How to Break Up Gracefully: 13 Step Plan to Avoid Drama

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Like the old cliche says, breaking up is hard to do.

Here is how to break up with them in a way that is less likely to have them slashing your tires before the evening is out.

1. Do some pre-breakup leg work.

Before you ever tell your partner that you are leaving them is the time to start untangling yourself from the relationship.

This is easy in a short relationship but much more difficult if you live together or have significant financial overlap or kids. The amount of preparation varies so much that it’s difficult to go through it all, but have an idea of your bank account numbers, your passwords, which stuff is yours, etc. If you can, get it out of there before you break it to your ex-partner. If the relationship is short, say a few months, the last time you go to their house, clear out all of your stuff. If you live together, schedule moving trucks for the weekend.

2. Put down all technology.

Don’t tweet, email, text, call or fax them notice that you no longer see a future for your relationship. You don’t want to be the woman who shattered their heart over email. Consider all electronic communication to be “evidence” that will be shared amongst his friends. This is bad news. Avoid. Also, don’t text during the breakup. You must strive to give your soon-to-be ex your full attention. Remember, they aren’t going to need it much longer.

3. Cut the cord in person.

No, it’s not my ideal way to spend an awkward lunch either. But this is a person who at one time you cared about enough to spend time with. You owe it to them to look into their eyes and let them know that you don’t see a future to your relationship.

4. Make a lunch date where you meet them at the location.

Yes, there are serious cons to lunch. For example, you both have to go back to wherever they came from and hold it together for the rest of the day. However, the pro is that they have to leave and the whole thing probably can’t drag on. You only have a set time period to get your message across and then you both have to leave separately. Additionally, you can make plans to start separating all of your stuff if need be for that evening immediately following work. They are less likely to have time to smash all of your stuff AND you don’t have to have an awkward car ride together once your speech is done.

5. Choose an unfamiliar public place like a chain restaurant.

For the location, you need a neutral zone that neither of you frequents. Like the lunch date, there are pros and cons to breaking up in a public place. The cons are that you are dropping an emotional bomb in public and that they might never want to go back to that particular Arby’s again (joke, think mid-market fast casual like Panera Bread), if there are tears, they’re doing it right there in their soup.

The pros of an unfamiliar place are that you can make an exit afterwards, there is a logical conclusion to the interaction and the more severe emotional outbursts are usually avoided. If you choose a fast casual restaurant, you don’t have a server watching your every move so that removes some potential restaurant awkwardness.

6. When it’s time to order, let them order first and just get yourself a beverage in a to-go cup.

This is sneaky, but here’s the reason for this. If you do this correctly, you are aiming to be out of there in 30 minutes or less and will probably be ultra nervous. It’s key that you don’t lose your nerve and turn this into a lackluster lunch at a chain restaurant where you WISH you had said what you wanted to say.

Breakups are so difficult that sometimes they involve multiple tries. You don’t need any distractions. You want to sit down, have them wait for their food and start your spiel. When you are done saying what you need to say, you can grab your beverage and hit the door. If you have to, eat before you ever get there. If you get hangry like I do, you’re going to need fuel to make the breakup speech you give them less brutal.

7. Try for Friday or right before their days off.

If you both have standard 9-5 jobs with the weekends off, Friday lunch is good because if you have to move your stuff out (or they do), you now have Friday night and the weekend to get it done. If you don’t have stuff to grab, then you have provided them the weekend to get over the breakup before having to be seen in public. You don’t want them losing their job over your breakup and never being able to move out of the house.

8. Get an idea in advance of what you’re going to say.

During an emotionally charged breakup speech it’s normal to forget everything and start crying yourself. Keep in mind that they are either going to remember every single word of what you say or be so upset that they remember nothing. This is why it’s to your advantage to be super brief.

Keep in mind that if you’re unhappy enough to want to leave them in the dust, they are likely to be unhappy with the relationship too. You can use this fact to your advantage. If you are totally blindsiding them, breaking up is more difficult.

Say something bland like this: “I have something to say. I haven’t been happy in our relationship in a while and I think it’s best that we go our separate ways.” This is bland and non inflammatory. There isn’t anything to grab onto that they can get seriously angry with, nor is there any accusatory language. Vague is merciful, but not so vague that they don’t understand that your relationship is abruptly careening to an end.

If you say “I can’t do it anymore, you’re an asshole and here are 52 reasons why.” That will just start an argument. The key here is tasteful. Remember, YOU ARE LEAVING THEM. If you do this right, you won’t have to argue with them ever again. If you do it wrong, you had better get ready to dodge before they throw their soup on your head.

9. Prepare potential rebuffs for what they will say next.

The freshly broken up with are an unpredictable bunch. Some people will immediately start bargaining. They will launch right into the reasons why you two should not break up. Their bargaining mode is logical and it will be strange because you’ll have no idea that they are hurt.

There are a bunch of types of reactions to breakups that I’ve gone through here (opens in a new window). But try and get an idea in advance of what kind of person you’re dealing with and what they might say.

  • If you’re blindsiding them, they are much more likely to launch into a “WHYYY! type of monologue.
  • If they aren’t happy in the relationship either, this can either be a relief to them and make your job so much easier, or it can segue-way into lots of fault-finding and finger pointing on their end.

