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Breakup Etiquette: What to Say When End Relationship & Tips

Doing what is counterintuitive is often the way to heal.

The list of things you shouldn’t say or do during a breakup is long, much longer than the list of things you should say and do as you say goodbye. Everyone has a story or two to share about a painful breakup, one where hurtful things were said and done, leaving wounds that would take years to truly heal. If only men and women would try harder during a breakup to break up with grace, our collective wounds would be less severe. Good breakup etiquette actually serves everyone's best interests, including yours, because you’ll carry less baggage into your next relationship if the breakup isn’t ugly.

1. When you know that you’re truly going to leave the relationship, don’t stay longer to avoid hurting your partner.

Far too many men and women stay in relationships well past the point that they know they don’t want to be in the relationship any longer. The tendency to stay longer makes sense: Most people don’t want to hurt the other partner. The problem is that your partner has instincts and can probably sense your retreat inside the relationship, so you’re not doing him or her any favors by prolonging your partner’s sadness.

2. Don’t yell, scream, or name-call at the very end of the relationship.

By the time one or both partners have decided to call it quits, everything has already been said and done. Sure, a year from that point, you may have new insights about the relationship, but those won’t come until you have time for peace and reflection. Allowing things to get ugly at the very end reflects a last-ditch attempt at immediate gratification, but the truth is that the real gratification left the relationship a long time ago – the precise reason why you’re breaking up. Call a spade a spade and start the process of moving on.

3. As you officially end the relationship, tell your soon-to-be ex that a part of you will miss him or her.

No matter how upsetting a relationship may have been, both partners will have moments where they’ll miss each other because there was once an attachment. A simple statement, like this one, acknowledges that you spent a lot of time together and respect the fact that you once had warm and loving feelings for each other. Including this ceremonial statement is a way of honoring the relationship and keeping an eye on the big picture.

4. Immediately after the breakup, do not start dating anyone else.

One of the most common tendencies men and women have is to try to jump into a relationship with someone new after another relationship has ended. Though going on a simple date with someone a week or two after the breakup may seem harmless to you, your previous partner could find out about it and feel extremely hurt as a result. Even in the case that your old partner would never find out, spending time with someone new so soon after your relationship ended isn’t good for you, either. In fact, distracting yourself in this way will prevent you from going through some of the natural mourning steps that must take place in order for you to truly heal from the loss and—wait for it—learn from it!

5. A month after the breakup, send a kind but breezy email to your ex and say that you hope he or she is doing well.

In most cases, it’s best to not get into a back-and-forth exchange, so leave it at one or two emails and then let it go. After all, it’s time to move on—remember? Most of all, don’t contact each other too soon after the breakup. Both of you will probably be flooded with mixed up feelings, and you don’t want to open the (romantic) door and confuse things. But sending an email an month or so after the breakup is a kind way to show that you haven't forgotten about your partner.

Feel free to check out my book on how to stop repeating the same old, dysfunctional patterns in your relationships, Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve, or follow me on Twitter!