"Ask April" Author of the best selling "Date Out Of Your League" at AskApril.com
Having a game plan is the key to an easy and mess-free breakup
Let’s face it, breaking up is hard to do. Unless you’re a masochist, you likely don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings. And unless you’re a sadist, you don’t want to stay in a relationship that’s not working for you. But extricating yourself without getting anyone hurt is no simple task. It takes skill, finesse, and a thorough understanding of “the three steps.”
Today, breaking up tends to fall into three distinct mediums: in person, by phone, or email. But not all three work for every situation. Determining which way is appropriate for yours is the first step toward a clean break.
In-person—As you can well-imagine, breaking up in person may be the most difficult way, especially because you never know how the other person is going to react. But if you’ve been together for a significant amount of time, it is really the only way. It shows that, despite the fact that things were ultimately unresolvable, you do care about the other, and that you’re still a decent human being. Just make sure to pick a semi-private place where you can talk, and they can cry without attracting attention.
Phone—If you’ve been out on a handful of dates, and been physical in any way, a quick call to make your explanation is the fair thing to do. It is certainly less intimate than an in-person meeting (which is not necessary if you’re not committed to one another), but more personal than email (which is too cold if you’ve been out more than once).
Email—So, you’ve been out once or twice, and you’re just not feeling them. Jot down a quick email, hit send, and the job is done. Really, at that early stage, it’s all you owe them.
There is one more option that falls under Step 1 that we haven’t mentioned, and that is avoidance. It’s what we’d all like to do, but is only acceptable if you’ve been on a date or two and not yet slept together—I repeat, not yet slept with together. However, be forewarned if you’re a guy: Women analyze everything, and she will undoubtedly do so with your silence as well— Maybe he wants me to call him? Perhaps his feelings are so strong for me that he’s scared?—so you may not get off that easy.
Knowing exactly what you’re going to say is Step 2. Never meet in person or call up without a crystal clear plan for how it’s all going to go down. This also means that you need to anticipate how they’re going to respond, and have a backup plan addressing each response.
What to say? Honesty is not always the best policy, and breaking up is one of those instances where full-disclosure is just not necessary. Even if you think she or he is crazy, putting the burden of blame on yourself (i.e.: you’re not ready for a relationship, you’re going through a hard time, you need to focus on your career) will make for a smooth breakup. Take the fall and you’ll walk away relatively unscathed.
If you thought you were done at Step 2, you’ve likely never been through a breakup before, because for many, it does not end there. Whatever tactic you choose for Step 1, and whatever you decide to say in Step 2, it must still be clear that the relationship is o-v-e-r! Sometimes we may be inclined to leave the proverbial door open—either to leave options open for ourselves or to soften the blow of the breakup for the other—but this is dangerous territory. Be clear, be strong, and don’t leave any room for negotiation. Ultimately, you’ll be doing both of you a favor.
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