There’s no phrase in the English language that invokes more fear than when someone says “We have to talk.” Everyone who has ever been in a relationship knows instinctively that any conversation that starts with that phrase will never end well. It almost inevitably is followed by the classic “It’s not you, it’s me”, and the equally dreaded “We can still be friends.”
As bad as being dumped can feel… being the dump-er can be as bad.
Ending a relationship, especially a long-term one, can be incredibly difficult. Nobody relishes being the person to cause someone – someone you’ve shared an emotional connection with, someone who has shared months, if not years of your lives together – pain. It’s only natural to want to avoid the awkwardness and heart break as much as possible. We all know the little dodges to try to make things easier; trying to couch the split in passive phrases, avoiding face-to-face confrontations, even hoping to force our significant other to be the one to pull the trigger instead.
All of these just serve to make things worse.
If you’re going to break up with someone, they deserve the dignity of being dumped properly.
You’re going to have to follow the rules and break up with them like a man.
It’s inevitable that relationships come to an end. Whether you’ve come to the realization that she’s not right for you or circumstances have changed and you’re no longer compatible, you owe it to her to end things with a minimum of fuss and drama. You can’t avoid hurting her; scientists and psychologists have discovered that breakups are literally physically painful. They trigger the same areas of the brain that respond to cocaine and nicotine withdrawal. But by following these rules you can keep the pain to a minimum and at least provide her with the respect she’s due.
Face To Face Is The Only Way
If you’re going to break up with someone, you break up with them to their face. No exceptions. If you’ve been dating for longer than two weeks and/or bodily fluids have been exchanged, you owe them an in-person explanation. Not over the phone. Not via e-mail. Certainly not by text… what kind of inhuman monster are you? Did you run out of puppies to drown?
Look, I get it. It’s only natural to want to avoid the conflict inherent in a breakup; nobody enjoys watching people in pain, especially pain that you are the direct cause of. You may even have convinced yourself that it’s somehow less cruel than a face-to-face confrontation, that somehow that level of extra level of distance will somehow cushion the blow and make it easier on both of you.
Let’s be honest: you’re being a goddamned coward. Breaking up with her by remote isn’t about her comfort, it’s about yours. If you had any honest feelings for her, you owe it to her to break up with her to her face?
Because the first rule of a break up is to do as little damage as possible. Humans are built for face-to-face communication; our facial expressions and body language carry volumes of information that text or even vocal inflection don’t convey. In a face-to-face break up, the little things – the look of pain and sympathy in your own eyes, the subtle reach across the table, the slump of shoulders – will display your own emotional distress and convey to her a very simple but necessary message: that you cared for her and that she has value as a person.
Do you know what you’re saying when you dump somebody via electronic proxy? You’re telling her “You matter so little that I couldn’t even be bothered to show up in person.” The implied insult on top of the injury can be devastating; you may as well pour carbolic acid on top of an open wound while you’re at it.
Own The Breakup
Let’s say that over the years your feelings have changed. You know that the end of the relationship is coming… but you just can’t bring yourself to pull the trigger and end things. So you start applying relationship jiu-jitsu. You become distant, passive-aggressive even. You close yourself off emotionally. You flirt with other women in front of her. You’ve become so obnoxious and unbearable that ultimately she is the one to break up with you.
Mission accomplished, right? Time to meet up with the boys, grab some drinks at the bar and congratulate yourself on a job well done. After all, no harm, no foul, right?
Whether you fear confrontation, you just can’t stand to be the one to hurt her or you fear being “the bad guy” in the break-up, weaseling your way into being the dumpee instead of the dumper is the mark of the lowest of the low. Hand in your man-card because you’re clearly not worthy of the title.
Just as with avoiding a face-to-face break up, all you have done is shirked the responsibility of the break-up in the name of convenience. Not only is this incredibly insulting to your significant other, it can be profoundly damaging to her emotionally. All you have done is convinced her that all the time you had spent together was a lie. In one swift dick move, you have poisoned all of the fond memories she had of the two of you; now she can’t trust her own feelings and intuition. After all, you’ve just proven that you weren’t the person she thought you were and that the relationship wasn’t what she felt it to be.
If you’re breaking up with someone, you owe it to them and to yourself to stand up and own the fact that this is your doing. You need to be willing to take responsibility for the fact that you are the one taking these actions and that you have enough respect for her to be up front about it.