Breakup Etiquette For The 21st Century

Keep it civil, please.

Sometimes, things just don't work out for couples.


There's no shortage of reasons for it, but at the end of the day, those reasons don't really matter. What matters is how you treat yourself and, paradoxically, how you treat the person you were with. 

Allowing yourself to be sucked into a toxic continuum of anger and resentment will really only hurt you when you're already hurt. This is especially true in the 21st century where private lives are often lived very publicly via social media.

Here are some rules for you to follow for breakups that will help you avoid that kind of emotional self-injury.

1. If you're breaking up with someone, don't leave them hanging.

There are lots of ways to break up with someone, but there's only one right way.

Some of the wrong ways are

– Stop participating in the relationship until they leave, thus saving you from the work of breaking up.

– Tell them that things aren't working without actually offering any solutions, thus undermining the foundation of the relationship itself until it crumbles.

– Suddenly cutting off all communication and moving to another state.

The right way of breaking up with someone is, naturally, the hardest.

Tell them you don't want to be with them any more and explain your feelings as honestly as possible. That doesn't mean brutally. Do not bargain or compromise unless you want to save the relationship or you'll make it worse. Cut ties and let them go so they can heal and move on. 

People sometimes stay in bad relationships because they don't want their significant other to be with someone else. Don't. People deserve the chance to be happy in a relationship.

Be as kind as possible and let them go. Respect their dignity, their new relationships, and the fact that they may be angry at you. Don't leave them hanging. Just state your case and be done.

2. If you're being broken up with, resist the urge to ask why.

There's no answer that will satisfy you. 

Here's a question that you should ask instead of why. Ask yourself: "Didn't I actually see this coming?" 

Breakups don't "come out of nowhere." They're considered. They're weighed out. They're planned. Admit to yourself that you might have seen it coming and, if necessary, that perhaps you had it coming... Especially if you wanted to break up, but didn't do it cleanly. 

3. Keep it dignified.

Keeping yourself together when you're either the dumper or the dumpee can be a tall order, but it's very important for your sanity. Keep it as dignified as possible. Minimize the drama. 

If you're leaving, leave graciously.

If you're being left, close the door quietly.

Do not set their stuff on fire, vandalize their car, slander them, attempt to seduce their best friend, hack their email, or drunk text them. None of that will prove anything except that you're insane and even though you might feel insane, this feeling is temporary.

4. Consider a social media blackout on all things relationship-related.

There are three temptations when it comes to post-breakup behavior on social media.

1) To show how much you don't care. If you really didn't care, you wouldn't feel the need to advertise how much you don't care. 

2) To show your ex just how happy or miserable you are without him or her. There is nothing to gain here: you should assume they're not even reading it.

3) To check in on your ex to make sure you're doing better than they are. Come on. You're better than that.

Focus on living your life, not performing it on social media. Best way to do this is to simply stay away from social media for a while if you feel tempted to do any of these things. It will prevent needless gossip and allow you to spend your time catching up on everything we write here

5. Channel your feelings into creative outlets, not random acts of craziness.

Write a song, a poem, a letter that you don't send. Make a movie. Cook a meal.

Record an entire album.

In 1995, Chris Isaak released "Forever Blue," arguably one of the most devastating breakup albums of all time. In a 2012 interview with The Guardian, he said of the album, "I sure wrote that at a horrible time in my life. I had broken up with someone I was really in love with. It ended so badly. I had a wedding ring bought and I ended up, like: 'Well, what do I do with this?'" 

If you have no creative outlet, consider listening to "Forever Blue" in its entirety.

6. Limit the amount of complaining you do to your friends.

Your friends may be sympathetic at first, but eventually even the most tolerant of people will grow tired of hearing about it. Nothing is more tiresome than someone else's grief grown stale. 

Moreover, if you're hoping that your unhappiness gets back to your ex, then you really need to stop. Your ex is not going to get wind of this outpouring of emotion and want to come back to you. He or she is going to see it as further evidence of your unsuitability as a partner, consider their choice confirmed, and continue moving on. 

That's what you need to be doing instead of complaining: moving on. 

7. Revenge is petty. Keep revenge fantasies as fantasies.

You know the saying "living well is the best revenge"? There's a major component of that statement that people don't get: Living well means not caring about revenge. All you're going to do is poison yourself by obsessing over someone who almost certainly isn't thinking about you.

If you really want to get over someone, you have to get over your anger, however justified it may be. Hatred is as much of a passion as love, except no good ever comes of it. 

They don't have you in their life. Isn't the revenge already there?

No matter what, don't worry: You'll be back.

If you enjoyed this, you'll also enjoy this story on chasing love across the country and this look at the best things about falling in love.

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