How To Break Up With Someone You Love

Updated June 14, 2024by Regain Editorial Team
Please be advised, the below article might mention trauma-related topics that include suicide, substance use, or abuse which could be triggering to the reader.
Support is available 24/7. Please also see our Get Help Now page for more immediate resources.

Just because you care for someone deeply doesn’t mean that a romantic relationship with them is the right choice for you. There are dozens of reasons why ending things between you may be for the best. Yet it’s still likely to feel difficult and painful since you still have such strong feelings for them. What should you do when you’ve realized you need to break up with someone you love?

Clearly communicating that you no longer want to be together, with no ambiguities, can be a crucial first step. You may also need to deliberately avoid contact for a while afterward so that your feelings for this person don’t weaken your resolve. Leaving the door open for a future friendship isn’t necessarily a bad idea, but it’s often best to give it some time. Breaking up with someone you love can leave you both hurt and vulnerable until you’re able to process it fully.

Get a relationship expert’s advice on navigating your breakup

How do you know when to break up with someone you love?

It may be possible to feel deep affection and desire for someone even when you realize that the two of you aren’t a good fit. But if love isn’t necessarily a sign that you should stay together, what are the signs that you should split up?

Paying attention to your gut feelings could help make things clear. When you’re getting ready to see the other person, do you feel warm and excited, or exhausted and anxious? After you hang out, do you feel refreshed and comforted, or drained and upset? People in healthy relationships can still feel dissatisfied sometimes, but it’s likely not a good sign if you consistently experience negative thoughts and feelings about your partner.

Other warning signs, according to relationship experts, can include:

The people you care about don't like your partner

If your friends and family members are all trying to tell you that your romantic partner isn’t good for you, you might want to ask yourself if they have a point. It’s true that people sometimes have prejudiced or short-sighted reasons for disapproving of a relationship. But in other cases, people may see things you’re having trouble admitting to yourself.

Your partner isn’t meeting your needs

If you constantly perceive that the person you love is letting you down, it could be an indicator that things aren’t working. Your partner might not be giving you the emotional support and affirmation that you need. Or they might simply be failing to live up to the practical, everyday responsibilities that come with sharing their life with you.

You’re staying out of obligation

Do you like the idea of remaining with this person, or do you simply interpret that you have to do it because you’ve put in so much time? Just because you’ve invested lots of energy in the partnership doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you.

Your core values don't line up

If you’re going to build a life together, you may need to agree on the big questions, such as where you want to live, whether you want children, and what kind of lifestyle you need to be happy. If your views on these matters are drastically opposed, you may not have a future with this person.

You perceive that you can’t ask for what you want

Can you count on your partner to listen to and respect your needs? If they dismiss or ignore you when you make sincere requests, the relationship may not be sustainable.

Your partner is abusive

Yes, it’s possible to feel love even for abusers. Research on people experiencing relationship abuse has found that they often still hold positive feelings toward their partners. The fact that you care for someone doesn’t necessarily mean that a relationship with them is healthy for you.

If your partner is emotionally or physically abusive, you can request help personal and anonymously through the National Domestic Violence Hotline. You can connect with trained advocates through their website or by dialing 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). They should be able to advise you and offer assistance in making a plan to get to safety. 

Ilona Titova/EyeEm

Strategies for breaking up with someone you love

Deciding to end a relationship with someone for whom you care is only the first step. Going through with the breakup, and sticking to your decision afterward, can still be a serious challenge. Here are some ways you can make the experience less painful for everyone involved:

Break up in person (if possible)

Breaking up via text message, voicemail, or email can come across as rude and dismissive. An in-person conversation may be the most respectful way to end a relationship. It can signal that you care enough about the other person’s feelings to meet them face-to-face and hear what they have to say.

However, if there’s a good reason why breaking up in person is impractical — for instance if you’re in a long-distance relationship — a phone call may be preferable to letting the relationship drag on. And if your partner is abusive, you should prioritize your own safety, which may mean keeping your distance. 

Be direct and clear

Your love for your partner might make you want to build up slowly to the news that you’re ending the relationship. But according to researchers who have studied how people react to bad news, this may only make things more painful for your partner. 

Leading off with a brief statement like “There’s something important I need to talk to you about” can help your partner mentally prepare for what’s coming. After they’ve had a few seconds to react, you can state clearly and firmly that you want to break up. This method of “ripping the band-aid” may be shocking at first On the other hand, it can prevent you from drawing out a painful experience, and it might make it easier for your ex to emotionally recover. 

