I’m a coward.
Ask any relationship or dating coach and he or she will be the first one to tell you: I’m spineless ball of jelly when it comes to ending a relationship.
Not sure really how to approach the situation, I recently broke up with someone using a method most love experts would refer to as the kiss-of-death: via text message.
While I honestly felt bad about dissolving two months of dating into a very cliche “it’s not you, it’s me” text message, I thought that I was doing “us” a favor. There would be no tears to witness. No body language to be misinterpreted. No awkward goodbyes. No emotional outbursts. And most importantly, I wouldn’t need to list my reasons why I just wasn’t that into him. I even laced it with a few compliments to lighten the blow.
Alas, he did not take the rejection very well.
Initially I didn’t think there was any foul play. After all, women started the trend more than 70 years ago sending Dear John letters to breakup with their military boyfriends. A text was just a modernized version. But even though studies show that 1-in-5 relationship start digitally–whether it’s through social media, chat rooms, or online dating websites–breaking up using the same method is still a huge no-no.
Experts say that if you truly respect someone and want to give that person some kind of real closure without tainting what the two of you shared, then you need to end things face-to-face. But technology, which gives us the chance to avoid confrontational conversations altogether, has made breaking up all too easy. It has even ruined our ability to feel compassion and has severely weakened our communication skills which can make beak ups feel harsher, experts say. The younger generation is especially negatively affected.
“We tend to hide behind a technology wall where we feel safe, protected, and even somewhat anonymous,” says Yue Xu, a dating coach for Singlefield.com. “But when confronted in person, we’re at a loss for words, and become defensive and emotional. Technology has stripped our communication skills and replaced it with one dimensional words.”
Sadly enough, sometimes we don’t even have one dimensional words to express.
“The Fade Away” breakup is one of the more recent ways some people are choosing to let their partner know they are no longer interested. Like the name suggests, this occurs when the disinterested chooses to just “fade away” from the relationship–he or she refuses to return phone calls, text messages, or emails. There is no argument or disagreement to justify the behavior. They just avoid the situation entirely until the “dumpee” finally gets a clue.
Others find out “it’s over” through social media.
Stef Woods, a 38-year-old social media instructor, ironically got the message she was dumped on Twitter.
“Three years ago, I blogged about my relationship with a man I referred to as “Buckeyes” Boy. He left for Thanksgiving, never came home and broke up with me by blocking me on Twitter. I call it the millennial version of Berger breaking up with Carrie via a post-it-note,” Woods says, making a reference to a famous scene from Sex in the City.
And of course there’s the more public humiliating approach: changing a Facebook relationship status without discussing it with your partner first.
That’s what happened to 24-year-old Madeline Gaas.
She dated her boyfriend for six years, four of which they shared an apartment. He moved to Europe for medical school. It was planned that she would follow him there six months later, after he had some time to settle in. But when her then-boyfriend came home for the holidays, he was a bit distant. Gaas decided that perhaps a small “break” (not a break up) was needed to give each other some space and time reevaluate the relationship. But a week into the “break,” Gaas saw on her newsfeed that med school boy wanted a permanent break. He changed his status from “in a relationship” to “single.”
“After six and a half years, you expect the person to at the very least to send you a message,” says Gaas.
All of a sudden my breakup text doesn’t seem all that cruel. At least I never left him hanging.
But while leaving a digital trail of broken hearts is highly frowned upon, especially if you are involved in a long-term relationship, is there ever an appropriate time to cut ties online?
Experts say yes.
If the person is abusive, text message breakups are recommended. If you’ve already attempted to end things in person but the other party refuses to accept it, a confirmation text or email stating that the relationship is over is also ok.
While the majority of dating coaches advised against using technology to end a relationship for the most part, dating columnist Neely Steinberg says that although she doesn’t agree with using technology as an easy-way-out it’s just unfortunately something society will have to learn to accept.
“You can’t work against a rising tide,” Steinberg says. “Breaking up via technology will become a norm (if it hasn’t already become one) as the years pass, and men and women may have to learn to accept these 21st century equivalents of ‘Dear John’ letters.”
Breakups are never easy. It doesn’t matter what end you’re on, or what method you choose. But if you’d prefer to end things on good terms and do not want to devalue what the two of you shared, in person is recommended. I promised myself I will “man up” the next time I’m not really “feeling” someone.
Have you ever broken with someone via text, or been the victim of a breakup text? Share your story in the comments.