Life Advice



How to break up like a grown-up during the holidays

Lisa Anderson, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Dating Advice

Be kind. This is another human being you’re talking to. You dated them for a reason. This is no time to be petty or demeaning. Let them go and genuinely wish them well.

Be concise. Your now-ex has no time or emotional capacity for your lengthy monologue or play-by-play. Be brief and to the point. You can offer them an explanation, but you don’t owe them one.

Don’t argue or blame. The blame game never solved anything. This isn’t a court of law, so don’t try to make it one. Own and apologize for any hurt you caused. Agree to disagree on details if necessary, but remain respectful. Let everything else go.

Give your ex space. It’s over. And “over” means “over.” Don’t text, don’t call, don’t passive-aggressively say “hey” when you’re lonely in a week. Don’t stalk your ex on Instagram. Don’t check in with his friends or his mom. Move on.

Don’t talk bad about your ex in front of others. Take the high ground. Don’t play games, backbite or gossip. You’re better than that.

Don’t rebound. Process and learn from this relationship. Don’t jump into something new too soon, especially if your relationship was serious; it just comes across as desperate and tacky. Enjoy the holidays as a single person. You’ll be OK.

Of course, how you showed up in the relationship while it was alive is a factor too. You can make a breakup less painful by doing the following while dating:

Define the relationship. If you’re dating, say you’re dating. If you’re exclusive, make sure both of you know this. No one likes relational ambiguity. If I had a nickel for every time a guy assumed we were “just hanging out ...”

Communicate frequently. Healthy communication is essential to a relationship. Make sure you are frequently checking in with each other, voicing expectations and concerns and, most importantly, listening to, valuing and serving one another.


Set and keep emotional and physical boundaries. Define your boundaries at the start of your relationship. Remember, the further you go emotionally and physically, the harder and messier it will be to end things. I’ve had friends who gave up everything in a relationship only to be gutted when it was over. Their dating ended like a divorce. The amount of connection you have with another person should always be proportionate to the level of commitment you share.

Don’t lose who you are. Respect one another as individuals. Don’t look to your partner to meet all your needs, define you, complete you or fix your brokenness. Healthy individuals make healthy couples — there are no shortcuts. Chase after emotional, physical, spiritual and relational wholeness. You’ll never regret putting in the work.

The best breakups happen when both parties are mature enough to walk through the steps above. You’re only in charge of you, but the good news is, it only takes one person to break a toxic cycle. Give yourself the best chance of moving forward calmly and confidently by choosing to break up like a grown-up.

And maybe don’t do it on Christmas Eve.



Lisa Anderson is director of Boundless and the director of young adults at Focus on the Family. She is the author of “The Dating Manifesto” and connects with single young adults weekly on “The Boundless Show” podcast.


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