I was reading NYT Magazine earlier (while listening to classical music and waiting for my electric car to charge) and there was a funny story at the end about a woman who started thinking about her exes. And then I started thinking about my exes, specifically how hilarious and awful certain break ups were in retrospect. For years I have been wondering if there is a perfect break up formula, and if there is, I want to patent it and then appropriately die alone with lots of money.
Much of this idea stemmed from way back in 2004 when my ex, Harriet, delivered a break up speech so patronizing that it nearly sent me into shock. Highlights included, “You’re really good at sex” and “I’ll keep your number in my phone”. Bitch, I don’t want your fucking number, and you were terrible in bed. Get off my driveway.
I don’t know what made me more upset: that she broke up with me or that she made pathetic attempts to compliment me when she obviously didn’t want to be with me. All in all, it was a crucial learning experience. And I’ve learned even more in the last 5 years (including mistakes that I have made). So here’s my findings:
1. Don’t break up while out on a date
…unless that person fucks up during the date of course. If you want to do as little damage as possible, meet somewhere that doesn’t require spending money. Nothing is more of a slap in the face when you go out expecting to have a nice time and you have to foot the bill for your recent ex. Very awkward. Whoever initiates the break up should pay. Plus if the other person gets upset it will be very embarrassing for both of you.
2. Don’t use the words “We have to talk”
Easily the worst combination of words in the English language next to “You have cancer” and “Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Nickelback”. Though it is the most common conversation starter, you may as well just stop talking after you say it because those four words alone say it all. Just come out and say what you’re feeling.
3. Don’t pile on compliments
The most sympathetic of people will try to soften the blow by saying lots of nice things to the person they’re breaking up with. Don’t. You’re breaking up with someone, not sending a game show contestant home. “Well you didn’t win having sex with me more, but you’ll be leaving with the home version of Relationship, now with 20% more lotion and tissues!” It’s better to cut to the chase. But don’t be an asshole/bitch about it either (unless they really deserve it).
3.5 Don’t say, “I still love you” unless you really mean it
Let’s face it people, relationships are complicated as fuck. Don’t let any romantic comedies tell you otherwise, even if Matthew McConaughey is in them. Sometimes you really care about someone but the spark just isn’t there anymore, and you know what must be done. If there is no hope of reconciliation, it’s best to just say, “I still care about you”. Just make sure you actually mean it.
4. If you’re leaving your partner for someone else, just come right out and say it
… because your partner will find out. 100% of the time, they will find out. Always. Whether it be in two days or two months, someone will say something, or they will see you with your new beau, and you lose all credibility unless you say something from the get-go. It may be dick move, but it must be done.
5. Never try to break up with someone on Valentines Day
My bad. Sorry about that, Megan.
6. Be prepared for the Facebook backlash
Now more than ever, when you break up with someone it becomes everybody’s business. It’s hard to move on when you’re being bombarded with, “OMG WHAT HAPPENED” on your wall and your ex’s passive aggressive/Bright Eyes lyric ridden status updates. It’s dumb and inevitable and is now part of the break up process. Live with it. (Fun fact: there’s a Morrissey quote for all occasions)
7. Give them space
This is the most important rule of breaking up. While talking to your ex is not a bad thing, you can’t hang out with them like you used to. Anyone with half a brain knows that the “Let’s be friends” line is something that should be taken loosely, and that trying to immediately go from relationship mode to friend mode will only make things very awkward and tense. When the time is right, you will be friends again… providing you want to be friends. Remember kids, time heals all wounds.
8. In the name of all that is holy, do not break up via text, phone call, or have someone be the messenger
This isn’t high school, people. Nothing is more insensitive than a break up text. In fact, a phone call is just as bad. Trust me. While both methods may seem like a good way to avoid potential physical harm to yourself, you’re emotionally bitch slapping the other person. If you can’t break up in person, a letter or e-mail is the best route. You can actually plan out what you’re going to say and rewrite is as much as you want (and use big words). If you’re on the phone and you don’t have a speech ready, you’re going to look like an even bigger jerk.
Nobody likes to break up or be broken up with, but it’s an unavoidable part of life. Now if I can only get the relationship part down, I won’t have to try to cultivate the perfect break up scenario.
In conclusion, Woody Allen knows everything: