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60 Must-Knows to End a Relationship on Good Terms & Not Leave It Messy

You’re not happy with your partner, and so you want to know how to end the relationship. Here is everything you need to know so that it ends well.

how to end a relationship on good terms

If you are asking yourself how to end a relationship on good terms, you are already ahead of the curve. Most people would rather win the breakup by ghosting them or having the upper hand. But in reality, there’s no winning the breakup because both of you have already lost each other. 

However, this doesn’t mean you have to hate each other and wish the worst for them *although we have to admit, we’ve all felt that for an ex!* 

When you know how to end a relationship on good terms, you can continue to appreciate everything you’ve gone through together without resenting the other. 

No matter who broke up with who, it’s possible to have a healthy breakup that doesn’t end in anger and bitterness. All you have to do is be honest, communicate, and let your ex react in their own way. 

It is not as complicated as you may believe. Just think of it this way – your relationship deserves compassion after everything you’ve been through together. [Read: Is it time to let go? Reasons why even perfect relationships end sometimes]

Why is ending a relationship so hard to do? 

No one likes endings because it’s sad. Whether or not you were together for a few weeks or a few decades, it’s never easy to end things. Here are a few reasons for that.

1. It’s a big change

When someone is such an integral part of your life, you get used to them being there. They fill up a part of your life and your time. So, when you break up, there’s going to be a huge void in your life.

Maybe you had your routines and the things you did together just the two of you. When you break up, all of that is also gone too, not just the person you broke up with. [Read: How long does it take someone to get over a breakup? 34 steps and the timeline]

2. There is hurt and sadness involved

It’s rare that two people are excited and feel good about breaking up. Even if both of you wanted to break up, negative feelings are still involved.

And if one *or both* of you is blindsided or devastated, then that really makes it worse. There could be crying and begging, which is always difficult to deal with.

3. The “death of a dream”

When the two of you first got together, you both had a dream of how the relationship would turn out. [Read: Want happily ever after? Look for these signs of love]

You probably thought you would live happily ever after and ride off into the sunset like in the Disney movies. But that’s not how it turned out.

Now you’re breaking up and not only do you have to let go of this person, but also the dream of happily ever after too. Most people are just as attached to the idea of their future relationship as they are to the person they were with.

How to know when to end a relationship

Sometimes it’s difficult to know when you should throw in the towel on a relationship. Usually, there are a lot of pros and cons to consider. So, here are some signs that you should definitely break up. [Read: Should we break up? 35 signs it’s over and past the point of no return]

1. You keep breaking up and getting back together

Sure, a lot of people do this. But it’s a sign that it’s not working. Otherwise, there would be no “breaking up” part – just the “together” part. An on-off relationship is too rocky to be healthy and survive long-term. 

2. You’re doing all the sacrificing

If you feel like you’re in a relationship with a brick wall because your partner doesn’t contribute anything and you are the only one who gives, then it’s time to call it quits. Relationships are a two-way street, not a one-way street.

3. You can’t trust them

If there has been cheating, lying, or any other kind of betrayal, then the foundation of your relationship has been destroyed. [Read: I don’t trust my boyfriend – 20 reasons why and the fastest fixes]

If you’re constantly thinking that you can’t trust them with anything, that is toxic and it’s no way to live.

4. You’ve grown apart

Sometimes, people just get stagnant and go in different directions in life. Perhaps when you first got together you liked doing the same things, but now it’s all changed.

If you seem like different people who just don’t understand each other anymore, then it’s over.

5. Your major values aren’t aligned

Maybe one of you is overly conservative and the other one overly liberal. Or you have very different religions. [Read: Feeling trapped in a relationship – why you feel stuck and what you MUST do]

Regardless of what it is, if your values and world views aren’t aligned, then they probably never will be. Time to find someone more similar to you.

6. You’ve stopped caring or putting in the effort

Marriage counselors always say that they can help most types of couples except one. And that is the couple that is apathetic and just doesn’t care anymore.

So, if one or both of you have just emotionally checked out of the relationship, then it’s already over.

7. You’re experiencing physical or emotional abuse

This is the number one deal-breaker. [Read: Emotional abuse – what it is and 39 signs this relationship is breaking you]

If there is any form of abuse in your relationship whatsoever, that is completely toxic and unacceptable. You need to end the relationship immediately so you can be safe. Get help if you can’t leave on your own.

8. You don’t like yourself

Maybe when you began this relationship, you liked yourself. But as time went on, you realize that you are a different person now because you’re not your best self with your partner. That is not good. They should make you a better person – not a worse person.

