Let’s face it: Ending a relationship can be tough. But if you understand what really makes men tick, there are ways to make it a little less stressful when you do it. Here are some insider tips from the mouths of the broken-hearted (and a few dating experts) on how to let a guy down easy. Use them the next time you need a send your soon-to-be-ex packing, ladies.
DO be definitive
When you’re telling him that it’s over, be clear that it is absolutely, positively over
. “Sometimes, we may be inclined to leave the door open — either to leave options open for ourselves or to soften the blow of the breakup for the other person — but this is dangerous territory,” says April Masini, dating coach and author of Date Out of Your League
. It might seem nice to offer the possibility that one day in the future, you two might find your way back into each other’s arms... but all this does is give a man false hope. And with false hope comes those desperate calls at 3 a.m. asking if you’re ready to take him back yet. “Make it clear that he needs to move on,” advises John Seeley, M.A., author of Get Unstuck! The Simple Guide to Restart Your Life
. “Guys would rather hear the truth and then know what they need to do to move forward in their lives.”
DON’T let him be the last to know your feelings
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Sure, talking through your feelings with a friend can be helpful when working up the courage to break things off, but try to limit yourself to how many people hear the test run of your dumping speech ahead of time. Eventually, someone is going to tattle, and as any guy will tell you, being the last to know that you’ve been dumped is not fun. “My best friend told me that he heard my girlfriend was thinking of breaking up with me,” says 32-year-old Dave from Long Island, NY. “I later found out that all of my friends knew before I did. I was so angry and humiliated. I felt like the biggest fool on earth walking around telling everyone how in love I was, and all
of them knowing she was about to give me the boot. It was the worst.”
DON’T end things online
The Internet is great for many things: locating discount airfares, paying credit card bills, wasting hundreds of hours looking at weird sites; the list goes on and on. But one thing that is not
on that list (and never should be) is dropping a boyfriend like a bad habit. “My ex dumped me twice online,” says Chris, 31, from Washington, MO. “Once by email after we’d spent the weekend together; the second time, she did it over IM. At least ‘woman up’ and tell me in person!” Seriously, canceling a relationship like you would a credit card will put you in his Worst Girlfriend Hall of Fame for life. “Voicemail, emails, Post-its and IMs are not cool ways to break up,” says Masini. “If you’ve spent more than three dates with the guy, you owe him a face-to-face sit-down discussion.” If you’re totally scared to do that, the phone can be an acceptable termination device — but only for short-term relationships.
DO steer clear of making up any fake excuses
OK, you don’t have to tell someone point-blank that he is no longer worth your time, but lying your way out of a relationship is almost always going to backfire. He’ll feel twice as bad when he learns the truth, and you’ll feel like a jerk for doing it. “I went out a few times with this woman, and we talked a few times afterward,” says John, 34, from Virginia. “She worked as a government contractor at a submarine base and told me she’d been accepted to a top-secret program in Arizona that would last at least six months. Long story short: she was lying, and I bumped into her just a month later. And this was after we had a conversation about how awful it was that people couldn’t be honest!” If you want either one of you to maintain your dignity, tell him the truth. You don’t have to be brutally honest, though. “I just don’t feel a connection with you” is a perfectly good way of saying, “You are too busy for me” or “I didn’t know someone could kiss that badly.”
DO be brief in your explanation
“Keep it short and sweet,” urges Stephany Alexander, relationship expert and coauthor of The Cheat Sheet: A Clue-by-Clue Guide to Finding Out If He's Unfaithful
. Unless you’ve been together for years and years, no breakup speech should last more than 30 minutes. You don’t need to give him every reason you want to end things; instead, just name one or two major problems and be done with it. The last thing you want is having him interpret your litany of ways he’s failed you romantically as a list of things he can change in order to win you back. Make it clear that this isn’t a negotiation. It may seem cruel to be brusque about it, but like ripping off a Band-Aid, the faster you do it, the sooner you’ll feel better.
DON’T feed into any breakup drama
A man with wounded pride and hurt feelings can get verbally abusive sometimes, so try to defuse the situation with silence. “Don’t engage with him,” says Masini. “Listen. Be quiet. Don’t respond.” Don’t fuel the fire by defending yourself. Let him get it all out, then leave. If you’re worried that the guy might hurt himself or someone else in the wake of your breakup, call a counselor or a police officer. Trying to take on a dangerous situation by yourself is just that — dangerous.
DO secure a breakup buddy
“Breaking up can be overwhelming,” says Masini, “and it may cause you to want to call your ex for contact or comfort. After you break up, have plans to meet with a friend. Debrief over lunch and a movie.” Remove his number from your cell phone while you’re at it. Post-breakup conversations tend to lead to post-breakup reunions, and next thing you know, you’re having brunch together and wondering how the heck you wound up with this guy again
. If you want to touch base to see how he’s doing, give it a couple of months at least. If he’s still sweet on you, any contact (no matter how innocent) is going to be interpreted as a ray of hope that love will spring again.
Dan Bova is the executive editor of