Don’t leave me this way: breakup etiquette

We all know breaking up is hard, and painful – no matter which side of the breakup you’re on.

When we are the one delivering bad news, we sometimes say and do things we think will hurt less – but they often actually make it much worse.

But is there really a good way to break up with someone?

I think there is. A better way.

Watch the video and find out why I think there’s a right and wrong way to break up – and why knowing this will make you feel better when you’re left without a closure:



What was your best, or your worst breakup?
What do you do when you are breaking up with someone?
Did the way your partners broke up with you make a difference? How?

Thank you for sharing in the comments below!

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11 Responses

  1. Ms Jones says:

    Hi Petra –
    Another great,caring down to Earth video. Thank you!
    I am sure you have heard every story under the sun. And I feel like I have heard every story under the sun from some of my exes!

    The last breakup was so difficult because there was not good personal closure, as you mention in this video. The man sent me an email from overseas filled with accusations which were completely false and “hearsay”. He would not respond to my return email. When he returned to the States I ran into him in the street and he would not even look at me, never mind speak to me.

    I was crushed that a person I had been so good to would have such a low opinion of me that he would not even have the decency to take me out for a drink or a walk and talk to me after 4 years. He just wanted to erase everything. He did not have the courage or decency to confront me, even if he thought I did something bad (which I did not).

    As a grown woman who has never been married I am accustomed to being treated with an even hand. I had put so much hope into that relationship. Perhaps in the end he simply did not trust me enough to tell me how he really felt, what was really going on.

    Maybe the reason he left me was he did not love me or he found somebody else. Why could he just not say so. Yes, anger, tears and so on, but that is the music you face after 4 years with a mature woman who has shared everything with you.

    Myself, I took his explanation literally and tried to convince him otherwise. Over time I came to realize that his explanation was merely an excuse for the real reason he left. He did not value our relationship in the same way that I did. And by acting that way during the break up, he showed me how little personal regard he had for me. That was very hard to take and I felt that was exceedingly mean.

    Little by little it is more in the rear view mirror for me. I am older (57) and do not expect this type of conduct. Neither of us are getting any younger and I thought at least he could make an effort to end things in a graceful manner.

    But he did not. I generally try to do my best. The truth often hurts, but the guy always knows where he stands and he also knows that I am an honest person who at least had the decency to be truthful.

    I agree that the manner in which a person breaks up is a reflection of their character. Apparently he did not think it necessary to express any appreciation for me as a human being at all. Obviously not what would be in my best interest in the long run. It seemed like it was a complete reversal as to how he had been treating me up til then, which is really what made it so perplexing and painful. One minute I am the sunshine of his life, next I am a person he never wants to hear from again.

    Talk about difficult endings! But there is always a message in there somewhere. After the shock and pain wear off, the message becomes clearer.

    And he is no longer the man of my dreams. He is a man of illusions. Who can have a relationship with an illusion?

    Tough medicine, but that’s how that one played out.

    • Petra says:

      Yes it is tough medicine. And so unnecessary. But it has become almost the norm today, people seem to be more and more casual about breaking up (as they are about getting together or “hooking up”) but our hearts are not getting more resilient, unfortunately.

    • Sal says:

      Ms. Jones,

      Wow that almost sounds the same as my story. She left me after more than four years with nothing but accusations by text. Without ever having a real conversation. She packed her stuff yelled at me and left me in confusion. We never talked again. Only saw her one more time in the city, and she walked away on me, like I never existed. She never even said the words breaking up. The last thing she screamed at me was how she wanted to build a future together.

      I have asked her numeral times for a decent closure talk, she just ignores me. I know of myself the mistakes I made and have hurt her in our fights, and I have tried to make amends. I have done so many things for her to get a head start in the life she wanted whenwe were still dating, that it just feels so weird and hurtful to not know why she broke up. To be left with nothing but over the top accusations.

      I am still confused and do still love her. Thanks for sharing, it helps to know I am not the only one struggling with this.

