How to break up with someone who’s wonderful

Caitlyn asks: Hello, I have a boyfriend and I really like him, but I just want to be single for a while. What should I do?

Hi Caitlyn –

Aw this is such a tough situation!  Of course you’re right – if you need some time to yourself, you should take it.  But at the same time, if this boy likes you back, he’s going to feel some lousy stuff when you do.

Your job is to make there be as little lousiness as possible.

I’ve found that humans take this sort of rejection (which it is, even though you like him) best when it’s clearest and most direct.  So if you leave lots of hints, hoping he’ll bring the subject up, and give lots of “I don’t know, I’m feeling like I should be single for a while” comments… you are just going to drive him nuts.  He’ll think you’re losing interest in him and try to be nicer, he’ll start to suspect there are things you’re not telling him, maybe suspect you’re with another guy…

Way better to sit him down and say, “Look, here’s the situation.  You’re great.  There’s nothing wrong with you.  I like everything about you.  But I’m at a stage in my life where I need to be single for a while.  That might mean I’m staying home on weekend nights, or it might mean I’m out with friends, or it might mean I go out with some boys.  I need this, but I really hope you can be okay with it, and we can stay friendly.  I don’t know if I’ll want to be boyfriend-and-girlfriend again later or not.  For all I know, we might get back together in a few years and get married!  Like I said, I think you’re great!  I just need to be single for a while right now.  I will promise you one thing though – I will tell you if I start to get involved with anyone in any serious way.  So please know, if you see me with another guy, it doesn’t mean anything’s happening – unless I’ve told you so.”

Caitlyn I’m not going to pretend this will be easy.   It won’t.  But if you can say those things to him – and be prepared to have to say them a number of times again, because he’s almost certain to get confused – I think it’ll be the best possible way.

And above all, be loving.  You’re putting him into a tough place, so let him know you understand that.  Look at it this way: just about every day, my human Handsome leaves me at home alone.  It rips me apart every time.  And he knows it.  And every day, as he’s leaving, he stops what he’s doing, and he looks me in the eye and tells me how much he loves me, and he kisses me on the nose.  And so, even though I know I’m going to be lonely and sad, at least he’s made sure I know I’m not forgotten, and that he still has his feelings for me.  And that’s worth a lot.

Now you can’t do what he does (well, maybe you can kiss your boyfriend on the nose, though he’ll probably think that’s weird!), because you’re actually breaking the romance off, not just leaving for eight hours.  But you want to have that same clarity, that same sureness.

And again, I’m not saying it’ll be easy, or he’ll be calm and cool with it.  But I do believe the results will be the best they possibly can be.

Best of Luck,


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