How To End a Relationship Like a Man

by schaefer on December 16, 2008 · 68 comments

in Dating, Relationships & Family

“Matt’s relationship status has been changed to ‘single’ :( .” The first time I saw this on Facebook I nearly choked on my bagel. Not only was Matt experiencing the black pit we call “breaking up,” but he had to face the uncomfortable reality that his new status was being shared in real-time with 437 of his friends, co-workers, and associates.

I felt terrible for him, even thought about giving him a consolatory call…until I found out from a mutual friend that his status change was actually his cowardly method for breaking up with his girlfriend. No phone call, no meeting, just a quick status change to let his partner know that things just weren’t working out.

The amazing part of this story is that most of you reading it probably aren’t all that shocked. It’s not the first time you’ve heard of this dastardly deed or something similar. Somewhere along the line it became acceptable to hide behind the curtain of technology when faced with the unpleasantness of ending a relationship.

There’s no doubt that breaking up is hard. We’ve all been there. The awkwardness, hurt feelings, disappointment and vows of future singleness often play out like a heartbreaking movie scene — except it’s real, and instead of getting to fast forward to the happy ending, you’re stuck in the queasy-stomach present. The truth is, no one likes a breakup, but ending relationships well is a necessary part of life and a skill every man should know how to carry out with dignity and respect.

The following are some guidelines to follow when faced with ending a relationship. These guidelines will hopefully help you end a relationship like a man, rather than a Matt:

1) Talk Early and Often – The time of the actual breakup should not be the first time your partner is made aware that you have issues with how things are going. A good friend of mine is fond of saying that relationships are much like driving a car. As long as small steering corrections are made as one rolls down the road, a large jerk of the wheel should never be required.

So, rather than staying silent and suffering through a dreadful relationship until you can’t take it anymore, bring up issues with your partner as they come along. The prospect of conflict can be incredibly uncomfortable for some, but everyone deserves to hear where they are falling short. Real men aren’t afraid to clearly communicate their grievances when it is necessary.

If the relationship must be ended, your partner may still be hurt, but at least you will be able to lay out a strong case as to why you would be better apart than together.

2) Always End It in Person – There is nothing more cowardly and pathetic than ending a relationship over the phone, or even worse, through an e-mail or text message. Yet, more and more men are finding this an acceptable medium for cutting ties.

If you can’t handle the prospect of ending a relationship in person, you shouldn’t start one in the first place.

Set a time and place to meet, and make sure that you give her your full attention (no texting or checking e-mail in the middle of the discussion). She deserves it. Will the situation be awkward and uneasy? Absolutely. But, being a man means giving everyone you enter into a relationship with the basic respect that comes with a face-to-face discussion.

3) Be Clear – The breakup is not the time to be vague or mysterious. Your lady friend will most likely want some specific reasons why you want to end the relationship, so be ready to provide them. A non-answer like, “I’m just not feeling it anymore,” only shows that you are either a coward or a narcissist, but definitely not a man. You don’t necessarily need a record of wrongs, but having a mental list of things that led you down this road will help the discussion move in the right direction.

One of the most telling signs that a break-up was not handled in the proper manner is when your partner walks away still unsure of exactly where the relationship stands or why things played out the way they did. A real man will leave a relationship settled in a way that the woman understands why things were ended – she may not agree, but she is not confused, and if there are things for her to work on, she knows about them.

4) Be Considerate – While clarity is necessary, being cruel is not. Breaking up is hard enough without being demeaned or berated in the process. The breakup is not the time to be telling her that the dress she wore on your anniversary actually did make her look fat or that you’ve met dogs with better breath.

If possible, point out some of the positive things that came out of the relationship. Unless it was awful from beginning to end, there are most likely some good attributes of your partner that can be mentioned. In the end, try to be as much of a gentleman when ending the relationship as you were when you started it.

5) No Hanging Chads – No one likes uncertainty. Remember the hanging chad controversy during the 2000 presidential election? The most frustrating aspect of the situation was not being able to tell who citizens had actually voted for. In the same way, men often leave the relationship in an unsettled manner with words that indicate a possibility of picking things up again in the future. Is it over? Is it not? No one knows.

While phrases like, “Maybe down the road,” or “Just not right now,” may seem like a kinder, gentler way of breaking up, they are actually quite cruel if they are not an accurate representation of your feelings. It may sound brutal, but if you don’t see the relationship ever going anywhere, don’t leave even a glimmer of hope when you breakup.

If you aren’t clear, your partner may think you’re simply wanting a break, that things will come around when you’ve had a little time to cool down. She’ll spend her time waiting on you to get through your “phase” while all along you’re wanting to get far, far away. Be fair to your partner and cut ties completely so they can go on with their lives and you can go on with yours.

{ 68 comments… read them below or add one }

1 The Common Man December 16, 2008 at 10:05 pm

I think many people use vague and cliche reasons (“I’m not feeling it anymore,” “it’s not you, it’s me,” etc) when they don’t want to get into an argument. Especially if the breakup is happening in an especially public place. They also don’t want the dumpee to feel like the relationship can be salvaged if only she works on this checklist of things that are wrong. That said, you’re right that being honest with each other about the reasons for the break up is the manly way to handle things, as it faces the problem head-on.

I like the list. Any man who doesn’t break up with their partner face-to-face (not counting long-distance relationships) is a coward.

2 Oracle989 December 16, 2008 at 10:16 pm

One more reason why this site needs to be required reading for all men.

3 Kevin December 16, 2008 at 11:41 pm

With regard to #3, it’s important not to feel compelled to offer “reasons” why the relationship was not a success. Too often they can be received by the other person as being shortcomings that can be worked on, when more often than not it’s just two people who are not sufficiently compatible to move on to engagement or marriage.

I reached a point in my dating life where I stopped hanging on to relationships for their own sake. Life is too short; from that point on until I met my wife I never had a relationship that lasted more than a couple of months. It doesn’t take long to figure it out, and it’s nobody’s fault when the feelings aren’t mutual.