      Petra, thank you for your sharing. I totally believe there is an etiquette for breaking up. When people shared so much during their relationship I think it is only healthy if one breaks up, to do this in a decent matter. I never had any closure and after almost a year am still struggling with this all. It seems like it just slows down the healing process so much. I am still hoping to ever hear from her why she broke up.

  2. Kyle says:

    Hi Petra, I’ve slowly begun to find closure after a recent breakup. I was together with a woman for 3 1/3 almost 4 years. After what people refer to as our honeymoon phase things seemed to take a terrible turn, this being my first serious relationship at the age of 20 I admit I was very naive and careless. I made some hurtful mistakes, during which we never quite recovered 100%. I hurt her trust but I thought it was a little trivial it was not I was being selfish. So at the time because I was loyal and thought we would get past it was when we just were newly dating. Thus began a lot of rebuilding early on, trust and a lot of jealousy issues arose and although I was unintentionally hurtful with my words and actions at times. I understood and during which she would be jealous and the fighting continued I would whether it. After we got past that rough patch, everything seemed somewhat well but I was a little selfish over the course of a year during which I had serious health concerns and problems threatening my passions in life sports and fitness. I was in a very negative mindset with a very unstable lifestyle, battling a lot emotional issues. Things were very hot and cold to say the least. She used to say the good times never out weighed the bad when we would fight, I always wanted to make us whole again. Although I often felt different that fighting was because we’re both very passionate people and I was working through my problems and didn’t want the gap between us to grow larger as it was. Suffice to say we always seemed to fight about nothing. We would sometimes make a strong effort and be good for a week or so but it would return to more fighting. I had a neccesant talking issue always obsessing about training, health complications and just life’s problems in general. Our communication wasnt the greatest and other times it was good. I began trying to seek other help and medications to balance the emotional turmoil and my own demons. This helped but it was over a period of two years or so and she tried to stay with me but I had a bad habit of constantly talking about my problems which I thought was helping me deal with them, not a great coping mechanism I admit. We trudged on and what eventually became one of our biggest problems was space. Where we worked in the same building and I was always trying to be around her and get our passion back I didn’t know what to do. So I seemingly began to smother her, always being around. Trying to be overly supportive, all about whats going on with her, talking about training once again etc. obviously I realize now this was a mistake. Women sometimes need time to cool off and be independent which was another thing we would try to take a break for space, but in a weeks time I would move back in and things would return to the up and down in a short time after. I didn’t want us to have more space I live her and wanted us to be as we were. Long story short the last few months especially she began not trying and I knew the end was coming. I tried desperately to reverse the damage and could not do so. I admit I mostly made things worse, after the relationship ended she quickly began dating again and I was hurt and she wanted friendship but it was so soon I didn’t and couldn’t help but want more. Once again this made things worse. Looking back on the relationship and how we communicated in front of others and at home it seemed inevitable for us to split and I understand that a negative relationship is not worth wanting to hang onto. There’s a lot I’m leaving out but the end result is as is. I understand that sometimes people are better off apart then together now. But I can’t help but think if you love someone you stand by them at their worst and at their best. When I begun the relationship everything was golden and life was good. A lot of things happened good and bad changing a lot of things about me that I’ve had to work hard to remain positive and strong as well as successful. I have and will bounce back a better, stronger person but as I said I do not wish to resent her and tried after a month or two to be friends once again with her as we still work around each other and often are in each others presence. She has no interest and I’m treated as the I hate to use this word but a poisonous man. I’m not though I was very negative and had a lot of issues but pulled myself out of it towards the end and I’m a very empathetic compassionate person inside. But as I said it was seemingly to late to reverse the damage. She has had a history of seemingly difficult relationships actually getting out of one two year and quickly I found her and we began, which kind of hurt my chances of ever healing ours once it went astray I admit. I know the easiest thing to do is live and let love, learn from my mistakes and hers, don’t blame myself for everything and move on. I have begun to do that and know in my heart that I will always love her and she will love me. But I’m loyal and almost like a wolf where I don’t let others in easily and I wanted to do whatever was necessary to make it work so I guess that’s why it hurts and also as I said I am still young, I understand that. I was going to propose in December but was afraid she was unwilling at the time. By the time valentine’s day rolled around things were slowly getting better but she was so distant and our sex life had dropped off as far back as 3-4 months. All the red flags were up telling me she was done but as I said I was trying and she seemingly would come around but I realize now she wasn’t. She would say things when we bickered like you will move on and find another, a better life, no one has ever talked to me the way you do when we fight etc. A lot of deflecting but it takes two and I know that now. Again I own my mistakes but I guess my question to you is. Why is it sometimes what’s maybe best for us seemingly hurts the most to move on from once it ends. Also as I said it is difficult that we still see each other and that’s I guess why I decided to really commit to trying to be her friend but it back fired. She has almost treated me as the bad guy and I know it didnt help that the first time around it was too soon and she had begun to see someone so soon after and go as far as bringing them around our workplace. Which also hurt and was kinda malice on her part but was brushed off by her. As such I admit I was a little childish and made some digs and we would volley back and forth some insults via text and facebook messaging and such once again I returned to trying to express how I felt we ended abruptly & a lot of improvement had been made on my part and I wanted her back. I was foolish to try and discuss the past as the that’s what it should be left as the past. I seemingly set us up for failure from the beginning and I know it was partly both our faults but I contributed more to our failure. I cant help but resent myself for losing her. I left a lot out in between but when it seemed we could be making improvements it was very short lived. I played the guilt trip for a while on myself and wondered what I could have done differently often saying a lot of things to her regarding such once again making old mistakes. I truly did make the changes I set out to do and was happier but still missed her deeply. But as I said it couldn’t undue the damage between us it seems. With all that being said I know you hear these stories all the time. Advice? I have a relatively good idea as to what some of it will be as I have spoke with family and got some advice and I have a firm understanding of where I’m at in my life. But would love any other input. Thanks (I know this is a long rant but it does help to hear from others)

