Get a signed copy of our latest book, Emily Post's Etiquette - The Centennial Edition, for yourself or to give as a gift, and support Vermont's independent bookstore Bridgeside Books.

Join our Substack newsletter for more from Emily Post.

Breaking Up Hero Label

Breaking Up

Ending a relationship well may seem impossible, but it can be done if both people stay true to the principles of consideration, respect, and honesty. When one person ends a relationship, he or she is responsible for giving the news in a manner that shows genuine concern for the other person. No matter how uncomfortable the situation, there are certain points of decencies that must be observed.

Breakup Etiquette

  • Meet personally. Someone you've been in a relationship with is owed a face-to-face meeting. Don't use anyone else as an intermediary. Calling may be necessary when time and distance are a problem, but don't leave a brush-off message or voice mail, or worse, send a text or email. If ending the relationship is your choice, face up to it.
  • Meet privately. To deliberately stage a breakup in a place where other people are close by—hoping that the presence of others will keep things calm or tear-free—is cowardly. No one wants to react to a break up with strangers all around.
  • Get to the point. Don't try to ease the blow by taking the person out for a great date, like a consolation prize, then dropping the bomb at the very end. The person will probably feel that he or she has been made a fool of if you do.
  • Avoid blaming. Neither party will benefit from a rehash of their faults and failings. Blaming or hurling insults is childish and cruel, as are phony and superficial excuses. A person may say hurtful things, but you don't have to respond in kind.
  • See to the other person's well-being. Be sure that he or she is reasonably in control before leaving. A person who is extremely upset or angry isn't in the best shape to drive or go off on his or her own.
  • Use discretion. The details of a breakup should be kept private. What's past is over, and talking disrespectfully about a former partner only reflects poorly on the one who does the talking.