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What Not to Say When You Break Up With Someone

During my last semester of college, my campus was especially laden with sprouting romances. I’m not sure what it was, but friends of mine who I had always known to be single took on significant others.

It was a fun time, but along with the many successful DTRs (a conversation that “defines the relationship” for the non-acronym fluent), there were also a lot of unpleasant breakup conversations that came along with it.

Listening to my friend’s stories, I couldn’t believe all the excuses people use these days to get out of a romantic entanglement. 

Taking all of this into consideration, I have jotted down some of the most ridiculous lines I have heard from the many breakups/letdowns that went around my school. Here are a few:

“I’m Just Not Feeling It Anymore. So, Bye.”

One word: OUCH. 

The worst explanation for letting someone down is no explanation. If there has been any kind of investment into the relationship—time, money, attention, data overage charges—you can do better than a shrug of your shoulders.

“I Want to Focus on My Friendships/Work/School Right Now.”

This line, I am ashamed to say, comes from personal experience. It admittedly isn’t as bad as others, and may even be partially true, but it’s never the real reason—because let’s be honest, they want to focus on other things because they’re not enjoying the relationship.

“I’m Just Too Emotional.”

…and they don’t want you to have to deal with their ups and downs. Right? 

I have mostly heard this one from a female perspective. The main fallacy to this argument is that many of us are emotional all the time—emotions are in constant flux. So for someone to say they can’t date because they’re emotional is to say they can never, ever date anyone. Ever.

What’s manipulative about this one is that we make it sound like the one who’s doing the dumping is doing the dumpee a favor: “No, no. You’re wrong. You don’t want to date me.”

What we may actually mean is, “You’re a good friend, maybe even a little cute, but I’m not attracted to you in that way.”

And, finally, the grand finale, the one everybody has either experienced or has heard legends of:

“I Feel Like the Lord Doesn’t Want Me in a Relationship During This Season of My Life.”

This is possibly the worst one of all—because not only are they breaking up with you, God is breaking up with you. I’d imagine the conversation going something like this:

“Um, are you sure He said that?”

“Yes.”

“Maybe you misunderstood what He said?”

“Nope.”

“Oh … OK. Well, bye.”

Don’t you wish that God would have given you the heads-up beforehand? Like a quick courtesy text, maybe?

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It’s not like it can’t be true. Maybe you really do want to take some time to focus on God. But using God to get yourself off the hook is cheap. Take some ownership for the breakup.

I’ve heard from a lot of people that they would prefer an honest reason for rejection, but sometimes honesty is too harsh. I may not have been completely honest in my previous breakups, but at the time, I thought it was better than “I don’t want to date you anymore because I don’t think you’re very smart and you embarrass me when we’re in public.”

There is no way to break up with someone without hurting them. There is no easy way to do it, it’s just something you have to do. 

And just like pickup lines don’t work, “breakup lines” don’t work either. There is no one-liner that’s going to end the conversation and make the other person feel better. But here are a couple of suggestions that may help:

“It’s Not You, It’s Me.”

This is so overly cliché, but there are some good breaking-up tactics involved here.

People change. Sometimes they grow apart. It’s OK to say, “I don’t have the same feelings for you anymore.” Making the reasoning more you focused keeps them from trying to find ways they can change in order to stay with you.

Be Gentle, But Not Too Gentle.

You can say you’re sorry, but not so much that it seems like you feel like you’re doing something wrong—you’re not. You can be kind and firm at the same time.

State the Facts and Stick With Your Reasons.

Avoid pointing fingers or blaming the other person. You can simply say, “This isn’t working out for me,” and maybe one or two more reasons, but this isn’t a debate. You don’t have to go to great lengths to prove to someone why you shouldn’t date anymore.  

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