How to Be a Gentleman After a Breakup, According to Experts

They say you can tell a lot about a person by the company they keep. Another telling factor? How they handle a breakup.

Let’s face it: ending a relationship is always hard, and it can bring up all kinds of negative emotions from anger, resentment, and sadness to guilt, regret, and loneliness. It would be easy to let those emotions get the best of you and take them out on your ex-partner — but resist the temptation to be petty or vindictive. Being a gentleman after a breakup obviously preserves your reputation, but it can also">make it easier for you both to move on.

“How you handle the breakup is often the last impression you leave on the other person,” explains Jennifer Klesman, LCSW, a licensed therapist at" target="_blank">Cityscape Counseling. “To show respect, class, and grace leaves you in your ex’s favor and allows them to look back on the relationship and its end in a positive light.”

Barbie Adler, founder and president of the luxury matchmaking service" target="_blank">Selective Search, also points out that if you share mutual friends with your ex, treating them with respect will minimize any potential awkwardness within your circle.

“Going through a breakup can be messy, but if you navigate it with integrity, you'll emerge with your dignity intact,” adds Laura Wasser, a divorce lawyer, relationship expert, and chief of divorce evolution at" target="_blank"> “It's not just about the present, but your future too. The respect you show your ex could affect future relationships, professional opportunities, and more.”

With all that in mind, here’s how to be a gentleman after a breakup — because it’s always better to take the high road.

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Don’t Try to Win Your Ex Back Right Away

There’s a reason why the search phrase "get ex back" consistently ranks high on Google Trends. After a breakup, it’s only natural to want to rekindle what you lost. But before you make any moves, consider this: if you don’t take the time to step back, identify the issues, and make any necessary changes, Wasser says you’re pretty much doomed to fail a second time.

And trust us — that second breakup won’t hurt any less for either of you. So, do yourself and your ex a favor and take some time and space to process what went wrong.

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Do Establish Some Mutual Boundaries

“Just as miscommunications and mismatched expectations can create friction during a relationship, they can have ongoing negative effects in the aftermath of a breakup,” says Adler.

For example, it could be problematic if you’re determined to remain friends and insist on maintaining contact while your ex feels that they need time and space to heal before pursuing a friendship.

“The time immediately after a breakup can be emotionally confusing and distressing, and a lack of clear boundaries can dramatically heighten these emotions,” Adler adds. “There are no hard and fast rules about whether or not to resume contact after a breakup, as these depend on the particular nature of the relationship and the separation. However, these rules should always be mutually agreed upon to avoid lapsing into toxic dynamics and causing more harm and confusion.”

Don’t Give Your Ex False Hope

A 2023 Lovehoney survey found that" target="_blank">53% of people sleep with their exes. But just because it’s common doesn’t mean it’s advisable.

“You don’t want to lead anyone on and cause further hurt if your ex is struggling with the breakup as well,” says Klesman. “Even if you’ve moved on from the breakup and are fine being friends, someone is often getting hurt if you’re hooking up unless there has been a period of no contact for both of you to heal.”

It’s important to take a step back and think about why the relationship ended in the first place, says Adler.

“Trust your own capacity to know what is right for you, and, as difficult as it can be, trust that your partner is not misguided but is making a decision based on legitimate considerations,” she tells AskMen. “Trusting that the relationship ended for a valid reason will make it easier for you to accept the decision and move on, rather than becoming stuck in a cycle of self-doubt and exhausting and unhealthy on-again, off-again dynamics with your ex.”

Do Make It Easy for Them to Collect Their Belongings

No matter how angry or hurt you are after your breakup, holding your ex’s stuff hostage is never OK. If you can’t bear seeing them, send their things in the mail, leave them in a box on your porch, or drop them off at their doorstep.

“Give them a level of respect, even if it's not being reciprocated,” relationship expert and author" target="_blank">Bethany Nicole tells AskMen. “Rise above and show them by example what being an evolved human being is all about.”

Don’t Talk Trash About Your Ex

This should probably go without saying, but bad-mouthing your ex — especially to mutual friends, colleagues, or acquaintances — is a big no-no.

“It can put them in an awkward position and might even affect your relationships with them,” says Wasser.

Even if your former partner broke up with you over text or still hasn’t given you your favorite hoodie back, talking trash about them makes you look just as bad, says Nicole.

And yes, that applies to the internet, too. You definitely want to think twice before posting that passive-aggressive caption or rant about your ex on your Instagram story. It’s not a good look — and ultimately, may cause unnecessary drama.

“Social media is great for many things, but airing your breakup woes for all to see is not one of them,” says Wasser. “It's not fair to your ex, and it's not helpful to you either. Plus, it could lead to potential embarrassment later on.”

If you really feel the need to vent about your feelings, Wasser and Nicole recommend picking one trusted friend or family member who’s not connected to your ex.

Do Keep Your Conversations Civil

In some cases, you may have to communicate with your ex — whether it’s about a shared pet, some items you left in their car, or paying that last utility bill at your shared apartment. Wasser says it’s important to keep these convos as polite as possible.

“It's easier said than done, I know, but maintaining civility shows respect for your shared past,” she explains. “Plus, it's good for you too. You'd be surprised how much a calm conversation can reduce the stress and negativity that often comes with breakups.”

And whatever you do, don’t fall into drunk-texting them — you’re unlikely to be able to keep things civil in that context, and they’ll have the proof that you didn’t stored in their phone.

Don’t Play the Blame Game

“Once a relationship has ended, it can be tempting to construct a narrative in which you are an innocent victim and your ex is a malicious villain,” says Adler. “This kind of thinking can help us protect our egos in the short term, but it is an unhealthy coping mechanism that leaves us with a distorted picture of why the relationship ended.”

Remember: relationships are a two-way street, and one person is rarely ever completely responsible for its demise. As Adler says, it’s crucial to be able to take responsibility for your own flaws and missteps in order to learn from the experience and move forward without resentment.

Do Reach Out for Support

If you’re struggling with feelings of resentment, anger, sadness, guilt, or loneliness, remember that you don’t have to deal with it alone. Before you let those emotions get the best of you — and potentially drive you to behavior that you’ll regret later — Wasser and Adler strongly suggest seeking out some support from friends, family members, or a licensed mental health provider.

“It's easy to isolate yourself when you're hurting, but talking to a trusted friend or professional can be incredibly therapeutic,” says Wasser. “They can offer perspective, and sometimes, just having someone listen can make a world of difference.”

Don’t Seek Out a Revenge Rebound

Suddenly finding yourself single can be jarring — and while you may have the urge to jump into bed with the first hot person you find on an app or at the local bar, experts say">having a rebound before you take the time to heal from your last relationship isn’t generally helpful. Worse yet, a rebound can actually end up hurting everyone involved.

If you’re not">over your ex, it’s too soon to date or sleep with someone else. They may be looking for a genuine connection, and it isn’t fair to put yourself out there if you aren’t emotionally available — unless you and that person agree on no-strings-attached sex. Even in that case, keep in mind that a hook-up is just a temporary distraction and may not really take the pain away. After it’s over, you’ll likely be left with the same feelings about your breakup.

“Moving on before you’re ready can set you up for further heartbreak,” adds Adler.

As a general rule, Adler says you’re only ready to start dating or hooking up again when you have a genuine desire to connect with new people — and aren’t just trying to forget about your ex or quell your loneliness.

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