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love out loud: how to break up with someone

I’m hardly an expert when it comes to ending relationships. It’s been a few years since I last did it and whenever I have, it’s been a pretty half-arsed effort anyway. But I’ve been around enough break-ups, both my own and others’, to know that it can be done well or it can be done in a way that is going to torment the dumpee for years to come.

To help you on your journey to become single without being a jerk, I have compiled a handy list.

1. Don’t break up with someone via text.
This also goes for emails, post it notes, leaving cryptic lyrics on a computer screen, and writing in fog on a car windscreen. I’m not entirely sold on always having to do it in person, however this is most people’s preferred modus operandi when it comes to being broken up with, so it’s best to stick with it rather than get stuck in grey areas wondering whether doing it over the phone would be okay. If you’re in a long distance relationship and not going to see the person for a while (or if it’s them making the trek to see you the next time that you’re going to see each other), then skype is probably okay. But if you live in the same city, skype is weird.

2. Don’t start flirting/dating/whatever with your next potential partner before you’ve broken up with someone.
Your current partner shouldn’t have to suffer just because you were too cowardly or lazy to break it off sooner.

3. Give a reason.
Few things will torture someone more than having a relationship end with someone they really care about for no reason. It makes you play the relationship on a loop in your head, wondering what it was you did wrong and how you could’ve prevented it. Do note that ‘I just don’t feel the same way anymore’ is an entirely valid reason.

4. Keep repeating this reason for as long as it takes to be adequately communicated.
I know that sometimes people will keep fishing for a reason they like better than the one you give them and that these conversations can get frustrating when you were just wanting to have a brief exchange with the person and then have it be over. Of course, we all have limits and if you think you’ve been clear but your ex won’t let it go because they don’t like the reason (or perhaps they just don’t like the fact you’ve broken up), then it’s time to be firm and say you feel like you’ve discussed it enough and there’s really nothing more you can say.

5. You have a small window for break-up sex.
This one is a bit ambiguous, and must be dealt with carefully and on a case-by-case basis. A lovin’ session to say goodbye can be a lovely and bittersweet end to a relationship, but if you have even the slightest feeling that the person you’ve broken up with wants to have sex in an effort to get you back rather than to say goodbye, you must ignore your libido in that moment.

6. Don’t say “maybe one day” unless you mean it. Which you probably don’t.
It has been my experience that those who want to be in a relationship with a person will overlook or work through a lot of bullshit and inconveniences in order to be with them. Making any promises or allusions to the future is usually just a way to soften the blow, or to keep your options open in case no one better comes along. If you weren’t planning to move on in the near future, you probably wouldn’t be breaking up with the person, and yet phrases such as “we’ll see what happens” and “things might be different one day” prevent them from doing the same thing. It’s cruel and it’s unfair, and even if you mean it, it’s still (generally) cruel and unfair to say it. You’re the one ending the relationship, so the way to truly soften the blow is to give them the chance to get over you too.

It is often more painful and awkward to break up with someone in the “right” way than to be vague and avoidant, but it works out better for everyone in the long run if you do. Be direct, be kind, be respectful, and tolerate the “but whyyyyyyy????!?” for a while. Breaking up is hard to do, but it doesn’t have to be that hard.

(Image credit: 1.)

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