How to Break Up With Someone

It's over. Here's advice for teens on how to break the news.

Medically Reviewed by Hansa D. Bhargava, MD on December 04, 2011
From the WebMD Archives

When you first started dating, you were so into your boyfriend/girlfriend. Now you're just not feeling it anymore. You want out.

How do you break up without making someone miserable -- or making them hate you forever?

Don't stress -- that's not good for you. But first, here's what NOT to do:

  • Don't tell your friends before you break up.
  • Don't post it on Facebook.
  • Don't text or email it.

Here's why.

Don't Text the Bad News

You may be tempted to text a breakup to avoid arguments and tears. But don't go there.

When it comes to breaking up, "text messages suck," says Annie Fox, MEd, author of The Teen Survival Guide to Dating and Relating. "It's cold and it's unnecessarily disrespectful."

But many teens do it. In a survey, 30% of 13-to-17-year-olds said they'd either broken up with, or been dumped by, someone via text message.

Changing your Facebook status from "In a relationship" to "Single" is also not the way to tell your boyfriend or girlfriend you're through.

If you post it, "everybody gets to comment, and you're bringing everybody into your world," says teen psychologist Jennifer Hartstein, PsyD.

Instead, think about how you'd want someone to break up with you, and try to do the same thing.

The Best Way to Break Up

Ask yourself why you want to end the relationship. "You really need to know why you're doing this," Fox says. "Because if someone is breaking up with you, the first question you always ask is, 'Why? Did I do something wrong?'"

If you've started to like someone else, that's OK. Or if you just don't feel the same way you used to, that's fine, too.

You can't blame yourself for falling out of love. But still, don't be mean. Make sure you treat the other person with respect.

If the person you're dating hasn't respected your feelings -- or worse, has been aggressive or violent -- you have more than enough reason for wanting out.

Do It in Person

Once you know why you want to end the relationship, "Be honest with yourself. And then be honest when you talk with them -- privately, face-to-face," Fox says.

Know that no matter how gently you handle the breakup, you're going to hurt the other person's feelings, Hartstein says. That's something you need to accept.

"When you say, 'I don't want to be with you anymore,' you know before you say it -- if you have a heart -- that you're going to be hurting someone. You also know that you'd never want to be on the receiving end of what you're about to dish out," Fox says.

Make It Stick

Even if you can't stand the sight of your ex crying, don't back down.

"You've got to stick to your guns," Fox says. "It's not a negotiation. You're going into this conversation to let your boyfriend or girlfriend know that you are leaving the relationship." Listen respectfully to what they have to say. Then, move on.

If you're getting out of an abusive relationship, take extra care of your safety. Make sure you have a friend with you whenever you might run into your ex. Block the person from calling, emailing, and posting on your Facebook page. Ask your parents, teachers, and guidance counselor for help so you don't get into a dangerous situation. They can also help support you as you recover and look toward a healthier, happier relationship with someone else or just be by yourself.

Remember, it's fine to be single! It's much better be on your own, happy, and safe than with someone who's bad for you.

How to Handle Getting Dumped

When someone breaks up with you, it can be tough to handle. "It's like someone has just busted a huge hole in your heart," Fox says. "It's OK to feel sad. It's OK to cry."

Just about everyone gets their heart broken sooner or later. Most people get over it in time and go on to have other healthy relationships.

And remember all the healthy relationships you already have -- with your friends and family! Hang out with them and do some things that you enjoy. Friends can go a long way to help you feel like yourself again.

If you're really devastated and just can't get over it, you definitely need to ask for help.

"If you're feeling really depressed -- you cannot sleep, you're not eating -- talk to somebody you trust," Fox says. That person can be a parent, your school guidance counselor, or a therapist.

What's Good About It?

It can be hard to see the bright side when you're in the middle of a breakup. But chances are, some good things came from your relationship.

"I think it's important to look at what you gained from the time you were together with this person," Fox says. "There's a lot of potential for learning."

Did you learn more about yourself from the relationship? Or about what you want in a boyfriend or girlfriend? Then next time, you'll choose someone who suits you better.

WebMD Feature



Annie Fox, MEd, author, educator, and online adviser for tweens and teens.

Boston Channel: "Survey Shows 65 Percent Of Teens Say Texts for Dates Acceptable."

Jennifer Hartstein, PsyD, child, adolescent, and family psychologist, New York.

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