The Incomplete Guide to Breaking Up With Someone While Causing the Least Amount of Emotional Devastation

Rejection is the worst.
Publish date:
August 20, 2013
breakups, crying, pain, rejection, M

Have you ever been dumped? I have, once, and it was horrible. I guess I should have known from all the songs, shows, movies, and literature indicating that breakups are a horrible experience, but I thought it was one of those sitcom myths like getting to ring a tiny bell when you're sick. You don't really experience hours-long crying jags set off by the sight of something seemingly inocuous you once enjoyed together, from which the only relief is housing an entire pint of Ben and Jerry's, right?

Uh, yeah, you do. That's exactly what you experience. Romantic comedies might as well be a documentary when it comes to a certain kind of breakup.

Previously, most of my breakups had been of the long-coming, mutual decision variety. They happened because something in the relationship wasn't working and was never going to work, not because we didn't love each other. The kind of break-up where the other party, with minimal warning, decides that they don't like you enough to be in a relationship with you anymore, is a whole different animal.

THAT SHIT STINGS. Rejection is the worst. Again, not sure why I didn't know this, but I guess a goodly chunk of years spent drinking and drugging instead of developing into a mature adult can leave you a little emotionally stunted. For whatever reason, when it happened to me, after dating a guy for a just few months, I was totally unprepared for the level of pain it caused.

I couldn't get over the disconnect between the way I had been perceiving the situation and the way he apparently was. I thought this guy and I had been having a wonderful time together and were on the verge of taking things to the next level. How could I have been feeling ecstatic while he was feeling underwhelmed?

In retrospect, it was only a few days of pain, but it was a few days of CONSTANT, CODE RED LEVEL, UNBEARABLE MONSTER PAIN THAT FELT LIKE IT WOULD NEVER END.

It didn't help that he gave me WAY TOO MUCH INFORMATION about why he was breaking up with me. Listen up, dudes. Those break-up cliches exist for a reason. Telling someone you're "just not ready for a relationship" or you've "got too much going on in your life right now" may not be entirely truthful, but it hurts a lot less than the truth, which is usually something along the lines of "I just don't like you enough to want to be in a relationship with you."

Among other things, my dumper told me that he was waiting for something more, something he'd "know when he felt it." He followed up by telling me that I was "close" but "somehow, something was still missing." CLOSE. It's like he designed his breakup line to torment me.

His dad had just died, and I think he felt like he was being somehow noble by not just blaming it on that, but considering how I tortured myself imagining in what ways I was not quite good enough, I really wished he had just played the dead dad card. The excuse is right there! USE IT!

Similarly, someone once told Mandy he was breaking up with her because there was "no sexual chemistry." (His anatomy begged to differ, she notes.) Remember that each word you say has the potential to be extremely hurtful and will probably haunt the person you're dumping for years if not their whole damn life. Give the minimal amount of information, unless specifically asked for more.

I polled the xo staff for a few more tips on how not to break up with someone, based on our collective experience of devestating break-ups.

Don't make me chase you down to get dumped.

Almost worse than the break-up itself were the couple of weeks I spent in limbo, not sure if my dude wasn't into me anymore or was just busy and overwhelmed. I'm normally pretty savvy to "He's just not that into you"-esque behavior, but as I mentioned before, his father had just died, and he was planning a big cross-country road trip, so I kept cutting him slack and thinking I was imagining the perceived distance.

He would return my occasional texts, but he wouldn't reach out to me or make any effort to get together. I finally had to call him and flat-out ask "Are we still dating?" I'm actually not sure he ever would have manned up and just told me he didn't want to go out anymore otherwise.

I know it's hard to break up with someone, but I shouldn't have to corner you into breaking up with me. Just talk to me, instead of evading the issue.

Somer says; "When my first boyfriend (in high school) dumped me, he told me dramatically, "Lose the number!" because I had called him a few times that week without realizing that duh, he was breaking up with me. I was so naive that I didn't realize that him not calling me back meant he had broken up with me. What an asshole."

See me in person or at least pick up the phone.

Does this really need to be said? I think a phone breakup can be appropriate depending on the length of the relationship, but a text or an email is really never OK.

Don't say you want "a break" or "space" when you really mean "forever."

I know this is in the same camp as cliches in that they're meant to soften things, but the "let's just take a break" cliche is actually an outright lie that breeds unnecessary hope.

As one xo staffer put it, "Don't end things by calling me right before we go away together for a weekend saying you want a "break" and "space" and "Let's have dinner in a month to really talk things through." And then just not ever scheduling that dinner or talking to me again. And then trying to re-add me on Facebook after I delete you."

Break up with me as soon as you know you're no longer interested.

Especially in the early stages of a relationship, continuing to date someone you're not longer interested in is known as "leading them on." And it hurts.

To be honest, I was a major perpetrator of this before it happened to me. I used to date people because I was bored, or because they flattered me, or because I just wanted someone to hang out with at night. That's fine if both parties agree to the terms beforehand, but if one of you thinks the relationship is going somewhere, it's downright cruel. Once I found out how much it hurt to be on the other side of that, I vowed to behave more ethically in the future.

And yes, it's messed up that I had to get my feelings hurt to realize that other people have feelings, but like I said, emotionally stunted.

Break up first, then move on.

Laura says, "I've been dumped by email (don't do that). That same guy also put his OKCupid profile back up BEFORE he dumped me (that's happened to me w/ other guys too) -- don't do!"

Don't have sex with us first.

You know what really adds to the sting of indignity that comes with being broken up with? The sting of cum in your eye because some dude just gave you a facial before he dumped you.

Location, location, location.

My break-up happened on a cell-phone standing outside a subway entrance, which means I spent the 45-minute commute home freaking out all the other passengers with my sobs. That wasn't dude's fault, since I called him, but it does underscore the importance of picking a good breakup spot. For your sake, I wouldn't do it at your place -- then you're stuck with a hysterical person you can't really ask to leave without being a dick. It should be somewhere private, or at least somewhere close to the dumpee's home so they can quickly retreat to privacy

I'll just leave you with this from Marci:

"On the way home from my 30th birthday party, the guy I'd been seen for three months dumped me while we were waiting for our order in the Taco Bell drive-thru."

Can you top being broken up with the in Taco Bell drive-thru? I'm sure there are literally thousands of more ways to be a horrible person while breaking up with someone -- what else does the ethical dumper need to know? PLEASE TELL ME YOUR WORST BREAKUP STORIES I BET THEY ARE SO GOOD.