Just try to get an idea in advance of what they might say and come up with some gentle rebuffs.

10. Listen to what they say sympathetically, but don’t get dragged down emotionally.

You don’t want to come across like the cold bitch who never cared about them. This will lead them to want to ask you a whole bunch of questions about the breakup in the future while they try and get closure, wondering if you ever loved them. Don’t let the breakup turn into an argument.

Sympathize with what they say and hear them out within reason. The key here is to not get dragged into an argument at all or be tempted to change your mind. If they are angry, they are likely to say some hurtful things. Let it roll off your back. Keep the goal in sight, namely that you are going to be leaving the restaurant soon.

Warning: Do not get offended by something they say and abruptly leave the restaurant. They are likely to pursue you and this will create drama, precisely what you are trying to avoid.

11. Once you have heard them out, start your closing remarks.

Now that you’ve dropped the axe and heard them out, it’s time to start the process of exiting. Make clear plans to deal with your shared responsibilities (that you have already planned and set up).

Next, say something that naturally closes the conversation like “well I have to get back to work. I will see you at 6pm to get your stuff.” Then GO. If you did this fast, they will still be eating and you don’t have to worry about them trying to walk you to the car or back to work. If not, then say your thing and bolt.

Warning: DO NOT IMPLY THAT YOU SEE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM IN THE FUTURE. Don’t let them rope you into a “friendship” either. Don’t “take time apart.” Don’t agree to “going on a break.” Just say that you think that it’s best if you both give yourselves some time to get over all of this and then make immediate arrangements to deal with your shared responsibilities.

12. When it’s time to separate your stuff, bring a friend.

Even if you’re getting one item, bring backup. The reason is that if you bring a spectator, it’s harder to get into a drawn-out discussion about the breakup. You want your calmest friend who won’t get involved or say much of anything to your ex. Instruct them to be very quiet. You just want them there to make it easier for you to get in, deal with both of your items and get it done. If they are moving out, still have a friend there. Three makes company, and you are so much less likely to have to deal with your ex hanging around trying to discuss things with you.

13. Once you get your shared business done, it’s time to go no contact.

This sounds cold but this is why you want to give the right breakup speech that doesn’t leave them wishing and hoping for a reconciliation. Even if you did the breaking up, you are likely to need healing also. You can’t heal if your ex is constantly popping up to reopen the wound.

If you can, delete them from all of your technology so that you aren’t tempted to contact them at 2am. You also don’t need to see what they are up to to make you wonder if you made the right choice by leaving them. Unfriend them on Facebook. Unfollow them on Twitter. Get them off of all other social media.

I hope this helped you with your break up. What challenges are you facing in separating from someone? Tell me your thoughts in the comments!

Has your guy pulled away from you? If you’re in this situation and wondering what to do, get a free copy of my new book “Why Men Lose Interest” and my free daily email series here.

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About Elizabeth Stone

Elizabeth Stone is an author and founder of Attract The One.

Her popular program Ex Attraction Formula, has helped hundreds of women reunite with their men. She is thrilled to have helped so many people reignite the spark in their relationships.

Tirelessly focused on helping people improve their love lives, her work has been featured on Tiny Buddha, EHarmony Blog, YourTango, Thought Catalog, Fox News Magazine and more.

5 Comments

  1. klaudia

    November 6, 2014 at 5:45 am

    The only problem with breaking up with my boyfriend is his stuff. The first time I tired breaking up with him, he told me to keep it all. I can’t throw the things away but I don’t want them. I want to give him clothing of his back at least.

    • Attract The One

      Elizabeth Stone

      November 6, 2014 at 12:22 pm

      Hi Klaudia, that sounds difficult indeed. It sounds like you’re dealing with someone who is not quite thinking clearly, so unfortunately you have to make the decision for him. Sending you positive energy!

  2. Wendy Jessup

    June 14, 2015 at 10:29 pm

    My bf and I live together have been engaged for almost a year. He is disabled and receives ssi and now thinks getting married will be to hard for me financially. If we were married his ss benefits stop. I think I will manage finances well and think he’s just using this as an excuse. I feel like we should break up. He is pretty adament and in some ways I feel trapped in this relationship. He also has changed his mind about having children. I don’t even know whatto do. I can’t just throw him out on street. Sigha. Any suggestion”

  3. Angie

    October 14, 2015 at 10:35 am

    I am about to break up with my girlfriend of almost 10 months. It’s been a strained relationship from the begining. It was supposed to be a friend with benefits kind of arrangement that lead to dating and now a full blown, every weekend she’s at my house from Friday to Monday deal. She is very attached to me and I know this is going to be hard for us both. I tried the “let’s take a break” with her last weekend and it was a failure after she begged me to not to do it, give it another try. The above steps have given me some ideas and make perfect sense. Wish me luck…I hate hurting her more than anything and is the reason I haven’t done it before now but I know that staying with her out of guilt is not the right thing to do.

    • Elizabeth Stone

      October 14, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      Wishing you luck Angie! It’s never, ever easy, even when you know the relationship is not the right one for you. Sending you love!

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