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How To Break Up With Someone And Minimize The Pain

Cain Parish

In This Article:

Breakups are never simple, straightforward or easy. Luckily there are ways to minimise the fallout. Here’s a tactical guide on how to manage a split with someone without causing too much pain. Let’s get started.

A stick breaking in two from impact, symbolising how to break up with someone

Table of Contents

I had to give this advice to a friend of mine recently and it got me thinking. We are horribly equipped to part ways with someone we love or care about. This is the advice I gave her about how to break up with someone.

What type of breakup is it?

First, figure out what breakup you’re dealing with. There are really only three types of breakup you can go through, and your course of action will change dramatically based on the type.

Reactive breakups. You might want to break up with someone because of something they did, or some significant event between you. Generally, these breakups happen because of something like infidelity or another type of break in trust, but they can be inspired by more minor issues as well. It’s not uncommon to find that an otherwise insignificant issue is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It’s a good idea to pause for a second and make sure that you really want to commit to splitting up. It might seem obvious, but you really can’t take a breakup back. Even if you get back together with the person afterward, the trust and security in your relationship are gone. If you pull the trigger and end your relationship, are you ready for that? Would working through your issues and trying to communicate better make more sense for the two of you?

Mutual breakups. In some cases, often early on in a relationship, the two of you will realize that you’re not right for each other. These are called mutual breakups because usually when one person mentions the problems, the other person will acknowledge the issues. Empathy between people in relationships is heightened. What you’re feeling, your partner will too. If you don’t think it’s working between the two of you, it’s highly likely that they have some issues too. However, you have to be prepared for your partner to be caught off guard. Just because they have some issues doesn’t mean they also want to break up. A lot of people will hold onto relationships a lot longer than they should for fear of being alone, and if you’ve made the decision to stay together, it can be very hard to hear that the other person doesn’t want to try anymore. Be ready to defend your position and explain why it makes sense that the things you’re feeling mean you’re better off separating.

Drifting apart/losing feelings. This can be a normal part of life, if a little unfortunate. Sometimes a relationship that started out as good for you becomes less aligned with what you need over time. People change, and the things they need out of life change too. The ideal situation is that your partner grows and changes alongside you, and the two of you end up on similar life trajectories, but the fantasy is not always real. This is especially prevalent when you start dating very young. Your personality and life direction haven’t had time to form, so the person that was once very right for you stops being your ideal partner. These are often the most painful breakups, and some of the messiest. They’re likely to be one-sided, and fraught with disagreements and arguments. The other person will almost certainly be surprised and hurt to hear that you no longer feel the way you used to, and that can be a really hard situation to navigate. Even though you might want to break up, that doesn’t mean you don’t care for the person, so dragging them through this emotional minefield can be a very big challenge for both of you. Make sure you’re crystal clear on what you’re thinking and feeling, and have reasoning that you can explain, as your partner will almost certainly want to understand why you’ve come to this decision.

Do you have a plan?

Secondly, you need to think this through. Breakups are almost always best done in public, ideally somewhere secluded and quiet, but still visible. This makes it safer for both of you. Emotional conversations can get heated, and the chances that someone does or says something aggressive are lower when we know other people can see us. Additionally, it gives you more control over the situation. You can leave when it’s appropriate for you, without having to navigate someone leaving the other’s place of residence. One of the toughest challenges in a breakup can be convincing the other person that it’s over, and if they’re already inside your house, it can be challenging to get them to accept finality and leave.

Hopefully, you also have a plan for what you’re going to say. Breakups are very commonly started with the line; “we need to talk”, which is a very ominous start to a conversation. Beyond that, though, you need a plan. The more talking points, the better. If you are anticipating backlash from the other person, have a plan for some questions you think they might ask. What happens if they refuse? What happens if they argue with you and refute your version of events? What happens if they come onto you to try and get you to stay?

You must defend your position. You thought this through, remember? This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment choice, so you should be confident and assured of the things you’re thinking and feeling. This leads me to my third point.

Are you emotionally ready?

It’s very, very confronting to break up with someone, especially if you still have feelings for them or they’ve hurt you in some way. A natural human reaction to this discomfort is seeking any easy solution that presents itself. You will, in the heat of the moment, second-guess yourself. You will want to take them back, embrace them and make the uncomfortable conversation stop. It’s easiest to forgive whatever they’ve done when the painful alternative is becoming a reality. It’s difficult to be alone, and we’re never 100% prepared.

