Break Up 101: How to Dump (or Get Dumped) with Dignity

Nothing from nothing but if you’re dating a woman who writes a blog about… well… dating, you probably shouldn’t send her twenty two text messages when she finally comes to her senses about your relationship (or lack thereof) and decides to call it quits.

Nor should you email her.  Or send her Facebook messages.  And you certainly shouldn’t send duplicates of the same messages just to ensure that she gets them.

Trust me: she gets them.  And you’re not doing yourself any favors when you call her names and accuse her of being a drama queen.  (After all, she’s not the one who’s sent 22 text messages, now is she?)

The good thing about breaking up with a man who’s made you miserable for the past six months is that the actual break up causes very little pain.  Mind you, I use the term “breakup” loosely because it’s hard to break up with a man who never wanted to be your boyfriend in the first place, but I’m proud—if somewhat mystified—to report that I shed nary a tear as I composed the email that comprised the fatal blow.  I suppose I hadn’t any tears left to shed.

(And yes, I sent an email; I tried to do it over the phone but he talked me out of it and left me a blubbering, weeping mess as usual.)

It occurs to me that break ups with non-boyfriends are always the worst, which makes sense because it’s always those elusive non-boyfriends that cause the most damage.

(Note to self: must stop cultivating relationships with non-boyfriends.  Especially Pre-Raphaelite non-boyfriends.)

It also occurs to me that I’ve learned a few things about break ups over the years and even though my track record is far from perfect, I thought I’d share a few words of advice:

(Note: these are not directly related to Date #7; many of the points I’m about to make were inspired by our break up but many deal with the Ghosts of Boyfriends Past, too.)

  • Keep it civil.  Even if you’d rather say, “Go f*ck yourself!” try to remember that there was once something you liked about this person.  Something you respected or even admired.  Try to hold onto that—not forever, but just long enough to offer a sincere “Be well” (or something along those lines) and actually mean it.
  • If the person in question has moved on, don’t insult their current Plus One.  It just makes you look petty.  And undignified.  Have a little class (especially if you’re hoping to reconcile).
  • If your break up coincides with some sort of holiday that requires the exchanging of gifts and you’ve already purchased something that isn’t terribly expensive, then by all means: go for it, for old time’s sake.  But if you haven’t already purchased something, don’t.
  • Do not threaten to kill yourself.
  • Do not decide that all women (or all men) are useless/heartless/pieces of sh*t simply because you feel wronged by one.
  • Do not drunk dial.
  • Do not drunk text.  If you need to delete your ex’s phone number to keep yourself from acting stupid do it.
  • Be civil but not cordial.  You’re not doing anyone any favors by being “nice.”  I think this one is especially difficult for women; we may think we’re letting a man down gently but really we’re sending mixed signals and making it harder for everyone involved to move on.  (And yes, this is one of those lessons I learned the hard way…)
  • Stick to your guns.  Remember why you are breaking up with this person in the first place.  Don’t let anyone manipulate you into thinking that you’re overreacting or making too big a deal of things.  We can’t control our feelings but we can control what we do about them.
  • Load up on ice cream.  And chocolate.  And wine.  Or chocolate wine if you want to really get fancy.
  • Try to give yourself some “me” time before rebounding (l learned this one the hard way too).
  • Resist the urge to shred things.  You may want to throw away all the “stuff” of your relationship (the letters and gifts and photographs) but remember: these things are a part of your history as a person, not just as a couple.  I keep all my old love letters in box, not because I like re-reading them and rehashing my past relationships (thankfully I got over that in college) but because they were part of my childhood, and now they’re part of my adulthood and I wouldn’t let anyone take my history away from me.  (Can you tell I spent most of my college days engaged in one archival internship or another?)
  • “Unplug” yourself: set their calls to go straight to your voicemail, un-friend them on Facebook and file away their emails and texts where you won’t be tempted to look at them every five minutes.  Delete everything if you must.
  • Do not agree to one last kiss/make out session/night together.  It just makes everything harder.  (Not that I would know anything about that…)
  • Avoid engaging in stalker or stalker-like activities.  Leave the drama for Judge Judy, Dr. Phil and reality television.
  • Accept the fact that “closure” is a fallacy.  You’ll get it eventually, but it will rarely come from the person you broke up with and if it does, it will take a long, long time to get there.
  • Remember (and this is a big one) that you cannot be responsible for someone else’s happiness.  You can only be responsible for your actions and ultimately it’s up to you to cultivate the happiness you deserve in life.

I may not know much about relationships (there’s a reason, after all, that I consider myself qualified to dole out advice on pulling the plug) but I think that break ups have a lot in common with dating: there are rules, mostly based on common sense, and if you follow the rules, things will work out better in the long run for all involved.

(Which is why I’ve ignored all 22 of Date #7’s text messages and am happy to report that he’s finally stopped sending them.)

Have I missed anything?  If you’ve got any tried-and-true secrets (or if you think I’m totally off the mark), please share them below.

15 Responses to “Break Up 101: How to Dump (or Get Dumped) with Dignity”

  1. Lost in France

    Think \i have broken, and continue to break nearly all of those rules.

    I think I need to print them out and try to follow them

  2. Landlord

    I never knew there were so many rules, but they make sense, now the hard part, you just have to abide by them 😉

  3. Tiff

    Good advice, but I’m not sure if I agree with you about the gifts. I’d say RETURN ‘EM!

      • Alexandra

        Returning them seems like a really good idea (did so myself) but in effect it’s hurtful and destructive, so I’d say no, get rid of them if you must, but not give them back. Unless what you are trying to do is to get back at your ex. Which is uncivil, see Rule no.1 🙂

  4. Kate

    These are great rules– and ones everyone should follow. Breaking up is always going to be awkward and uncomfortable, but it’s better to deal with it than let it go on indefinitely.
    I would also add a rule about actually saying you want to end things. I’ve dealt with more than one guy (and unfortunately been the one to do it to them), who just stops talking instead of saying that they want to break up– and these are people I’ve been dating for months, not for just a date or two. If you are honest and up front about your feelings, everyone has an easier time moving on and there is no question about where the other person stands. But once those feelings have been stated, keeping your distance is crucial– whether you’re the dumper or dumpee (ie Rules #6 & 7).
    People need to talk more about how to maturely handle breakups, so I’m really glad you posted about this.

    • Kat Richter

      Thanks for adding your two cents, Kate– and I agree: actually stating that you’d like to end the relationship is difficult, but necessary!

  5. Chicago-Style Girl

    I’m all for ignoring thoses texts and calls once you’re done. If you’ve had a mature conversation where both sides understand that at least one person is done, you’re good. Now, if you date particularly crazy folk, it might be a bit harder to get rid of them by just ignoring them, but just don’t date the crazies and this caveat won’t apply to you!

  6. Catherine

    Great list here. The one thing I would add is to cultivate a new passion …. you’ll have lots of free time and you should focus that time on something positive (instead of emotional cutting).

  7. Karla

    Ah, the old favorite especially now with access to mobile phones .. the drunken text ! and the
    ” what on earth did I do last night ” after reading the text in the morning, been there done that ad yep felt embarrassed !

    Thanks for the other good tips I will have to get a condensed pocket version !



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