How do you break up with someone as painlessly as possible?

I’ve been dating the same guy for a few years, but I feel suffocated. I just feel so trapped in my relationship. It used to be good, but a tragedy happened, and he became depressed. He’s given up responsibilities and just isn’t happy anymore. I don’t like the person he has become, but I understand why he’s changed. I want to help. I want to be there for him. But other than his job, I feel I’m the only thing in his life, and that’s a lot of pressure. He’s given up friends and hobbies. If I leave him, I’m afraid his life will fall apart, and I really love him, so I don’t want that to happen. At the same time, I don’t want to be with him because it isn’t really a relationship anymore. I know I need to break up with him. I’m young; I want experiences of my own without him, but he just wants to marry me. I want out and need out, but I don’t know how without hurting him deeply. Can I get tips/advice on how to break somebody’s heart with the least amount of pain?

Be quick and brief.

04-13-50-52-56 / 19

Hello Diner. I’m so deeply sorry. We mentioned in this Fortune that the best thing is to end a one-sided romance promptly. Your situation is more involved; however, the advice still works. Even when you don’t choose to act this way, staying somewhere you’re unhappy will make you more stressed and likely to lash out. If he isn’t working on his depression, he is never going to improve. By staying, you lose ever more opportunities to grow independently.

Fortunately, you have decided to leave. I see that you’re afraid he may hurt himself. Don’t ever feel like you need to handle this yourself. Emergency services or suicide hotlines have specialized training. Take all threats seriously. Get help if you notice these signs:

  • Taking steps or researching ways to commit suicide
  • Talking about suicide or being a burden
  • Acting in an extreme and volatile way
  • Giving away belongings
  • Asking for forgiveness or closure unexpectedly

But don’t let this discourage you. Most importantly, remember that whatever happens, everyone needs to be responsible for their own actions. As you are taking responsibility for your growth as a person, your partner is and will be responsible for anything he does. Breaking up is still the best thing to do. Here is some guidance:

1. Prepare for the break up. Emotionally prepare for sure, but also work out logistics. Make the exchange simple. Determine how to arrive and leave easily. Gather his things and plan out how to get yours.

2. Meet somewhere he feels comfortable. Many lifestyle sites suggest public places to contain outbursts or prevent danger. However, anywhere where your partner is not comfortable being vulnerable will be torture. But above all be safe.

3. Keep the conversation short. Remember that this is not a negotiation. Dragging through a series of debates and ultimatums will not help the break up. Using more words now would complicate it.

4. Save explanations for later–much later. You are not looking for permission or agreement. You don’t need either for the relationship to end! If you feel that your growth as a person is stifled, then breaking up is the right thing. If you need a reason, have a short one prepared: I don’t think continuing this relationship is the best for me, so I decided it was the right time to end it. There is no need to explain your decision making.

4. Allow his network to take care of him without you. If you still act as his caretaker, you haven’t broken up. Be done. Move on.

Having a partner in this situation is troubling. You mentioned a lot of obligation and guilt, but being unhappy then becomes a tragic life for you. Your decision is still right. That said, the risk of suicide is real, but don’t act on your own. Good luck Diner. With grace, the break up will go as well as possible.