If you can, spend some time being mindful of your feelings before the breakup. Try hard to understand why you think it’s necessary to split up. The more confidence and ammunition you can give yourself before you begin, the more resolve you’re going to have when things get messy. Be prepared for tears, from both of you. The emotions that stir up inside either of you don’t change the reality of the situation. It made sense to break up when you started the conversation, and there shouldn’t be many things your partner could say that would change that.

Be very careful of accepting any negotiations. Your partner will, in a lot of cases, offer to change or resolve whatever issues you might be having in an attempt to keep you around. It’s very rare that this works. It’s easy to promise the world when the alternative is losing someone you love, but if they were really committed to working on the problems that the two of you were having, you wouldn’t be at the breakup stage. This goes doubly for problems you’ve brought up in the past. If they wouldn’t make adjustments for you when a breakup wasn’t on the table, odds are whatever they change as a result of your ultimatum isn’t going to be enough to save the two of you.

Handle the logistics.

Finally, you need to know what you’re going to do when it’s done. After the difficult conversation, after the tears and the discomfort, you need to have a plan. Does your partner have things at your house that you need to give back? Do you want to separate from them on social media? Are you going to go no contact, or are the two of you still going to talk, for whatever reason?

Breakups are a lot like bandaids. They’re best ripped off and then put somewhere out of sight and out of mind. In 90% of circumstances, it’s best to go no contact, to block them on social media, and to try and heal without constant reminders of them. Your heartache will still be very real, even if you were the one to do the dumping. As the initiator, it’s your job to set the tone for the two of you going forward. They might want to keep in contact, to keep a foot in the door to maybe change your mind. You need to set boundaries and say no. Being firm and closing the door is how the two of you can begin to heal. Toxic breakups happen when the two of you are unable to cut the cord and properly say goodbye.

Return their possessions, negotiate the things that might still keep you in contact, and then close the door on that part of your life. Be firm and final. Follow through with your decision.\

Healing and the aftermath.

Your heart is going to hurt. No separation is truly painless. You’re going to think about them and second-guess yourself. It’s a very normal part of separating. Above all else, you need to stand your ground. This is where it’s best to have reminders and evidence that support your breakup. Your feelings were strong enough to lead you to be alone again, and nothing about that has changed. The heartbreak and loneliness, whilst very painful, do not change anything about the situation. Time is truly the only cure. Distract yourself with positive things where you can. Hobbies and interests are perfect timesinks whilst you’re recovering. You will likely find yourself with a lot of time to fill, and it’s crucial that you pick positive activities rather than negative ones like drinking, gambling, or depressive moping.

Finally, there’s the dreaded backslide. For some goddamn reason, it can be the most tempting thing in the world to sleep with your ex. Whether it’s two days after the breakup, two weeks, or two months, the temptation will get you eventually. There are lots of reasons to do it. You know them, both emotionally and physically. You two are probably pretty good at meeting each other’s needs. You can claim it to be no strings attached because obviously, the two of you aren’t meant to be together.

In my opinion, from experience, it’s never really worth it. Whatever spark the two of you might be hoping to recapture, you never really get to experience it after you’ve broken up with someone. What’s more likely is that being around them will remind you of the negative things, especially the pain of breaking up with them. Those negative experiences do not make for good sexual chemistry. I’m not going to say there’s never a reason to do it, or that you shouldn’t because that would make me a hypocrite, but I will say that however you think it’s going to feel, you’re very likely wrong. The magic died when you decided to break up, and in 99% of cases, it never comes back.

I hope that this summary gives you some direction in navigating a really difficult and painful process. My friend managed to get through it herself without falling into any of the traps I discussed, so I hope the advice works for you just as well. May you never have to use it.


What are the different types of breakups?

We can categorize breakups into three types: reactive breakups, mutual breakups, and situations where partners drift apart or lose feelings for one another. Each type requires a different approach for resolution.

How should one prepare for a breakup?

Preparation involves understanding the type of breakup, planning the conversation in a public yet private setting for safety, and being emotionally ready to handle the breakup’s emotional aspects and logistics.

What steps should be taken after the breakup?

Post-breakup actions include managing logistics like returning possessions, deciding on social media connections, and implementing no-contact rules to facilitate healing for both parties involved.

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Cain Parish

Cain Parish is the owner of A prolific writer, educator and relationship coach since 2019, he specializes in dating, relationships, emotional intelligence and social skills. He is also the author and creator of the world’s largest and most comprehensive database for dating and relationship advice, which can be found on his website. His first book, I’m Sorry I Egged Your House, is due to be published in 2024.

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