Relationships aren’t always black and white. Sometimes it’s necessary to break things off with someone with whom you’re not officially an item. Whether you’ve gone on a few dates but sparks just aren’t flying or you have a “friends with benefits” arrangement, it can be tough to know how to break up when you’re not even really together.
INSIDER consulted with psychologists, counselors, and relationship experts to find out how to end a relationship with someone when you’re not an actual couple.
Have the talk as soon as you know you don’t want to continue seeing the person
When you decide that you no longer want to continue seeing or sleeping with someone, you owe it to them to break the news as soon as you can.
“Once you know things aren’t going to work with this other person, don’t string them along and wait and see who pops up in your Tinder feed to determine if you’re going to return his or her text,” licensed psychotherapist and life coach Tess Brigham told INSIDER.
As soon as you feel certain that the relationship doesn’t have a future, make a plan to tell the other person how you feel.
If possible, try to meet face to face
If your relationship has been short-lived or very casual, arranging an in-person breakup can feel daunting or even excessive. However, meeting face to face is usually the most respectful and caring way to end any sort of romantic connection.
“We lose so much when we rely on texts for significant communication. We misread the bear411 username intent behind written words and we fill in gaps, often with inaccurate stories. Even if the couple hasn’t actually been a ‘couple’ in terms of formally dating, if you’re spending time together or having sex, changing that situation is significant enough to benefit from an actual conversation,” licensed professional counselor Shelley A. Senterfitt , JD, MS, told INSIDER.
Though it’s not always possible to meet in person due to geographical or time constraints, try to make an effort to avoid ending the relationship via text or email.
Choose an appropriate time and place for the conversation
When it comes to making a breakup as easy as possible, timing goes a long way. Be sure to schedule your chat for a time when the other person will be as relaxed and clear-headed as possible.
“Try to tell them at a time that isn’t high stakes, such as on a typical weekend day instead of ten minutes before an exam,” clinical sexologist and relationship therapist Laurel Steinberg , Ph.D., told INSIDER.
Brigham added that you should also avoid broaching the subject when the other person is buried in work or just waking up in the morning.
If you’re worried that meeting up with the other person might lead to falling into bed together, you should try and discuss things in a neutral, public place.
“Make plans that are outside of a setting that’s likely to lead to a hookup. For example, go to the mall or for a walk instead of watching a movie inside your apartment,” suggested Steinberg.
Be as honest and kind as possible
Just because your casual fling hasn’t bloomed into a serious relationship doesn’t mean that the other person doesn’t deserve a serious and honest explanation for your change of heart.
“Be as honest as you can without harming the other person. If the current arrangement no longer works for you because you’re too busy with other commitments, you’ve started dating someone else, or you’ve just decided you want more ‘me’ time, simply say so,” Senterfitt advised.