C U Later :-) How to Break Up With Class

Recently, a man I had been dating for four months dumped me. Yes, that’s just a short-term relationship, but things had moved fast. We talked—almost weekly—about visiting the other coast so I could meet his family and childhood friends, and eat numerous burritos the size of my cranium at his favorite San Francisco taquerias. I’d already introduced him to both of my parental units.

I was falling in love; apparently he was not.

He delivered the news one night in a dark, packed bar—the kind of bar you must shoulder your way through to get to the bathroom or the front door, where it’s easy to accidentally take someone else’s coat when you do finally find that front door. This was definitely not the kind of bar where you dump a girlfriend unless it’s vital that your evening’s chosen venue have a well drinks special.

“I want to feel butterflies,” he said, blubbering his way to the demise of our relationship. I watched a woman in skinny jeans paw her cute boyfriend almost to death while my ex-boyfriend delivered his speech, his eyes tearing up like our Current Speaker of the House.

Let’s get something straight: I’m not here to report on how to recover from a broken heart. (Surprisingly, it didn’t really take me so long with that one.) Instead, I want to put the kabash on bad dumping etiquette.

I know, I know, as the ex said to me a few days later over email: “It was an unhappy goodbye, but I don’t know how it could have not been unhappy. It’s sucky.”

Sucky. Yes.

Still, I wholeheartedly believe there’s a graceful way to make an exit that still allows the other party involved to maintain his or her dignity.

A restaurant, a bar, a park bench, the mall, his place, your place, the virtual world—there’s a wide variety of locations where you can say your “b-bye.”

It seems that everyone has a different take on this. A friend of mine broke up with her ex of more than five years over the telephone, which turned out to be well-suited for both of them. Another friend had her boyfriend over for dinner and cooked him a lovely ossobucco with a side of broccoli rabe, along with a nice bottle of wine. For dessert she whipped up a light and frothy vanilla-flavored we’re just not right for each other. By the way, did I mention he was a vegetarian?

Since Emily Post is no longer available for a consult, I checked in with a few modern experts, hoping to get a better grasp on what’s appropriate in today’s dating world.

It’s my feeling that in general, the location should somehow be commensurate with how serious the relationship was and how long you were the dating person.

In the world of breaking up, there’s always been this classic notion of a “neutral ground”—like a park bench or a quiet restaurant.

“A public venue is sometimes a very good place to end a relationship.” said Diane Gottsman, an etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas, a company specializing in corporate and social adult etiquette training. “Especially if you feel the person can get overly dramatic—being in a public places tends to limit the chances of an outburst.”

A quick latte at Starbucks may be an appropriate place to end that long-standing relationship that entailed mostly late-night quickies, but if you’ve been dating someone long enough to have become fairly immersed in his or her life — met the friends and the parents, attended professional or social functions — the venue absolutely deserves some serious thought.

So how do you pick this magical spot?

“You don’t want something too low rent because it sends the wrong message about how you feel about the person,” said Stacey Nelkin, a New York City based relationship expert and founder of The Daily Affair. “But you don’t want something too romantic or candlelit, either. Try to find a comfortable medium.”

Nelkin is certain about one thing: Whoever does the dumping should absolutely pick up the bill. “Out of good old-fashioned guilt,” she explained.

And then there’s the issue of how to start the conversation: “We need to talk.” Who the hell wants to hear that?! Believe it or not, sometimes it’s better to subtly warn your victim beforehand, especially when you’re dealing with a relationship that’s lasted six months to a year and both parties are invested enough that an exchange of personal possessions will ensue. The warning allows equal opportunity to select a comfortable meeting place, explains Dr. Doree Lynn, a psychologist with four decades of experience.

The truth remains that breaking up is as intimate a transaction as dating the person. That’s why many relationship experts like Laurie Puhn, a lawyer, couples mediator and bestselling author of Fight Less, Love More: 5-Minute Conversations to Change Your Relationship without Blowing Up or Giving In, think you should save the public meeting for a business transaction, not ending a romance. “It is disrespectful to break up in a public place that prevents your ex from showing the emotions he or she might feel,” said Puhn. “While you’ve had weeks or months to consider and get used to the idea of the break up, your ex only has one second.”

c u later :-)

(A Few Words On Harnessing the Power of Technology)

Just about every expert I consulted lectured me on phoning, text messaging, emailing, and IMing to put a romance to bed. It’s true, it certainly isn’t the classiest move.

But for a burgeoning relationship, where neither party is particularly invested, an email is far more gracious than cutting off communication all together. As Nelkin notes, most people faced with the dilemma of not wanting to go beyond a few dates usually choose to ignore the other person in order to send their message. It’s human nature, but it’s also rude.

I make one exception to the no-technology rule. Are you dumping that guy who only ever made plans with you by text message? Life coaches be damned, I say text away!

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