The Cruelest Way to Nicely Break Up

Let’s talk about closure. The breakup. The end of the road.

Here’s the thing. No one likes getting dumped. It sucks. It hurts. Whether you’re madly in love and your heart gets crushed, or you’re just slightly interested and your ego gets bruised, you undoubtedly take a hit when someone ends things with you. But we’ve all been there. At least most of us have. Because if you didn’t marry the first person you dated, chances are you’ve been broken up with. But here’s the flip side: you’ve probably broken up with someone else. Because that’s how it works. Sometimes you’re the heart-breaker, and sometimes you’re the heart-broken. That’s what makes the world go round.

So once you’ve been on both sides there are things you start to learn about breakups along the way.

Like there’s never a good way to break up with someone. There just isn’t. It always sucks. BUT there are bad ways. Like don’t end things over text if you’ve been dating someone for more than a few dates. Don’t even end it over the phone. Give a person space to ask questions. Don’t be condescending. Don’t apologize for the relationship. Basically— don’t be the worst. Don’t be mean. Sure, everyone wants to hate the other person after a breakup, but that doesn’t mean you should give them a good reason to hate you.

But then there’s the opposite end: don’t be too nice. And here’s where it gets tricky. Because if you’re a decent person- if you actually like the person you’re ending things with- your inclination might be to try to soften the blow by balancing the breakup with open ended statements like…”but you’re really great” and “maybe in the future if things are different…” It’s what you think is the kind way to break up with someone. You tell them how great they are. You leave doors open. 

My friends and I talk about this all the time, and I actually put it to an Instagram poll. Majority of my followers were on my side, but not everyone, so I guess you can take what I’m about to say knowing that.

So this is my cardinal rule about breakups and closure: when you break up with someone, DO NOT LEAVE ANY DOORS OPEN. EVER. Do not give them hope that this will ever be a thing again, even if maybe, there’s an off chance it will be. Just don’t.

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The topic came up because a follower was in this exact situation- someone broke up with them in the friendliest, kindest way– saying that maybe, in the future, if things change, they could revisit things. That they should be friends. That they were just too busy with work or school or fill in the blank. “It’s not you, it’s me.”….

Sounds nice, right?

Noooooooooo. ABORT! NOT NICE. I think it’s dumb. I actually think it’s kind of cruel. Even if it’s true. Because you’re not letting the other person move on. You’re not letting them get the closure they need to get over you. Whatever excuse you gave them, I promise they are tracking your life through social media, and your friends, and maybe even in person to see if anything has changed. Because they were not ready to end the relationship. You were! So they are holding on to things with whatever rope you gave them. And guess what? You gave them a pretty sturdy rope to latch on to. Because you basically told them you still have feelings! Or at least that’s what they heard :).

I get it, you might want to get back together with them in a year? Cool. Keep that to yourself. Reach back out in 12 months and see what they’re up to. But OMG, give them a chance to heal, because god knows you’ll be moving on with that person in your grad school class, and it will take them double, triple… the amount of time to get over you. It might seem harsh to tell someone you don’t like them enough, you’re not feeling it anymore, you don’t see a future, you can’t make it work, the relationship feels too hard, there are too many differences etc. etc. etc. BUT it’s actually the only real way to give closure.

And closure is a real thing. It’s a super important part of breakups. So sometimes the nicest thing you can do for someone is to actually give them that. Close the door. Lock it. Throw away the key. Or at least tell them you threw it away. If you want to hide it in your back pocket, cool. Just don’t tell them that while you’re breaking up with them. That’s not a breakup! That’s a break.

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