How To Break Up With Someone, Even If They Think You’re The One

How To Break Up With Someone, Even If They Think You’re The One

Francesca Bond


February 25, 2024

Francesca Bond

Relationships Editor

By Francesca Bond

Relationships Editor

Francesca Bond is mindbodygreen’s relationships editor.

Image by Leire Cavia / Stocksy

February 25, 2024

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They say it’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all, but that is not how it feels when you’re trying to figure out how to leave a relationship while crushing yourself and your partner as little as possible. I’ve always likened it to vomiting: considering a breakup is nauseating, while having the breakup conversation feels like throwing up. Meanwhile, the breakup’s aftermath—when you’re all shaky, exhausted, and maybe a little relieved—is similar to recovering from being sick. It’s just all around unpleasant (but!) also a sometimes necessary and nearly universal part of life.

How to know if it’s time to break up

There are times when you somehow just know which decision to make, and then there are times when you can’t decipher your own feelings. Either way—breaking up is famously hard to do.

“Breaking up with a romantic partner can be emotionally traumatizing,” says licensed marriage and family therapist Annalyse Lucero, MS, LMFT, LSAA. “Your lives are enmeshed in many ways.”

In both short-term and long-term relationships, we tend to put a lot of thought into break-ups, says licensed therapist Maria Sosa, M.S., MFT. No one wants to be seen as “the bad guy,” after all.

If you’re considering a break-up, therapists recommend you look for the following signs. And don’t forget—simply wanting to break up with someone is enough of a reason to do it.

1. The trust is gone

Once trust has broken down within a relationship, it can be hard (but not impossible) to repair your bond. It usually takes commitment from both partners to rebuild trust.

Betrayal due to lack of care and compassion for your emotions or crossing boundaries in the relationship can erode trust,” Lucero says. “If you’ve tried to build trust and it’s just not working, it’s a big sign that it’s time to move on.”

2. You’re no longer interested in creating happy moments together

Relationships thrive when both partners are committed to creating happy moments together, whether that means going out for date night, listening to each other talk about their days, traveling together, or showing love to each other.

“Happiness is an experience that you create and if you find yourself lacking interest in creating opportunities to experience happiness with your partner that is a sign that the relationship is needing repair,” Lucero says.

3. You’ve been thinking about breaking up for a long time

People often stay in relationships they no longer want to be in because they’re scared of hurting their partner’s feelings—but that hurts everyone involved.

“We’re kind of prolonging the inevitable,” Sosa says. “It takes a lot of courage to push past that point.”

4. You simply want to break up

It’s okay to want to break up with someone, even if they didn’t really do anything wrong, Lucero says.

The biggest reason to break up with someone is simply because you want to. If you feel you’re unhappy and want to move on or see what else is out there, that’s okay!” Lucero says. “We can normalize that some relationships end for no big reason.”

Tips for breaking up with someone (even if you still love them or they think you’re the one)

1. Figure out a short-term plan before breaking up

Whether you live with your partner or not, you’ll likely need to disentangle your lives pretty quickly in the aftermath of a breakup.

Lucero recommends doing some of the work before the break-up so that you make sure your immediate needs are met. That means figuring out your living arrangement, finances, and anything else linked to your partner that you’ll need to separate in the short-term.

2. Speak in “I” statements

There are two sides to every relationship, and it’s likely that both partners contributed to the need to break up.

You’ll want to take accountability for the breakup by speaking in “I” statements, not “you” statements, Sosa says. By focusing on your own thoughts and feelings, you’re able to play less of a blame game and better explain your reasons for breaking up.

For example, you could say “I don’t think this is a good fit for me anymore” as opposed to “You’re not a good person for me.” If you’re breaking up over a specific reason, try saying something like, “I was really hurt and I don’t know how I can rebuild trust,” or “I don’t know if I want to continue in a relationship that feels like this.'”

“[It’s a] similar sentiment, but a different way of saying it,” Sosa says. “As opposed to, ‘There’s something wrong with you.'”

3. Don’t rush the conversation

It may be tempting to start and finish the break-up conversation as quickly as possible, but it’s a better idea to spend as much time as necessary talking it out with your partner.

