How to Break Up Over the Phone

Feeling a little wary about breaking up with someone face to face? It can happen, especially where you're in an unhappy or abusive relationship, or because of the reality that you live a long way apart from one another, whether for work, study, or other reasons. Breaking up over the phone may not be the most ideal way to end a relationship but where it is a safe or only available method, it can be done well. This article will help you learn how to go about successfully, seeking as smooth an ending as possible.


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    Do a reality check before dialing the number. Be one hundred percent certain that this is what you want because once the words are said, that's it, the other person will be absolutely aware of your thoughts. If you are breaking up because you haven't been able to see this person for a while (such as in a long distance relationship), be sure that you're happy about not meeting with them in person to discuss things before seeking to break up completely.
    • Also consider if the phone really is the best method for doing this. For a relationship that is fairly young, abusive, or distant, this may be the best choice – you're not heavily invested in a young relationship going nowhere, you're probably scared if the relationship is abusive, and if there is distance involved, the practicalities require a phone break up. But where you've been dating for a long time, it might be rough not only on the recipient but on you too. Then again, if you really cannot bear the thought of seeing their face and reactions, or you'rinely concerned that this will make you undo your commitment to break up by not remaining resolute, the phone might be a valid option. It's your conscience!
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    Don't wait for the person to call you. Once you've made up your mind that this is the only path to take, do it. Unless it's incredibly difficult for you to get in touch with the other person, draw the courage to make the call and get it over with. No matter how much you've been thinking this through, it's highly likely that the other person won't be expecting the break up. If you've waited for them to call you first, only to break the news you want out of the relationship, it will be extra shocking to your significant other who called in looking forward to talking to you, only to realize you've been waiting to break up with them.
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    Make sure the person you're breaking up with is in a comfortable place. In the age of mobile technology, you can't be sure whether the person you're calling is at home, or on the train, or shopping for groceries, or even stuck in a public phone booth (more likely if they're traveling). If possible, try to call the person when you know they'll have the privacy to process the break up appropriately. If they are busy when you call, or you feel that they're in an inappropriate place to hear this news, you have two choices:
    • Pretend everything is normal, and try again another time.
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    • Let them know you need to talk about something important. Understand that this will likely make the person nervous and worried, possibly distracting them from the task at hand, so be careful of your tone and the sense of urgency with which you convey this "need to talk".
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    Break up definitively. Say "I'm breaking up with you" or "I've decided to end the relationship." This tells your partner that it's over, not that it might be over (in which case they could try to persuade you to change your mind). Don't say anything to encourage negotiation, like "I think I want to break up" or "I don't want to be with you anymore" or "I'm not happy with this relationship."
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    Expect this to be a totally difficult conversation from the moment you tell them onwards. Be ready for their surprise and awkward silences. Depending on their personality and ability to take bad news, expect anything from silence, to crying, to outrage, to threats such as "this isn't over until I've had a chance to come and talk this through with you". Being prepared for the reactions is important, because you will need exit strategies in mind.
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    Bring the conversation to a close. Whether the reaction is questions, crying, arguing, begging, or lashing out, stay calm and committed to your decision. Don't let the conversation drag out. No matter what your reasons, and how unjust or untrue the other person might think those reasons are, you're still entitled to end a relationship you don't want to be a part of anymore. Briefly work out any logistics (e.g. "I'll come by tomorrow while you're at work and pick up my stuff, please leave it on the front porch") and end the conversation: "I understand if you don't agree with my reasons, but that doesn't change my decision. I wish you the best. Goodbye."
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    Say all that needs to be said, but nothing more. Before you hang up, make sure you've said everything that he/she needs to hear, but don't let it drag on any further than that. You don't want to pull a "Joe Jonas", or end a relationship through a 27-second phone message, but you still have to realise that carrying on a long breakup conversation will not provide the kind of closure that you both need; instead, it will only make things harder.


  • If you are sure you want to break up with somebody, it is best done sooner rather than later. However, if your partner has had a particularly bad day already, you may want to consider waiting for a better moment. Breaking up with them when they are already down will make the break-up much harder for both of you.
  • Breaking up over the phone is eminently kinder than breaking up over Facebook. At least nobody else gets to listen in on the phone, unless you're really vindictive...
  • Where your relationship is not exclusive, breaking up by phone can be an easier method than catching up in person because neither of you are intensely committed.
  • Depending on the type of person, it may be better or worse to come straight out with, "I am breaking up with you." before saying anything else.
  • To help finalize the break up and give the person closure, it's best to avoid their calls and not respond to any contact from them for at least week, unless it's necessary (in which case you should be polite but curt). Emails and texts may come into the equation after breaking up, too. Ignore these as well. With emails, divert them to a folder so that you don't even see them.
  • Keep your voice low and sweet. Don't come across frustrated and bugged. You want to end the relationship on a happy note, remember?
  • There can be a great irony in breaking up with someone over the phone when you haven't spoken to one another for weeks. You might need to pluck up more courage to manage this than seeing them!
  • One of the things that makes phone break-ups so difficult is the lack of "closure" that the person on the receiving end might feel, or they will say it is "cold, unfeeling, insulting", etc. Without the opportunity to see you and argue their case, they may carry around a wound of being victimized and not being allowed their chance to fight for the relationship. While their unhappiness and reaction is perfectly understandable and your action is hurtful, the reality is that once one person has decided the relationship has ended, it's over and continued wheedling, pleading, and arguing will only make things worse. A person who nurses an emotional wound like this long after the break-up needs to seek counseling, something that you cannot shoulder as a personal burden.
  • One thing that can ease your concern about breaking up over the phone is the reality that however you break up, it'll still hurt. Whether or not it's possible to put a scale of grading on added hurt from a phone call break up will depend on the length of relationship and the people involved, as it's highly subjective.
  • If you are calling a home or public phone, make sure to ask to speak to your partner. You don't want your boyfriend's dad to think you are breaking up with him!


  • Don't judge others harshly for doing this. Can you really say that you're above breaking up with someone over the phone? You never know when you might be in a situation where this is the safest or most emotionally stable way of coping with a break up. While there is nothing wrong with supporting a girlfriend or mate who is at the receiving end of such a break-up method, it pays to keep an open mind as you weren't a part of their relationship.
  • If you're afraid of a person because you've been in an abusive relationship, get support. If you need to remove items from the house you were sharing, have other people accompany you when you do so.
  • Never break up in the heat of the moment. If the relationship is already broken beyond repair, that won't change once the argument is over and the anger has passed. Break up when you're both calm and can talk it over peacefully. That's when you have the best chance of closure.
  • Sometimes the other person won't get the hint. And they may turn up in person to harass you; again, seek appropriate support if this becomes an issue of harassment, stalking, or threats.

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