    • Petra says:

      I wonder why you think she was the best thing for you? Because if just re-read what you wrote here – how many times and how many ways you described your relationship was full of hurtful and abusive communication, I’d say it’s pretty clear why it didn’t work out. It seems you were not a good match at all, and I surprised you lasted that long. So why do you still want to be with someone who hurts you on daily basis? You argued a lot, and about stupid things – that’s a clear indication your personalities, lifestyles, and preferences were not very compatible. It’s hard enough to make things work with someone we have a lot in common with, let alone someone we argue about insignificant stuff. I think you are still so attached to her because she was your first love, but once you are able to step back a bit and look at things objectively, you’ll see why it ended, and why it’s better for you both to find someone else. Because you will both be happier that way. And then you can go and be friends, once you don’t have romantic feelings for her any more. Otherwise it will be really painful, and you’ll never be able to be a true friend to her. It simply doesn’t work if you’re still in love with her. Also – please don’t be too harsh on yourself, you are very young and it’s normal at your age to make a lot of mistakes in relationships, because you don’t have much relationship experience. Wish you all my best!

      • Kyle says:

        Hi Petra, I know it sounds completely dysfunctional but for all the bad times there were equally as many precious moments and times together. She really did make me feel complete and I understand that in the end it was best to part. But I believe we weren’t completely incompatible so much as we kind of became different people when we were together due to our poor decisions. I can be too hard on myself sometimes but a lot of it is because she’s an amazing woman and I was a major part of why we didn’t work out. I think it kind of took her and I splitting up to become a little more positive and it gave me the kick in the butt I needed to get up and dust myself off from some of my issues. But once again I understand I’m young and have a lot to learn as we never stop learning. Thanks for the feedback, cheers

        • Petra says:

          Hey Kyle, that makes sense too. Sometimes we just grow apart even though when we got together we got along very well. But please do not blame yourself for the failure. There is always two people in a relationship, and both are equally responsible for it working or not working out. She might be an amazing woman for someone else, but seems she is not that for you. And the fact she chose you means you have some amazing-ness of your own, I am sure 🙂 Take care.

