How to End a Relationship Gracefully


There are as many reasons for breakups as there are couples. While many have to do with cheating and lies, not all relationships end because one partner willingly hurt the other. Sometimes two people can simply drift away from each other, when their relationship has nothing more to offer, where they have nothing to look forward to. Unless you have been at the receiving end of major physical or emotional abuse, no matter what the cause for your breakup, you can do it gracefully.

TIP: Read the guide to prevent a break up or get back with your ex.

Go over the reasons

Before you speak to your partner about breaking up, take some time out for yourself and think long and hard on the reasons why you do not wish to continue with each other anymore. Consider what made you fall in love with your partner the first time. Have all those reasons gone completely missing from your partner’s personality or are they being negated by equally unlikable traits? Being clear about your own thoughts and feelings will help you explain better why this relationship cannot go on, in case your partner questions your decision – as he/she has every right to do. Also getting your thoughts in order will help you consider if you are willing to give the relationship another chance. A lot of situations might seem hopeless at first, but with hard work and professional counseling, many couples have been able to start afresh.

Don’t draw it out

Once you have indeed made the decision to break up, decide to go on with it promptly. On the face of it, this might seem contrary to your desire to break up gently but at the end of the day, you will actually doing the other person a big favor. The more you dither about the breakup or put it off for a ‘suitable time’ - which if you are actually unsure of yourself, might never come – the longer you will be drawing off the breakup process and consequently the greater the pain and anxiety you will be causing to your partner. Also make it a point to be discrete. People very close to you like might have inkling that you are in the process of taking a decision, but involve others as little as possible unless you have gone through it completely.

TIP: Download the guide to getting back with your ex.

Prepare yourself

If you wish to leave with as little mess as possible, it would definitely pay to think through in advance of what you are going to say to your partner while announcing the breakup. Decide to speak to your partner at a place where you can talk in private. Likewise set a time when you are least likely to be disturbed, since interruptions can keep a conversation from getting to the point. Do not give more than a few hours’ notice that you want to discuss something important. In fact you could even set a realistic time limit to the meeting if you anticipate endless conversations. While this will allow time for feelings to be expressed, it will prevent from matters being stretched out interminably. Begin by saying that he or she must have realized that this is going to be a different conversation. Gently enumerate the reasons why you believe this relationship is not going to work out but don’t allow for too much expansion. Move on to admit that you have had some wonderful times together and acknowledge your partner’s role in your life.

What not to say to your partner is equally crucial if you wish to end the relationship with a minimum of mess. Don’t start by rattling of the reasons why you don’t like him/her any more. Admit that while personally you don’t like certain things about your partner, others may not have any problem with them and you understand that you are responsible for your own likes and dislikes. Also don’t blame your partner for all the things that have gone wrong in the relationship. This will only lead to a chain of accusations and counter-accusations or promises of improvement from your partner which you may again find hard to evade. Rather, admit that you both had a role to play in the ending of the relationship and it was probably about differing priorities and fulfillments.

Stay calm

Whether or not your partner has been wise to your deteriorating relationship, any announcement of a breakup is bound to cause him/her pain. Recognize that it is natural for him/her to be upset but don’t get defensive or rush into a mud-slinging match since that is not the purpose of your conversation. No matter how hurt and angry you feel, it is your responsibility not to start a row. Accept that nothing you say can possibly make it any easier for your partner to go through all of this. So be kind but at the same time determined to get done with it.

What not to do

If you are looking to end the relationship gracefully, make it a point to do it yourself. The prospect of tears and tantrums from your partner may tempt you to simply to cut off all without giving an explanation. You may figure that if you perhaps stop returning calls, meeting him/her and are ‘unavailable’ all the time, your partner may get the picture and conclude that the relationship is over. However this is not only an unfair and cowardly thing to do but is the easiest way of leaving behind a messy trail of unresolved feelings and guilt at the ending the way you did. For the same reason, don’t just text, leave a message on the answering machine or use the telephone to announce your decision of ending things. Neither ask a friend to pass on your intention or dump the breakup on your partner just before he/she has an important commitment. Also refrain from walking out in the middle of a heated argument when neither of you are seeing things clearly and unless it is a matter of personal safety, avoid breaking up at a public place.

One of the surest ways to establish good will with your soon-to-be ex is to take it on yourself to deal with the practical consequences of breaking up. If you have been living together, have pets or a joint mortgage, consider how to disentangle financial or practical responsibilities that you have shared until now. And if there are kids from the relationship, consider preparing them for what is about to happen. Though this will not lessen the pain of a breakup, it will surely leave a minimum of mess and allow you to part gracefully.

Break ups have a way of being messy, on again-off again affairs, which only end up causing more pain. So if you are trying to move on gracefully, create as much physical distance between you and your new ex as is possible. Stop mailing, texting or calling him/her on the pretext of “continuing to be friends” or “keeping in touch”, unless there are child visitation or other legal issues. Feel free to throw away letters, cards, photos and gifts that your ex might have given you. You could delete emails and photos from your computer or mobile and chuck away all the personal stuff that may be still lying around your place. Alternatively you could return his or her junk, but just mail it instead of taking it over to your ex’s place yourself. At the same time see that this no-contact period is a realistic one – like say a month or four months, depending on how long you have been together. By agreeing to not connect with each other for the said period of time, you give each other the space to grieve, begin emotional separation, and let go to stand on your own two feet again.

No matter who initiates the breakup, it is bound to be painful for both partners who have been together so long. However with a little planning and patience, you can make it a less traumatic and even an amicable way of saying goodbye to each other.