Communicate your reasons clearly

When breaking up with someone you love, you might feel the urge to soften the news by being vague about why you want out of the relationship. After all, you don’t want to hurt their feelings. Yet falling back on vague clichés like “we’ve grown apart” could leave your ex sensing that they haven’t gotten the full story, or suspecting that you haven’t been honest about how you feel. This may make it hard for them to accept that the relationship is over.

Of course, you don’t need their consent to stop dating. But if you care about them and want them to have an easier time moving on, spelling out your reasons honestly might be best. You don’t have to be deliberately hurtful, but you may not want to sugar-coat things either. Even though it may be painful, understanding tends to help the other person accept and move on somewhat more efficiently and fully.

Cut off contact for at least a month

Both you and your ex will probably need time to get used to being apart. In the meantime, any contact between you will most likely reinforce the feelings of attachment on both sides. This can draw out the process of recovering emotionally from the breakup, increasing both parties’ feelings of hurt and sadness. 

It’s hard to predict how long it may take before seeing the other person no longer hurts. But giving yourself 30 days or more with no contact should help reduce the sting at least a little bit. 

It’s probably best to avoid snooping on your ex’s Instagram or Twitter during this period as well. Neurological studies show that even looking at a photo of a recent partner can trigger the same parts of the brain involved in cravings for addictive substances. You may want to keep them out of sight and out of mind for a while.

Don’t try to jump into a friendship

If you genuinely love this person, it may be hard to imagine not having them in your life. This can create a strong temptation to replace your romantic relationship with a friendship. However, relationship experts advise against trying to make this transition right away.

When your emotions are still tender after the breakup, and you’re both used to interacting romantically, it may be very difficult to maintain the boundary between love and friendship. This is likely to lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and lingering attachment. It might also create a temptation to engage in romantic or sexual behavior, which can make it even more painful to break off the relationship. You may need to be strangers for a while before you can try to be friends.

Allow yourself to feel bad

You may have complicated feelings about ending a relationship, especially when you’ve broken up with someone you genuinely love. It’s generally best to accept whatever feelings arise instead of trying to push them away or deny them. Research indicates that repressing emotions may only reinforce them in the long run, potentially increasing your risk of poor health and psychological difficulties.

A better approach may be to acknowledge feelings like sadness, anger, and worry, finding appropriate ways to express them. Talking to close friends and relatives can be one helpful outlet, as can writing about your feelings in a journal.

Get a relationship expert’s advice on navigating your breakup

Therapy may make your breakup easier

Whether you need to think through your decision to break up, practice what you’re going to say, or work through your difficult emotions afterward, therapy can probably help. If you’re concerned that searching for a therapist might delay your breakup and recovery, you might want to use an online platform like BetterHelp. Connecting with a mental health professional over the Internet is often faster and easier than trying to do so in person. 

Online therapy can be helpful for a wide range of psychological difficulties. Researchers reviewed more than 90 published studies and found that internet based-counseling was just as effective as seeing a therapist in person. They concluded that online therapy was well-supported as a “legitimate therapeutic activity” that could be useful in dealing with a variety of problems. 

Therapist reviews

"Sonya provides a neutral sounding board for couples. She listened and asked the right questions. She gave great homework that really honed in on our areas of improvement. Through therapy, I discovered that I did not want to continue the relationship. Sonya was able to provide a couple of joint sessions and a couple of individual sessions to close out the relationship which really helped out."

"Dan is amazing at what he does. We were recovering from a potential breakup and what Dan did was focus on why we were together in the first place. Within the first couple of weeks we've noticed a huge increase in morale and a stronger bond to fix our issues when they arise."

Get a relationship expert’s advice on navigating your breakup


When you’re getting ready to break up with someone you love, it can be important to think through your reasons carefully, preparing yourself to make a clean break. Being clear, firm, and direct during the breakup conversation is often the most effective approach. Afterward, you may need to avoid contact and resist the temptation to try to be friends, at least until you’ve given your feelings of love time to fade.

Meet More Therapists

Stephen Robinson - MA, LCMHCS, LCAS

Darcy Dobb - LCSW, MHPP

Cheryl Williams - MA

Dr. Patrick Casthely - LMHC, MCAP, PHD

Dennis Doke - M.S., LMFT-S, LPC-S

Debra Jenkins - MSW, LCSW-C

For Additional Help & Support With Your ConcernsThis website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.
The information on this page is not intended to be a substitution for diagnosis, treatment, or informed professional advice. You should not take any action or avoid taking any action without consulting with a qualified mental health professional. For more information, please read our terms of use.
Get the support you need from one of our therapistsGet Started
This website is owned and operated by BetterHelp, who receives all fees associated with the platform.