He Says/She Says: How to Break Up (and Keep Some Semblance of Dignity)

If you’re reading this, we feel you. Breakups are THE WORST.

Chances are, with the way our culture works, most of us either have experienced a breakup before or will at some point.

Sometimes you need to work through problems if the issues aren’t dealbreakers and just require good-ol’ roll-the-sleeves conversations. Other times, it’s a dealbreaker that’s not going to change. Whatever the circumstance, pray about it and think through it. Don’t dismiss the relationship too quickly, but don’t hold on too long, either.

If it is time to end it, you can’t run away from that fact that breakups hurt, and ignoring reality only makes things worse. They always do, no matter the circumstance.

So what’s a guy or gal to do?

Whether you know someone going through this right now — or whether this time it’s you — here are some helpful tips when it comes to recovery.

She says…

If you’re the one getting broken up with…

A few notes on recovery:

Your heart will not mend in a linear pattern. Everyone heals differently. There is a grieving process, and you should know that it’s okay to feel the things you feel. You might feel okay for a while, but then a freight train hits you and you cry for days. You’ll make some progress, and then you’ll find yourself missing him and tempted to check his Facebook page (Don’t do that to yourself!). You’ll take four steps forward and ten back. And that process will repeat. The point is, you will get better, but it won’t be a squeaky-clean journey. And that’s okay.

“Closure” may or may not happen. It’s a complete myth that closure is always possible. Sometimes breakups happen and we won’t get the answers we’re hoping for. And the quest for those answers is equivalent to a dog trying to chase his tail. Take those questions you have to prayer, not to your ex — and let Christ answer you with His presence. Be at peace knowing He’s got you close and that His plan for your life hasn’t been thwarted. He knows where you’re going.

Moving on will happen, but it might not happen in the way you think. Your circumstances might leave you never thinking of your ex ever again — or moving on might be a struggle for you. Sometimes, the person you dated will always have a small space in your heart. It’s okay to care for them in a way, and it’s okay to hope they’re doing well. But don’t hang onto your ex emotionally, hope for him to come back or hang onto thoughts of what was — because it’s not reality anymore.

You may not be able to see it now, but it will get better, and you will feel new again. You really will. Even if that feels like a complete lie to you, it’s truth. And that will be a beautiful day. So just keep going!

If you’re the one doing the breaking up…

(Some of these tidbits also help when you’re being broken up with, too):

Be clear. Be firm. Be gentle. Err on doing it in person, or at least over the phone. A couple of other notes: You don’t owe him reasons, but do make sure they’re good reasons. Only you can decide what those are. You don’t always need to tell him the nitty-gritty details, but you should be able to give a solid reason as to why you’re ending it. (Don’t play the, “It’s not you, God told me to end it” card. Take responsibility for yourself.) Also, when having the conversation, it helps knowing what you’re going to say beforehand so you don’t run around in circles.

Once you have the breakup conversation, cut ties. I repeat: Do not speak to each other. Do not try to be friends. Do not look for him on social media. This only drags your heart through the mud and stunts your healing recovery. Give yourself the space you need to move on. If it helps, choose one of your best girlfriends as an accountability partner. Anytime you feel like you want to talk to him or see how he’s doing, talk to her instead — and ask her to pray for you!

Let yourself talk about it if you need to, but don’t wallow. Talking helps you process, so do that; just don’t be that girl that talks about her breakup with every single person, ever. Talk about it with your family and/or your best friends, and do it only as much as you need to. Don’t rush your healing, either. It’ll take time. 

He says…

If you’re the one being broken up with…

Getting dumped hurts. There’s no getting around it. While I won’t pretend there’s an easy solution, this article from the Art of Manliness makes some excellent points that will help you heal.

A few additional thoughts:

She doesn’t owe you a reason. This was one of the earliest lessons I learned about relationships, and it’s helped me greatly over the years. If she doesn’t give you a reason for the breakup, that’s her prerogative. Don’t be the guy who asks — or even begs — for a reason. Even if she gives you one, or two, or seven, chances are it won’t make a difference. She’s made up her mind, and all you can do is accept it and move on.

That said, there is a chance you can win her back. I’ve heard some great stories of guys whose persistence paid off and they’re now happily married to the gal that once broke their hearts. That said, there’s no guarantee that you’ll be that guy. Be respectful, give it time, and if you feel so called, go for it. But at the end of the day, be prepared to let her yes be yes and her no be no.

If you’re the one doing the breaking up…

Do it like a man. The breakup talk can be one of the most difficult conversations you’ll ever have, especially if the relationship was serious. But if you approach it with tact, clarity, compassion and brevity, you’ll be fine — and, in time, so will she. Be honest, gentle and resolute in your conviction. Once again, the guys at the Art of Manliness did a great piece on this, so be sure to check it out.

Don’t schedule a date to break up. Most gents are familiar with the “always, sometimes, never” rule of jacket buttons. The same rule can be applied to communication methods for breaking up:

  • Texting: Never. This should be obvious.
  • Phone Call: Always. This is often the most suitable way to have the conversation without allowing it to drag it on too long.
  • Face-to-Face: Sometimes. In general, having the conversation in person is a good way to honor the gal.

However, you definitely want to avoid breaking up with her on a date.

To illustrate this point, check out this hilariously awkward clip from the movie “Legally Blonde”:

Obviously, this couple is suffering from a bad case of “hi-we’re-on-completely-different-pages” syndrome. Don’t be the guy who sends mixed signals and leads a gal on. As always, the best thing you can do is make your intentions clear.

Check out the rest of our dating series!

  1. He Says/She Says: Your Utility Belt for Surviving the “Dating Apocalypse”
  2. He Says/She Says: The Unspeakable “F Word” of Dating
  3. He Says/She Says: How to Ask Somebody on a Date (and How to Respond)
  4. He Says/She Says: How to Have a First Date that Rocks (and Isn’t Awkward)
  5. He Says/She Says: So You’ve Been on a Couple Dates…Now What?
  6. He Says/She Says: The Virtuous Relationship
  7. He Says/She Says: How to Break Up (and Keep Some Semblance of Dignity)


Therese Bussen and Daniel Paris
Therese Bussen and Daniel Paris
Therese lives in glorious Denver, Colorado and grew up in the high desert area of Southern California (and knows what the Israelites felt like waiting in the desert to get to the Promised Land). She graduated from Benedictine College with a degree in Journalism and a minor in Art. When she's not hanging out with friends, Therese enjoys reading, writing, painting, drawing, designing (basically any kind of art), and dancing awkwardly on purpose. She also loves surprising people with her love of shotgun shooting and cigars. Also, a glass of wine is her favorite thing. Daniel is a ninth-year missionary with FOCUS, having served two years on campuses on the east coast and seven years in the national Formation department. Daniel and his wife Allison have been incredibly blessed and are thrilled to be newly married and on mission together.

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