4 Bob Iger December 17, 2008 at 1:32 am

Originally Posted By Oracle989One more reason why this site needs to be required reading for all men.

Most men including me made one of the mistakes in this list so YES it should be required reading.

5 Christine December 17, 2008 at 2:02 am

From the perspective of a woman…

I am trying to think of some specific reasons a man might provide for a break-up that won’t provoke both hurt feelings and an argument. In truth, it really does come down to some version of “I’m not feeling it anymore,” doesn’t it? You could say, “I’m not feeling it because you are smothering me,” or “I’m not feeling it because you’re not attractive to me anymore,” or “I’m not feeling it because I met someone else,” but however nicely you phrase these reasons, how are they helpful or kind?

The most frustrating break-up line I’ve encountered is “I can’t be who you want me to be.” But the kindest break-ups are those in which the man straight out tells me that, regardless of my fine attributes, he doesn’t want to go out with me anymore. (Not, he “thinks” this isn’t working or he “thinks” he needs a break.) If a man tells me that this is no longer the right relationship for him and he is going to move on, that he likes me and respects me and he wishes it wasn’t so, I can understand. I have, after all, stopped feeling it for plenty of men who were excellent prospects.

What say you, men? If you think I’m wrong, can you offer any specific reasons that a woman might find understandable?

6 Tron December 17, 2008 at 3:27 am

Just throwing it out there I think this should/could be a guide for both sexes on how to end a relationship.
Yes i’ve been guilty of the ‘over the phone’ break up and yea it was pure cowardnice on my part.
But I’ve also been on the other end, i’ve been broken up with and informed through the phone, through email (which i thought was WAY worse than a phonecall at least on the phone your hearing a persons voice), and through txting.
So please, women are no more honorable or brave than us.

7 Rick December 17, 2008 at 6:25 am

Originally Posted By ChristineFrom the perspective of a woman…

I am trying to think of some specific reasons a man might provide for a break-up that won’t provoke both hurt feelings and an argument. In truth, it really does come down to some version of “I’m not feeling it anymore,” doesn’t it? You could say, “I’m not feeling it because you are smothering me,” or “I’m not feeling it because you’re not attractive to me anymore,” or “I’m not feeling it because I met someone else,” but however nicely you phrase these reasons, how are they helpful or kind?

I agree that specific reasons are not necessary. I have re entered the dating life after eight years in a relationship. Because of the small town I am in, I have been trying the online deal. I have met a lot of nice and fine girls but I have had to break up with many.

I am not sure if telling the one that was head over heels for me that I felt a little stalked would have made it any better. I also am not sure if telling the another that her overly fake, bubbly personality drove me up the wall, would be any better. I think leaving it at “We are not compatible” or “I’m not feeling it” (although I really hate that term for a lack of vocabulary) is just fine. Sure, when you get down the line (one or two years) the other person deserves a little more than that. With casual, short term, dating it is not imperative and may save some feelings.

8 Chuck December 17, 2008 at 7:41 am

@Christine – I think you’re dead on, and frankly, I wished for those same conversations the few times I was dumped. The simple fact of the matter is that most people are too scared of putting it out there in a matter of fact way like that. By scared, I mean scared for their personal safety, scared about making a scene, etc. You seem to be the rare bird that could handle such a frank discussion.

The main thing is that you can approach it from a non-emotional point, but you can never guarantee how the other party will react. Especially if the relationship had progressed to sexual activities. This applies to both men and women. I’ve known men that have turned into wrecks over the loss of regular sex with otherwise marginal women (or men).

It’s an emotional thing, and people use stock lines as a crutch. They have to know themselves and be self assured enough to step out and do what you describe. They also have to have enough respect for the other person, as well. If you’re dumping them, a lot of people feel that it doesn’t matter how you treat them in the breakup.

Anyway, at a base level, if you treat the other person with respect and keep the golden rule in mind, when the event does come up, it will be easier to work through.

9 NZR (the Plainsman) December 17, 2008 at 7:45 am

Everytime, in my previous life, I had to break up with a girl I always manned up and did it in person with sincere honesty. I’m a Type 9 INFP personality that’s hates conflict, but this was something I thought was fair to the girl.

10 Lawrence M December 17, 2008 at 7:48 am

Ha! A girl I once dated had broken up with me using the relationship status on Facebook…she also sent me a text and email.

This post would have been useful a couple wks ago when I broke up with my ex. But after reading your post, it is encouraging to know that I did manfully breakup with her, and I have to say, as much as break ups suck, this has been the least painful breakup ever.

As for the breaking up in person part, I totally agree and wanted to but in this case it wasn’t possible. I think she knew it was coming and she kept avoiding me, so I emailed her my intentions. The next day she called me and we finalized the decision over the phone. It was probably better not to do it in person because we probably would have prolonged the relationship or said hurtful things.

11 James December 17, 2008 at 8:12 am

To add my $0.02,

I think it really all comes down to how much time the relationship has lasted, the depth you have grown together, and the purpose for the relationship.

I tell all of my students that in my mind, the purpose of dating it to find your mate. That being said, as soon as you know that you aren’t going to spend forever (are aren’t intereted in seeing if you could) together then you need to let them know exactly how you are feeling.

Doing things this way prevents you from losing a great friend. Just because you don’t want to pursue a romantic relationship anymore doesn’t mean that the time you invested in each other. I have had more than one great friendship evolve out of a dating relationship that was going nowhere. We just communicated well with each other about how we were feeling.

Of course (even though I diagree with it) many people have other purposes for their relationships (sex, image, fear of being alone, etc.) and this complicates things because if you ended that portion of the relationship you would suffer the feelings you were running to/away from. But I definately think even in this situation if you are constantly communicating your feelings you won’t end up in near as much heartache (as was stated in the article).