9. You fight nonstop

Occasional fighting is normal in a relationship. But it must be worked through healthily and productively. [Read: Are relationship fights normal? 15 signs you’re fighting too often]

So, if you’re doing nothing but fighting, then you obviously can’t work through your problems. That’s a dead-end relationship.

10. You’re not getting your needs met

Everyone has needs – it’s just human nature. And part of being in a loving relationship is getting your needs met by your partner.

But if your partner doesn’t care and ignores your needs, then that is not okay. Both of you should be working to meet each other’s needs – and you should want to. [Read: 25 honest truths and ways to stop feeling ignored by someone you love]

11. You think about breaking up all the time

If things are so bad between the two of you that you find yourself fantasizing about what life would be like without them in it, then it’s time to end it. After all, it’s already over in your head, so you might as well just make it official so you can both move on.

Why do you want to end a relationship on good terms?

Do you want to remain friends? Do you want to avoid drama at work or school? Or do you just want to be a nice person? 

All of these are good reasons for learning how to end a relationship on good terms. You might think it’s not possible, but you can always learn how to end a relationship on good terms. 

They were a significant part of your life. Just because things didn’t work out, doesn’t mean you should end in hate and resentment. [Read: How to break up with someone who loves you and not hurt them more]

Hate won’t change anything and certainly won’t help them move on from the relationship. Most likely, holding a grudge will lengthen their moving-on process further.

What does ending a relationship on good terms mean?

First of all, ending a relationship on good terms does not mean you can still hit each other up after midnight for a booty call. It doesn’t mean you can ask them for favors or use them or vice versa. 

You broke up for a reason. Just because you ended the relationship healthily doesn’t mean you can have the benefits of a relationship without commitment. 

Ending on good terms means different things for different couples, but it’s often a civil way of breaking up. [Read: How to break up when your partner doesn’t want to]

You don’t hate one another, but you don’t necessarily love them either *or at least, you’re trying not to love them anymore*. You can be friends with them, but this often does more damage than good for them. 

Ending a relationship on good terms could even mean you never speak again, but also that you don’t have a bad taste in your mouth when you think of them. It’s up to you to decide what terms feel good for your relationship.

How to end a relationship on good terms

Whether you have been dating for a couple of weeks, months, or even years, it’s entirely possible to know how to end a relationship on good terms. [Read: How to break up when he doesn’t want to – the step-by-step guide]

It might be challenging, but you can always choose to be mature in handling the breakup. It might be easier to hold a grudge, but it’s still possible to be civil about it. Here are our tips on how to do so:

1. Prepare yourself

Before going into a breakup, do not act like you know what they will do. You don’t. Nobody likes a breakup, so there’s a high chance they won’t react calmly and collectively. 

However, the fact that you’re eager to learn how to end a relationship on good terms says a lot about your intentions for the breakup. [Read: The breakup conversation guide to say the right things without hurting them]

2. Respect them

Respect is the one thing you should have if you want to know how to end a relationship on good terms. Do not talk down to them. Do not patronize them. Even when things are practically over, don’t insult or belittle them. 

Be as straightforward as possible and don’t sugarcoat things. Even if they are upset at the moment, good terms will come later if you are respectful.

3. Do it in person

If you’re going to end things, at least have the decency to do it in person. They deserve a proper breakup and doing it over text, email, or even a call will make them resent you. [Read: These are the consequences of ghosting someone]

As difficult as a breakup in person is, it’s necessary if you want to end things on a good note. 

Ending things any other way says that you care more about avoiding awkwardness than their feelings, which is not a great way to end a relationship on good terms.

4. Be honest

For some reason, people have a real problem with this. If you sugarcoat or even lie to them about the real reason for breaking up, don’t expect things to end on a good note. [Read: Real and valid reasons to break up with someone]

This also means if you ghost someone because you can’t be honest with them, then don’t expect them to be civil with you. They’ll find the truth out anyway, so why bother hiding it?

5. Thank them

This seems cheesy, but make sure they know you appreciate them. This is one of the most overlooked ways of learning how to end a relationship on good terms. Thank them for the relationship and everything they’ve done for you. 

No one wants to feel like an afterthought or be blatantly rejected. [Read: How to tell someone you don’t like them – methods of rejection]

Thanking them will make it seem like you’re really trying to be civil with them, even if they end up having a hateful reaction *which is normal, by the way*!

6. Do not ask anything of them right now

Asking them to be friends right away isn’t the best idea when you’ve just dumped them. Whether they are heartbroken, pissed, or in shock, it is not fair of you to ask anything of them right now. 

