Are you in a relationship that you know needs to end? And you just need the encouragement to do it?
No? You may want to skip this.
Yes? Here we go….
I was lucky to have two good break-up coaches when I was a youngster. One was my roommate, a crazy lady whose huge dating roster was outsized only by her intellect. The other was her then-boyfriend, a dude with a knack for busting out a bad joke at a good time. They guided me through the dating jungle as I set out on my first adventures.
Here was a sample of one coaching session after one of my failed 1-month relationships:
Roomie: “They’re gonna protest. So you have to get off the phone as quickly as possible.”
Me: “Can I just say EFF YOU and hang up?”
Roomie’s BF: “No. Let’s practice the nice part again.”
Today, I pass their timeless wisdom along to you, oh ender-of-short-term-relationships. Also, my nickname is “Gratuitous Dating Advice.” Well… not really, but it should be.
Here’s the Thing. You could break up with someone like a jerk.
Or, you could break up with someone like the self-respecting, amazing person you are.
This post operates under some assumptions: your date is not a misogynist, child pornographer, or perpetrator of violence. If any of these are, or might be the case… exit fast. Just go. Be safe. Run like the wind.
Instead this post assumes your soon-to-be-ex is just like everyone else’s ex: someone you find foolish, self-centered, immature, or boring. Someone with emotional issues you can’t deal with. Someone you can’t talk to. Someone who doesn’t seem to care about you. Also– in this case, someone you have not been in serious, long-term relationship with (that’s a different kind of break up, not for this post).
Someone you have decided you absolutely must break up with. And you just need some help with it.
Step 1: Your Mantra = “Dignity and Grace”
Repeat this to yourself over and over.
It’s like this. You are the Grand Marshal Queen at the Gay Pride Parade. Your soon-to-be ex is just a spectator. Why clamber off your rainbow unicorn and lower yourself to their level? You have a bedazzled throne and they don’t. You have a throng of oiled-up admirers in Speedos and they don’t. So– be classy.
In other words: Don’t passive-aggressively pick a fight in order to provoke a break-up. Don’t call all of their friends and spread rumors. Don’t suddenly stop returning phone calls. Don’t text-message break up.
Would a Queen do those things? No. A Queen would be respectful. A Queen knows that giving respect doesn’t diminish her power. Even if you don’t feel it, you can have dignity and grace for just 5 minutes. That’s how long the break-up will last.
Step 2: Make the phone call. OR figure out the public, neutral meeting place.
Breaking up with a short-term date needs to be fast and clean. Therefore, you cannot meet at their house or your house. You must be able to walk away from any drama that might happen.
If you can’t meet in person, call them. The more in-person it is, the more respectful you are being. You’re not in Middle School, so don’t act 12 years old. Respect the soon-to-be-ex and yourself by not vanishing, changing your “relationship status” on Facebook to “single” without talking to them first, or sleeping around in order to end it.
Step 3: Start with 1-2 positive statements before you crush their heart.
Here are some examples, depending on how deep it got with them–
“I’ve liked hanging out with you.”
“You have a great sense of humor.”
“You’ve really been here for me in my tough times.”
“I really care so much about you.”
They know what’s coming next, anyway. You are simply launching into it with grace.
Step 4: Say these sentences — “I’ve been thinking about it, and I’d like to end our relationship. I’m sorry.”
If being so direct isn’t your “thing,” practice it over and over. Look in the mirror and say it. Wake up and say it. In fact, get your buddies to practice with you. I’m serious.
DO NOT SKIP OVER OR CHANGE THESE SENTENCES. I suppose you could change “end our relationship” to “break up.” But you must keep the integrity of the statement.
Once, I got in trouble for changing the sentences.
I’d been on, like, two dates with this person. I knew without a doubt that it needed to stop. But I was 19, and lacked confidence in asserting myself.
So, when the time came, I spit out something like:
“I was kind of thinking that…. maybe….. um…. I-was-thinking-we-should-not-see-each-other….what-do-you-think?”
What followed was a two-hour conversation in which this guy tried to talk me back into dating him:
“You must have asked for my opinion because you wanted reassurance,” he started.
“Um….” I stuttered.
Then, his ego kicked in: “C’mon, you know you want to date me.”
“Uh….” I said.
Then the conversation got heavy, as he segued into a major guilt-trip:
“You’re the only girl I’ve ever felt I could connect with. I know this could work between us. I just know it.”
I can’t remember anything I said, but by the time I left his car (see Step #2, note the violation) I felt like I’d been an unwitting part of a badly-written B-movie.
All because I couldn’t just say the freaking sentences.
Moral of the story: Say the freaking sentences.
Step 5: Repeat Step 4 as many times as necessary. Do not cave.
The most creative protests in the world happen here (refer to story in Step 4).
“But… but… I’m in love with you! I just couldn’t admit it before!”
“I didn’t tell you because I wanted it to be a surprise, but…. I want to marry you!”
“I can’t possibly lose you. You’re the best thing that’s ever happened to me.”
Notice one thing — all of these protests are about the now-ex-partner. None of them are about your needs.
This means that your ex is focusing on their own hurt ego or needs. They aren’t actually thinking about you. So as enticing as these “confessions” sound, don’t get sucked into feeling bad.
Put Step 5 on repeat: “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry.” Skip to Step 6 as soon as possible.
Step 5.5: (Optional) Give it your own flavor.
Want to stay friends? Say so. But give it a few months before you attempt that. (More about that in this older post).
Want to ask 1 burning question? Kick off the conversation with that before going through Steps 1-5. Make sure no matter the answer, you continue forth with grace and dignity.
Want to teach them a useful lesson? Be specific in Step 4: “I wish you’d told me before you went on your 2-week trip to Thailand instead of just disappearing. It would’ve been more respectful.”
You get the idea.
Step 6: “I wish you the best. Thank you. Goodbye.”
That’s all. Say it a few times. If they are still protesting, wait for a pause, say the line really fast, and hang up the phone (then don’t pick it up when they call back). Or say it, then politely excuse yourself from your public meeting place.
At the end of a parade, people flock after the Queen, oohing and ahhing over her grace and beauty. The Queen never, ever turns around, looks angry, or runs over her fans with a rainbow, rosette-covered float.
The Queen always exits gracefully, waving with one white glove over her shoulder. Smiling no matter what.
- 7 things to know about loving your ex
- The 5 Worst ways to ask someone out
- 10 ways to say "no" to hanging out