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How to Break Up With Someone Respectfully

Dear CMR,

How do you call it quits after you’ve been going out a few times, but you don’t want to continue the relationship?


I’m Out

Dear I’m Out,

This is a great question. If you’re single and dating, there will be times you meet someone, maybe go out once or twice, but you’re just not feeling it. It’s important to learn how to say, “No thanks, I’m not interested” – but in a way that speaks kindness and respect to the person.

What NOT to do:

1.     Don’t blame it on God. Please don’t say, “I don’t feel like God is calling me to date you.” That can mess with someone’s relationship with the Lord. Maybe the Holy Spirit is prompting you, but don’t blame Him.

2.     Don’t ghost them. Don’t say nothing. Don’t just block them or stop texting them, and leave them hanging. That can be so damaging to a person’s heart. It may be easier for you, but that’s selfish and immature. If you’re mature enough to be dating in the first place, then you need to be mature enough to have the hard conversation with the other person. Sure, it’s not comfortable, but that doesn’t mean you leave a wake of broken hearts and burned bridges behind you. That’s not healthy dating.

3.     Don’t break up over text! That’s immature and hiding. If you’re mature enough to be dating, you need to be mature enough to do it in person.

So how do you break up respectfully and with kindness?

First, pause and ask yourself: “How would I want someone to turn me down?” and then treat them how you would want to be treated! Matthew 7:12 in The Message puts it this way: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them. Add up God’s Law and Prophets and this is what you get.”

Second, while the Bible doesn’t explicitly talk about “dating”, God’s word does give us a lot of guidelines on how to treat others. Here’s how it would apply to breaking up.

What to do:

1.     Start by affirming the person. Ephesian 4:15 tells us to speak the truth in love. So, lead off by sharing three positive affirmations/compliments of the person. You want to be honest and explain, but start by identifying things that you genuinely admire or appreciate about the person.

For example: “You’re so kind. You’re such a caring person. I really appreciate your passion for the Lord and your heart for people.” You can always find something about them to appreciate. The Bible says we are to encourage and edify one another (Eph. 4:29), and we need to take that seriously in dating. Leave them better than you found them by affirming them in a genuine, authentic way.

2.     Be honest, but don’t go into detail. Explain that it’s just not a good match. “I didn’t feel the connection I was hoping for” or “I didn’t feel the emotions I thought I would”.  Be clear and forthright. “You’re not a bad person. I’m not a bad person. We’re just not a good match or a good fit.”

Some people feel compelled to give a detailed list of complaints – but don’t. You don’t owe them any more of an explanation than that – especially if it’s early in the relationship. You don’t have to give them a list of reasons just because they ask for it either. Perhaps the reasons you would give just mean they’re not a good match for you in particular, but that doesn’t mean they won’t be a good match for someone else. It’s not really encouraging or edifying to list out all the reasons. Just start with the encouraging word and then leave it at that.

3.     When you do close that door, keep the door closed. “Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes’ and your ‘No’ ‘No’” (Matt. 5:37). Don’t be that person that breaks up with someone and then continues to text them, like their photos on Instagram, comment on their posts; It gives them false hope and leads them on to think there may be hope of getting back together. That’s not fair, and it’s confusing for them. Protect their heart; Honor and respect them by keeping those boundaries intact.

I hope that gives you some helpful guidelines to turn someone down or refuse a second date in a way that both honors the other person and builds them up in the process.