12 Practical Mommy December 17, 2008 at 8:45 am

Truth is fabulous when it is said in a way that can make you laugh. Tweeted. :)

13 Danielle December 17, 2008 at 9:54 am

As a woman, I would appreciate some specific reasons for the break-up. Yes, it would definitely hurt a lot more initially, but later on I would be able to think back and pinpoint where things went wrong. And that’s really liberating. When guys say things like “I’m just not feeling it anymore,” then women will obsess over it and mull over it for years. We’ll probably come up with meaner reasons about ourselves than the reasons you would have given, ie, is it because I’m too fat? Is it because I wasn’t good in bed? But if you said something like, “You have a really bubbly personality, which some guys love, but for me personally, I need someone more serious and grounded,” again, it would hurt, but I would feel better knowing specifically where it went wrong.

14 Santa December 17, 2008 at 1:23 pm

I think a lot of women should read this article too. I have had women break up with me through word from other friends, email, even once through instant messenger, and one by cheating on me and then surprising me with her new boyfriend… I always thought they were such cowards for doing all of these things. I once heard a saying that men lie to get out of relationships, but women will do unheard of things and screw you so bad you’ll be hurting for years to come. I think it’s been true in my case. But you know what is probably most important to me is that there needs to be some kind of closure. Both people need to talk and leave things so that there is mutal closure and everything is understood. My last girlfriend broke up with me last year and never even really gave me a reason. She just said I wasn’t for her, and we dated a year. I’ve forced myself to move on but I wish she would have given me clues and a reason why we couldn’t work a few things out. She was just so cold hearted to me one day and said, “You’re not for me… so don’t call me or see me anymore. Good bye.”

15 Brucifer December 17, 2008 at 2:48 pm

Excellent list. However, as much as “I’m just not feeling it anymore,” is indeed often used as a cop-out, it is still a quite valid reason in itself. Moreover, it is short and to-the-point, sparing both parties from needless and perhaps even hurtful elaboration of “reasons.” A Man must also be firm and decided … and project this to others, even under stressful circumstances such as this. Emo should be a no-go.

“Brevity is a great charm of eloquence.” ~ Marcus Tullius Cicero.

And as trite as it might sound when written, verbally, it acknowledges that the Man owns and takes full responsibility for the problem. This, under any verbage, is the essence of what a Man must ‘man-up’ to do.

16 Aaron Cossey December 17, 2008 at 3:17 pm

Can the next article in this series be how to deal with being dumped?

17 Nat December 17, 2008 at 3:30 pm

how about asking a girl out, whats the best way?

18 A Guy December 17, 2008 at 4:01 pm

While I’m sure this is sound advice in theory, the reality is that no matter how closely you follow this advice, you will leave her feeling devastated and, for that, you will feel like a colossal prick. I have never been dumped, only the dumper. Each breakup tore me up inside and killed something in me. Finally, I decided I will not break up with anyone any more. Now, I’m engaged. Is she the best for me? I try not to think about it. Good enough is good enough.

19 ced December 17, 2008 at 4:19 pm

yes it should be required reading for men but also for women. had a girlfriend who broke up with me through email 7 years ago, still hurt maybe even more so because it wasn’t in person.

20 Henry December 17, 2008 at 5:24 pm

Excellent! I agree fully!

21 connectingus December 17, 2008 at 5:54 pm

I have to agree with A Guy

22 The Common Man December 17, 2008 at 8:33 pm

Ouch, A Guy. Isn’t leaving her fealing “devastated” better than the alternative, that she’s indifferent or excited to be rid of you? I mean, at least it was a sign you were doing something right.

As for the other, if you love her I hope you are very happy. If you don’t, but have decided it’s close enough, I hope to God you guys get out of that relationship before there are kids involved.

23 Mike December 18, 2008 at 9:05 am

This article’s timing was eerie for me. I was just informed by a woman that I was dating for about 2.5 months just did a similar thing to me. She stopped talking to me and was constantly “too busy” to go out.

I found out through her facebook that she had been dating someone else simultaneously and had picked him over me. When I eventually confronted her about it, she didn’t even tell me the truth about it, just clammed up. A sorry, “I found someone else” would have been infinitely better.

24 A Guy December 18, 2008 at 11:41 am

@The Common Man

I love her very much. I’ve loved all of them, at least a little, which is why it was so hard to hurt them by leaving. But I had to leave them at the time–I won’t go into details here. As you can see, I’ve learned a lot from it all.

25 Christine December 18, 2008 at 2:32 pm

@Danielle I have to say that when you ask for specifics, you’re asking for trouble. The opinion of a person who doesn’t want to go out with you anymore simply isn’t relevant. Think about it. For instance, if you break up with someone because he comes on too strong, does this mean that facet of his personality wouldn’t work for another woman? Of course not – he is certainly perfect for someone else, and so are you. And if he hadn’t come on too strong, does that mean everything would be hunky dory between you two? I doubt it. We don’t break up with people because of trivalities. We break up with them because they simply aren’t right for us. The specific reasons really don’t matter. When you’re “feeling it” for someone, you overlook all sorts of flaws. When you’re not, those silly flaws stand in for the bigger reason – he or she just isn’t right for us.

26 Danielle December 18, 2008 at 3:43 pm


I don’t want to know specifics so that I can change, I just want to know so that I can pinpoint what went wrong. I hate not knowing and wondering what actually happened. Like in the example I gave, if the guy said, “You have a really bubbly personality, which some guys love but I want someone more serious,” then the girl shouldn’t’ feel bad about being bubbly, but now she just knows that that was the reason it didn’t work out and she doesn’t have to obsess about it.

27 Christine December 18, 2008 at 4:10 pm

@Danielle I see what you’re saying.

28 Abraham December 19, 2008 at 8:01 am

>The most frustrating break-up line I’ve encountered is “I can’t be who you want me to be.” But the kindest break-ups are those in which the man straight out tells me that, regardless of my fine attributes, he doesn’t want to go out with me anymore.

When a relationship has to come to an end because you have made impossible demands as a condition for the relationship, thereby making yourself impossible to live with, the only way to put it nicely is to lie. But a real man isn’t going to tell you whatever you think you need to hear to get over him– he’s going to tell you the truth. A man who says this DOES STILL want to go out with you… but he can’t, because YOU have rejected HIM. Why should he make it easy for you to lie to yourself about it?

