by: David Chastity
Somewhere along the way, I’ve earned a reputation as a skilled breaker-upper. Probably because I’ve only been dumped twice (first two relationships) and have done all the relationship-ending/getting rid of desperate sad sacks since. Because I’m picky and heartless and anti-social, and innocent boys fall for me and I can’t take it.
But I want to be a nice person, and along the way I’ve learned how not to be a jerk when you have to break someone’s heart. Fun fact: these skills translate equally well to firing someone, asking a roommate to leave your house, or really any situation when you need to change or sever a relationship. One day, I’m going to be allowed to put “polyamorous and damn good at it” on my resume as proof of my superior people skills.
Step 1: Get Clear About Why You Want to Break Up
I’m not trying to say you don’t have a good reason for breaking up, but it’s good to spend some time soul-searching first to make sure you’re not just actually miserable at work and choosing to take it out on your partner or something. You may also realize that the fight you’ve been having could be solved with a mature conversation, rather than a screaming match that ends with throwing someone’s porcelain cat collection out your fourth-floor window, so that would be a bonus.
It’s important not to rely on the partner you want to ditch to help in this soul searching. Do some journaling, talk to your besties, chat it out with another partner if they have enough distance not to cause extra drama (e.g. aren’t jealous of the one you want to ditch or happily dating the one you want to ditch). While you do this, feel free to take a little extra distance from problematic-partner — either make up excuses about being busy, or outright say, “I need to process some stuff alone; I’ll talk to you about it later,” depending on how serious your relationship is and how good you are about talking. This will help the break up feel like less of a blindside later. If you go from happy smoochy faces straight to “so we can’t do this anymore,” it’s confusing.
Step 1A: Figure Out A Less-Hurtful Way to Express Why You Want to Break Up
“His cock is too huge and he has bad taste in pizza” may be the real reason you can’t stand to spend time with your squeeze anymore, but these are bad reasons to give someone. Make up some bullshit about your own personal development if you need to, but try to articulate something that’s not a laundry list of someone’s flaws, especially those they can’t help (novelty dildo-sized dicks).
Step 2: Schedule a Time to Talk
Notice how I don’t say “send an email or text that drops the bomb.” You may do this if you are letting someone you have been on fewer than three dates with know that you would not like to continue, but after that point, you gotta sit down in person. Suck it up, you pansy. It’s called human decency.
So, how do you say, “We need to go talk somewhere so I can break up with you” without dropping the break up bomb? Just set up a low-key hangout. I’d recommend avoiding either of your homes (although if you live together, your shared home is probably the right place), and also avoiding anything that could be construed as a nice date. Coffee is perfect. If your person thinks you’re setting up coffee to lead to something more date-ish, just be vague about plans after that. Commit to coffee. Don’t buy movie tickets, don’t make restaurant reservations. Promise no more than coffee. Ideally somewhere you’re unlikely to run into your other friends, for privacy. Public places tend to help prevent drama-filled emotional blowouts, but no one wants to get dumped at the corner shop they hang out at every day. Give your soon-to-be-ex the benefit of an easy place to avoid in case it’s painful. (Or yourself, this process ain’t painless on your end.)
Step 3: Have That Conversation
This is the hardest part. It’s why Step One is so important. You need to be clear-headed and calm and rational, to help set the tone for a mature conversation. You also need to be as clear as possible- it’s normal for someone to try to negotiate a break-up and avoid the inevitable. You can start with a simple “this isn’t working for me anymore, and I think we need to end it.”
From that point, let the other person guide where things are going. Some people are going to want to process a lot with you, and it’s nice if you can sit with them through a little of that. Lay out some of the reasons you discovered in Step One. Affirm that they are a lovely person and someone else will love them, but be clear that you can’t be that person.
Above all else, be firm that this is the end. You will not have sex one last time. You will not immediately revert to being best friends. They can have their stuff back from your apartment. They will have to find someone else to go to that all-male Lady Gaga tribute band concert with. When the two of you leave this coffee shop, you will no longer be dating. Your person may simply want to go be alone anyway, so don’t force them to sit there and discuss things with you if they want to go home and cry. Neither of you is responsible for each other’s healing process, but you are both responsible for treating each other with basic respect at this moment. Talk for as long as you need (don’t let your person drag it out too long), and go home.
Step 4: Stop Dating
This is the part where you both learn not to text each other all the time. Where you put away pictures that you don’t want to look at anymore, change your Facebook relationship status, start setting up your separate lives. I’m not saying you can’t still be friends (even though I’m never friends with my exes), but being friends is different from dating. Err on the side of too much space at first. You both need to mourn, and learn to redefine your lives, and that takes some time. Even though you were the one who did the breaking up, feel free to listen to sad songs and eat ice cream and cry to your besties. Ending a relationship hurts either way. Or, you know, go out and slut it up if that makes you feel excited and empowered. The important thing is to no longer be dating that loser you wanted to get away from.
If you follow these simple steps, you too will be able to break up like a pro (i.e. me). It takes a lot more self-awareness and care and maturity than just texting “Sry. Cant be ur bf nemore. : ( Lez be friends, k?” But that’s the point of being in adult relationships, right? Treating other human beings with love and respect?
Ha, what am I talking about? Go break some hearts! Call me after and let’s party.
David Chastity is some girl who lives in a city on the East Coast and likes kissing. She also really enjoys doing the Onion A.V. Club crossword puzzle, drinking good beer and finding the secret sexual meanings in popular music. She’s working on her MDiv and convincing Jesus to marry her.