Let’s say that you realize the two of you are not on the same page about something that’s really important and you decide it’s time to break off the relationship. How can you do this in a way that isn’t hateful, cowardly, or hurtful?
Note: I am assuming you have carefully considered this decision and are very sure this is what you want to do. If you are not sure and there isn’t a really major issue going on, you can take some time and pray and think some more. You don’t want to get rid of a great guy.
How can you show him respect, honor, and dignity even as you have this extremely difficult and painful conversation?
Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Rom. 12:10
Here are some of my thoughts…
A couple of breakup basics:
- Avoid breaking up when you are hormonal if you can, you may feel very different when you are in your right mind again.
- Try to break up in person, if at all possible.
- Don’t insult your guy or try to hurt him emotionally.
- Be respectful in your tone of voice, your words, and your approach.
- Unless you are not safe, give him a chance to respond.
- Be compassionate, realizing this is likely very painful for him.
- Take responsibility for any wrongdoing on your part.
Keep in mind, ultimately, it is up to you to decide if this is the best decision for you or not. A lot of women want other people to tell them what they should do. That is a mistake, I believe. I think this is something each Christian woman must decide for herself as she seeks the Lord.
Here are a few ideas to prayerfully consider if you believe you should break up with your boyfriend. Obviously the exact approach will be different depending on the reasons and circumstances. This list doesn’t include every situation.
You don’t have to use the specific words I share. It is just something to help you get into the ballpark of where you may want to be.
He isn’t a Christian
I have an entire post on this topic. But the main point is to say something like:
- I really like you. I admire X, Y, and Z about you. But I see that we are not on the same page spiritually and that is the most important issue to me. I want to marry a man/be with a man who is completely committed to living for Jesus. Not to impress me. But because that is what he wants to do all on his own whether he is with me or not. So I believe it is best if we stop seeing each other.
He hasn’t been faithful
If your boyfriend has cheated on you, this is obviously not a good thing. Perhaps you pray about it and he seems earnest and repentant and you want to give him another chance because he has committed to total transparency and accountability. But perhaps you don’t trust him anymore and you don’t believe he can rebuild trust with you.
- I wish it didn’t have to end this way because I was hoping we could have a great relationship. But trust is really important to me. I can’t build a relationship with someone I can’t trust. Because my trust has been broken, I can’t continue on in this relationship.
He has a scary temper
If you have seen your guy lose his temper a lot, that is a legitimate concern. Especially if he tends to scream, throw things, make threats of violence, threatens to harm himself, abuses animals, or he has put his hands on you or others in anger. This is not something that generally magically disappears without someone getting significant help.
If you believe you are safe, you could prayerfully say something like:
- I want to thank you for being my boyfriend. I have learned a lot about myself and about you during the time we have been together. And while there are many things I admire about you like X, Y, and Z, I’m not sure that we are going to be a good fit together. Our personalities and goals sometimes seem to clash. And I don’t think our conflicts are healthy. So I think it would be best for us to stop dating.
If you do not believe you are safe, be sure to involve a counselor, a trusted pastor, the police, your parents, or someone else you trust to help you work through what to say and maybe to be close by in a public place. Or you may need them to be with you to help mediate.
If you expect him to become violent with you, you may not be able to have a breakup conversation in person or otherwise, you may need to just get somewhere safe. Please contact www.thehotline.org if you are in an abusive relationship and need help.
He has an addiction
If your boyfriend has some kind of addiction to alcohol, drugs, pornography, gambling, etc… that is a big red flag. Don’t expect him to change later if he isn’t willing to change now.
Don’t think you can change him with your love. SO many women make this mistake! You can’t fix him. This is a decision he has to make for himself without coercion from anyone else.
- It is not my place to tell you how to live your life. You are free to live however you want to. I choose to live for the Lord. I believe that addictions dishonor Christ. You say that you are a Christian and that is wonderful. But I have done X, Y, and Z to try to help you and you haven’t been able or willing to stop. I can’t move forward in a relationship with you. The addiction is too destructive. So I am very sad about this, but I would like for us to break up. And I hope you will choose a healthy path for yourself one day. I want nothing but the best for you.
He isn’t honest
If you find your boyfriend lies frequently and tends to be quite secretive, that can be a big problem. If you respectfully address the issue, and he is still not forthcoming and is not willing to be honest and transparent, there is a lack of trust here. A marriage or any relationship has to have trust to be healthy.
- I really wanted our relationship to be successful. I love you and want the best for you. But I need to know I can trust you and there has been a lack of honesty and lack of transparency that concerns me. So I don’t think it is wise for me to continue dating you. I wish all the best for you.
You want different things
If you and your boyfriend want very different things from life: different lifestyles, different geographic locations, different goals that would conflict with each other, that can be an issue. If he is dead set on being a pastor in Alaska and you don’t want to leave Georgia, that won’t work. He needs to know you will support his calling and cooperate with his leadership.
If the issue is something you feel strongly that you can’t compromise on, you may decide to break off the relationship. It is better to do that than to marry him and then resent him for following his calling or marry him and then fight him to get your way when you knew what he wanted in life.
- I am so excited for you about God’s calling on your life. I know you are going to be an amazing pastor and that God will use you in mighty ways to bless your church in Alaska. I wish I had the desire and sensed a calling to go there, too. But I don’t want to go to Alaska. I don’t sense God’s calling on me to do that. I want to stay in Georgia. I have prayed about this a lot and I don’t have peace about going to Alaska. I don’t want to hold you back and I don’t want to stay with you and then fight with you about this or resent you. So I think it is best if we break off our relationship. You deserve to have a woman who is completely supportive and on board with your calling/dreams.
You realize you have some spiritual growing to do
If you see a lot of unhealthy relationship skills in yourself and you realize that you are interacting in toxic ways, sometimes it can be wise to break up to take some time to grow on your own in Christ. Relationships have a way of exposing our sin. Sometimes, you can deal with it while you are in the relationship. Other times, it can be a lot harder to grow spiritually when you are with someone.
If you see that you need to grow a lot in Christ before you are ready to date anyone and think you need some time to heal and seek the Lord more intently, you could prayerfully say something like:
- I realize that I am not treating you the way I really want to. I have a lot of dysfunctional ways of thinking, speaking, and acting that end up hurting you. This breaks my heart. I have been trying to grow spiritually while we are together, but I am struggling a lot. I think I may need some time on my own to seek the Lord more intently and to find healing. I wish I could be the girlfriend you deserve and that I want to be. But I have a lot of maturing I need to do and I plan to get help in these ways. I apologize for the ways I have hurt you. I never want to hurt you. I want to be a blessing. Please forgive me. I hope maybe I will be ready to date again in the future if you are available and interested.
After the breakup
It is wise, generally, to not have contact for a while. Maybe a few months. Just to give you both time to sort through things and heal. It may be that in the future you can talk through things and you can see if he has dealt with his issues that concerned you.
If you see that he has changed and he is living in a way that honors God for a significant period of time, perhaps you may decide to date him again one day.
Although I wouldn’t try to promise anything about getting back together when you break up. Sometimes people will try to superficially change to win someone back. That’s not what you want. You would need to see real change without the possibility being offered that you would date him again.
This is certainly not a comprehensive discussion on this important and sensitive topic, but it is a start. I pray it may be a blessing.