29 Jane December 19, 2008 at 7:15 pm

A fine post – for both men and women.
I think the key is fairness. How would you want to be treated? I think everyone can tolerate rejection if it seems fair and is expressed in a firm and consistent way.

Email, facebook, and phone breakups are never right in my books if you’ve been intimate with someone. I have also noticed that some guys try to avoid being the rejector by behaving progressively poorly, hoping that the woman will end it first. I imagine some women also do this. If confrontation is such a problem, my sense is that the person really isn’t really ready to try a love relationship. Unfortunately, I think there are a fair number of people who let their loins obscure their non-readiness and just hope no one will notice. Not good.

As for reasons, I’m not sure they’re useful. Everyone would be perfect for someone so I don’t want to meddle too much with the other person’s confidence. One of my guiding ideas in love is ‘no undermining’, also true for break-ups.

30 tom December 23, 2008 at 1:47 pm

I think the first thing that you should look at in any relationship is number one on this list. You have to communicate. On the other side, I think that something important in a relationship is to look at are you a complete person. Don’t look for someone else to make you happy and don’t blame someone else for your unhappiness. You control your life and emotions, that is part of being a man. If you are not happy in a relationship fix it or move on.
Also, being a man means you have to set a womans mind at ease sometimes so she learns to trust and communicate with you. Otherwise you’ll get the Dear John text.

31 Fatherof2 December 24, 2008 at 10:15 am

Great article and right on. I once broke off a serious relationship by sending a letter (this was before e-mail). Pretty lame, I know. I still feel guilty about it 20 years later. I had three different women tell me they no longer wanted to date me by just never answering my phone calls. I always hated that. I would have much preferred even a blunt “please stop calling, I’m not interested in dating you any more.” Knowing anything for certain is always better than wondering and finally figuring it out and feeling like you have been a tool all the while you were uncertain.

I had one girl dump me in person and I really wish she had done it over the phone. It was a long-distance relationship and I had just driven 3.5 hours (after a full day at work) to spend the weekend with her. As soon as I arrived, she dropped the hatchet, leaving me with another 3.5 hour drive into the early morning hours to get back home. I thought that was totally inconsiderate.

32 Christine December 24, 2008 at 11:49 am

@fatherof2 – Yes, the waiting and wondering is the worst, especially when you’re a woman and you know you’re not supposed to call, just wait it out.

I am going to buck the conventional wisdom here and admit that I do not like in-person break ups (this is assuming it is a fairly short lived relationship). a) I don’t like to behave unfairly, and my first response would be anger, which is useless and petty b) i don’t like to be caught off guard and have to process something in front of someone c) it really, really pissses me off if I’ve gone to the trouble to get ready for a date only to be dumped (thinking of your 3.5 hour drive, fatherof2). Frankly, for a short relationship, an email with the offer of a meeting (if I want to) is good. For a long one, which is what the original post was about, absolutely a face-to-face.

33 Kort January 7, 2009 at 2:11 pm

Well, I have to admit, I did dump somebody by leaving a message on their voicemail. I was calling from a friends house because they’d just picked me up from the hospital. The boyfriend I was dumping had put me there. Somehow, I just didn’t have it in me to dump him face to face.

Otherwise, I’ve always ended relationships face to face. I got dumped (on my birthday, no less) through an e-mail and that sucked big time. I’m not going to do that to anybody else.

34 Hope January 19, 2009 at 6:24 pm

Its been less than 24 hours since I was the recipient of “I’m just not feeling it” from someone who asked me out, took me to dinner, had hours of great conversation and pursued me physcially, which I wanted too, and both separated with what I thought was another night of the same. I have no regrets about that, but I do believe that if that didn’t happen, I may not of heard at the second date “I’m just not feeling it”. One date, 10 hours together (where no one told him he had to stay), and continued emails and calls from him afterwards, really deserves a “I’m not feeling it’ so fast? Ultimately, it feels like his pursuit was only sex. He was respectful enough to meet me face-to-face and tell me he had a nice time, BUT “I’m not feeling it” and shortly thereafter, felt he should go.

I have spent most of the day upset, trying to figure out how this end could have been avoided. I went out with him knowing he did not want anything serious, and I am not one to make calls and pursue – I am very laid back, respectful of his space and life and thought everything was good. This response came out of nowhere, and now I wrack my brain trying to figure out either how to not have this repeat again, as well as how to remain a friend to this person, who truly liked as a person, as it was too soon to look at his as boyfriend.

Any advice?

35 zarah January 22, 2009 at 5:00 am

i think its because you are not meant to be……or sometimes when your love for each other is so intense that you always want to be together then one day you will wake up and say to yourself that you cannot breathe anymore that you are suffocated…………so i think it is good to have some space sometimes…… reassess your feelings toward’s each other……..but the manly thing that a man can do for a girl is to tell her face to face that he/she lost it and vice versa…….there are good guys out there agree????????????

36 Brian Waala January 30, 2009 at 6:21 am

I really think this should be read by women to. i have been dumped many times once over the phone, one by text, and one by facebook. I get extremley frustrated that they all sayed they were to afraid of me to say it to my face :( it never is easy any way you slice it

37 Michael Q February 1, 2009 at 12:52 pm

Your first point is the key every stage of a relationship, from beginning to possible end. Constant, honest communication prevents misunderstandings and never leaves either party in doubt.

The only thing “missing” from the article is some advice for the dumped. The person dumped also needs to know how to deal with the break up. I think an article on “How to get dumped like a man” would be a great follow up piece.

