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How to End a Long Distance Relationship—Do’s and Don’ts

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You’ve reached your limit. You feel like your long distance relationship can’t go on. Your values don’t align. Both of you can’t agree on a future together.

You know that you want to end this relationship.

We’ve mentioned elsewhere on this blog that long distance can intensify everything—both the highs and the lows. Breaking up over long distance can feel even more intense than usual, even though you haven’t been able to be physically together most of the time.

When you’re ready to say your final goodbyes, there are things that you should and shouldn’t do whenever you have the talk. Keep them in mind whenever you make that fated phone call.

Do…Don’t…
Try to do it in person or over the phoneGhost them
Take the initiativeBreak up over text or email
Be decisiveLay it all out publicly
Give the breakup process more timeAccuse or lay blame
Set clear boundariesLeave things hanging and seek out other relationships
Give closure and follow throughDrag out the breakup process
Move onLinger after the relationship is done

Do: Try to break up in person or over the phone

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Breaking up is a difficult emotional process. There are a lot of things to discuss, come to terms with, and gain closure on.

It can be a lot easier to do all that by being in person. Showing up face to face gives both of you the opportunity to process everything that’s happening, and to guide each other to the inevitable outcome.

Consider breaking up in person if you’re in a situation where it’s not too difficult to see each other, and you can easily travel to the other person’s home city. When you go to see them, bring anything you want to return to them, and have your final talk.

Never put yourself in a dangerous or unfamiliar situation. If you’ve never been to their city before, don’t break up in person. Ensure you have a good mode of transportation, and are not reliant on others to travel. Always make sure people know your whereabouts, and that you choose a populated area to meet.

For extra peace of mind, consider bringing someone with you on this trip. If you have any doubts over your safety, break up over the phone instead.

For those that live much further apart, or where visits are much rarer, breaking up in person can be particularly hard. This is because visiting each other is typically associated with feelings of togetherness and happiness, so it can be more difficult to initiate a break-up during this time, especially if they aren’t prepared for it.

In this case, you may want to consider breaking up over a video call instead. Make sure that you have a solid internet connection and that you’re not disturbed for the duration of your call.

Don’t: Ghost Them

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Breaking up with someone is hard. However, I don’t advise on ghosting the other person and moving on, leaving them none the wiser until they realize you’ve gone radio silent.

You may feel like it’s the easier option. It’s tempting if you’re in separate places, as there’s less of a chance you’ll run into them for an awkward confrontation.

But I think that kindness should dictate your actions. Giving both of you the opportunity to acknowledge the end of your relationship and letting go is an important step in moving on.

Of course, not every situation is the same. You may want to cut ties quickly and silently if you feel that you’re in a dangerous situation, for example. However, for the most part, the other person really does deserve an opportunity to experience the end as much as you do.

Do: Take the Initiative

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If you’ve convinced yourself that this is the right move, the sooner the better.

If you have a regular Skype time, use that opportunity once you’re composed and have your thoughts in order.

Alternatively, you may want to simply get it over and done with as soon as possible. Send them a message at a time when you know they’ll be available, and let them know that you need to talk. Those words alone are a pretty good indicator that they need to prepare themselves for a serious conversation.

You can delay if you feel it’s necessary. However, remember that you’re not obligated to wait for a “better time” to end the relationship if you feel that you can’t keep going on in this state.

It’s better to step forward, be truthful to yourself and to them, and finish it now.

Don’t: Break Up Over Text or Email

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Breaking up in person or even over a phone call shows your integrity and how much you’re willing to see this through to its ultimate end.

Ending your relationship over text or email comes off as cold and uncaring. Yes, you may have been communicating over text for months on end, but this is one of those times where a video or audio call is necessary. You might be great at texting, but a text message doesn’t carry the nuance needed for a breakup conversation.

While you may feel that you want to remove your emotions from the equation, it’s just not good relationship etiquette.

As mentioned earlier, be kind in your actions and avoid this route. It can come off as callous and doesn’t give the other person closure.

Even if they did something grievous towards you, breaking up face to face gives you the opportunity to air your thoughts and feelings about them and the relationship as a whole. It benefits you as well.

Do: Be Decisive

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When you break up with the other person, be decisive in your words:

  • Outline the reasons for you wanting to break up with them
  • Tell them how you feel, and 
  • Be firm in your decision.

Here are some examples of things you might say:

“This is so incredibly hard to do, but I can’t do this anymore. The distance is killing me inside, and I realize that I just need to have someone by my side. You’re such an amazing person, and you deserve someone as amazing as you are. But I can’t do that now. I have to end this.”

“I know we’ve talked about it so many times, but I feel that we never get anywhere with our conversations for the future. You keep saying you’ll never move here, and I can’t just leave my brother behind when he needs me. I hate doing this, but I also hate that we’re in this situation with no end in sight. We need to break up our relationship.”

“I can’t do this anymore. I’ve been trying so hard to talk and keep in touch with you, but I feel like this relationship is completely one-sided. It’ll be better for you and for me if we just ended it right now.”

Don’t offer false hope, and avoid being vague or ambiguous at this point. It suggests that you aren’t sure of your decision, and gives them the impression that there’s still a chance that the relationship can be saved.

Don’t: Lay It All Out Publicly

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This is generally good advice for any relationship, but limit your breakup to those in your close friendship and family circles.

Not only will this help keep your business between the two of you, it’ll also reduce the number of unsolicited comments you’ll receive…particularly from those who were skeptical of your long distance relationship to begin with.

