Not every relationship works out. Not every couple who begins dating ends up getting married. Neither should they. In fact, for a dating relationship to be healthy, there must be a way out. As Sam Andreades says, “If you are not able to end a dating relationship, you should never start one.” And so, “Before the day you say I do, you always have to be able to say, I don’t. In your heart, you must be able to not date, even if you really want to.”
In his book Dating with Discernment he offers seven steps to breaking up well.
Break up with bravery. To break up bravely is to determine that you will not remain in an unhealthy or unworkable relationship out of fear or cowardice. If the relationship is simply not working, not enjoyable, or not progressing, the brave thing is to call it off.
Talk in person. Though this may seem obvious in the abstract, in the moment it can seem easier to end things in a way in which you do not need to face the other person. Yet we are always called to treat people with love and this will most often mean refusing the temptation to break up by text message or phone call; it will most often mean breaking up face to face.
Honor the other person with gratitude. As you break up, it honors the other person to affirm them and express gratitude for them. And there will almost always be a number of ways to encourage them and express thankfulness. Though a breakup will probably require expressing some of the other person’s weaknesses and faults, there is no reason it shouldn’t also express some of their strengths and graces.
Be direct. You ought to be humble, of course, but humility does not require hiding or obfuscating the real reasons you don’t wish to continue the relationship. Don’t ghost the other person and don’t fail to tell the truth about why the relationship is not working out.
Deliver a vision of hope. It can be wise and good to include a vision of a brighter future for the other person. Though you will need to guard against sounding trite, “It is not insincere to express hope for his life, or to describe your faith in God about her, if you really do believe that there is a better plan for both your lives.”
End it with definiteness. A breakup ought to be a breakup. For sake of clarity and out of love for the other person, it is usually best to end the relationship with a kind of definiteness that means you will not keep texting as you did before or keep seeing each other as “just friends.” It could be best to agree not to be in contact for an agreed-upon number of months to help ensure the break is clean and that there is no confusion.
Take time to heal. A breakup could be very easy on you or very hard. You could breathe a sigh of relief or you could be emotionally devastated. At the very least it is bound to be a disappointment. Proverbs says “Hope deferred makes the heart sick,” and breaking up means you are deferring the hope of marriage. It is important, then, to give yourself some time to grieve and your heart some time to heal.
Though these steps don’t cover every person or every circumstance, they are wise guidelines that can help you end relationships in a way that honors God and expresses love for that person you cared about, but simply couldn’t marry.