For most relationships, breaking up in person is the most appropriate and respectful way to breakup. If it has been a long-term relationship and you're able to express yourself freely with your partner, you should show them the courtesy and respect of breaking up face-to-face.
However, sometimes circumstances dictate that a breakup be done in writing. For example, a break up letter might be appropriate if:
- Your partner tends to behave violently or engage in physical or verbal abusive
- Your partner did something to violate you or betray your trust (such as cheating), and you no longer wish to interact with them again
- You've tried to break up in the past, and your partner refuses to listen or let you speak freely
- Your partner refuses to meet you or take your calls
- It's a long-distance relationship, and you're not able to see them or call
Things to consider …
If you're thinking of writing a break up letter because you lack the courage to face them, try to summon the willpower to do it in-person. As long as the situation is not threatening, it's the best way to go. Though it's difficult to deliver bad news and make someone get upset or cry, it can seem disrespectful and avoidant to write them instead.
However, if you've been avoiding breaking up because you dread the face-to-face encounter, stop delaying and write them! it's better to break it off ASAP – even if that means through a letter or email – so you both can get on with your lives. Some people spend months or even years avoiding a break up out of fear; do it in writing if that's the only way you can!
Also, if you have trouble expressing yourself in-person, you might want to write a breakup letter and then give it to your partner while you're with him or her – there's nothing wrong with that.
I should note that while email tends to feel less personal, sometimes it's the best option if timing or distance is an issue.
How to write a "Dear John" or "Dear Jane" letter:
Step 1: Why I'm writing
After your "Dear [Partner]," explain that you regret that you could not speak face-to-face, but circumstances made this necessary. You might want to let them know why you could not face them. For instance, if you are afraid of a violent reaction, feel too guilty, or simply never want to see them again, just say so. Tell them that you know they'd want to hear this information as soon as possible, and this is the best way for you to do it.
Step 2: Why I'm moving on
Tell them that you've decided to end the relationship. You might want to explain why, or it might be obvious to you both (eg, cheating). Focus on yourself and how you feel, and try not to dwell on your ex-partner's faults.
If there is not a clear reason, you might just say that though you appreciate his or her positive qualities, but the relationship is not working for you. Express that you've enjoyed your time together, but now you know it's time for you to move on. Let them know that you'll have fond memories (if it's true).
Step 3: "Get help"
If the relationship was troubled by your ex-partner's unhealthy behavior (eg, cheating, substance abuse, violence), you may want to express how that affected you. You can recommend that they get help, and wish for them to recover. Repeat that you know that it's time for you to move on, and that – even if he or she changes for the better – your decision remains.
Step 4: Possibly friends?
Although I do not recommend that you bring up friendship, if you want to stay open to the possibility of friendship, you can say so. This generally is not a good idea, but sometimes it's OK, especially in cases where you were friends first. You can let them know that you both need time to heal, but there is the possibility of friendship down the line.
Step 5: Your decision is final
If you do not want to retain any possibility of getting together again, tell them that you are certain in your decision to split, and ask them to respect that. If you do not wish to hear from them again, let them know that calls, visits, and correspondence are not welcome. Remind them that you do not wish to spend any more time discussing what went wrong, and that you're getting on with your life.
Step 6: Apologize
If you did anything to harm your ex-partner – especially if you cheated or lied to him or her – apologize in the most heartfelt way possible. However, as advice columnist Dan Savage says, "All relationships fail until one does not," so do not blame yourself simply because your relationship did not "succeed."
Step 7: "All the best … "
Wish your partner the best. If you like, you can let them know that contact you at a certain email address sometime in the future, but remind them that now it's time to heal. Though it may be difficult, avoid ending the letter with "Love, [Your name]."
Remember: Concentrate on the task at hand : Ending the relationship, not analyzing it. Also, avoid mentioning that you love them, even if it's true. Mentioning your love for them will only confuse them and give them hope, so avoid it.
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