How to break up like a grown-up

If the winter blues and falling off the New Year’s resolutions wagon (damn you, carbs!) weren’t enough to contend with, I hate to inform you that we are also smack dab in the middle of prime breakup season. Yes, after the exciting mistletoe and midnight kisses of December comes total bleakness and heartache. Not even the commercially fueled romance of Valentine’s Day can save us. That’s because breakup rates tend to start around the New Year and rise through V-Day before they peak in March and start to drop off just in time for summer lovin’.

A few years ago, I was one of those casualties. After experiencing a romantic holiday season with my then-boyfriend filled with “I miss you” emails and phone calls just to say “I love you” (very Stevie Wonder-ish), sealed with a feverish New Year’s Eve kiss that was as bubby and effervescent as the champagne we downed, we found ourselves depleted and adrift post-New Years. As soon as the drugstores busted out the obnoxious red-and-pink displays for Valentine’s Day, we were practically residents of Splitsville.

Emotionally, I was shocked. Statistically, I shouldn’t have been. A recent study of breakups showed that Valentine’s Day is one of the most common breakup dates of the year (Christmas and April Fool’s Day are also popular dates for breaking hearts, proving that Cupid has a strange sense of humor).

Of course breaking up sucks no matter what time of year it is. A breakup is a horrible time whether you’re the dumper or dumpee, but let’s be real for a minute and admit that the dumpee has it a million times worse. So in the spirit of breakup season and being kind to those whose hearts will be smashed on Valentine’s Day, here’s how to break up with someone like a respectful grown-up.

Don’t just ghost on someone.

I was dating a guy who I was head over heels in love with for eight months before he went away for a weekend with his pals and then…well, I didn’t hear from him again. He didn’t call or text. I eventually had to meet with him at his place of work to ask what happened only for us to officially break up a few days later. Peacing out on someone who you’ve been seeing – whether it’s been two dates or two months – is super easy to do. But ghosting is not only the coward’s way out of a relationship, but it also negates giving closure to the dumpee. Be better than that.

If you can, do it in person. 

Breaking up is the kind of experience that deserves human-to-human contact if possible. That means: no texting, no emojis, no emailing. Doing it over the phone is acceptable only when there really isn’t any other choice AND you’re committed to being on the phone for as long as it takes the other person to say good bye. Also important: doing it in private and not in public. You’re already breaking their heart – you don’t need to humiliate them.

Don’t put it off if you know that it has to happen.

I had been dating a guy for a while and I knew something was off between us. But I kept putting off “The Talk.” Eventually, our frustrations with each other began to fester and we ended up having a laborious breakup that was long, long overdue. If you’re waiting for things to change, chances are you will be waiting forever. You might as well rip off the bandage now and go through the pain and hurt sooner rather than later.

Be firm and clear about breaking up.

Yes, breaking up with someone will make you the “bad guy/girl.” And maybe you’ll feel guilty about it. But you know what’s worse? Letting someone dangle in Relationship Limbo. As a former dweller of Relationship Limbo, I can say that it is a truly painful place to live. Without confirming that it’s over, the dumpee will continue to think you’re coming back, and that there is a chance you will change your mind and want to get back together. If this is not your intention, say so. Otherwise, it’s just cruel.

Don’t immediately post details on social media.

We are so used to detailing every detail of our lives digitally that it might seem natural to vent on Facebook or send out a cryptic subtweet. But talking about our relationship woes should be left to trusted friends and family. A Facebook status change might be inevitable, but let the change speak for itself. Breakups happen. There’s no need to go viral about it.

(Image via Miramax)

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