Pause asking for any favors from them and give them time to process their feelings. [Read: Why you’re feeling relief after you broke up with someone]

The worst part of the breakup is that they probably never saw it coming, so at least let them reflect on their feelings. You have been thinking about this for a while, so you have had time to process it, give them the same.

7. Give them space

Just because you are ending the relationship on good terms does not mean you are going to be BFFs right away. [Read: How to know when to give someone space – 19 signs they’re sick of you]

Some people really aren’t okay with being friends with their ex as it can stop them from moving on. 

Stop expecting them to laugh at your jokes or be okay with being friends with you. Since you’re the one that did the breaking up, leave the ball in their court. When they’re ready and if they want to, they’ll come around.

8. Don’t comfort them at the moment

You see them crying or getting upset and you want to comfort them. Don’t. [Read: The worst ways to break up with someone who loves you]

You lost the right to comfort them when you broke up with them. Yes, it’s your instinct to do so, but this might make them even angrier and probably confused. 

You can hug them goodbye, but trying to comfort and console them will not help things end on good terms. Your intentions might be good, but it’s not going to benefit the breakup. 

In learning how to end a relationship on good terms, just let them be upset on their own terms. They need to face the end of the relationship without you before the good terms take action. [Read: 15 secrets to comfort and help a friend heal through a breakup and feel better]

9. Let them cry

Crying is absolutely normal in a breakup and you shouldn’t think otherwise! Wanting them to stop crying is more for your benefit than theirs. 

You probably feel guilt or even shame when they cry, but it’s a way for them to release their feelings. 

By telling them not to cry, you’re basically telling them not to be human. If the roles were reversed, you’d probably cry too! [Read: How to write a heartfelt, touching goodbye letter to make someone cry]

10. Answer their questions

In a breakup, it’s normal for them to ask questions, especially if they never saw it coming. Be direct in answering their questions. It’s their form of closure and the least you can do is give them peace of mind. 

Don’t tell them that your answers won’t help – that’s just patronizing. The truth not only makes you feel better, but it will give them more closure than a soft lie. [Read: The 20 best questions to ask your ex after a breakup to get closure]

11. Remember that you don’t know what’s best for them

We see this in breakups all the time. Whether it’s using cheesy lines to sugarcoat the real reason or maybe softening the blow, everyone does this all the time. 

However, the best thing you can do is to be direct with them. Stop protecting their feelings and just tell them as it is. [Read: 15 lessons you can learn from your own breakups]

12. Be polite

It doesn’t make you a bad person to be uncomfortable when ending things – it makes you human. It’s more unusual when you don’t feel uncomfortable. With this being said, be polite with them as much as possible. 

You’re the one doing the dumping so you’re the one that needs to adjust in terms of politeness. Let them feel whatever they can without responding to their anger with the same level of frustration. That is if you want to learn how to end a relationship on good terms. [Read: How to be nice – 20 easy tips to make everyone love being around you]

13. Don’t spread gossip

Your relationship might be over, but there’s no need to spread rumors or gossip about them. 

Even when you’re both from the same friend group, you don’t need to tell everyone how badly they reacted to the breakup. It’s easy for you to say – you did the dumping and not them. 

Sure, you are going to tell people your relationship is over, but do not tell your friend group they cried or yelled. [Read: Things to keep in mind when you bump into your ex again]

There’s no need to ruin their reputation even if you’re already broken up. Respect them enough to keep things meant to be private, private.

14. Accept their reaction

No matter what reaction you get, just accept it. Stop controlling what they feel because honestly, you don’t know a single thing about what they feel at that moment. 

Everyone faces a breakup differently, and no matter how they do it, accept that. Just because you want to be civil about the breakup doesn’t mean they’re going to react the way you want them to. [Read: Can you actually stay friends after a breakup?]

15. Don’t take advantage of their feelings

You’ll make them hate you with an endless passion if you either sleep with them, lead them on, or basically just confuse the hell out of them. 

If you broke up with them, stick with that decision. Don’t suddenly tell them you miss them or kiss them just because you’re lonely. Stop confusing your ex and ruining their moving-on process.

16. End things the way you’d want others to end it with you

You need to treat them with respect and do everything you’d want others to do if you were the one being dumped.

If you don’t like your feelings being invalidated, then don’t invalidate theirs. If you don’t like being ghosted, then don’t do it. Really, it’s as simple as following The Golden Rule. [Read: How to move on and deal with a break up with a smile]

17. Stand your ground

You need to prepare yourself for the possibility that they won’t accept the breakup *yes, this happens*! In learning how to end a relationship on good terms, stand your ground and don’t change your mind just because you feel bad. 

