How to Break Up a Long Distance Relationship

It’s rare for a breakup to feel good. No matter the circumstances, one or both of you is bound to feel at least a little bit heartbroken. Breaking up a long distance relationship can be even harder. Both of you have put time and care into navigating the obstacles of living in different cities and not seeing each other as often as you’d like.

Still, sometimes ending things is the right thing to do—whether they see it coming or not. Here are some tips to help things run a little more smoothly if you have to go down that bumpy road.

Step by Step Guide on How to Break Up a Long Distance Relationship

1. Make Sure You Really Want To Break Up

Getting a long distance relationship right can be exhausting, and it’s completely reasonable to feel like you want to throw in the towel. Are you really finished, or do you just need a little break? If you’ve met someone else, you should absolutely end things pronto.

But maybe all of the travel is just taking a toll, and you’d like a little time to put your feet up and replenish. Be sure about your decision, and be clear with your significant other that things are really through. On-again-off-again relationships are exhausting.

2. If Possible, Break Up In Person

The frugal or avoidant part of you may be wondering if this is a necessary step in the age of FaceTime. But this isn’t about “getting the job done.” It’s about treating your soon to be ex with respect and honoring the time you spent together.

Part of treating them with respect if you break up in person is to make sure the stage is set properly. Don’t hop off a plane, deliver the news, and then fly back home immediately. Wait for a quiet, calm, private time to talk.

Likewise, don’t go through with a full visit as if everything were fine, then break up at the end of what was otherwise a normal visit together. Arrange to have another place to stay so you can deliver the news when it seems natural and then allow them their space without you awkwardly sleeping in the living room until it’s time to catch your flight.

3. Avoid Raining On Their Parade

It’s probably obvious, but avoid birthdays and major holidays to break the news. If you know in advance you want to break up, you may feel guilty holding onto the news, and your significant other may feel hurt if they find out you’ve been thinking about breaking up for a while. But the kindest course of action is to cause as little upheaval as possible, and ruining their birthday party is…exactly the opposite of that. Timing is everything, and while you may not be able to find the absolute perfect moment, you can definitely avoid the absolute least perfect ones.

4. The Practical Stuff: Returning Each Other’s Things

If you’ve been in a long distance relationship for a decent amount of time, it’s likely you keep things at their place and vice versa. If you’re able to break up with them in person, and if you can successfully, subtly pack their things with you when you come for a visit, do so. Likewise, bring baggage to bring home your own things if you can do so without bringing attention to it.

If you can’t take it home with you in a timely manner, don’t expect your ex to return it. That’s your responsibility. Once a relationship is over, your ex doesn’t owe you anything. If things end with you two staying friends, it’s possible to ask them to hold onto something for a little extra time, but that’s still a stretch.

Tips For Staying On Good Terms

  • You may not be breaking up because you hate your ex’s guts. In a lot of cases, you’d probably just be better friends than romantic partners. This is the one silver lining of ending a long distance relationship: You’re unlikely to run into them when you’re in your day to day life, so you’ll both have time to heal with a little out-of-sight, out-of-mind. If—and only if—your ex says they’d like to stay friends, give it at least a few weeks before you check back. It may feel natural to go into buddy mode immediately, but a clean break is best for both of you.
  • Be aware of what you put on social media. Changing a relationship status is fine, but try not to do it immediately, or before the fact. If you stay friends on social media, think about what you post—especially if you start to date quickly after the breakup. Filtering posts and pictures may feel like an option, but do so carefully: if you have any friends in common and it gets out that your ex is filtered, their feelings are likely to be hurt. A little compassion goes a long way.
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Author: Matt Seymour, MSF

Matthew J. Seymour is a dating industry expert with over a decade of experience coaching singles, reviewing dating apps, and analyzing trends within the industry. Matt is a published author with his most recent work “Get More Dates: How to Master Online Dating Apps” that hit shelves in 2023. With a Masters of Science in Finance (MSF) degree from the University of Florida and extensive knowledge of the innerworkings of the online dating industry, Matt frequently serves in an advisory role to some of the largest dating apps on the market. In Matt’s current role with Healthy Framework, he leads the interview team that regularly interviews key dating industry leaders, and leverages his financial knowledge and dating app experience to review and share what singles need to know to get the most out of dating online.