindset to do this—to navigate a break up with some amount of grace and clarity, and to process and heal in the inevitable aftermath.


Preparing for a Breakup

Initiating a break up requires a thoughtful preparation, rooted in honesty and empathy. It’s essential to reflect on the reasons behind your decision, acknowledging the complex web of feelings involved. Consider the dynamics of your relationship and the individual needs of both parties. Break ups can be heated, as emotions run high—try to avoid blaming and shaming language, instead opting to share responsibility for the shortcomings in your relationship. Emphasize clear communication, utilizing “I” statements to convey your feelings and decisions. For example, instead of “You never really cared about me,” you might say “I never felt cared for in the way I want from a relationship.” It’s beneficial to plan a conversation in a private, comfortable setting where emotions can be expressed without interruptions—unless safety is a concern. 

If you feel unsafe or threatened by the prospect of breaking up, prioritize your safety by planning the conversation in a public space or involving a trusted friend. Utilize support resources, such as hotlines or counseling services, and do not hesitate to seek legal protection if necessary. Your well-being is paramount.

Avoid breaking up via text, ghosting, or other disrespectful means of breaking up. Closure is important for both parties in a break up, and feelings of guilt and shame can damage your self-esteem.


When Should I Break Up?

Understanding when to end a relationship can be difficult. It can be hard to know what differences and disagreements we should tolerate, or even what a healthy relationship should look like. Frequent conflicts, a persistent sense of dissatisfaction, or a fundamental misalignment in values and life goals are usually a sign that the relationship may not be working. Listen to your intuition and pay attention to the dynamics of your interactions. Pay attention to your mood when with, or away from, your partner. Finally, consider if this relationship is worth the effort and compromise needed to maintain it, and whether your partner will be willing to do this work with you.

If you’re still struggling heavily with the decision to break up, couples counseling can be a great way to get an unbiased opinion. If you’re feeling stuck in your relationship, check out this blog.


Relationship Counseling For Breaking Up

If you’re unsure about the decision to break up, relationship counseling can offer a valuable perspective. Engaging with a therapist early on can help address underlying issues, fostering a deeper understanding of each other’s needs and patterns. Issues that once seemed insurmountable may appear less so. Pervasive communication issues may be bridged. And clarity may be gained, especially around why you are together, why you should stay together, or why it’s best to pursue an amicable separation. It’s not unusual for couples to come to relationship counseling because they need help breaking up for good. For couples with unhealthy patterns it may be a necessary step in their process. 

If you’d like to learn more about what happens in relationship counseling, click here. Or if you’d like to find a relationship counselor in the Grand Rapids area, click here.


Executing the Breakup: Kindness and Clarity

When the moment arrives to initiate the breakup, strive for a conversation marked by respect and honesty. Focus on expressing your reasons clearly without diminishing the value of the shared experiences. Prepare to receive difficult feedback—most people don’t deal with rejection well. Do your best not to give in to retaliation or lashing out in response. Focus on your breathing, and allow time to think before responding to hurtful comments.

It’s crucial to establish boundaries post-breakup to facilitate healing for both parties. It’s up to you to decide what’s appropriate. Some people need a no-contact rule, or a certain amount of time before they can see each other again. In situations where partners live together things can be more complicated. Express your boundaries clearly and firmly, but try to respect your ex’s point of view. Decide where compromise may be prudent, and where it isn’t.


how to recover from a break up


How To Recover From A Break Up

Recovering from a breakup is a deeply personal journey, often marked by a spectrum of emotions. It’s best not to avoid these emotions. Indulge them for a while, welcome them into your life like guests, but don’t wallow for too long. Consider what you may learn from your break up, acknowledge the shortcomings and failures of your relationship, and then move on from these. Talking about your feelings will help you process them—seek support from friends, family, or a therapist. Remember, failure is a non-negotiable part of life. It’s through failure that we learn and grow, and become better versions of ourselves. In equal measure, seek out distractions from your grief and pain. Spend time goofing off, socializing, relaxing, or pursuing self-care. Try to find a balance between soul searching and fun.

Eventually you’ll want to find a sense of closure from your loss. Consider writing a letter expressing your emotions (and not sending it). This type of honest reflection can be therapeutic, and help you let go. If you can’t seem to put a break up behind you, consider counseling.


The End Is Just The Beginning

Our satisfaction with life largely comes down to perspective. While the loss of an important relationship can feel like an ending of sorts, it can also be the beginning of a new and exciting chapter in your life.

Navigating the end of a relationship, whether you’re the one initiating the breakup or on the receiving end, is a profound journey of self-discovery and growth. It’s a testament to our capacity for change, resilience, and ultimately, our ability to find peace and happiness within ourselves. By approaching this transition with empathy, clarity, and a commitment to personal well-being, we can emerge stronger, more self-aware, and open to the possibilities that lie ahead.



Robb Kornoelje is the owner of The Truism Center, a relationship enthusiast, and the creator of the “30-Day Relationship Challenge.” This 30-day, fully online email course offers gentle guidance to identify behaviors causing trouble, find ease with emotions, and enhance self-awareness. With a focus on stress-free communication, the challenge encourages a stronger connection with others, nurturing compassion, and fostering forgiveness. Join Robb on this journey to improve the fabric of your relationships—one day at a time.