I practically came out of the womb breaking hearts. No, not in a cocky, I’m-so-awesome-and-beautiful way. My breakups actually just always go horribly wrong. I somehow approach the situation every time in the worst possible way, and the poor guy either ends up confused or a mess of emotions. I’m actually a very sensitive gal and don’t mean to cause any unnecessary pain. But looking back, I see where I made my mistakes. I remember in 4th grade (yes, it counts) I broke up with my first boyfriend because he wanted to hold my hand. I never actually said any breakup words, I just ignored him on the playground and didn’t sit next to him in the cafeteria anymore. And another time in 6th grade (still counts), I broke up with my boyfriend via Myspace messaging after a day or so of officially dating. I know, cruel and cringe-worthy. I think my downfall is that I hate confrontation and I don’t like to be the cause of someone else’s hurt, so I end up taking a bad approach. But that’s no excuse; Jacob and Alex deserved some closure and so does every other victim of a breakup. So here’s a list of five good ways to end a relationship:

1) Prepare for the end.

If you’re feeling uneasy or uncertain about a relationship, don’t tiptoe around like everything’s okay. You want to avoid blindsiding your significant other and making the breakup any harder on them. But I’m also not saying you should postpone your breakup just to drop some hints first. Basically, you should be open with yourself as well as your partner so that you can both prepare for the end if that’s what’s coming. This may involve having conversations about what’s going wrong, why you’re unhappy, and why you foresee a breakup in the near future. Not only will this prepare yourselves, but also give you both the chance to salvage a relationship that isn’t beyond repair.

2) Be direct and honest.

One of the keys to moving on is fully understanding and then accepting a breakup. Therefore, one of the worst possible approaches to a breakup is lying about what went wrong. In many of my childish relationships (much like those with Jacob and Alex), I owed our breakup to the strictness of my parents. I said that my parents found out about them and wouldn’t let me date, so we had to end our short-lived fling. But this just confused the guys and gave them false hope. Some of them suggested staying together but hiding it from my parents, or solutions of the like. In reality, I just wasn’t interested in dating them anymore. I was young and indecisive, what can I say. So don’t beat around the bush, tell your significant other why it’s just not working out and be kind while doing so.

3) Share the blame.

You know, the classic, ‘It’s not you, it’s me’. Just kidding, do not say that. You’ll only make matters worse. However, do accept some of the blame. A relationship takes two people to work. It takes sacrifice and understanding and hard work from both parties. So recognize and acknowledge your role in the breakup. This will lead to a more peaceful breakup and maybe even an eventual friendship when it’s all said and done. When I grew older and finally matured, I realized the importance of this approach. I was actually dating Alex again—I know, I can’t believe he dated me again after the Myspace breakup either. But this time, we had developed a real, strong relationship. I just no longer had the time to commit to it. So I explained the problem and took the blame for why our relationship couldn’t work out the second time around.

4) Take the high road.

Hopefully your breakups don’t involve screaming fights and the throwing of hair dryers—but some do. Prevent escalation and possible violent behavior by maintaining calm and respectful language and demeanor. That means no calling them names or discounting their feelings, no matter how crappy they were as a boyfriend or girlfriend. You should take this route even if they start to disrespect you. Just take the high road and avoid further aggravating the situation.

5) Establish boundaries.

Nothing’s worse than unfinished business or a relationship in limbo. There’s all this confusion these days with terms like “talking” and “taking a break”, making it that much easier to be confused about your status and that much harder to understand terms of a breakup. So when you’re initiating a breakup, be assertive and establish sure boundaries. If you want to remain friends, be outright about it. If you want to cut off all communication with them, be clear about that too. If I’ve learned anything from my poor handling of breakups, it’s that you want everything to be clear as day for both you and your newly ex. This will prevent a lot of stickiness and a lot of stress later down the road.