How To Break Up With Someone: What Words To Use (And Avoid)

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You’ve probably heard the phrase “breaking up is hard to do.” That’s because it is. Ending a relationship and being honest with someone about your feelings is rarely easy, but it’s a necessary part of life that every person goes through at some point. One thing that can make it easier when it’s time to break up is thinking carefully about the exact words you plan to use.

Breakups are often sad, but that doesn’t mean they have to be unkind, hurtful, or tense. They also don’t need to be so cordial and kind that your soon-to-be ex is left wondering, “Are you breaking up with me?”

There are a lot of words and phrases you can use that let someone know they’re valued and respected by you, but the romance part of your relationship has definitely fizzled out. If you’re looking for the right way to say “it’s over” without any drama or confusion, here are eight of the best breakup words to use and five you should skip.

The best breakup words to use

1. different

Often, breakups occur because of differences. Maybe you have different ideas about your long-term future or different priorities in your current life. Different means “not alike in quality or character, distinct in nature, dissimilar.” It’s a present participle of the Latin differre, meaning “to scatter, disperse.” Differences don’t always have to cause you to disperse, but if they’re too great to overcome, you might say:

  • We’re going in different directions.
  • We want different things out of life, and it’s important for us both to find partners who support that.
  • We have different priorities, and I don’t think we’re a good long-term match.

Before there was ghosting, there was the Dear John letter. Learn more about “Dear John” and old dating slang with this roundup of classic gems.

2. value

No two people are exactly alike, but shared values are important in a successful relationship. In a personal relationship, value refers to ethics and your ideals and customs. Maybe you and your partner have drastically different political views or differ greatly on your ideas about home and family. Differing values aren’t always insurmountable, but it’s important to be honest when they cause issues that can’t be fixed. Here’s what to say:

  • Our values don’t align, and the difference is too big to overcome.
  • I think our different values will lead to unhappiness, and neither of us deserves that.
  • I respect your values, but I also know that I need something different from a partner.

3. future

Sometimes a relationship is good in the short term, but isn’t the right situation to carry forth into the future. That future may be a month from now or what you imagine will happen in several years. Future simply means “something that will happen in time to come,” and it’s an important consideration when choosing a partner. You might say:

  • We want different things for our future.
  • I’ve enjoyed the time we’ve spent together, but I don’t see a future for us as a couple.
  • I don’t think this relationship aligns with our future goals.

4. long-term

Not every relationship or romantic connection is meant to go the distance. If you’re casually dating, you might run into situations where you have to tell someone you don’t feel the connection will last long term. In those instances, polite honesty is the best course of action.

  • It’s been wonderful getting to know you, but I’m not interested in a long-term relationship.
  • You’re a lovely person, but I don’t think we have the spark to stay together long term.
  • Our long-term goals aren’t the same, and I think we should go our separate ways.

5. intimacy

Intimacy is sometimes used as a sort of code word for a physical relationship, but that’s not all it means. Intimacy is “a close, familiar, and usually affectionate or loving personal relationship with another person or group.” And when it’s lacking or developing way too fast, that can be a red flag for a relationship. If intimacy is a driving force for you in wanting to end a relationship, you might say something like:

  • I’m just not ready for this level of intimacy.
  • I feel our relationship is lacking the kind of intimacy it needs to continue.
  • I need a certain level of intimacy from a partner, and I don’t feel that in this relationship.

6. respect

It may not seem like it, but breakups have a lot to do with respect. Respect means “esteem for or a sense of the worth or excellence of a person.” Even though ending a relationship can feel sad and disappointing, it’s ultimately an act of respecting your own needs and the needs of the other person enough to know that you both deserve to be in a better situation.

  • I respect you enough to be honest with you, so I need to let you know this relationship isn’t working for me.
  • I respect the time we’ve both put into making this relationship work, but I think it’s time for us to move on.

7. happy

Breakups aren’t typically a happy occasion, but they are rooted in each person’s desire to ultimately find happiness. Often, when a relationship ends, it’s because one or both people understand that their current partnership isn’t contributing to their overall happiness or well-being. When you care about someone, their happiness matters as much as your own, so you might say:

  • We both deserve a chance to find happiness.
  • We aren’t happy right now, and I care enough about you to want both of us to find what makes us happy.
  • The compromises we’re making aren’t keeping either of us happy, and I think it’s time for us to move on.

“Love” is only one word for the different emotions it can represent. Discover many of the words the Ancient Greeks had for love in its different forms.

8. difficult

Difficult means ​​”not easily or readily done; requiring much labor, skill, or planning to be performed successfully; hard.” Relationships may go through hard times, but it’s not uncommon for them to end if being with someone day-to-day feels consistently difficult. Try a phrase like one of these:

  • At this point in our relationship, it shouldn’t be this difficult to find a compromise.
  • It’s too difficult for us to get on the same page, and I don’t think we’re a good long-term match.
  • We have more difficulties than successes, and I think that’s a sign this isn’t working.

Breakup words to avoid

1. settle

No matter how it’s used, the word settle has the potential to be hurtful in a breakup speech. The common breakup phrase “I’m just not ready to settle down” can end up sounding like an insincere cliché.

Settle can also imply resigned satisfaction, rather than true happiness, as in, “I’m just settling for you” or “I feel like I’d just be settling in this relationship.” No one wants to feel like they are the inferior choice as a relationship partner. Even if you feel like your soon-to-be ex is not your ideal match, it’s important to be kind.

2. better

Comparison words, like better, are a surefire way to introduce conflict in a breakup. Better means “of superior suitability, advisability, desirability, acceptableness, etc.; preferable.” Whether you’re saying you deserve better or you want to find someone better, this word has the potential to be unnecessarily hurtful. And, really, the last thing any breakup needs is more heartache.

3. should

If you’re splitting up, don’t dwell on things you wish your partner had done differently. Should means “must; ought to” and is generally used to talk about things we want to change. You may have plenty you wish to change about your ex-flame, but they don’t need a laundry list of things they should have done better or differently to make you happy. That’s likely to turn a dignified breakup into one full of drama and arguing. Instead, focus on the good times you had together and try to move on with grace and respect for one another.

4. always/never

A lot of relationship counselors will tell you to avoid always or never statements, such as, “You always do this” or “You never do that.” That’s because these sorts of statements are often exaggerations and can cause people to immediately go on the defensive.

Always means “every time; on every occasion; without exception.” Never means “not ever, not at any time.” We all make mistakes in relationships, but chances are neither of you literally always or never did certain things. For a more peaceful end to your union, shift away from words like these that imply judgment and blame.

5. friends

It might be tempting to say something like, “I think we’re better off as friends” or “I hope we stay friends.”

Those statements are fine if you really mean them, but if you don’t intend to continue a friendship with your ex, it’s better to leave the word friend unsaid. Remember, a friend is “a person attached by feeling or personal regard.” If your goal is to sever all ties, don’t try to soften the blow by promising a friendship you don’t intend to deliver on.

What are "words of affirmation"? Learn to speak this love language with family and friends.

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