This is also why you should never sugarcoat why you’re breaking up with them. Even if you feel like the worst person in the world for leaving them, stick to that decision. [Read: Stand up for yourself – why it’s hard and steps to get what you want and deserve]

18. Don’t do it in public

If you really want to know how to end things on good terms, don’t do it in a public place. As much as possible, do it somewhere where you won’t be around too many people and where you both can express what needs to be said without the fear of judgment. 

Also, they may make a scene in a public place, so this really isn’t the best place to dump them.

19. Talk about them on a good note

When people ask why you broke up, tell them the truth but also don’t ruin their image. You can tell your relationship story without cursing your ex or calling them all kinds of names. [Read: How to break up with someone you love – when it’s hard but right]

This is not just a sign of maturity, but a sign of respect. You still loved your ex even if the relationship didn’t work, so they don’t deserve to be the bad person in your story. 

20. Make it tailor-made

Breakups must be done according to your relationship. You’re the only one who knows your partner intimately, so think about what you will say to them and how you will say it. [Read: Sample conversations and phrases to break up with someone you love]

21. Consider timing

While there really is no “good” time to break up with someone, try to at least be sensitive to what your partner may be going through. 

Deliver your breakup while your partner is not stressed with other parts of their life or undergoing deeply traumatic events such as the death of a family member.

22. “It’s not you, it’s me” 

While saying these exact words is cliché and will likely have your ex bawling their eyes out over your lack of creativity, it’s still important to mention concrete reasons why you’re not fit for a relationship with the person. [Read: How to show empathy and learn to understand someone else’s feelings]

23. Be specific

And stay specific. If you’re breaking up, be specific as to where you’re coming from with your decision. Cite specific situations, but deliver them constructively and in a way that they may come out of it broken-hearted but still a better person.

24. Sensitivity

You may find yourself relieved to finally end a relationship and be free of a person that has made you sad for some time. 

But don’t go into the breakup all grinning and jolly. Expect surprise, denial, tears, hurt, anger, and a rollercoaster of emotions from the other party. [Read: How to develop empathy and master the art of growing a real heart]

25. Last to know

Never, EVER, go around telling everybody that you want to break up with your partner. 

Chances are, this story will find its way to your partner before you have the opportunity to break the news to them—making the breakup even more devastating and humiliating. [Read: Undeniable signs you’ll break up in a few months]

26. Be crystal clear

Be clear that the breakup is absolutely over. Avoid any talk about that remote possibility that you may one day cross paths and find a way back together in the future because this will just give them false hope.

27. Shut it and seal it

Make sure there is closure. If you’re honest about yourself and that you don’t see a future with them, then tell them that it’s absolutely over and that they should move on with their lives—without you.

28. Anger management

Don’t break up with someone out of anger. This will just end up very badly, with nasty words thrown against each other, and when the anger fades, you may still end up in love with them. 

However, with all that’s been said and done, they may not feel the same anymore. [Read: Valid reasons that justify a break up]

29. Don’t overdo it

Yes, you’re wracked with guilt. But don’t go breaking up with your partner all sobbing and near-hysterical. This is just tasteless, especially if it’s insincere. 

Compose yourself and be level-headed when facing your partner, so you can better express yourself and approach the situation maturely. That way, you can expect them to be mature about it, too.

30. Fake it? 

Alright, so you’re breaking up with your partner because their breath smells funny, or they have weird quirks in bed that you just can’t stand. [Read: 26 honest steps to let go of someone you love and move on and find peace]

Despite the breakup, your partner still deserves the truth. Have some dignity for your relationship, and don’t lie your way out of it.

31. Brutal honesty

While being honest is always the best policy, especially in breakups, it’s still not good practice to let yourself go. 

If you’re breaking up with your partner because you don’t like the way they look or talk, don’t crush their ego and spoil them for future relationships by being too brutally honest. [Read: First week after a breakup the hardest parts and 15 steps to survive and heal]

32. Short and sweet

The more you say, the more you might say wrong. So better to keep things short, if not sweet, when breaking up with someone. 

The “talk” shouldn’t last over 30 minutes, so the sooner you’re done with it, the sooner both of you can get on with your lives.

33. Don’t engage

While things can get pretty messy and out-of-hand, as your partner may be overcome with intense emotions, it wouldn’t help for you to be part of the drama, too. [Read: The right way to end a relationship that’s bad for you]

If they get angry and verbally abusive, reign in some control. Let them just get it all out and then make your exit.

34. No defense

As you talk to your partner about the breakup, your partner may bring up some points about you, too. They may even try to say anything just to hurt you back. 

