I’d rather talk about weightier issues than relationship etiquette, but I just heard for the second time this week about another person who ended a relationship by email. I can’t stand it: How rude and cowardly can you get? It was a woman, alas, so we can’t blame it on gender cluelessness.. She said she just “didn’t have it in me” to do it in person “after two years of being together”– which is clueless.
You HAVE to do it in person. You just have to avoid these five pitfalls:
1. Don’t try to win his approval. You can’t reject a partner and simultaneously get his blessing. You’re here to do dirty work and you both know it. So do it without asking for reassurance.
2. Don’t ask “Can we just be friends?” Ick. You’re not in high school. Why pretend your offer of not sleeping with someone anymore is an exciting opportunity? Why pretend that cavalierly offering to take someone’s love but not his body is anything but a booby prize? Have respect for your former lover’s comprehension abilities. You may end up friends, but it’ll be awhile if it happens.
3. Don’t hit below the belt. This is no time for heavy artillery, just to justify your ending the relationship. “I don’t want to see you anymore,” is deadly enough. It’s also nonnegotiable, which any accusation you might hurl (“You have the morals of swine”) is (“So, if I mend my piggish morals, can we still see each other?”). Even if he tortures you to divulge the real reasons, don’t. And remember the old couples’ therapy mantra: Stick to the word “I.” Share what you feel, not what you think: You want out without either dredging up old arguments or attacking him. You want to politely, simply, truthfully, respectfully, state your desire to get out of it.
4. Don’t pick a cozy spot. Go to neutral territory. Not your bedroom (which is just a reminder of where neither of you will be together again); not your special restaurant (where your favorite waitress will say, “How’s the cutest couple in the world this morning?”). Choose a public place, as it encourages civility. And morning is good, too: It gives him time to rally support from his friends. And also, if you break up at night, neither of you will sleep.
5. Don’t–ever–call to see how he’s doing. Once you tell him, leave him alone—and that means not asking his friends about him. The desire to check upon him is just an excuse to make sure he’s still catatonic without you, and an avoidance of your real task, which is to mourn being without him (and to let him mourn, too). And as promising as it may feel at 3AM to hear his (still adoring) voice, it’s egomaniacal and cruel. Because yes, he’ll come over. And yes, you’ll have sex. At which point, start reading this blog at #1 again,, and begin the whole thing all over. And if you think Fear of Ending It is awful, try Fear of Ending It Twice!