What to Say When You Want to Break Up: Classy & Kind Options

Whether you still love them or are so done, here's how you handle it with grace and style.

Updated January 19, 2024
couple talking

One of the most difficult situations to be in is trying to figure out what to say when you want to break up with someone. You don't want to hurt the other person, and you may even still love them. Most people who experience a breakup are in pain — saying the right things can help make it easier.

What to Say When You Want to Break Up Gracefully

In some ways, it's easier to break up with someone if the person has done something awful to you. If your partner cheats on you, you have a perfect reason and no need to justify your decision to end things.

However, life isn't always that cut and dried. Sometimes the signs of a relationship breaking up are more subtle and harder to understand. Sometimes you don't even know why it is you are breaking up — you only know you have to.

Quick Tip

Breaking up with someone kindly is about seeing the situation from their perspective. Before you sit down to talk, take a minute to think about how this will be for them. This can make it a little more painful for you, but it will help you choose your words carefully and show kindness during this difficult moment.

We've got a few communication strategies that will help you know what to say when you want to break up.

Be Clear and Concise

Everyone knows that "We need to talk" is a signal of an unpleasant conversation to follow, so try not to beat around the bush. Don't draw out the agony by going through all the reasons and then saying "... so that's why I think we should break up." Throughout the whole explanation, you are giving the person the false hope that you are still trying to make things work.

Start out by being clear, and then go into the reasons why, if necessary. They may have come to the same conclusion — and a simple "Yes, I think you're right," ends the conversation. You can say:

  • "I think we need to break up."
  • "I feel like it would be best if we ended our relationship."
  • "I haven't been feeling fully satisfied in this relationship and think it would be best if we broke up."
  • "After some thought, I think we should end our relationship."
  • "I no longer want to continue our relationship."

Related: 10 Ways to Know When a Relationship Is Really Over

Be Open and Truthful

You probably wouldn't want your partner to lie to you, so be realistic and truthful about why you are breaking up. If it's communication, tell the person where you think it broke down and be honest about it. If you simply grew apart, tell them honestly where you think your values diverged and why they aren't compatible. Most of all, if you don't really know why but you just need to break up, explain that as well. You can try:

  • "I don't feel the same way about you as I used to."
  • "This relationship isn't fulfilling my needs anymore."
  • "I'm not comfortable staying together knowing that we are on two very different paths."
  • "I don't feel right continuing a relationship that I can't see making it long term."
  • "In thinking about our future, I don't think we are compatible in the long run."
Quick Tip

Remember that being honest is not an excuse to be cruel. For example, if your partner is no longer attractive to you, you don't need to say "I think you're ugly." Instead, you can say something that preserves your partner's dignity and treats them with kindness.

Use Self-Reflecting Communication

While "it's not you, it's me" may be true, it's basically a cliche now. Even so, you do want to try to use as many "I" statements as possible because "you" statements can easily come across as being accusatory. "You don't listen anymore!" blames the other person, whereas "I can't seem to communicate with you" takes some personal responsibility.

Owning your feelings isn't the same as taking the blame, and most of the time, blame doesn't help anyway. Remember that sometimes life just gets in the way of even the most well-intentioned relationship, and just because a relationship is ending does not mean that it was a failure. People move on to new stages of growth throughout their lives, and there's no guarantee that they will always grow together. You can say:

  • "I am having a difficult time communicating my needs to you, and I think I need to take some time to work on myself."
  • "I don't think our relationship is healthy for me to continue being a part of and think we should break up."
  • "I am feeling hurt by some things in our history, and I think it would be best to move on."
  • "I do not feel confident in our relationship succeeding going forward."
  • "I no longer feel happy in our relationship, and I think we should break up."

Related: How to Break Up With Someone You Live With

Things to Remember When Breaking Up With Someone You Love

couple breaking up

Sometimes the timing just isn't right or you love each other very much but can't see a path forward. It's not easy to know what to say when breaking up with someone you love, but remembering these things can help you find the right words:

  • Separate your choice from your feelings. You can say, "I really love you, but this relationship is not going to work for me. I need for us to break up."
  • Be very clear. Saying you love someone can easily send a mixed message, so make sure they know you are sure of your decision to end things.
  • Allow yourself to grieve. Breaking up with someone you love is really painful. You can acknowledge that when you break up too by telling them this is hard for you.
  • Forgive yourself. Even if the other person is mad or hurt, you're doing what you need to do to take care of yourself. You can say that if you feel like you're getting some blame.

What Not to Say in a Breakup

Resist the urge to speak for how you both feel or whether the relationship is "worth it" when you're breaking up with someone. A lack of clarity isn't kind either. Whether you're breaking up over text, in person, or on the phone, there are a few things you should not say:

  • "I'm not really sure what I want."
  • "This isn't worth the hassle."
  • "This is better for both of us."
  • "We can both do better."
  • "You'll forget about me in a week."

How You Say It Is Important

What is most important is not necessarily what you say to break up with someone but rather how you say it. When you're breaking up with someone, you both will likely be in a lot of pain — so try to say things as kindly as possible. If you can keep from lashing out at your partner in a defensive reaction, you will be much more likely to come to a mutual understanding of why the breakup needs to happen. That will help you both move on and leave your relationship to become a fond memory rather than a deep scar.

What to Say When You Want to Break Up: Classy & Kind Options