38 Monique February 16, 2009 at 11:32 am

after 18 years i never got the heart felt face to face. Our relationship was complicated, but bottom line was i have loved him unconditionally since day one and would never end it the way it was ended for me. Its a matter of respecting someone as a human being and wanting them to truly be able to healr and still feel good about the life shared together. This person is supposedly someone you thought of as a bestfriend and lover so the one doing the dumping should find the words to speak. I wont say a man is not a man to take the chicken way out, because women seem to do the same things nowadays. People have forgetten how to be compassionate loving forgiving human beings. They have forgotten how to value the importance of traits that really matter. anyway.. thats my 2 cents

39 Aaron February 25, 2009 at 7:28 pm

“I’m just not feeling it anymore,” is probably the most vague, yet still valid reason. A reason like, “It’s not you, it’s me,” is terrible, and I hear/see that slung around a lot more these days.

I’m surely not alone in having dated a woman I really never felt anything for (she was a friend, but I wasn’t interested romantically or sexually). I broke up with her by saying something very similar to not-feeling-it-anymore, but that I still wanted to be her friend and keep in touch with her, because I was certain she wouldn’t take it well at all if I told her the truth of it. We still talk on occasion, and it’s been a few years since then.

As for the idea of an article for handling being broken up with, I can’t imagine that. Sure, it’s seen as manly to pretend to be over it quickly, but it’s not something you can give general advice for.

40 lord_galathon March 4, 2009 at 9:29 am

I made the mistake of breaking off a relationship via e-mail years ago and yes, I still feel like an ass for it.

So don’t do it that way, in person is the only way.

41 zarah April 19, 2009 at 3:09 am

I think in any break up both man and the woman feel hurt….it’s not easy to do even if you hate each other.there are emotions involve.You just have to be honest and sensitive at the same time.No reasons or if you have reason’s no need for details a break up is a break up…………move on…………………

42 Michael Freeman May 13, 2009 at 7:27 pm

The advice here was surprisingly thoughtful. I’d only disagree with the “in-person” rule: Sometimes it IS appropriate to break up over the phone or through a note (for example, in a long-distance relationship, or in a relationship where you can’t have a conversation without her throwing things…).

A lot of guys won’t be able to take this advice, unfortunately. They get stuck in unhappy relationships, and they can’t find the courage to break up. It’s sad but true, and I see plenty of marriages that are a result of a guy never finding a way to break up. I wrote an ebook for such guys — click my name to check it out.

43 Mike August 19, 2009 at 1:48 pm

The only thing I have a problem with is the breaking up through email. My situation was a two-year relationship which ended when it went long-distance. When she wouldn’t talk on the phone and expressed no interest in talking to me in person if I drove to her (too busy to make time), I broke it off through email. Sure, I didn’t get the closure I wanted or maybe that she needed, but when you’re not left with a choice, you go with what you’ve got.

44 Vicky October 1, 2009 at 7:18 am

Hi all,
Would love an opinion as I believe a face to face break up was the respectful thing to do in this situation. My ex and I were 5 weeks into a relationship when he got a job offer that meant he would have to work away (5 hours drive, 1 hr plane) for approx. 1 year. At the time of the offer, he was in a bit of a financial mess so it gave him the opportunity to pay off his debts and put some money away. We had an instant connection when we met and we got along fantastically so we discusssed it and decided that we did not want to end things and that we wanted to take things further. By the way, I have a 10 year old son from a previous relationship. All was going very well. We comminicated, he would come back for weekends every 5 weeks or so and my son and I went and stayed with him during school holidays. We constantly told each other how much we missed each other and saying goodbye was always difficult but we managed very well. On several occasions he mentioned how miserable he was and would much rather be home with myself and my son. 11 months into our relationship, 2 weeks after the last weekend we spent toghether and 3 weeks before he was due back home I received a call from him basically telling me that he might be accepting a job offer that would involve him working away and it would be for around 2-4 years. Well, I was shocked to say the least. He said that he would confirm in a few days (I think he already knew then). Mind you, he was due to come back a week later anyway as he had a shark diving tour booked with some friends that was organised months beforehand. So after I was left in limbo for four days he called back just as I was on my way out and told me that he had accepted the job offer and that it was something that he always wanted to do. A step up in his career. His reasons for accepting the offer were ‘I don’t know if I can live with you or your son’, ‘this is why my marriage broke up’ (not the reason he gave me), ‘this is what I do, this is my career’,(as far as I knew he had never worked out of town before so why even start a relationship if there was a chance of him moving around.) Towards the end of his contract he did mention on a couple of occasions that there was not much work on offer back home and that it was starting to worry him. Another reason or excuse, who knows? I just could not believe that one minute he was due to come back and the next, I would never see him again. All I could manage to say was that “I hope everything works out for you and to take care” Oh, he did mention that he enjoyed the times we spent together. Of course he did. Considering he was working long hours and was living in a town that he did not like, the times he spent with me would of been an escape. He obviously wanted to take a different path in life and that is something I had to accept. I don’t believe he set out to use me but that is how I felt at the time. That once things started looking up for him, he did not need me in his life anymore. It hurt that I was obviosuly not special enough for him to take the chance and knock back the job. Yes, I agree in some situations face to face break ups are not convenient but our relationship did not start off as long distance. I believe he just wanted a nice clean break without any confrontation. I did not get a chance to express my thoughts and feelings. I did not get a chance to say a final goodbye in person. So people, coward or not?

45 Cybrludite October 3, 2009 at 8:24 am

I’ll have to go with coward on that one. My last breakup was by phone, and involved a vauge “Not really feeling a connection here” reason. In my defense, it was after the second date, and the true reason was that she was seriously creeping me out. When the bunny-boiler alarms are going off, it’s time to get out. Especially if they’re loud enough for me to notice…

46 Nathan November 26, 2009 at 5:19 am

I agree with this all for the most part and feel that this is the right way to handle things. I must say though, there are some exceptions. Like #2 for example. This is something I agree with and would personally do myself if my relationship came to this, but the same can’t be said for all relationships mainly because everyone and every relationship is different.

My best friend who happens to be my room mate as well just got out of a terrible relationship for the 3rd or 4th time with the same girl. He is the kind of guy that likes to handle things in person as well but sometimes he just can’t because of the way his partner would handle it. No matter how mature he is about it or how civil he tries to be, she can’t be the same way. She would fall to her knees crying, cry uncontrollably, yell, scream, fight, etc. ANYTHING she could do to keep him from leaving. He’d be forced to be the nice guy, and inevitably would have to stay with her. More less forcing the relationship to go on just a little bit longer, she’d be happy with it and he would be miserable.

