So you’re wondering how to break up with someone long distance?
Firstly, I’m sorry to hear about the impending end of your relationship, and secondly, I’m happy that you’re looking up advice on this so as not to be a complete and utter meanie and make this situation worse for you or your partner.
Breaking up with someone long distance can be very difficult, but sometimes there is no other choice.
If your girlfriend lives in Seattle and you live in Japan, flying there just to break up with her is likely a waste of money and time and a bit absurd.
There also may be times when someone is deployed, studying abroad, or in a situation where they can’t even have visitors or it is too far to travel (which may be part of the reason for your break up anyway).
Figuring out how to break up with someone long distance in a tactful way is crucial, as it can be really easy to be dismissive and to send a quick text, block their number, and go on with your life so you don’t have to deal with the fall out.
But don’t do that.
Be the bigger person and follow some of the guidelines below to make sure it goes as smoothly as possible.
Here’s how to break up with someone long distance, including general must-dos and some options on how to actually deliver the message.
1. Give Them Vague Notice
Assuming you’re arranging a time to speak to them on the phone or Zoom (which is always the better idea, as we’ll get to below), it’s best to give them a kind of vague notice of what you want to talk about.
Of course you’re not going to say, “hey, can I call you at 9 so I can break up with you?”, but equally you don’t want them to think they’re about to embark on a fun virtual date night with you.
Usually, it can be best to say something simple like, “Can you talk later today? I’ve got some things on my mind” or “Can you talk later today? I really want to talk about our relationship.”
They might press for more information or not be able to concentrate until your call, so try not to do this before you’ll be unavailable for awhile (it’s just cruel), but try to just stay insistent that you’ll talk to them later and then break the news.
This gives them some time to brace themselves a little bit, without you doing the actual breaking up over text message.
2. Be Aware of their Schedule
It’s always best to be the bigger person in the situation and have some compassion for your soon-to-be-ex, unless they were toxic or abusive in which case, just end it anyway you can.
Assuming you have some respect for the person, be aware of their schedule, wherever they are in the world, and try to arrange to talk when you know they are not immediately about to head into school or give a work presentation or something that would be difficult for them to get out of or make it hard for them in an emotional state.
Ideally, they’ll have free time after you talk to them to get used to the news, reach out to friends or family, cry, etc.
If today is the biggest day of their career so far or they’re about to walk in to defend their PhD, give them the respect of waiting until the next day.
3. Ensure They Have Support around Them
If at all possible, try to pick a time when you know it is going to be more likely that your soon-to-be-ex has support around them in whichever location they’re in.
If they live with their family, but their family is away for the weekend on a short vacation, try and wait until the Monday they are back.
If you know that their best friend is going out of town for a few days, try and wait until they get back.
It can be very lonely to be broken up with, and particularly because you are not there in the same city doing the break up, it is ideal if they’ve got at least some sort of support around them.
Some people recommend telling their family or friends before you break up with them to make sure that they are ready to spring into action, comforting them, but this can go wrong in a lot of ways with the family and friends spilling the news before you do, which is not what you want.
Ultimately, you can’t drag on a relationship due to these reasons, and it might be that that person is relatively isolated when you break up with them and that’s just how it has to be.
Don’t lie for weeks on end, pretending to be happy when you’re not, but if there is any way of choosing a time or day when you know they are near people that can support them, do that.
4. Call Them on the Phone
The time honored way of breaking up with someone long distance is calling them over the phone. In fact, this is what used to be the only polite way to do it, if in-person wasn’t an option.
It’s still way better than a text or e-mail, as it allows that real-time connection and back-and-forth conversation.
Also, if this is how you normally communicate, then go ahead with this and don’t worry about it.
However, if you normally Facetime or Skype or Zoom, then it’s going to be weird if you suddenly want a detached phone call, so make sure you stick to your normal way of communicating.
5. Do a Skype or Zoom Call
Facetiming, Skyping, or Zooming are the best ways to break up with someone long distance (probably not going to be used in the ads for these companies anytime soon, but they are!)
It’s the closest you can get to face-to-face connection, and despite how sad ending a relationship might be, the other person deserves for you to see their face and to do it in as close to a “normal” way as possible.
6. Send a Text or E-mail (if absolutely necessary)
If the other person is in a situation where they cannot use the phone or Skype or Zoom, which would be very limited situations, but is possible, then you can send a text or an e-mail in a last chance scenario.
This is ideal when they are in a place that would be hard to get a letter to (maybe they’re out on a ship or something), but you really should exhaust the other options first.
If it does come down to this, then you want to make sure that you send enough of a message that mimics what you would have said in person, answering some of their questions or really telling them what the time you spent together meant to you.
You should never just say “hey, I think I want to break up. Bye”
Write out something more eloquent and respectful, like “Hey Tony, I hope you had a good night. I’m sorry for what I’m about to say because you are a great person and I will always enjoy the time we spent together, but after a lot of reflection, I feel it’s best that we go our separate ways. The long distance has gotten too much for me to handle, and it seems that we want really different things in a relationship. I’m e-mailing you this because we can’t Skype or talk on the phone, and I thought it was important for both of our sakes to move forward so you knew where we stood. Thank you for all of the great times we shared and I really do wish you lots of happiness in the future.”
7. Write a Letter
There’s something about a letter that often seems more personal and like you took more time and cared about their feelings more than a text or e-mail.
Again, this is a last resort if a phone call or Facetime are out of the question, but a letter does give you the opportunity to hand write it and take more time on it than sending a ping across the internet or having it just be a notification on their phone.