How to end a relationship (whilst remaining a gentleman)

Wondering how to break up with someone? You can minimise the awkwardness, hurt and confusion with our guide on breaking up like a gentleman...

Breakups are rough. They really are. If you’re staring an impending breakup in the face, you have our greatest sympathies. And if you are, indeed, facing an inevitable end to what was, once, a source of joy in your life: chances are, you’re wondering just how to go about it.

If you’ve been with your other half for many years and are currently cohabiting in a cosy haven of domestic bliss, the breakup is going to need some serious consideration. If you’ve been dating for a couple of months, that’s almost harder: you don’t know each other as well, you aren’t able to speak as openly. We know breakups can be tricky terrain to navigate: so we’ve put together a handy guide on this much-feared area of relationships: to ensure that — whatever happens — you handle the breakup like the gentleman we know you are.

1. Be Kind

It’s a pretty universal rule for life, really; kindness and empathy should be two qualities that every gentleman prioritises above all else, at all times. But where breakups are concerned, kindness should rule all. It has to. It doesn’t matter whether the other person can see it coming or not; it doesn’t matter whether the breakup is mutual; it doesn’t matter if your other half has treated you terribly throughout the whole relationship. Be kind.

We’re not saying it’s easy. The other person might be angry; they might be upset; they might lash out at you, due to injured pride, hurt feelings and a state of shock. But throughout, you need to remain a true gentleman. Don’t tell them everything you don’t like about them, or everything they did wrong in the relationship — there’s no need for that now. Take the time to hear them out, and give their feelings the respect they deserve.

2. Know that it’s what you really want

Of course, it’s all very well saying ‘be kind’; but we understand that something more specific may be useful if you’re wondering how, exactly, to break someone’s heart in a ‘kind’ way. So we’ll start with the intent behind the breakup.

Are you sure, without any shadow of a doubt, that this is something you really want? Have you given the matter the thought and consideration it requires? Because there’s no use breaking someone’s heart, and then deciding the next day that you don’t actually want to break up after all. That’s when the mixed messaging and confusion starts — cue bucketloads of tears on all sides. There’s nothing kind about indecision, gents.

3. Do it in person (or at the very least, over the phone)

Ok, so having established that you absolutely, definitely, unequivocally want to break up: do the gentlemanly thing, and do it in person. We’re sure you’ve never ended a relationship over text, so we won’t delve into the ungentlemanly elements of the WhatsApp breakup; but we will insist on an in-person meeting.

Of course, given the year we’ve all had, we know that in-person meetings aren’t always possible — so if we’re ever in another lockdown-type scenario, a phone call is just about acceptable.

4. Don’t put it off: there’s never a ‘right time’

This is a crucial one. It’s completely understandable to want to put off a breakup; as we’ve established, they’re unutterably grim. But if you catch yourself making excuses as to why it’s the ‘wrong time’, or the ‘wrong setting’: grit your teeth and do it.

There’s no ‘good time’ to break up with someone. Once you start thinking about it like that, you’ll find reasons every single day for why it’s ‘not the right time’. The sooner you can do it, the better — otherwise, you’re just stringing someone along, and it’ll be all the more painful for the other party when you do, finally, get around to it. Nobody wants to be strung along, gents.

5. Communicate your feelings

Ah, communication. It seems as though everyone in the world is perpetually harping on about ‘good communication’, doesn’t it? But we’re going to join the harping hoards, because good communication in a breakup is key.

We’ve already said that it’s not kind to list everything you don’t like about your other half when you’re dumping them, and we stand by that. But you do need to explain why, exactly, you want this relationship to end. Saying, ‘I just don’t see it going any further’, won’t cut it; the other party will (understandably) want to know why — especially if you’ve previously professed undying love to each other. Try to establish exactly why you want the relationship to end, and then translate that to the other person in the most compassionate way possible. 

We know: it’s hard. But we have faith in you; and there are more ways to do this than you may initially think. Are your values different? Do you want the same things? Do you enjoy the same things? Do your schedules align? Of course, it may be that your romantic feelings have just dissipated over time, and that’s a perfectly acceptable thing to feel: so long as you don’t try to imply that it’s their fault. Because (spoiler): it’s not.

6. Remember the aftercare

No, we’re not talking about after sun lotion here — we’re talking about continuing the gentlemanly behaviour after the difficult breakup conversation has been had. The necessity for gentlemanly behaviour doesn’t cease as soon as you’ve left the heartbroken scene: being a gentleman isn’t something to turn on and off, and this extends to breakups.

Whatever you do, don’t make contact after you’ve broken up. You need to give your (ex-) partner time and space, and you definitely don’t want to inadvertently make them think there’s a chance you might want to get back together. That’ll just mess with their head. Everything there was to say should have been said at the time.

And be considerate in the weeks that follow. If you happen to meet someone new, we’d advise thinking twice before splashing that new relationship all over social media. If you’ve both been invited to the same party and you know it would upset them to see you there, it might be best not to attend that particular party — sorry, gents.

We know: it can be tough. But that’s why kindness and consideration are such highly valued, gentlemanly qualities — they’re not easy. It’s so much easier to be inconsiderate or to put yourself first; but trust us when we say that doing the hard thing will often be the right thing, even if it’s hugely inconvenient at the time. Keep fighting that courteous fight — and best of luck with the breakup.

Looking for even more ways to be the perfect gentleman? Here are 20 things that make a man a gentleman in a post-Covid world

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