The last time they broke up, which was just a few weeks ago he did it over the phone and I don’t blame him at all. In his situation, seeing the way things were going I would have done it the same way when my friend nor I would never handle it that way normally. Enough was enough for him and he didn’t want the head ache anymore. After she called to yell at him for god knows what reason she called back and begged him to come over so they could “talk” knowing full well he was pissed. His call went like this: “Hello?….No……No……. No I’m not coming over……No I’m not coming over tomorrow……No, I’m not doing this anymore, I’m of sick of this, nothing is ever good enough for you, apparently I’m not good enough so you need to find someone who is because I’m sick of trying to be. It’s over. Goodbye.”

I stood behind him on this 100% because if he would have done it in person there is no way it would have ended nicely. Sometimes it’s necessary for both people involved and sometimes it’s a little better off.

47 Not Over It November 28, 2009 at 12:24 am

I just got dumped for the first time (my first relationship). We had been talking about marriage for months and it came out of nowhere, and he gave me no reasons beyond “I don’t love you anymore.” There was a waiting period, but it was only 3 days and he didn’t tell me anything was wrong. It’s been a couple of weeks now and I am still not functioning. But what I’m learning is: whatever right or wrong ways there are to end a relationship, if it’s over, it’s over. I’ve been blaming my own inability to move on on his poor handling of the breakup, but that’s just not okay. Now, if anyone has advice on where to go from here…that’d be great.

48 Matt February 5, 2010 at 11:59 am

Under normal circumstances, I think that everything outlined above is a good rule of thumb. Rules of thumb always have exceptions, however.

I personally believe very strongly in breaking off a relationship face-to-face and, if you can’t manage that due to long distances, then by phone. I once had cause, however, to end a relationship via e-mail. It was a relationship that spanned the course of one year and my girlfriend at the time was out of the country.

What on earth could possibly justify such a drastically rude approach? Well, during her time away, with the help of others who I knew who also knew her, I came to realize that she was something of a psychopath. Being a psychopath does not mean being psychotic or even that someone is a criminal — it means that they have a defect whereby the individual in question has absolutely no morals or empathy. They are pathological liars and are expert at making rationalizations for their behavior. They are skilled at mimicking real emotion and empathy but lack the function in their brains which actually allows them to feel those things. There is little doubt in my mind that my ex was a psychopath.

In that circumstance I have absolutely no regret of breaking it off with her in the manner I did. To act in a manner that is immediate and not open to rebuttal is essential with such people. If I were to talk to her and give her a chance to respond, she most certainly would have rationalized away her behavior and psychologically manipulated me to make me feel like the villian — she was an expert at this.

Abusive relationships are not always abusive physically and even the manliest of men can be sucked into a relationship full of psychological abuse if they are not careful. People who are abusive do not deserve the slightest bit of courtesy, especially if they are apt to twist that courtesy into a weapon against you.

49 Joseph April 25, 2010 at 1:12 pm

I agree that ending up a relationship by phone/text/etc is not the best choice but I believe it is much better then staying there when you don`t feel like.
If one of the partners stays in the relationship when he/she wants out… it’s bad for both.

50 Elito May 5, 2010 at 10:30 am

You know all these arguments are correct but I still finished my relationship by phone today while I told my “ex-girlfriend I will feel more comfortable I you wait until Thursday so we can terminate our relationship in person” I felt at the same time that waiting to finish something that’s already done in my mind is pointless.

Bottom line, end your relantionship either way you feel like it whether you are an asshole or a good man or whether you terminate in good or bad terms what matter is that your conscience is at peace with yourself.

51 K May 10, 2010 at 9:12 am

A few months ago, my boyfriend and myself broke up. We were dating just for a few months, but in the last few weeks I saw a change in his behavior. It wasn’t only his attitude towards me, but generally towards everybody, the world. I kept asking him what was going on, but he always replied that everything was ok. I asked him if he would tell me immediately if I ever do anything wrong. He replied “of course”. But still nothing changed and I could feel that he doesn’t love me anymore. I didn’t know how to handle this situation in which he grew distant.

Finally, after two weeks of emotional suffering (for me, anyway), one evening I told him that I cannot accept the way our relationship is going. And finally, he told me what I dreaded to hear – that he doesn’t love anymore, isn’t happy with me, needs to be alone. I tried to save our relationship, find some means of making things right, but he told me that he doesn’t want to save it. So we both reached the conclusion that the best thing is to end it. I was actually the one who said “it is over”.

It was very painful for me, but when I think about it, the break-up was done in a quite civilized manner. We both agreed to terminate it. I just wish he would have told me sooner.
Only one month later we met and he gave me a few specific reasons why he was unhappy. And believe me, I was happy to hear them. I’m that kind of girl who wants to know why, because otherwise the lack of understanding why haunts me. I finally have a vague idea why and when things went wrong and I won’t let that happen again.

I prefer a man who breaks up with me giving reasons why (but delicately). And definitely face-to-face.

52 Bro August 11, 2010 at 7:35 pm

in the event of a long distance relationship, what do you think would be the best method of communication for this?

