Rules of disengagement: How to break up by text

Experts say the art of breaking up via text involves a delicate balance between honesty and sensitivity. Atsushi Yamada

Breaking up is hard to do — and it’s even harder via text. With the dawn of ghosting, however, a digital Dear John can actually be interpreted as a positive.

“Rejection can be tough to swallow, but I think it provides a lot more clarity than the recent trend of ghosting,” Kate MacLean, public relations co-ordinator at Plenty of Fish said to Bustle. “The act of ghosting provides absolutely no answers and you are left ultimately asking yourself what you may have said or done to mess it up.”

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Breaking up by text is still relatively uncharted territory, which can make it difficult to know for certain when it’s appropriate, and when it comes across as poor form.

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The experts agree that a casual relationship with no agreed upon commitment is safe territory for a text breakup, as is any situation where you feel you can’t get out or aren’t being heard.

“When you are dating someone who can’t take no for an answer, and tends to talk you into staying in the relationship, text can work,” says Nicole McCance, a Toronto-based psychologist and relationship expert. “With a text message, you are able to get out your thoughts without being interrupted or persuaded into staying.”

But if you love or respect the person, or want to break up because they simply aren’t for you (yet they’ve done nothing wrong), a face-to-face breakup is required.

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If you fall into the former category, the experts say there are ways of breaking up by text without coming off as callous. These are their three golden rules to follow when it’s time to part ways.

Be clear

While you probably don’t want to come right out and state that you’re not interested in the person, you still need to phrase it in a way that there’s no room for alternate interpretation.

“Being vague can leave room for the other person to persuade you into staying when you know it’s over,” McCance says. “Believe it or not, most people want to hear the truth — it might even help them in their next relationship.”

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But don’t be too honest

Sensitivity is always key in a breakup, especially when it’s not being done face-to-face. While honesty is the best policy, it’s probably not a good idea to focus on what you’ve perceived as a deal-breaking flaw in the other person.

“Rather than calling them a jerk, tell them how their behaviour made you feel,” McCance suggests.

But be prepared for an angry response.

“Chances are, if you’re breaking up by text, you don’t really know the person very well,” Chantal Heide, an Ontario-based dating coach and author, says. “When someone says something that causes anger in another person, it’s usually because there’s a nugget of truth to it. Be delicate or you might get some backlash.”

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In the event that you do, don’t engage further, McCance says. It’ll just end up being a negative and hurtful conversation.

Be nice

If it truly is an “It’s not you, it’s me” situation, start off on a positive note. Heide says to open with a compliment that rings true to their character and end with a pleasant platitude.

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“Start with pointing out a positive attribute, like ‘You have a great sense of humour,’ or ‘I find you really intelligent,’ but tell them that you don’t feel a connection or are looking for something else,” she advises. “End with something simple but authentic, like, ‘I wish you the best.'”

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