Don’t fuel the fire. Besides, there’s no use defending yourself, because, at this point, there’s no changing what they are thinking about you now. [Read: Why do people get defensive? Reasons and ways to handle them]

35. Stop hovering

When you break up with your partner, you may feel bad, as you see your now-ex is devastated by what’s happened. 

As tempting as it is, try not to call them in the following days or weeks to check up on them, nor should you try to comfort them. This will only make things worse. [Read: No contact rule – what it is, how to use it, and why it works so well]

36. Someone else

NEVER tell your partner that you’re leaving them because you met someone else, or are already dating them. Nothing good will ever come from it, and it will just make the breakup even nastier.

37. Take one for the team

When you’re telling the reasons why you’re breaking up, don’t dump all the blame on the other person. 

After all, it takes two to tango and you may have *or haven’t* done your part, too. Instead of being accusatory, lessen the pain and allow the other person to leave with a little dignity. [Read: Common reasons why relationships fail so often]

38. Ghosting

If there’s anything crueler than breaking up with someone electronically, it’s breaking up with them and not giving any explanation. 

It’s like you just left them without any trace, and this will make them even more confused, forever searching for closure as your sudden disappearance haunts them. [Read: What is ghosting really and how does it work?]

39. Carrot on a stick

After you break up with a person, don’t stick around and leave them hanging on to any hope that you might go back to them. Stop stringing them along and treating them as your backup relationship.

40. Be kind

Think about how it would feel if the other person was the one breaking up with you. Would you like to hear the same reasons and clichés as you are about to tell them? 

How would you like to be treated? Keep in mind the Golden Rule as you sit down and choose your words of goodbye. [Read: 20 sure signs your relationship is over way before you decide to break up]

After the breakup

Not only do you need to know how to handle the actual breakup itself, but you should also think about what to do after it too. 

41. Breakup sex? 

Breakup sex might be a good idea, but you have to choose the right timing when it comes to telling the other person you’re breaking up with them. 

Don’t do it right after the deed, but choose a moment when you’re both level-headed. [Read: Break up sex and circumstances when it’s perfectly acceptable]

42. Don’t have post-breakup sex

While breakup sex is common among many couples, having sex right after breaking up is a big no-no. 

There’s nothing more that you need to do to make the separation easier for your partner, and the least you can do is offer a compassionate touch, not a lay in the hay.

43. Don’t try to stay friends right away

It may be tempting to tell your ex that you can stay friends, but just don’t do it right away. If they are devastated by the breakup, then staying friends will just give them false hope in the beginning. [Read: Why does my ex want to be friends? 25 questions and reasons to read their mind]

So, go no contact for a while. Let the breakup sink in for them and allow them to grieve and get used to it. Then, if you want to try to be friends down the road, you can discuss the possibility.

44. Take some time to deal with your loss

Even if you are the one who wanted the breakup, it’s still a loss in your life. And if you have been together for a long time, your life will change quite a bit. 

So, it’s okay to acknowledge your grief. It might just be the grief of the “death of a dream” of what could have been between the two of you. But regardless, it’s alright to mourn the loss. [Read: Stages of grief in divorce, ways to read them, and the right steps to cope]

45. Enjoy your post-relationship life

Your routines are going to change. After all, your ex was in your life for a while and you saw them a lot. Now there is going to be a void.

But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Fill that void with things, experiences, and people. Enjoy being single and reflect on the relationship and what went wrong – but have some fun doing it.

46. Don’t show off new relationships

We’ve mentioned respect earlier and it should be the foundation of this entire list of how to end a relationship on good terms. [Read: 22 things to let go of and fall in love again when you’re hurt after a breakup]

Especially if you broke up with them, you have no right to show off new relationships and boast to them. 

Remember, you want to end the relationship on good terms, and that means more than being nice at the moment. 

You actually have to live up to that. Even if you’re really dating, there’s no need to rub it in their face. [Read: A guide for a clean breakup with someone you love]

So, how to end a relationship on good terms?

If you want to learn how to end a relationship on good terms, treat them with respect and compassion. This doesn’t mean confusing their feelings, but at least validating their feelings and allowing them to process the pain and hurt. Let them win the breakup if they have to.

[Read: How to move on from a breakup without compromising your dignity]

Figuring out how to end a relationship on good terms is not as hard as you might think. Just be honest and respectful and you might just civilly end the breakup. Who knows? You might even be capable of friendship. 

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Carol Morgan LP
Dr. Carol Morgan
Dr. Carol Morgan has a Ph.D. in communication and is a professor at Wright State University where she loves corrupting young minds. As a relationship and succes...