How to Break Up Online

When is it appropriate to end a relationship electronically?

Unwritten online etiquette dictates that breaking up with someone over email is disrespectful, but it's far better than ghosting. Here's how to end a relationship online or over text.

When Is It Okay to Break Up Online?

A face-to-face conversation is preferred, but you should consider breaking up online in the following situations:

  • Abusive Relationships: This is one of the best reasons for using an online method to end a relationship. If there's potential for physical harm, breaking up online could not only protect you, it might save your life.
  • Short-term Relationships: If you've only been on a few dates, or you've been seeing each other for a few weeks, you don't necessarily owe the other person a face-to-face breakup.
  • Long-distance Relationships: While some long-distance relationships can be sustained, others don't work out. If you and the other person have been using the internet to communicate, end the relationship the same way.
  • Online Relationships: If you met a person in a chat room, social app, or elsewhere online, and the relationship is not serious, end it using whatever social network, email client, or web platform of your choice.

There may be additional scenarios in which it's okay to break up online. Generally, the more serious the relationship, the more you should consider breaking up in person, or at least over the phone.

Smartphones with broken heart on screen
Jamie Grill / Getty Images

How to Break Up Through IM or Text

If you communicate frequently through IM or text, this method may be the most comfortable way to end the relationship.

  1. Be straightforward about your intentions. In person, you might sugarcoat the situation. Online, be brief in expressing your desire to stop seeing the other person.

  2. Outline your expectations regarding communication moving forward. If you want to be left alone, let them know it.

  3. Be prepared to respond to questions and, possibly, for a follow-up phone call.

  4. Save threatening messages you receive, in case you need to present them to law enforcement.

    Prior to your breakup over IM or text, enable chat history in your messaging app.

How to Break Up Through Email

If your reasons for breaking up are more complex, or you have other things to say, email might be a better choice than IM or text.

  1. Express your desire to end the relationship and your reasons why, in addition to anything positive you'd like to say about the time you spent together.

  2. Mention your expectations regarding future communications.

  3. Make suggestions for how any belongings will be retrieved if you left them at each other's homes.

    If possible, retrieve your belongings and return their belongings before you write the email. This way you'll avoid seeing them after the breakup.

  4. Keep email replies, especially any that threaten harm, in case you need to show these emails to law enforcement.

How to Break Up Through Video Chat

If you believe you should give someone a face-to-face conversation but don't feel comfortable doing it in person, a video chat might be a good option.

  1. With a face-to-face call, even if it's online, you might feel pressured to ease the blow of a breakup. Be honest about how you feel. Don't make concessions such as friendship if you don't intend to follow through.

    Since you're not in person, surround yourself with written reminders of why you're breaking up or how you want the conversation to go.

  2. If you want to record the conversation for legal reasons, check your state and local laws regarding recording. In some places, you need to have the other person's consent.

  3. Be prepared for technical difficulties and think ahead about how you'll contact the person again (e.g. phone or text) if you get disconnected.

Online Breakup Dont's

Here are a few more tips:

  • Never use public sections of Twitter, Facebook, chat rooms, or group IM to end a relationship. Communications should be private.
  • If you plan to keep records of your breakup conversation, don't say or write anything that could incriminate you.
  • If the other person wants to keep communicating, but you don't want to be contacted by them, don't be afraid to block them on Facebook and other social apps.