Dear Dr. Romance:

I have been dating my boyfriend for seven years, I care for him deeply. However, I am not happy. I want to break-up with him, but I don't know the best way to do it and not hurt him. I would still like to remain friends with him, or is this just wishful thinking? 

Dear Reader:

You can't "not hurt" your boyfriend.  If you break up with him, he'll be hurt and angry.  What worries me is what your reason for breaking up when you"care deeply."  Is he abusive?  Are you just bored?  Have you had couples counseling?   

The following advice only applies if you are not in an abusive relationship:  To break up with someone and still have some integrity, you have to take responsibility for making the decision.  If he's been a good guy, don't blame him. Take the responsibility for allowing your love for him to fade.  Don't tell him you "care deeply" if that were true, you wouldn't be breaking up.   After breaking up, give him some time, and let him decide if he wants to be friends. Give him a chance to heal his wounds, find someone else, and be happy. Just let him go.  If he wants to be friends, count your blessings. If you think you're not really ready to break up, "When Love is Kind: Mutuality in Relationships" will help you re-think your relationship and re-charge it.  If you're sure you're ready to break up, The following guidelines might help you.

Dr. Romance's Guidelines for Breaking Up

If he's a good guy, be suspicious of your motivation for breaking up.  All right, if you can't stand for him to touch or kiss you, then he's a friend -- no relationship is going to happen.  But, if it's just that there's not enough "spark" this could be a warning sign that you're looking for "Mr. Goodbar" -- the fatal attraction you just can't let go of.  If you don't like good boys, and you're longing for bad ones, you may be programmed (e.g.: by a childhood with an absent, abusive or addicted dad) to want a type of man who's not good for you.  If you have  string of relationships with "bad boys" it could be just that you don't know what to do with a nice guy.
1. To break off with a nice person, be nice about it, do it in person or on the phone. Tell him what you like about him, offer to be friends ( if you want to) and say you just don’t have the chemistry. There’s not much else you can do, he’ll probably be hurt, but you can’t date him because he wants you to. Your heart has to be in it, too.  

2. Don’t string him along, not answering his calls, which would be mean.  You need to set him free, so he can find someone who really clicks with him; and so you can find your own partner, too.  

3. If he’s a nice guy and you have mutual friends, be prepared to lose some friends – they may decide you hurt a nice guy and they don’t like you.  If he’s a jerk, your true friends will probably cheer you on.

4. In the nice guy scenario, the best thing to do for both of you to save face is to tell your mutual friends together.  This avoids the “how could you hurt him” response.  If he’s a jerk, and all your friends know it, have a celebration with them.  Go out for drinks, dinner or lunch to toast the end of a bad affair.  

5. On Facebook and other social sites, you can start a photo album called “loved and lost” and put all the pictures of both of you in it.  In the case of the jerk, block him from your site, and suggest that your friends make their own decisions about whether to block him or not.  For the nice guy, if he wants to, you can make a mutual announcement on both your sites about how you really care about each other, but have decided just to be friends.  

Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences will teach you about the kind of relationship that would be good for you, and how to go about creating one.

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Author's Bio: 

Tina B. Tessina, Ph.D. is a licensed psychotherapist in S. California since 1978 with over 30 years experience in counseling individuals and couples and author of 13 books in 17 languages, including It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction; The Unofficial Guide to Dating Again; Money, Sex and Kids: Stop Fighting About the Three Things That Can Ruin Your Marriage, The Commuter Marriage, and her newest, Love Styles: How to Celebrate Your Differences. She writes the “Dr. Romance” blog, and the “Happiness Tips from Tina” email newsletter.