A guide to breaking up (nicely)


Last week I received a couple of messages that came across as kind of cranky from a date who thought I was giving him the brush off when I said I was too busy that week for a second date.

While I actually wasn’t giving him the brush off to begin with, I then decided it was for the best that we not catch up again.

No one needs to deal with that kind of angst—especially after one date!

Thankfully, given it was only one date, no breakup was necessary. The following day, I was back on eHarmony, checking out who my new matches were.

But what happens when you’re a couple of weeks, months or even years, down the track and you decide things aren’t working out quite the way you’d hoped?

It could be time to break up (and for the love of all that is good, break up with them before you start sleeping with someone else … it’s just good manners).

If you Google ‘how to break up with someone’, you’ll find more than 200 million results—there are literally MILLIONS of tips, hints, suggestions, opening lines and stories about how to tell someone they’re not the one for you.

And yet it’s still one of the most awkward things to do.

Everyone remembers how Carrie in Sex and the City was dumped by post-it (a story based on a real life experience of one of the show’s writers) and as I’ve previously shared, I’ve been dumped by text message, which I found less than ideal.

But both of those almost pale in comparison to Bobo’s break-up. Bobo is a somewhat misguided man who thought it was okay to dump his ex by text message. But it was what was within that text—reason #3 mostly—that turned Bobo into an internet sensation.


So, the big question is, how do you remove yourself from a relationship without causing more damage than necessary to the other party? And how do you do it in a way that won’t turn you into a social media sensation? Or make you the subject of someone’s blog post?

eHarmony’s Dating and Relationship Expert Melanie Schilling said the most important thing is to actually have the conversation—one way or another. That means, no smoke bombs.

“Don’t do a phantom and just disappear. It may feel like the easy way out but they deserve an explanation and some closure. Think about karmic credit.”

She also recommended you think of Aretha Franklin and remember to use some R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

“Imagine they were your best friend rather than partner and communicate accordingly. Put yourself in their shoes and think about the impact of your words. Give them space to feel what they feel and say what they say. Don’t try to control or influence their reaction.”

How to break up with someone (nicely):

1. Choose your timing. Don’t do it on their birthday, the day after their dog died, at Christmas (something I may have done once), or while you’re on holidays together (something a friend did) … because if you ruin that kind of ‘big’ event, there’s a chance they will remember it year after year and you’ll just seem like a jerk. Same goes if you do it when they’re super stressed about family or work matters.

2. Keep it private. As much as people say break up in a public place to avoid a scene, I recommend doing it in a place where your date/soon-to-be ex partner isn’t going to feel vulnerable, or make things even more awkward if it descends into tears or yelling. But if you’re in private, don’t get sucked into break-up sex. Or do it, but make it clear it’s not get-back-together sex or you’ll find yourself having another awkward conversation one month down the track when nothing has changed.

3. Do it in person. Now there are times when this doesn’t have to happen—if you’ve only been out a few times and haven’t slept together, the phone is fine (a phone call would be preferable to the text). But if you’ve bumped uglies more than a couple of times, you need to grow some balls (even if you’re a girl) and tell them face-to-face. You might think doing it by text or on the phone will be easier for the other person, but it can actually inflict more pain on the dumpee that can impact their future partnerships.

4. Be honest but sensitive. No one likes to get dumped, but most people appreciate the truth when it’s over. Unless, of course, the truth is you’ve stopped finding them attractive, you’ve met someone better, or that you’re just plain bored with the relationship. In that case, keep the reason to yourself and explain that you just don’t feel the way you used to.

5. It’s not you, it’s me. It’s so cliché and technically it’s the right theme—you need to take responsibility for initiating the break up. Try to give reasons about why you’re no longer fit for the relationship. But, having said that, don’t ever EVER utter those actual words. Not unless you want to end up wearing a drink. Same goes for “it’s just not fair on you”.

6. Avoid mixed messages. Don’t tell them, mid break-up, that you would like to keep seeing them if things were different. You might be trying to be nice and suggest that there’s nothing wrong with them. But giving mixed messages like that will just make it harder for the other person to come to terms with the break-up.

7. Bite your tongue. When break ups don’t go according to plan (ie. smoothly), or if you’ve been surprised by the event, it can be easy to descend into name calling, or insulting the other person, as if to prove that’s why you shouldn’t be together or why you no longer need them as your partner. Don’t do this. Act with dignity.

8. Let’s be friends. Actually, let’s not. If one person still fancies the other person, being friends is going to be impossible, at least in the beginning. Sure, going cold turkey can be hard and there may be things you need to work out or divide up, but try to keep contact to a minimum, at least until the rawness of the break up has settled.

9. Revenge is not sweet. It may seem like a good idea, but generally, plotting revenge is just going to be a waste of your energy. You’ll simply spend even more time thinking about your ex and it will postpone your recovery.

10. Take the high road, even if it’s bumpy. If you find out you were cheated on, try to take the high road. Wikihelp suggest using this opening line: “Recently I found out that you were currently seeing somebody else. I’m sorry that our relationship didn’t offer you everything you needed, but I can’t be in a committed relationship with someone who is also seeing somebody else. I think we should break up.”


This post was brought to you by eHarmony. Please support the brands that support this blog.


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