53 Bryan August 13, 2010 at 2:16 pm

great article, and truth be told, replace ‘woman’ for ‘man’ in this article and let some ladies read this article.

yes breakups suck, and they happen and some people have honest intentions, but like this article says, at least man up (or in some cases woman up) and do it in person – you can at least look yourself in the mirror the next day.

i probably didnt make it up, but i have a saying “honesty hurts in the beginning, but can be forgiven down the road, and in some sense can be respected … the hurt from a lie never goes away”

nothing will rock your world more than, and i had to laugh when i read this article, getting a text message, from your girlfriend, while you are out of town on work, saying “i just dont feel it anymore” … and she breaks up with you through cliche statements (by text). its even better when its followed up by “i lost your number or i would have called” — no you didnt, thanks to blackberry technology, i know you deleted my info

and maybe i’m off my rocker, but i think everyone deserves to to know why it has to end, so like the article says “If you can’t handle the prospect of ending a relationship in person, you shouldn’t start one in the first place” so have a damn good reason for breaking up besides those BS cliche statements. i could honestly handle a girl saying to me “at first the infatuation was great, but i’m just not attracted to you” – i might actually shake her hand for the honesty – would i be put back? sure, probably, but at least i could respect the honesty. Telling me “oh you’re such a great guy, any girl would want you” does not cut it … cause obviously i’m not b/c any girl, including the one sitting in front of me, breaking up with me, does not want me. Am i a perfect catch? course not, i have plenty of faults, nor am i Brad Pitt … i’m just a decent average guy who appreciates honesty and a simple face to face ‘vaya con dios’

just my rambling 2 cents

54 Ray December 17, 2012 at 11:07 am

So, you say not to do it over the phone. I would rather do it in person, but the thing is my girlfriend went home to be with her family, a 6 hour drive away from me. I would have to wait weeks to have this happen in person, or spend an inordinate amount of time driving and money on gas to go do this in person. This sucks. Help?

55 Axe of Mortal Doom December 17, 2012 at 12:28 pm

I had a problem with giving specific reasons before. I was once dating a girl that was just All-around not good enough. That’s the best way I know how to describe it. She was too immature, too irresponsible, too needy. I’m sorry to say but I was even attracted to her just physically anymore, though this is probably subtly connected to her actions. Should I have told her the real reason we broke up? That she is just all-around not good enough? I don’t think so. She demanded reasons why we broke up. I never gave them because that’s all I knew what to say.

56 Jill January 31, 2013 at 6:20 am

Thank you for clearing outlining a respectful manner as to part ways that honours both partners. My last relationship was ended abruptly and without any accountability when the man I thought was to be my life partner informed me over the phone while I was in premature labour with our son (who did not survive) that I was “not a priority”, followed by an e-mail the day I was discharged form hospital (needless to say he did not come to the hospital) asking me to move my things out of the house. This was almost 2 years ago, without an explanation, apology or any sort of accountability. Gentlemen, this is an EXTREME example of cowardice, so please be a man of integrity, and have compassion & an honest heart and share what’s going on in your mind when your heart is no longer in the relationship.

57 Heather February 4, 2013 at 10:39 am

Good article but I would add that breaking up, like getting together, then getting to know each other and then falling in love in the first place, is a PROCESS over TIME. It’s not a thing that happens out of the blue or all of a sudden or within set time limits of an hour or two or whatever. The driving analogy and steering wheel thing is true and I love it. If you are doing it right, there are no jerks. Literally and figuratively. But if the breaker upper has been harboring resentment and “staying in it for the other person” or some other lie to themself, they probably checked out a LOOOOOOONG time ago and, to them, it has been a process. But they need to have a sense of respect and consideration that the other person may not have had this time that they’ve had to process and to let go. So, if you break up with someone, meet with them and talk about it. Be clear about how you feel but also don’t expect that “this is it” because you might be really laying an idea bomb on the person you are breaking up with that they need a little time to process. When you tell them, at first, they may be shocked and just be like “ok” but a day later, may really need some process time with you. Give it to them while still maintaining your honesty about how you feel. If you are breaking up b/c you really must, then don’t do it out of anger. Do it out of love and do it lovingly because even if you no longer love the other person, for whatever reason, both of you deserve to be treated lovingly and tenderly. Especially by someone who used to love you.

58 Pat February 7, 2013 at 12:59 am

Being the dumpee or dumper is never easy. I suppose doing it face to face is the better way of going about it; however, I can’t imagine there are many women who have been dumped “properly” who later extol the virtues of their ex. This particular situation of simply changing one’s fb status is pretty shallow. (Thus, I have only felt until someone is engaged, she should just leave that blank but that is neither here nor there.)

I think overall it depends on how long and serious the relationship is. Text or email may be apporpriate for something short term, while a phone call may be ok for something a little longer. For long term/ serious relationships, yes I agree face to face is the way to go. But once it is over, it is over. Does it really matter all that much how it was done? Maybe a little at most.

59 googly eyes February 19, 2013 at 6:16 pm

Thank you!!- mr manliness…part of me wants to date you, so you can break up with me. (i’m sure i haven’t thoughts this through).

If more guys (and gals, for that matter) followed this process, I would have a lot more faith in humanity.


60 steve February 24, 2013 at 6:20 am

As much as I like the idea of being honest and up front about ending a relationship with a woman, I think so many many shy away from the is because the truth is very painful for the other person. I always blame the very nature of relationships rather than the person I am with.. the old ‘its not you its me’ which whilst seeming a bit of a cop out probably protects the persons feelings a bit more than saying ‘Im actually really attracted to all of your friends” Is probably something that shes not going to want to hear.

61 Thomas April 24, 2013 at 12:23 am

A question for the author or whoever may have a good answer regarding the issue of breaking up in person versus ending it over the phone. While I understand that having this conversation in person is much more proper, what about a situation where the relationship has been or has become a long-distance one for a period of time, and it could be as long as a month or a few months before the opportunity to meet would arise? Is it then acceptable to end the relationship and have this conversation over a phone call?

62 Sergio May 16, 2013 at 6:00 pm

I don’t see how “I’m just not feeling it anymore” is ‘definitely not manly’ if used within just a month or two of dating. Of course you shouldn’t just say that flatly & out of the blue though, if that’s what you mean. However, it can certainly be the truest of phrases. Of course, you should have been talking about your problems long before. However, sometimes it’s not about problems. Sometimes it really is that after awhile you just don’t feel you match up well. It could cover your entire personalities. Personally (call me shallow) I first choose to talk to a woman because I find her physically attractive. I choose to get to know her, date her, have relations with her. However, you can’t always pick up their entire personality right away. Once you start seeing how they really are, maybe you don’t match up. Not that anything is ‘wrong’ with them, you just don’t match. So you’re not ‘feeling it’ & you let them know. If she asks what was wrong, you can only simply say you don’t feel the match because it the truth.

