Have a heart.
Ever heard the phrase 'write what you know?' Well, I don't know how to make relationships work. I don't know how to maintain love after all these years or how to take a bad relationship and turn it into a good one. What I do know is how to break up with a guy. I know enough about breaking up with guys to write The Book on it. Or, at least, write an article on it. Like any skill, I learned through a very extensive trial and error process, leaving a wake of bruised egos, uncomfortable situations, and most depressing, months of prolonged, mediocre relationships. So, fear not, I learned how to do this gracefully — you can too.
Here are the dos and don'ts for breaking up at any stage in a relationship.
1. Recognize when it's time to end your relationship.
While this may seem obvious, it can take a very long time to become self-assured enough to realize that you don't have to go out with any and every guy who asks you. Don't forget you have choices! At any phase in a relationship, you know when the spark is there; conversely, you know when it's not. It is impossible to force yourself to like someone. Believe me, I've tried.
No longer attracted to him? It's a pretty good indication your feelings are waning. If he's mean to you, takes advantage of you, has crossed the line from having fun-on-the-weekend to being a drug or alcohol addict, or just isn't giving you what you need and deserve, it is time to move on. Some relationships are worth working on—recognizing when they're not is more important than trying to fix something that's worthless.
2. Don't go to extremes.
We've all experienced it — the guys who don't return calls or emails, leaving you wondering just what happened and if you'll ever hear from him again. The post-it note explanation or the non-confrontational route can leave you confused and full of questions. That's why you shouldn't phase him out by ignoring him.
There is only one acceptable time it's OK to not return his call or email or text (however the two of you are communicating): if you've only had one date. If he knows your cat's name, that you like to be bitten, or that you like ketchup on your eggs, it's gotten too involved to abruptly cut him off. If he has no indication that the relationship isn't progressing as well as he thinks it is, it will be confusing and hurtful when he receives no closure and no attempt at an explanation.
It's the other extreme — when your partner has too much to say — that is often more painful than being ignored. After a whirlwind month-long relationship, my friend sat through a four-hour explanation about why her guy no longer wanted to see her since she "sucked the life out of [him]." Another friend woke up after a first date to find a pages-long email detailing why, exactly, the guy could never go out with her again. This method is overkill. No one needs to be punished with too much information, making their head spin and their tears flow.
Both of these extremes methods are unnecessarily mean, violating the third rule.
3. Don't be mean for the sake of being mean.
Don't explode, saying all of those ugly things you've been bottling up for months. There's no point — you're getting rid of him now. If you haven't told him the constructive things (so maybe his breath isn't great or he's not always fresh down there) while you were together and wait to blurt them out at the end, you'll seem petty and horrible. And really, there's no excuse for that. You liked him enough to be with him initially so there's no need to cut him down just to make yourself feel better. Rejection is hard enough for him to take — having to hear mean or rude remarks will just make him resent you.
4. Don't use clichés.
You know that old cliché, 'it's not you, it's me?' This line is an easy way to excuse yourself from a relationship without pointing out the faults and foibles of the person you're breaking up with. However, you don't want to look like you're being rude or insincere, so instead of relying on something so trite, use a variation of this theme. Also, unless you truly want to remain friends with your guy, don't tell him that you do. Pretending you might have a future together will just prolong the break-up process.
5. Don't break up with him in public.
You might think a public break-up will make things easier for you since he won't want to cause a scene, but it's rude to do this in front of strangers and you'll needlessly embarrass him. Remember, the point isn't to make you feel better — you're the one doing the dumping — you need to be considerate of his feelings. By breaking up with him while he's at home, you allow him to stay in his comfort zone; something he'll appreciate when he's going through the less than comfortable break-up process.
6. Be prepared for his possible reactions.
People respond differently to break-ups and it's important to know how you'll react when faced with a range of his emotions. Be prepared for him to bargain with you. He might offer to spend more time with you, be more attentive, or anything else you've complained about in the past was lacking in the relationship. Know before going into the break-up talk if his offers will be enough for you. If not, don't be swayed by his last-ditch attempt to make things work — don't be rude, but be resolute. Also, be prepared for him to be confused, angry, or even mean to you. While girls cry, guys often get hostile when they're hurt. By remaining calm and in control, you can get through this awkward discussion and painful process.
7. All relationships are not created equally.
Consider your time frame: just like there are different levels of relationships, there are different levels of break-ups.
Been together a month or less? Breaking up over the phone is acceptable. And no, email and texting don't count! What would you do if a guy broke up with you online? If you're anything like me, you'd forward it to all of your friends as evidence of his rudeness. So, don't be that texting b***h (remember, emails are evidence that only he has the power to erase), suck it up and call him. Breaking up over the phone should take no longer than five minutes. Be respectful and choose a night when you know he'll be home (you shouldn't leave a break-up message on his voice mail or machine).
If you've been dating for a few months or if he's your boyfriend, break up with him in person. You should go to his place, but make sure you don't do this under false pretenses (don't pretend you're going to a movie or out to dinner). You're not trying to trick him, just talk to him. Once you get to his place, make sure he's comfortable. Be calm. Do not attack him. Instead, be patient and, without launching into an over- explanation of why things aren't working, have "The Talk."
8. How to have "The Talk."
Start the discussion by telling him you need to talk. Yes, he'll probably get an idea right then that things aren't working for you and that's fine.
Always start with a compliment. This will make him feel better about himself and it will start things off on a positive note. Without being unnecessarily dramatic, tell him that although he's a great guy and that you've enjoyed the time you've spent together, the relationship isn't working out for you. By using the word "me," you're taking ownership over the situation, instead of blaming him by saying "you did this or didn't do that." He'll probably ask you some questions and you should answer them honestly, but succinctly. There's no need to divulge mean thoughts, lengthy explanations, or explicit details about why you no longer want to be with him—the fact is that you don't. If he presses you for a reason you merely need to say that you no longer have the same feelings for him that you once did. And that's it. He'll respect your honesty and directness and you'll feel better about being so upfront with him.
9. The most important rule is to treat him how you'd want to be treated.
I know, I know this might sound clichéd, but breaking up is one of those things you will most likely experience from both sides, both as the heartbreaker and the one getting your heart broken. Think someone dumped you badly so you have an excuse to do it to someone else? Don't do it—it can still happen to you again and break-up karma is a bitch.