Try to avoid starting the conversation on a busy day when either or both of you expect to leave soon to do something else.

“We want to make sure that we’re allowing for that person to process, to talk with us about it to understand it better, and to just be a mutual conversation,” Sosa says.

4. Be clear in your explanation

Do your emotional homework before breaking up with someone. Understanding your motivations for breaking up will help you remain strong in your decision, and help your partner face the facts.

It’s understandable to want to keep the real reasons behind the breakup to yourself to avoid potentially hurting your partner’s feelings, according to Sosa, but it’s best to be clear and honest in your explanation.

“When you’ve made the decision to end a relationship, it’s important to take actions that align with your values. Really consider who you are and what you stand for,” Lucero says. “I believe that being honest and direct may be uncomfortable, but in the end, you will leave the relationship feeling proud of what choices you’ve made.”

5. Show empathy and don’t be cruel

There’s a difference between compassionately explaining your reasons for ending a relationship and being cruel.

“We don’t have to tell them all the details,” Sosa says. “The general understanding of what happened and why things are ending is always really good for our mental health as opposed to leaving us with these open-ended questions, which feel like there’s a lack of closure.”

If your partner is having a difficulty coming to terms with your break-up, encourage them to seek support from their friends, family and a therapist, Lucero says.

6. You may need to have more than one conversation

We tend to think of breakups as one-and-done conversations, but as anyone who has left a long-term relationship can tell you, they’re rarely over in one fell swoop.

The amount of time you’ve been together can indicate the number of conversations you’ll need to have about your breakup.

If you’ve been together for just a few months, you may only need to have one or two conversations about your breakup. But if you’ve been together for years, or are married, or have children together, then expect to detangle your lives and unpack your breakup over a longer period of time.

“There does seem to be a need for more conversations, more clarity, more understanding, more logistics, if you live together,” Sosa says. “It’s not just about, ‘These are my feelings.’ It’s now, ‘What do we do? How do we divide things up?’ So it isn’t so straightforward as we talked about it once and that was it and now we’ve moved on.”

A willingness to talk things through with your partner more than once also shows that you care about them and how they process your breakup.

7. But the conversation can’t go on forever

On the flip side, there is such a thing as too much post-break-up communication.

“Having these conversations for weeks at a time makes it really, really hard to end the relationship,” Sosa says.

Too much talking can lead you to overthink or agonize over the break-up, she says.

At some point, you must reach a point where you explain that there’s nothing left to say and you both need to find a way to begin moving on.

How to cope post-breakup

Regardless of how well the break-up went, you’ll need to look after your mental and emotional health. Losing your partner—someone with whom you might have spent the majority of your time right up until the breakup—will probably cause strong feelings of grief, according to Lucero.

You might feel a confusing mixture of emotions, including sadness, shame, guilt, resentment, relief, freedom, hope, or even numbness. Give yourself compassion and time to process the breakup, then you can heal.

“Let yourself feel whatever comes up and create new routines that bring experiences of peace, calmness, and healing. Be around people who love you,” Lucero says.

The age-old question: Can I be friends with my ex?

You probably already know the answer: it depends.

It feels natural to some people to remain friends with their ex, Lucero says, while others can’t stand the sight of their ex.

When deciding whether you want to continue being around your ex, pay close attention to your feelings. You may want to work through your breakup with a therapist to gain a better understanding of yourself and your emotions.

“There may be aspects to that relationship you miss and feel you can only find with that person. These may also be distorted thoughts that need to be challenged,” Lucero says. “Therapists are trained to help you through this process without projecting their own bias.”

There are no rules for the “perfect” breakup. Maybe you decide to stay friends with your ex and change your mind at some point—it’s up to you. Similarly, make sure to respect your ex’s decision if they want to cut off contact with you after a breakup.

“You can try things out and figure out what works best for you,” Sosa says.

The takeaway

There is no easy way out of a relationship. From contemplating, to executing, to processing a breakup, every stage tends to be pretty difficult. But on the bright side, breaking up is a nearly universal experience, so there’s an abundance of wisdom out there that can help you deal with the aftermath. Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes life involves doing hard things.

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