How to End a Relationship Properly and Respectfully

It's easy to behave well at the beginning of a relationship, whether personal or professional, when everything seems perfect. The true measure of your character, however, is how you act when ending the relationship. As the saying goes, how you leave is more important than how you start.

Ending a relationship is rarely pleasant, making it tempting to take the easy and selfish way out without considering the other person's feelings. However, there are five key reasons why you should make the extra effort to end a relationship gracefully and respectfully:

1. It's the lasting impression you'll leave. Regardless of how many nice things you did, the lasting memory will be about how you ended things and how you made the other person feel during the breakup.


2. You never know where life will take you and that person. Who knows what role that person might play in your future. Just because you aren't right for each other now doesn't mean things won't change later.

3. You might come out ahead. Leaving a relationship disrespectfully will only confirm any negative feelings the other person has about you. Conversely, showing proper respect might lead the other person to eventually see you in a better light.

4. You want to prevent escalation. Avoid dramatic scenarios like “and then she set his car on fire.” When emotions run high, messy breakups can escalate quickly. Don’t add fuel to the fire.

5. It's the right thing to do. This is the most important reason. Display kindness and empathy towards others. Ending a relationship can hurt the other person in various ways.

So, how do you end a relationship properly and respectfully? Here are 12 actions to take:

1. Do it face-to-face in a suitable setting. Unless you’re in a long-distance relationship, take the time and effort to meet the other person in person. And don’t do it in a place where you can’t have a sincere conversation, like a noisy restaurant.

2. Fulfill your promises and commitments. If you promised to do something, just do it or at least try to, as long as it isn't something like "never break up with you" or "make love every day." If you can’t fulfill your commitments, try your best to find alternatives for the person.

3. Don’t leave the other person in a vulnerable position. Saying "it's best we end our relationship. I wish you all the best with your upcoming surgery, the funeral you're attending this weekend, and dealing with the fire at your home. Instead, take the time to ensure that the other person has a safe landing.

4. Don’t keep blaming the other person. Telling the other person how terrible they are may make you feel better for a moment, but it will only convince them of how awful you are. Remember, if a relationship hasn’t been working out, chances are the other person has their complaints about you too.

5. Admit what you didn’t do well. If you think all the fault lies with the other person, you may have identified a key reason why the relationship didn’t work out: you. This indicates a lack of self-awareness and insight.

6. Be direct and honest. Don’t say things like "it's me, not you" when you know the real reason you’re leaving. The other individual should be informed of the truth.

7. Avoid clich├ęs. Using worn-out lines like "sorry it didn’t work out, good luck" can make the other person feel like the recipient of a generic social media post. Avoid sounding cold and impersonal.

8. Expect nothing from the other person. Once you initiate a breakup, the other person no longer owes you anything. Don’t expect them to answer your probing questions, continue offering you support, or entertain you in any way.

9. Don’t wait for the other person to ask if you’re leaving. If you’re about to take action that will end the relationship, tell the other person first. They shouldn’t have to ask you or find out from others.

10. Don’t brag about yourself or try to make the person miss you. Saying something like "Good luck finding someone as good as me" as you leave is adding insult to injury. It could leave the person thinking, "Yeah, I’d like to find someone who wouldn’t kick me while I’m down."

11. Don’t expect the other person to chase you. Never use a breakup as a threat or a way to gain leverage in a relationship. Once you start leaving in any capacity, you’re showing that you’re a flight risk and not committed to the relationship. Any self-respecting person won’t grovel after being dumped. If you later want to reverse the breakup, it will be all on you.

12. Don’t make everything about you. Show empathy. If you can’t understand how your leaving might negatively affect the other person, you’ve revealed a central reason why your relationship didn’t work out: too much self-centeredness on your part.

All in all, when ending things, take the long view. Avoid actions that you may regret later. Remember what you might be leaving behind when you end a relationship.

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