The lesser of three break-up evils: email, phone, in-person

Destination: Dump City. But how to get there?

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Hello Beth,

I have been in a long-distance relationship with a woman for a bit now, but, for various reasons (all personal and not really pertinent), I think it has come time for us to go our separate ways. The problem: I’m not sure how best to do this without being completely rude. I have no expectations of the break up being “nice.” They never are. I simply want to do things “gracefully.”

The issue isn’t the wording or any of that; it’s the medium. I can think of three possible options, all of which I see at least some downside: text/email, phone, in person.

1. Text/Email: No, just no.

2. Phone: Still seems impersonal to me.

3. In person: We live 8+ hours (by car) from each other. Any in person contact requires planning and getting time off from work.

Do you have any input to make this any easier for the both of us?

- Trying To Be Nice

 

Hi TTBN,

Look at that, people are starting to sign their emails with these descriptors instead of their real names. It’s like I’m Dear Abby, right? Right?

You’re in a bit of a pickle, my friend. Text/email is a no-go, as you sagely noted. It’s impersonal, it’s unfeeling, it’s disrespectful. In person doesn’t seem wise, either. You’d have to tell the person you’re coming to see her/him. If you don’t give any hint as to why, she’ll think she’s in for a fun weekend with you. She might take time off of work, make dinner reservations or buy tickets to a show. For sure she’ll tell everyone in her life–“My long-distance boyfriend is coming to visit unexpectedly! He’s the best!”  Wah, wah. If you DO give her a hint as to why, you’ll both know what’s coming. You’ll both spend the following 8 hours dreading your arrival. And what’s the best case scenario there? You show up, have a miserable conversation (which you’ve both been rehearsing in your heads for the last day) about why it’s not working, then you spend the night in a hotel and drive back. That’s even if she lets you come. If my boyfriend called and said he wanted to come visit because he needed to talk to me about “something” I wouldn’t let him come without giving me an agenda first. At which point I’d say, hey, let’s do this over the phone. Which leads me to…

…your best bet is a phone call. OR, if using the phone really bothers you, a Gmail video chat or Skype session, so that you can be face to face, sort of.  It’s not ideal, there’s no doubt about that, but it’s the best you can do in your circumstance. Try to get her on the phone (or computer) on a day and at a time when you know she doesn’t have any pressing commitments (i.e., before work is not a good idea). If she works a regular M-F, 9-5 job, evenings or the weekend would be best. Acknowledge that you hate that you can’t have this conversation in person, but you thought this was the best option given your circumstances. Be honest without being cruel, don’t hedge (no “I think we should take a break…maybe in the future if our lives are different” BS), and try to be compassionate.

Worst case break-up scenario right here, folks. She writes a song about you and it goes to #1 on the Billboard charts.

Incidentally, if this takes her by surprise and she still wants to be with you, she’s definitely going to make the fact that you broke up with her over the phone part of the “[Insert your name here] is an asshole” narrative of your break-up. She’ll be hurt and it’s easier to deal with that pain if the person who hurt you is a dick. So if you have mutual friends who might be hearing from her, just be prepared that that’s the story she’ll spin. I’m hoping your friends are smart enough not to get embroiled in this situation, but if they do…

Sorry you have to go through this. Break-ups are terrible, but you’re doing the right thing by trying to be as considerate as possible. I wish you the best.

-Beth

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