Rejection 101: How to Break Up With Someone Like a Grown-up

Rejection – nobody wants to be on either side of it. Everyone knows it’s a horrible feeling to be rejected, but what people don’t talk about is how hard it is to be the one doing the rejecting. Having to break up with someone is all kinds of awkward, and because of this people have a tendency to take the easy way out (read: ghosting), but it’s not a cool way to end a relationship, no matter how casual or serious. Need help rejecting someone like a grown-up? Read on!

If it was super casual (1-3 dates):


Ghosting should be a thing of the past. If you’re not interested in someone, just tell them you’re not interested instead of fading off into the distance. As much as it’s awkward and uncomfortable to reject someone, they’ll appreciate your honesty and directness and you won’t feel guilty about it.


Nobody wants to be rejected. It’s a hit to your ego, and people won’t always take it well. In the case that someone doesn’t want to take no for an answer, or tries to convince you to give them another chance, the trick is to be very clear with your response while still remaining respectful. Saying something like “I’m really sorry but I don’t see a connection here” will usually get the point across, and if this person is still struggling to accept your response, reiterating “Sorry but I’m just not interested” will help you stand your ground.


You’ve only been on a few dates with this person, so you don’t owe them an explanation of why you’re not into them. Keep your rejection simple like the suggestions mentioned above, and don’t get into the specifics of what you don’t like about them. Being turned down is already hard enough, and there’s no reason to lower their self-esteem.


This one is easy to be guilty of. When we turn someone down, we want to soften the blow a little bit, and often this manifests as giving false hope. Stay away from adding “right now” to the end of your phrases (ie “I’m just not ready for a relationship… right now”) or saying anything along the lines of “Maybe in the future,” or “Maybe in a few years after I figure out what I want,” unless you truly mean it, otherwise you’re just prolonging the inevitable real rejection that will be coming when they eventually follow up (and they will). Don’t leave the door open even a crack, let this person move on.

If it was a serious relationship:


When you feel that it’s over, end it, or give yourself a deadline for when you will make a decision. If you’re in a serious relationship it’s going to be hard to end things regardless, and the worst thing you can do for yourself and the other person is to prolong things when you’ve already made up your mind.


End things face to face. I cannot stress this enough. It may seem easier to send a message, or make a phone call and be done with things, but it isn’t going to give you or the other person the closure you both need. If someone has given you their attention and energy for an extended period of time, they deserve the courtesy of a face-to-face break-up. No, it won’t be easy, but it’s the ‘grown-up’ thing to do.


When you’ve dated someone seriously, they are entitled to an explanation of why it isn’t working out. Don’t try to cushion the blow by leaving things out or being vague, it will only leave the other person with a ton of questions. Tell them exactly why you’re ending things and don’t leave any necessary information out – don’t be purposely hurtful, just be honest. Even if you think your reasons will upset them, it will make it easier for them in the long run as they won’t have to wonder what went wrong.


After you’ve explained why you’ve decided to end things, the other person will undoubtedly have questions. If you were a big part of someone’s life, they deserve the answers they need in order to feel they have closure and are able to begin moving on. As mentioned above, keep being as honest and specific as possible in your responses, it will help them more than you may think.


Everyone copes in their own unique ways. You should be prepared that this person may not react the way you were hoping and could show any range of emotions, from extreme sadness to intense anger. The best thing to do here is to be understanding and give them space. You might have been hoping for an amicable break-up that could warrant a future friendship, but this is not always the case. If you do hope to eventually remain friends, it’s even more important that you respect their grieving process.


Once things are over, be very careful about second-guessing your decision. There’s a huge difference between realizing you genuinely made a huge mistake and want to be with this person, and considering getting back together just because you’re lonely. Breakups are hard and you may still care about this person a lot, but if the reasons you ended things are valid and real – don’t second guess your choice, it will only make things much harder.

Rejecting someone is never easy on either party, but if you’re going to do it, you should do it right. Breaking up with someone like the grown-up you are will not only help the other person move on, but will allow you to feel you did the right thing and become stronger for your next relationship. Sending you positive vibes for the hard conversations!

Carly Johannson

Posted by Carly Johannson

Carly is the Receptionist at PlentyOfFish. She's a certified English nerd with a passion for new adventures and a tendency to stop mid-sentence to point out dogs on the street. When's she's not enthralled by nature documentaries and/or whatever is on Food Network, you'll find her cooking extravagant meals and memorizing rap lyrics to perform badly at karaoke nights.

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