And, of course, never initiate the break up over social media. Letting others know first doesn’t give a good impression, and dragging out your grievances for everyone to see isn’t a good look either.

Do: Give the Break Up Talk More Time

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If you’re doing the break up over video chat, you may need to devote a little more time to make sure that you both get closure.

Enduring a long distance relationship comes with a lot of pain and sacrifice. It can be devastating to learn all that effort ended in heartache.

Make sure you devote the time to listen to them. Let them process what is happening. As they’re coming to terms with your decision, stress the issues that led you to make this call.

If they start getting insistent, abusive, or confrontational, let them know that you won’t accept that kind of behavior from them and that you’ve made up your mind. End the call if you have nothing more to say and if there’s nothing else of value being added.

Don’t: Accuse or Lay Blame

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Remember that the break up was initiated by you, and your statements should be solely focused on you.

That is, you should be saying “I feel that…” or “I’m affected by…” and so on.

Avoid laying blame or making accusations towards them. Accusations, especially speculative ones, can be particularly raw in a long distance relationship. Blaming or accusing will also escalate the break up into an argument, which will hinder closure for both of you.

If they are accusing or blaming you for anything in the relationship, let them say their piece, but try not to allow it to escalate. There’s no point in proving what’s right or wrong at this point if you’re adamant about ending this.

Do: Set Clear Boundaries

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Once you’ve told them you want to break up, you need to let them know what’s acceptable contact from now on.

Since you’re already living apart, there’s little chance that you’ll happen to bump into each other. However, it’s likely that you’re already communicating a lot via video chat and texting platforms. Make it clear to them what’s acceptable to you and what’s not.

By setting these boundaries for them, you should remember to set them for yourself as well. Resist the urge to message them or call them as you normally would, or respond to messages that come through. If they are insistent on breaching those boundaries, block their accounts and move on.

If you want to remain friends with them, you should consider going through a period of no-contact first. This is so you have enough time to move on from the relationship and form other social bonds, and disconnect yourself from the routine of talking with them online.

Don’t: Leave Things Hanging and Move On Without Them

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If you tried breaking up with them, but didn’t remain firm and left things open, that puts both of you in an awkward position. Are you still together or not? Are you free to do your own thing, or is this something else?

Be explicit and firm in your decision. If you’re worried that you can’t articulate your message clearly, draft a response and read from it when you talk to them. Alternatively, if you still can’t express this in words, sending a follow up text after talking to them will make it even clearer.

Avoid leaving things unresolved and hoping that they got the message. If they didn’t get the message the first time, and they see you on social media moving on, this may be confusing and lead to more conflict and arguments in future. 

The safest approach is to assume that the other person can’t read between the lines, and needs to be told straight up that the relationship is over.

Do: Give Closure and Follow Through

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Once you’ve both processed what’s happening and you’re on your way to reaching peace with the decision, acknowledge your feelings for them if you wish, and end the conversation.

Now, you need to stick to your decision.

Remember: you decided to make this choice for a reason, so don’t feel coerced or pressured into doing otherwise.

Respect the boundaries you have set for them, and also don’t violate their boundaries either.

It’ll seem odd to deviate from the communication routine you previously had. It will also seem strange to no longer receive regular messages from them at certain times. You’ll need to adjust. Take advantage of your long distance support system to help you out and to follow through on your choice.

Don’t: Be Consumed By Guilt

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You may feel guilty for breaking off a long distance relationship. You and your former partner may have made vows or promises to buck the trend and to fight to be together.

However, you’ve experienced first-hand how difficult long distance relationships can be. There are immense amounts of sacrifice and solitude involved. It’s not for everyone, and the failure rate, while not above 50%, is fairly close.

Not being able to reunite after a long distance relationship doesn’t make you any less of a lover, or a bad partner. It’s natural to feel a little guilty and go through “bad guy syndrome” after initiating a break up. However, remember the reasons why you had to call it off and remind yourself of them often.

Every person has needs that they must fulfil and their own vision for a happy, functional, stable partnership. It just so happens that this situation didn’t match what you were looking for. And that’s okay.

Do: Move On

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After you’ve broken up, you’ll want to move on to the next stage of your life. 

This might include:

  • Deleting or blocking their contact details for now
  • Archiving any messages, emails, photos, and videos you may have of each other
  • Gathering any gifts from them that you no longer want, and returning them at their request, or disposing of them thoughtfully
  • Continuing to maintain your boundaries with your former partner
  • Turning to your support network for help with coping from the break up
  • Venturing out and meeting new people
  • Doing all the things you may have wanted to do, but weren’t able to, during your long distance relationship.

Don’t: Dwell On The Relationship For Too Long After It’s Over

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After the break up, you may find yourself reminiscing about moments you had during the long distance relationship.

This may evolve into feelings of guilt or remorse. You might think that you both could’ve made it through after all, if only you didn’t end it so quickly and were just a little stronger.

Just remember: you broke up with your ex for your reasons.

Perhaps you both didn’t have the time for each other anymore, or the emotional toll was wearing on you too much. Maybe you had different values or life goals. Or it could be that you simply want a more physical relationship, and couldn’t see that happening with your previous situation.

Whatever the case may be, remember the reasons why you couldn’t go on with them. It’s fine to look back fondly on the good times you had with them. However, it doesn’t do you any good to speculate on what could have been.

Move on from that chapter of your life, and be ready to start the next one.