Breaking Up Etiquette

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‘Tis the seasons of breakups, everyone! Holidays are approaching, and the pressure’s on. It’s now or never, folks.

Hey – it’s never fun to be the bearer of bad news. Preparing to give the pink slip to your girlfriend or boyfriend can be a stressful thing. But you gotta do what you gotta do.

Still, too often I hear of less than tactful breakups. And man, I’ve been there.

So far, my biggest heartbreak happened with a come-to-life Seth Cohen; preppy, great taste in music, and an inherent neuroticism not even Modest Mouse could sooth. We dated for less than a year, but it was serious enough. Or so I thought, until I got slapped in the face by the bitch that is unrequited love.

No doubt, being dumped sucks, no matter how it’s done. But a sprinkle of common fucking decency when parting ways is better for all parties involved. And I’m here to help.

If you want to avoid being known as an epic douche canoe for the rest of your life, here are 6 rules to follow:


Rule #1: Timing is everything.

There’s never good timing to break someone’s heart. There is, however, such a thing as ‘least worst’ timing.

Don’t put off the inevitable, but (in some cases) a day or two can make a difference for your partner. You’re about to take a massive shit on their hearts, so not letting it ricochet onto other aspects of their lives is the least you can do.

My neurotic Seth decided to do the deed right after picking me up from the library where I was studying for my exams. Sure, I got over it a few months later, but it’s a different story for my GPA. Guy could’ve waited 12 hours for my finals to be over.

Rule #2: Forget about your feelings.

One thing I observed, as I was being broken up with, was the oblivious selfishness that came from ‘the explanation.’ I got the full A to Z, a whole spiel of How, When, What, Whys. Dude kept going on and on and oh my god just shoot me now. I was dragged through the mud of his never ending justifications because he was unconsciously seeking my O.K.

Look, no one likes to feel like the bad guy. But we can’t always be the hero of every scenario. And it’s not your ex’s job to sooth your ‘I’m sowwies’.

Rule #3: Don’t trust anything they say.

If the wound is still fresh, anything from your ex’s mouth that seems remotely mature is not to be trusted. That person is a wounded animal; they’re in survival mode, for fuck’s sake! Lying, bargaining and denial are cards that will be played.

“I’m fine if we sleep together one last time!” is an obvious one.

Basically, anything that completes the sentence: “You and I can [enter any kind of continued interaction] because I’m being an adult about this” is a trap.

Yes, they will get over your lame-ass, but for now you can flatter yourself enough to know that today is not that day, so respect that (even if they can’t).

Rule #4: Don’t try to make them feel better.

Cringe-worthy breakup moments always ensue when you don’t follow this rule. If you just made someone cry, you are not the best fit to make that person feel better.

“I’m still very attracted to you.”
Read: I don’t want to marry you, but I’d still fuck you.

From the guy I thought I’d have babies with. Yo, thanks a lot.

I wanted to punch him in the throat. Maybe it would’ve helped dislodge the foot in his mouth.

Anyways, you get my drift. No matter how good it sounds in your head – don’t.

Rule #5: Don’t say you’ll stay in touch.

“Don’t worry, we’re still friends!” How the ever-loving fuck does anyone think that ever works?

Maybe you’ll be friends one day. But right now, we both know you won’t maintain the kind of consistent contact that accompanies friendship after your breakup. So don’t make empty promises. Follow-through is important; don’t do a sloppy job on both breaking up AND being friends.  It’ll just lend to more confusion in the short run.

“Don’t half-ass two things; Whole-ass one thing” – Ron Swanson

Rule #6: Acknowledge the relationship

The worst thing about someone breaking up with you is when you remember how little you thought about the people you broke up with and you realize that’s how little they’re thinking of you. (Before Sunrise. Great movie, go see it)

It’s important to at least acknowledge your shared past, especially if it was a happy one. I think it’s showing respect, if not to your ex, then to yourself. After all, you did learn a thing or two with them.

*Author’s note: I’ll give credits to Seth for at least doing this.


At the end of the day, every breakup story is unique, so feel free to add your own twist to it.

I just think that you’re already getting your way in the relationship by ending it, so giving your S.O. a dignified notice is a nice courtesy. Try to go about it gracefully.

Today, my train-wreck of a breakup is water under the bridge. Everybody has moved on. But in hindsight, it’s the way the breakup was handled, not the breakup itself, that left a bitter taste in my mouth. So Seth and I don’t stay in touch. Guess terrible last impressions can really tarnish great first ones.

Eh. Then again, I don’t know if I could’ve expected anything better coming from a 29 year old whose parents still buy his toilet paper.

Featured photo credit: woodleywonderworks , Flickr CC.

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