  3. baylee says:

    I dated someone ten years younger I am 36 and he is 26, for 10 months we had a great relationship full of respect, good times and even lived together for two months while he fixed a situation he was in… In the end he hurt his back and I took care of him for four days playing his nursemaid and then a week later out of the blue broke up with me because I was a single mother (of one teen) a fact he knew the whole time we were together because they live with me full time. It’s probably the worst breakup I have ever had because he cut me out of his life so coldly and after all I did for him.. For three months after I actually though he was going to come back.. He then told me that he is dating someone new and that he won’t talk to me ever again… I don’t think I will ever get closure but definitely one of my worst breakups..

  4. Kyle says:

    Sorry to hear that Baylee, I believe sometimes people come into our lives at the wrong time or maybe their just the wrong person for us. But they bring with them valuable lessons that can be taken with us in the future. Old wounds heal and time makes things easier but we never truly forget someone we once loved so dearly. But once again life is such that we must love and sometimes lose that love in order to grow as a person. I like to think that the right person comes along that will make you realize why it didn’t work out with another, but also we must forgive and let go to grow. Being young and so ready to settle down and have a family with so many other goals and aspirations I’m working towards has certainly brought me my share of difficulties. But as I said ultimately its we take from those trials & tribulations whether emotional, physical or otherwise that mold us into the people we become. One of the many lessons I take from my experience is we get out of a relationship what we put in, give out positive, good vibes and get them in return, love unconditionally and don’t change yourself if you are happy with who you are. Unless you are changing for the better. Cheers and all the best

  5. Jesus says:

    My ex girlfriend and i were in a relationship for almost 2 years, at first i was a little salty and mean at her but with time i changed and treated her great, before we got in an official relationship we were like best friends and then we started messing around, but when we were in an official relationship i was nice to her but then she started taking me for granted and paying more attention to her friends and stuff like that. I thought i deserved it because of how i was with her at first…later on she said she was tired of me and felt exhausted with the relationship, we took some time apart (4 days) lster we got back again and i she stareted fading away again and got mad for simple stuff and she asked me fo a break, one week later she hit me up telling me she misses me a lot and realized how much she truly loves me (i was out of the country at that time) ..then i thought she was going to wait for me and be there for me in my college graduation but she chose to fly to some place just because shes always wanted to go and called me selfish because i wasnt happy for her.

    Days went by and we were supposed to be together in ny anyways but now she chose to move to another place without even thinking about us, she was sweet via text and told me she wanted this relationship to last forever and all those lies but then all of a sudden she started to act distant and we talked less and less every day, until one day she got mad for some dumb thing and she just broke up with me in a mean and arrogant way.

    I honestly think she. Didnt love me as much as she said …she told me a lot of stuff and just toook it and told her everything i think of her in a nice educated way, told her how selfish and arrogant she is and etc.

    It hurts me that she was such a mean person to me and toon me for granted and didnt have the courage to breakup in a decent way with me.

    She doesnt know how to handel emotions and i love her deeply but i think shes not the right person for me..not with that attitude..its been 3 days since the breakup and she has hit me up twice via text saying stuff like “why are u ignoring me?” “whats your problem?”
    I feel stressed when she talkd to me cuz i expect some attitude…. But yeah i kind of feel good,but i still want to be with her because of the love i feel

    • Petra says:

      Sounds like she is not in love with you, at least not any more. I know rejection hurts, but – ask yourself why do you still love her if she is treating you that hurtfully? We often fall for people that treat us badly and suffer for no reason. We have this idea that they are great but do hurtful things by mistake, when they actually behave just as they are – immature and selfish. This is a great learning experience for you: to know what you don’t want in your relationship next time. Take care

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