Keep It Civil: 10 Ways to Tactfully End a Relationship

Nicole Johnson offers ten ways to end a relationship with class and composure.


Breakups are never easy.

Whether you dated someone for 90 days, nine months, or were in a marriage for decades, the decision to end a relationship is painful. Aside from the inherent pain, breakups can become quite cruel. It’s tempting to want to hurt your ex as a way of validating your anger and sadness. The immediate urge to protect your wounded ego can cause you to lose perspective.

Regardless of how much anguish you feel, please try to keep your dissolution dignified. The more ethical you act, the more elevated you will feel. Moreover, remaining in a perpetual state of negativity is emotionally and physically detrimental.

Here are ten ways to gracefully end your relationship:

Demonstrate civility.

Strive to be kind and respectful in-person and through your written correspondence. Avoid being spiteful or passive aggressive.

Don’t spread lies.

The truth always finds a way of rising to the surface. You would not want your ex spreading lies about you; don’t be tempted to distort the truth.

Never say anything disparaging in public (even if it’s true).

People will perceive you as petty and heartless if you are constantly saying negative remarks about your ex. Furthermore, persistent negativity will keep you in a negative state. Practice staying polite and positive.

Plan ahead.

When you know you need to engage in verbal or written correspondence with your ex, review your strategy. Plan out what you would like to convey (as courteously as possible). This will definitely help deter you from saying something you may regret.

Display poise and maturity.

When encountering your ex’s family, friends, colleagues, etc. represent yourself to the best of your ability. Don’t let them bate you. Maintain your dignity; always take the high road.

Practice generosity.

Agree to split your accumulated assets equally. Know when to let your ex have something they desperately want – or legally deserve. Avoid the temptation of greed.

Exhibit empathy.

If your ex (compassionately) reaches out to you via phone, email, or text for an appropriate reason, always send them some type of reasonable response. Habitual silence can be exceptionally devastating during the initial phase of a breakup.

Use a prepared script.

When dealing with friends and family, stick to a standard statement as to why your relationship ended. Rehearse what you are going to say; memorize your script. This will reduce your anxiety and keep you sharp in social settings. (I know this is an overstated point, but please, never say disparaging remarks about your ex on social media.)

Know when to ask for help.

If the two of you can not end your relationship amicably, ask for the assistance of a mediator. Also, if you are struggling and can not get beyond your breakup, seek out the services of an experienced therapist.

If you have children, put their needs before your own.

Your children are your primary responsibility; focus on their health and happiness. Additionally, do not disrespect your ex in front of your children. Adult acrimony and apathy should never impair a child’s development.


Photo courtesy of Shutterstock


About Nicole Johnson

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  1. This is 100% stupid and I wish I could get my time back that I wasted on reading this garbage

  2. Bate you or bait you?

  3. Alice Spaulding says:

    Thank you for lots of good advice. However, isn’t it “don’t let them *bait* you” — not *bate*?

  4. Jonathan Camilleri says:

    Sing to her…Bye bye lover bye… in your privacy, or post it on facebook 🙂

  5. wellokaythen says:

    Looks very sensible to me. Generally good advice.

    #7, though, seems a bit troublesome. Yes, silence can be devastating, but it is also important that there be a clear break in the relationship. There are many exes who will use this as an opportunity to rehash the relationship or drag you into an autopsy about what went wrong. Sometimes, because of the behavior of the ex, silence is in fact absolutely necessary. Once you’ve broken up, he/she is no longer obligated to listen to everything you have to say. He/she has the right to make you a much lower priority now.

    Of course, if it is a reasonable communication, then be polite, but sometimes the reasonable request is just a ploy to get your attention for something entirely unreasonable. Every ex has a right to be cautious when it comes to communicating with an ex after a break-up.

    If your ex’s silence is hurtful to you after the break-up, then YOU have some work to do on yourself. He/she is not responsible for healing the hurt from the silence between you. Leaving you alone is not an attack on you. Boundaries, people.

  6. My ex should have read this. He decided to just disappear and not return my calls after almost 2 years. Jerk.


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