1. Don’t just wade in there
First, ask yourself, ‘Do I want this to end or do I just want change?’ advises Relationship Therapist and Founder of the 7 Steps to a Better Break-Up app, Sara Davison. “If you’ve been together more than a few months, maintaining this relationship has taken hard work—so you owe it to yourself to give leaving it some decent thought. With clients who decide they want to end things, I talk them through my ‘no regrets’ system before they separate, which involves putting everything on the table—any issues or dislikes. Try it yourself—write down your bugbears and talk them through with him. Only then can you decide whether it really is the decision.” And while it might be tempting, don’t try to make him dump you so you don’t have to do it—things won’t be friendly post-split.
2. Make sure he hears it from you first
Chances are, others have sussed out your intentions (maybe your colleague caught you grimacing at his latest text). But resist the urge to speak to too many people about it before you talk to him—he doesn’t need to hear it from your friend’s boyfriend. “If you do tell anyone, make it clear this is private information,” says Sara. “And once you do speak to him, reassure him you’ve kept it on the DL (he may be paranoid everybody knew about it but him).”
3. Pick your time carefully
So you’ve made your mind up, but it might come as a major shock to him, so leave plenty of time to discuss it. “Even if it ends up being a quick talk, he’ll still be left reeling, so don’t tell him before an important meeting or a night out,” says Sara. “Ideally, do it at his place, so you can leave afterwards.” How you tackle it depends on your relationship—a match.com study showed people who meet online tend to breakup online too. “Generally, a good rule is to ask yourself. ‘How would I want this to end?’” says Sara. “If you don’t feel committed, a heartfelt e-mail is okay. But if you’d be gutted if he dumped you that way, don’t do it to him!” Time to delete that draft in your mailbox and drive to his place.
4. Be honest
Avoid the temptation to use clichés. “By telling him you’re ‘not in the place for a relationship’ (when actually, you’re not attracted to him), you’re confusing the situation,” says Sara. For him to move on, you need to help him realise why you’re not right for each other—and that requires total honesty, “but there’s a line—being too brutal (‘The sex is really bad’, or ‘There’s someone else’) will only lead to more heartbreak. Strike the right balance and don’t give him false hope if you know there isn’t any.” If he’s angry, try to understand, and remember that even if he seems okay now, he might not be tomorrow. And if he rebounds sooner than you’d like, don’t rise to it.
5. Set Boundaries
You need to tell him what will happen next, and be clear and firm about where you stand. So have a game plan in place—will you come over next week to pick up your stuff? Staying in touch over the next few weeks/months will be hard, so sort it out now. If you’re going to tell the world (say, by changing your status on Facebook), warn him first. Also, avoid mixed messages; don’t say one thing and do another. Research shows men have a harder time adjusting to breakups because they’re unprepared (whereas women will generally have considered the possibility). It’ll only make it more gut-wrenching if you call him when you’re drunk, or use your pet name for him in an e-mail. Above all, do not have sex with him. It will only prolong the breakup pain. Okay?
6. Manage the post-breakup fall out
If you have to talk, stick to neutral media such as e-mail rather than text—that way, there’ll be less pressure on you to reply at 1am when he’s drunk. Decide who you want to remain friends with in your social circle, and if it’s not likely you’ll stay friends with his friends, consider a Facebook cull. “If you worry you’ll end up poring over photos he’s tagged in, think about blocking him—but give him the heads-up first,” says Sara. Finally, however bad it got, don’t underestimate what a huge part of your life he was. “Fill that void by setting new goals as soon as you can,” advises Sara. And ditch that brunch place you always went to—find a new one!
Splitsville Stories: These women have gone through the worst post-breakup moments so you don’t have to. Read them and cringe!
Sock It to Him
“I’d been dating a guy for six months when he ended it abruptly. I had no idea why, and was absolutely devastated. In the following days, I spent my time moping around my house crying—and when I came across a dirty sock of his that he’d left behind, I slept with it under my pillow for the next three months. I eventually came to my senses, rediscovered my self-respect, and threw it out—but I still look back on it as a major low point.”
—Riya M., 27
“I was scanning Facebook while I was waiting for the train, when I decided to run a search on my ex, Anish, to see what he was up to. I’d only got as far as typing in his name and hitting enter when the train came, so I forgot all about it. But my housemate asked if I was aware that I had updated my Facebook status to Anish’s full name. Horrified, I ran to my computer, realising I must have confused the search and status boxes. There was the evidence of 21 ‘Likes’ from Anish’s friends. There was nothing I could do but own up and update my status to. ‘Yes, I was stalking my ex.’ Total humiliation!”
—Sahiba K., 23
Fist of Fury
“When my boyfriend and I split up, I was devastated. But I still got on well with his friends, so I decided to stay in touch and hang out with them. One night while we were clubbing, I was in the toilet and heard two girls talking about a ‘crazy ex’—I gradually realised they were talking about me. When one of them said, ‘We’ve been seeing each other for about a month, but have to pretend we’re not together while she’s here,’ I snapped. I walked up to my ex and whacked him in the face before running out of the club.”
—Natasha L., 22
Broken-Up Boys - Guys have trouble too...
“When I split up with my girlfriend of four years, we decided to remain friends, even though I wasn’t over her at all. One night, I went out for dinner with some friends and after a bottle and a half of wine, I decided it would be a good idea to head to her place. When I got there, I saw her new boyfriend sitting on the sofa, which resulted in my breaking down in tears on the doorstep. I was invited inside to calm down, where her new boyfriend pitifully handed me a beer and said, ‘Don’t worry, you’ll find someone else’. Shameful.”
—Piyush L., 32
“My ex broke up with me because I wasn’t ‘mature enough’ (her words). I bumped into her a few months later, we got chatting and I suggested we should give it another go. We ended up back at her flat to carry on our ‘chat’ and I thought my luck was in. She went off to the kitchen so I stripped off and took up a seductive pose on the sofa. I popped on some bunny ears that were lying on the floor, as a joke. She came back in, took one look at me and went crazy. ‘See! This is what I mean, you are so immature!’ She threw me out before I could get dressed.”
—Nitin S., 24