How to have a breakup conversation that doesn’t totally suck

Have you heard of the “slow fade”? Also called “ghosting,” it’s kind of like breaking up, except instead of having an honest conversation about not wanting to date anymore, you instead become increasingly less available to someone until they give up and move on. As you might imagine, this can take a long time, and is a pretty terrible way to treat someone. Take it from someone who’s done it, and lived to regret it: Even though break-ups are no fun, it’s better to have an honest conversation with someone than do the fadeaway. And that chat doesn’t have to be the dramatic, set-fire-to-the-law, everyone-is-in-tears event that so often happens in the movies. In fact, there are lots of ways to make a break-up as humane as possible, even if some hurt feelings are inevitable. Here’s how.

Don’t waste time hemming and hawing. Once you decide, just do it.

You may be on the fence about a relationship for a while, but as soon as you’ve made the decision to break up, do it ASAP. Carrying out a slow fade production wastes another person’s time as well as yours. The person you want to break up with could be out meeting someone new, or maybe embracing some wallowing before healthily moving on. So could you. Plus, jumping every time your phone makes a sound or living in fear of your text and Facebook message notifications is no way to be. By clearing the air. Yes, breaking up is awkward, but once you do it, it’s over.

Pick a neutral spot

Don’t make this person sit through a long meal or highly-involved date night before you initiate this conversation. You don’t have to go to their house, or make them come to yours. Pick a coffee shop, bar, restaurant or a park, and one that doesn’t have some deep emotional resonance for either of you. Don’t choose a place that’s your all-time favorite either: It might be hard for you to go there for a little while without dredging up all the feelings.

You can give a reason, but be sensitive. Don’t give a list of their flaws

You’re avoiding a break-up conversation because you don’t want to have to give an explanation, right? Here’s the truth: It doesn’t really matter if your reason for breaking up with someone would stand up in a court of law. If you don’t want to be with someone anymore, that’s enough. Keep the conversation short and sweet: I’m not feeling this anymore, even though I treasure the time we had. Make it clear that you’ve made up your mind, but avoid being too harsh. Don’t dredge up past arguments. Keep it short, and avoid giving a laundry list of their flaws. The same qualities that weren’t working for you might be the reason their next partner totally digs them.

Don’t lie or feed them a line

If this person isn’t right for you and you can feel it, you are allowed to voice this very reasonable concern. It’s not cool to say that you’re breaking up with someone because you’re moving to a different state when you’re staying put, or even the old It’s not you, it’s me routine. Being clear cut give you a better chance of remaining on good terms with your ex. After all, there was a reason you were dating in the first place.

Let them talk

The person you are breaking up with will probably feel pretty hurt, and that will be painful for you to be faced with. However, it’s important that you let them talk and say what they are feeling. If you’re lucky, they’ll take it like a champ and be gracious. If they’re not, just know that what they are saying is out of feeling hurt and that they just need to be able to express themselves (to a reasonable extent, of course: verbal or physical abuse is not acceptable).

Have a friend waiting

Breaking up is hard, even if you’re the one doing the breaking off. Go for a walk with a girl friend and discuss it, have some ice cream, try to chat about happier things! She’s been there too, and can commiserate with the grossness you may be feeling. She’ll also remind you that you did the right thing, like an adult who has respect for the feelings of others and for yourself.

And remember that it’s going to be OK. Sometimes things just aren’t the right fit. It doesn’t make your time together any less precious. If you face a break-up with decency and honesty, you’ll feel a lot better about the whole thing.

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