Navigating a Breakup – Forget Pop Culture and Do It with Grace

We have all seen some drama-ridden breakups on TV and the wide screen – Derrick and Meredith on Grey’s Anatomy, Ross and Rachel on Friends, Olivia, and Fitz on Scandal, Stefan and Elena in The Vampire Diaries, Carrie and Aidan in Sex and the City, Jamie and Claire in Outlander, or Will and Skylar in Good Will Hunting.

And let’s not forget those reality show breakups – The Kardashians, Real Housewives, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette, and more. 

In real life, breakups are tough and challenging but usually not as dramatic and certainly not as scandal-ridden and public.

If you are navigating a breakup on either end of it, there is no way to avoid a certain amount of pain, maybe a fight, possible anger, and some long-lasting hard feelings.

So, let’s divide the remainder of this article into two parts – How to execute a breakup and how to deal when you are on the receiving end of that breakup.

Executing a Mature and Clean Breakup

So, you’ve made the decision that the relationship is not working. There have been signs along the way, of course, and your partner probably has an idea that things are not going well. But now it’s time to do the hard thing – break it off.

Here are some key tips you’ll consider.

Think About What You Will Say

This is going to be a tough conversation, so be prepared. Maybe write down what you intend to say and then practice. You don’t want to get off track in the stress of the moment. As you practice, be mindful of your tone. It should be calm.  

Be empathetic. Put yourself in your partner’s shoes and try to make statements that show you understand what they may be feeling. If you’ve ever been on the receiving end of a breakup, this will help you find some of the right words.

You Cannot Control How They May React

You may know how they react in different situations. But there are no guarantees here. You need to be prepared for a variety of reactions here – tears, anger, begging, etc. You can’t control this – but be prepared. 

Remind yourself that, no matter what the reaction, it is okay for you to break up with someone if you believe this is the right thing to do. And this does not make your partner a bad person. It’s just not a fit.

Do This In-Person

We’ve all heard of employers firing people via email. And we have probably thought about what a cowardly thing to do. The same goes for breaking up with someone. Unless you are in a long-distance relationship, or you might be in physical danger, you need to do this face-to-face – probably the toughest part of it all. 

Where to Do It

Wherever it is done, it should be a quiet place free from distractions. There is no one best place, but be certain you can do it privately enough to avoid others’ hearing. If you’re uncomfortable doing it at their place, then pick a quiet public place.

Be Direct and Avoid Details

This is going to be painful, but prolonging it will be worse. You have decided that you’re not a fit and it’s over. You have to find a kind but very direct way to say it. Giving details or letting your partner press you for them will only prolong the pain.

But do take responsibility for the breakup – it’s you who made the decision.

And remember this: your partner may have a need to vent, so let that happen as long as it doesn’t get out of hand. Let them have the last word.

Don’t Give False Hope

If you know it’s over, be fair. Don’t leave your partner with any false hope that you might reconsider later on.

Leave With a Compliment or Two

You did have some good times. And your partner has some good qualities. Mention these at the end of the conversation, 

When You are on the Receiving End of a Breakup


Now, what about if the tables are turned? How do you handle someone breaking up with you? Think of a breakup like you would a death. Literally, something did die here. And you will have to go through a grieving process. Here are the steps.

Find Some Support

We often look to our best friend or a close sibling for support. And these are reasonable choices. But choose carefully. You are going to run through a host of emotions, and you want that support to be empathetic and understanding. And NEVER choose support from mutual friends with your ex.

Take as Much Time as You Need

You’re going to feel sadness and rage, and everything in between. Let those emotions roll. And there is no time limit on this. Never bottle up emotions and pretend that everything is fine. It isn’t. Do what you need to bring out those emotions.

Don’t Make Any Major Decisions

This is not the time to change jobs, move, or cover your body with tattoos. You are not fully rational right now – keep other parts of your life as they have been.

Don’t Stalk Your Ex

It’s so easy to get on social media or stay in contact with your ex’s close friends so you can know what they are doing, who they might be seeing now, etc. This means you have not accepted the closure that a breakup is.

And NEVER try contacting your ex during this grieving process. You’ll say things you will regret later.

Get Out

It’s easy to sit at home and wallow in self-pity – listening to sad love songs and watching sad movies. What will that add to your life? Make dates with friends; sign up for a class; get involved in some volunteer work. All of this will let you see that you have a life beyond that relationship.

You might even start some online dating just to get “back in the game.” If you are a woman, try Hily, a dating app that focuses more on conversation than hookups. And on that site, there is also a place for men to engage with women in a “no pressure” environment.

The Final Closure – Acceptance

Both you and your ex have to reach closure on this relationship. Whether you are the one breaking up or on the receiving end, it’s time for both of you to move forward.