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A Step-by-Step Guide to How to End a Relationship

photo of Laura
by Laura
A Step-by-Step Guide to How to End a Relationship

The end of a relationship can be a gruelling time for both parties. You’re trying to deal with your emotions, stop thinking about your ex and move on. You might have friends who you met through them and you’re worried you’ll lose contact with. Or you might live together, share a pet or have some other kind of shared commitment.

Here at Match, we want to help with what can be one of the toughest times you’ll experience. We’ve put together this guide to how to end a relationship to cover all the aspects of a breakup, including what comes next. If you’re considering breaking up with your partner, or if you’ve already done the deed and are feeling a bit lost, read on for some useful guidance on how to end a relationship.

Before the breakup

Be as certain as you can be that you’re doing the right thing. Don’t break up with your partner on a whim just after you’ve had an argument. Emotions will be running high and you could end up regretting a rash decision. It’s not fair to then go begging to your ex and asking them to take you back.

After an argument, give yourself some time to calm down and try and see things from their point of view. The old saying that you should never go to sleep on an argument doesn’t always ring true here; sometimes what you need is a good night’s sleep to wake up with a fresh perspective. Of course if you can’t sleep without hashing it out, sometimes it’s necessary to do exactly that. But allow yourself to take some time on your own first so you don’t do anything out of pure anger or hurt.

If you have ongoing issues as a couple, don’t allow them to be brushed under the carpet and then suddenly rear their ugly head in a painful breakup. Be honest with each other if there’s something you’re unhappy with – your partner might never know if you don’t tell them. Make sure you give yourselves a chance to work through any problems rather than simply giving up and ending it. This might seem like the “easy option” at the time but it could end up being a huge mistake.

The actual breakup

When you’ve come to the decision to break up with your partner, keep these things in mind. Here’s how to end a relationship in the fairest way:

  • If you do one thing to make the breakup easier on your partner, do it face-to-face. Do not be tempted to take what might appear the easy way out by dumping them on the phone, or worse still, by text. This will make your ex question everything about the relationship: if you couldn’t be bothered to break up with them properly, did you ever really care about them? You don’t want them to look back on the relationship in a negative light or even make them regret all of the time you spent together. Of course, this can be easier said than done if you’re planning to break up with your long-distance partner. Is it fair to make them travel all the way to see you only to be dumped? In this kind of situation the best option may be a phone breakup for practical reasons.
  • Make sure that the actual breakup happens in a private place. There may be tears and angry words exchanged – it’s important that your ex has a chance to express themselves in a private environment rather than in public where they might feel ashamed of loud outbursts.
  • Don’t leave them hanging. If you know you’re going to break up with them, do it soon after you first meet up. Don’t lull them into a false sense of security by spending a normal evening with them, only to break up with them right at the end because you weren’t brave enough to cut to the chase. Get the breakup out of the way and make it easier on both of you.
  • Be honest. Don’t use euphemisms for breaking up to make it sound less harsh. Don’t say you want to “take a break” when you want to end the relationship permanently. Tell them as frankly as you can why you don’t want to be in the relationship any more. If you’re not up front about this they’ll always wonder what they did wrong and might even think the breakup was for a completely different reason than the reality.
  • Give them what they want. If they ask to be left alone, give them space; if they have questions, give them honest answers; if they want to talk through everything in minute detail, you’d better be ready to give them the time they need from you. Don’t just break up with them and make a hasty exit unless they explicitly ask you to leave. Respect their wishes and do whatever you can to give them closure.

After the breakup

It’s not just about how to end a relationship. You’ll need to be ready for the aftermath of the breakup, so here’s our guidance on how to deal with the most common issues:

  • Get the balance of post-breakup contact right. Don’t bombard your ex with messages to check they’re ok. This won’t ease your guilt and will most likely either make them think that you want to get back together or just plain irritate them. Send a couple of messages to show that you still care and are there if they want to talk about anything.
  • Stay away from their social media accounts. Of course you’ll be keen to know what they’re up to post-breakup, but you should avoid obsessively checking their Facebook and Instagram to see who they’re spending time with and what they’re doing. This kind of behaviour isn’t healthy and will only make the healing process longer and more painful. If you just can’t resist checking up on them, blocking them might be your best option, at least for the first few months after you’ve broken up. You can then unblock them once you trust yourself to be less obsessive.
  • Make the post breakup practicalities, like moving out of a shared property, or sorting out joint accounts, as easy on both of you as possible. Don’t be petty about minor things – a breakup itself is bad enough without having the extra worry of whether you’ll be able to resolve everything fairly.
  • If you’re close with their friends and/or family, it’s often best to take a step back in the immediate aftermath of the breakup. They’ll be trying to move on and the last thing they’ll want to hear is that you’ve been talking to or even meeting up with their nearest and dearest. We’re not saying that you have to cut off the friendship forever. Just give your ex time to come to terms with the breakup and then put out the feelers and re-establish the friendships which are important to you.