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15 Ways to Exit a Relationship with Dignity

In 1962, Neil Sedaka released the song “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” which went to number one on the Billboard charts, was translated into many languages, and eventually was covered by dozens of artists over the years.

The title of that song is a phrase that has been uttered by countless people over the decades. Love and romance are amazing, but when the time comes to break up, it can be awkward and painful to say the least. Thankfully, there are ways to maintain dignity for both of you. Here’s how:

1. Become clear in your mind about the reasons. Understanding precisely why you’re breaking up will avoid vacillation or vague explanations at the moment of truth.

2. Don’t fade away. Wanting to avoid conflict and awkwardness, some singles simply back off slowly and silently. But slinking away without a conversation doesn’t honor the other person or yourself.

3. Decide ahead of time if you’re open to staying together. At the moment of the breakup, the other person might try to convince you otherwise, giving all the reasons why you’re great together. If you’ve decided for sure it’s time to move on, don’t allow yourself to be persuaded against your better judgment.

4. Believe that telling the truth is always best. Perpetuating the falsehood that you might have a future together is unfair to both of you. There is no better time than right now to tell someone the truth.

5. Don’t drag it out. If you’ve decided it’s time to move on, don’t delay the inevitable.

6. Determine the best setting to break the news. Doing so in private, away from prying eyes, is usually preferred. But if you fear there will be an ugly scene, a public place could be best.

7. Break the news in person. Sorry, but in today’s world of electronic communication, it must be said: breaking up with someone via text, email, or voice message is undignified. Summon your courage, and deliver the news face to face. (Obviously, if you have a long-distance relationship, a phone conversation may have to do.)

8. Don’t send mixed signals. No need to make the other person wonder exactly what’s happening. Say what you have to say clearly and concisely. Avoid talking around the issue.

9. Keep it short and to the point. Sometimes lengthy explanations make things more complicated than they need to be—and allow for words to come out that you might regret later.

10. Be affirming. The other person has qualities that drew you to him/her in the first place. A few sincere compliments can ease the pain.

11. Remember that this isn’t a group decision. The choice is yours to make, and you don’t need the other person to agree or share your point of view.

12. Avoid dredging up old issues. Now’s not the time to discuss old frustrations and fights; now is the time to leave the past behind.

13. Practice your delivery. This is one of the significant moments in life that deserves preparation and rehearsal. Doing so will help keep you from chickening out or saying things you didn’t intend to.

14. Expect some awkwardness. If you have bad news to break, it cannot be delivered without some hurt. But it’s almost certain to evoke more pain if you wait until later to tell it.

15. Keep your private life private. In the era of social media, it’s easy to overshare. It might be appropriate to let others know that your relationship has ended, but it’s not appropriate to tell the world too many details—especially things that would embarrass your ex.