It’s never easy, but sometimes necessary, and it usually comes with mixed feels. We’ve shown you how to read the warning signs that you’re in a toxic relationship, and we’ve talked about when to break up. But when it’s time, how do you do it in a way that honors God and brings the least amount of damage to everyone involved?
You know you need to break up. Now what?
1. Understand the “why”(Jeremiah 17:9)
Take the time to self-reflect before making a big decision like breaking up. Bring others in. Get really honest with yourself.
Are you breaking up because you don’t see a future with that person? Why is that? Are you breaking up because you’ve lost interest? Are you breaking up because your standards are impossibly high? Or you think there’s someone better out there?
Or are you breaking up because your parents left a bad taste in your mouth about marriage? You feel like a fraud and you fear someone getting too close?
It’s better to break up than to find yourself in a marriage that wasn’t built to last. But it’s also a great time to do some reflecting and align your heart with God’s.
2. Talk to community(Proverbs 15:22)
Don’t try to do it on your own. Communicate what your intentions are with godly people who love you and know you well. Talk through the reasons you think you should break up and ask for their counsel. Ask them to help you see things from a different perspective.
Bring them in before you’ve made the decision, and ask them to help you care for the other person, see your own blind spots, and make a decision on IF you’ll break up, WHEN you’ll break up, WHERE you’ll break up, WHAT you’ll say when you break up, and HOW you’ll handle things after the breakup.
3. Communicate clearly(1 Corinthians 14:33)
If you’re breaking up, as much as you can, communicate why. It might be tempting to take the easy way out here and just say, “It’s not you, it’s me.” But LBH, that’s just not true. Do the right thing and start with being honest.
If the reason is truly that you need to work things out on your own, say that. But expect that person to be confused and hurt if you jump into another relationship.
Say, “Thank you for spending the last x time with me, but I’m not interested in moving forward in the relationship. I’d love to provide as much clarity as is helpful.”
Say, “I’ve loved our time together, but I need to break up so I can get serious about my relationship with God first before seriously dating.”
Say, “I’m really sad that things are going to change. But I need to break up because this relationship hasn’t been healthy. Here’s what I need to ask your forgiveness for…”
Say, “Thank you so much for dating me. I admire these things about you. But I’ve been concerned about these character things that I’ve seen. I might be totally wrong, but I wanted to be honest with you because I care about you as a sister/brother in Christ.”
4. Serve the other person(Philippians 2:3-4)
The person you’re breaking up with was made in the image of God. They are someone God cares about and has plans for. Do your best to remember that. And consider, “How would I want to be broken up with?” Give that person the dignity, when possible, of meeting in person, offering to explain, and not treating them kindly in the process.
Where you can, own what you did poorly in the relationship and ask for forgiveness. Offer to provide honest details for clarity and closure. Chances are, you’ve been thinking about this for a while, and that person may or may not be blind-sighted. Offer to let that person process and reach back out to you if a follow-up conversation is needed to gain more clarity or help all parties move forward and move on.
As much as you can, provide helpful feedback. On the other end of a breakup, there’s almost nothing worse than wondering, “Where did I go wrong?” or “What was the real reason?” Pray that God would give you the words to say.
5. Draw appropriate boundaries(Ecclesiastes 3:5b)
The whole “We can still be friends” thing is either an attempt to have your cake and eat it too, an attempt to soften the blow, or a sign of emotional unhealth. Respect the person enough to draw boundaries. God designed hearts that feel, get hurt, and heal. Let the person begin the healing process, while you do so as well. Don’t trick yourself into thinking there’s nothing there to heal.
When breaking up, don’t drag the conversation on if it isn’t productive. And don’t keep communicating like you used to. It may be hard. It may be confusing. But even in having the conversation, you two are going through something emotional together, and there’s a risk of creating MORE intimacy. It’s tempting to get one last connection in, but that will only make it harder for the other person and for you to fully move forward in a healthy way.
6. Take the time to heal(Hebrews 12:13)
Especially if there was sexual impurity or emotional boundaries crossed in the relationship.
Be honest about your emotions. Spend even more time in God’s Word and with community than you normally would. And let your friends know that you may need to lean on them a little more in this season. That’s okay. Don’t make them the ones responsible for your healing, but let them walk with you through the breakup—it’s what God calls them to in Galatians 6:2.
7. Do not try to be that person’s savior(Isaiah 43:11)
It may be tempting to reach out because you’re concerned for that person. That’s fair—it’s likely if you were dating that you had a close friendship. But by breaking up, you have lost the role in that person’s life you used to play. If you wonder how that person is doing, don’t reach out to see. Don’t go digging around with your mutual friends to find information. Pray for that person, ask God to send that person a godly husband or wife, and trust God.
Don’t make it your responsibility to “help” the other person heal, find Jesus, or move on. You are not the savior, Jesus is. That person needs same-gender community members squadding up to help and care in a way that you shouldn’t.
8. Go deep with God(Psalm 34:18)
Whether you’re the person breaking up or being broken up with, God is in the details of it all. He loves you, he’s not ashamed of you, and he understands your pain (Hebrews 4:15). God uses hardship, change, and pain to grow your faith and make you more like him.
Take the opportunity to get to know God in a new way. But there is a very real enemy who wants you to feel shame and to stay stuck in bad patterns.
God is with you and can help you. If you’re a journaler, journal out your thoughts. Psalm 62 says to “Pour your heart out before God.” Recognize when Satan is trying to plant “roots of bitterness” (Hebrews 12:15) in your heart and fight against them.
Remember that this is a vulnerable time, and you’ll need the truth of God’s word about his character and his love for you to help you through.
Breaking up is hard. But God is completely in control of the course of your life, and has a plan for you. When you’re going through a breakup, do your part by spending time in his word, opening up to community, honoring the other person, fighting to believe God’s truth, rejecting the enemy’s lies, and doing what you need to heal. Let God do his part by loving you, keeping his promises, taking care of the other person, and working it out for good (Romans 8:28).