It happens to the best of us. We finally come to terms with the fact that it's just not working, that we can do better, or that he's a total dweeb. We try to convey this and get the breakup over with, but he isn't about to let that happen. He loves you. He can't be without you, and he knows it's a mistake to end things. Figuring out how to break up with your boyfriend without leaving too much of a mess can be difficult, but we're here to help. We consulted with relationship experts April Masini and Dr. Jeanette Raymond to bring you the best advice for this tricky conversation.
Put into words why you want to break up
You aren't going to get very far if you don't know how to explain why it's not working. The old "It's not you, it's me" line is passé and ineffective at this point. Try to come up with 3 to 5 reasons. Obviously if you know it's over, it's over. But a guy who doesn't want to be broken up with might need a little more justification. "Write drafts about why you want to break up, especially the 'fit' between you and your boyfriend," says Raymond. "Make it about the fit being no good rather than the person being bad or inadequate."
Try to anticipate his arguments for why you should stay together
They all have different tactics—it could be crying, yelling, or giving you a PowerPoint on why he's the only guy you'll ever need. A heartbroken fella is a force to be reckoned with. He will tell you that he will change, but he won't. If you have a problem with the relationship as is, that problem will creep its way back to the surface after a while, even if things seem to change for now.
Pack his stuff
Have a bag packed full of all the things of his that you have, including his toothbrush, his Friday Night Lights DVD set, and that super-comfy college sweatshirt. You need to give it all back—you aren't sinking to the level of throwing it away or burning it in some sort of girl-power bonfire. Have the bag packed before you have "the talk." It will remind you to stay strong and give him a clearer message when you walk out the door.
Go to his place
If you try to end things while at your place, he'll linger and make things harder. If you go to his place, you can drop the bag of stuff and hit the road. End of discussion.
Keep it short and calm
You don't have to cry or yell. You don't have to give a long speech. If it helps, speak in bullet points and don't skirt around the issue. "You're not taking care of him by leaving him in limbo, wondering what you really mean," Masini says. "Like ripping off a Band-Aid, it's better to make it quick and concise." Try to get everything you need to say off your chest before you let him argue or speak. Be firm and use concrete terms. It could be that he won't really hear what you're saying until you strike a nerve, so don't be afraid to be a little cold. Use what you know will affect him. "Use short sentences because your boyfriend will be anxious and will not take in a lot of sugar coating," Raymond says. "That's where the final draft you wrote earlier will come in useful."
If you can, have the entire conversation standing up. This will speed things along and make it clear that you aren't messing around or looking for a solution. Bonus: You can have an assertive stance when you stand. The same can't be said for sitting.
Don't text him
Do not check in or find a reason to get in touch. He will be fine, and you will go back on your decision or end up seeing each other if you keep the lines of communication open. Let him vent to his guy friends, and you can spend that texting energy on some of your girlfriends. They probably have missed you a bit.
Check out our relationship panel's advice for resisting the urge to call an ex:
No matter how many texts or calls you get from him, you must stay strong. Don't let him take you for coffee or buy you any gifts. Don't let on if you're feeling sad, and don't let him think you regret the decision. If you keep spending time with him, you'll slip into old habits or lead him on. You wanted to be done, so be done. "Repeat your need to break up because it isn't a good fit. And don't get caught up in responding to pleas for another chance or promises to change," Dr. Raymond says.
Change your accessibility
"If you pick up the phone every time he calls, return every email or text within 24 hours, and meet up with him because he 'needs a friend,' then you're not breaking up with any clarity," says Masini. "Cold turkey works—and in many cases no contact is the best way to cut off an an ex—but if you want to try the gradual fade, make sure you don't respond in a timely way to his requests for contact. Give yourself a week to answer his calls or emails, and consider removing social media photos and contacts that will make breaking up more difficult."
Don't talk trash
Keep your private business off social media, and choose wisely when venting to friends. Be the bigger person. He's still a human and deserves to be treated with decency and respect. Even if you hear he's gossiping or using his friends to make you feel bad, rise above it. You don't need that negativity. Channel that energy to pursue other friendships or hobbies.
Put your hands up, single lady
You're free! Go get some celebratory margs (but don't overdo it—the hangover that comes from post-breakup partying is a rough one), and wash your sheets. You'll be amazed at all the time you have for yourself and all the positive energy that comes from ending the relationship.
Get our panel's advice on avoiding the worst breakup mistakes:
Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a licensed clinical psychologist and relationship expert. Visit her website here.
April Masini writes the critically acclaimed 'Ask April' advice column and answers readers questions on the free Ask April advice forum.