63 A Pair of Blue Eyes May 26, 2013 at 3:47 am

Reading this article and the comments has conjured up a very old pain from 25 years ago, illustrative of just how important it is to show the proper kindness and gentlemanly courtesy to someone you used to love, however briefly. I was a single mother whose husband had run off with his mistress and left me with a young child. My new boyfriend, never married and in his early 30s and who pursued me steadily, talking marriage 10 months after we started dating, and introducing me to his family, etc., dumped me in month 11 via an exceptionally cowardly letter, out of the blue and truly without any warning (which he admitted in the letter). He wrote that he decided that he didn’t want to “take on an instant family,” (meaning my young son), so at least I received an explanation.

The shock of the letter and the realization that he couldn’t even do me the honor of telling me in person still sometimes haunts me to this day when I hear of, or read of, other people who were similarly rudely treated by their former significant other. Yes, a coward he was, but it took quite a long time before I could see the silver lining: that I was spared being married to a coward as a second husband.

64 confused jerk May 29, 2013 at 7:15 pm

What if you’ve been a really bad partner to someone for years. You have kids (accidentally) but there they are. And the one who got away and broke your heart through a series of misunderstandings, bad timing, and meddling “friends” is back. How do you man up?

I guess you have to prioritize the kids first. I know I’d be happier with the other woman. But I don’t have a great reason to give for what will look like a sudden break up other than I met someone else who actually I met before I met you and I’m a terrible person and I’ve been lying to you for years and I resent you for getting pregnant. And she stuck with me even though she knew about the cheating.

How exactly are you supposed to handle this situation?

65 Canada Girl November 12, 2013 at 2:18 pm

I am currently suffering due to a cowards actions and no matter the length of the relationship, it HURTS!!
We had been dating only a short time, hit it off instantly, text constantly when not together for 6 weeks. A week after we first met in person, he claimed he was falling in love with me and knew I was the woman he was going to marry..
Tuesday, he closes off texting that night with ‘I love you Mrs ****’ suggesting we were already married, I had thought this cute at the time. The next morning, he texts as normal, and during the day I don’t think anything of the silence because we are both at work. He was supposed to come over that evening.. The last text I have from him was ‘Maybe’ in response to me saying ‘Maybe you just haven’t had a real woman to appreciate’.
I finish work, I ak how is day is: no response.
I get home and after a while I ask if he is still coming over later: No response.
A couple of hours later, I ask if he’s ok: No response.. I text a few more times throughout the night, starting to worry something has happeend to him: NOTHING!!
I try to call, ring once then to voicemail.
It’s been a week and the guy appears to have fallen off the face of the Earth.
I have worried, I have wondered what the heck is going on, I have considered caling the hospitals, I have considered going to his house. But what would that portray? Would the sincere concern be seen? Or would I look like a desperate loser who can’t take a (cowardly) hint?
So guys, and girls, reading this. If you suddenyl decide you no longer want contact with someone, please, have the compassion to say so rather than leave someone wondering, worrying and feeling like they did something wrong when in fact they haven’t. Because rejection is one of the worst feelings in the World as it is, nevermind when it comes without warning, explanation or even confirmation.
THank you for reading my vent!

66 Sarah December 2, 2013 at 12:19 am

This article is spot on. If you were happy enough to sleep with someone (even just a handful of times) you’ve gotta be man enough to talk in person, have a respectful conversation and goodbye.

Not the gutless drop the phone call /text bomb => run => avoid => hide => ignore tactics that so many men seem to resort to (and usually after bombing the girl with texts all day every day while it suited)

Doesn’t the first way sound much less hurtful and less dramatic?

I’ve experienced the out of the blue break up call on three occasions. I wasn’t given a chance to talk or ever see them again and was suddenly treated like some sort of enemy thereafter.

On each of those occasions I asked if we could talk in person however I was told that they don’t “owe me” anything or they “don’t see the point” and that was that. One childish man even left my belongings on the porch, rung the doorbell and ran before I could open the door.

It was all about THEM and what THEY wanted. There are two people involved in this thing and you both need to talk it through and reach an agreement of how things will go from there and say a proper goodbye.

This out of the blue phone call dumping made me feel like a disposable item, a piece of crap, like the person couldn’t care less – but I think it was more about the guy being too lazy and or gutless.

Yes you OWE all human beings some respect and if the person being dumped expects or asks for a proper chat and a respectful goodbye then man up and give that to them.

You’ll save yourself a lot of grief and unhappiness (for both of you) if you do it the right and respectful way.

67 Marek December 20, 2013 at 5:21 pm

Guys can you help me? Im in a relashionship with a really good girl but I dont feel anything to her anymore and I like another girl. How should I say it to her that she doesnt get hurt so bad and I could go on with my life with that other girl?

68 North December 31, 2013 at 11:02 am

@Marek, she’s going to be hurt if you break up with her. That’s a given in human relationships. But if you don’t, you’re treating her like a placeholder for the girl you do want and will be building up resentment against her for not being the other girl. Not to mention, she’s likely to pick up on something being wrong in your relationship, so she’s going to be fretting about that.

Ask yourself how you would feel if the situation was reversed. Would you want her to let your relationship limp on while she pines for another man? How would it feel to be the guy she’s with, rather than being the guy she wants to be with?

The only thing to do is rip off the bandage. Sit her down and break up with her. Do NOT tell her about the the other girl you’re interested in. Use Christine’s wording. “If a man tells me that this is no longer the right relationship for him and he is going to move on, that he likes me and respects me and he wishes it wasn’t so, I can understand.”

Understand that she will feel pain at the breakup, and the best thing you can do is to end things cleanly and kindly. Don’t try to be friends- certainly not now, and maybe not later, either. She may not want to ever see you again, which is a reasonable response. And staying in touch in the early days especially is a horrible idea because it gives her false hope that you will change your mind.

Good luck!

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