How to Break Up Gracefully

Monday, May 19, 2014

Broken heart Broken heart (Copyright: zimmytws/Shutterstock)

 Philip Galanes, New York Times Social Q’s columnist gives advice on how to deal with breakups! He’ll answer listener questions about the best and worst way to break up with someone, and how friends and family can be affected the repercussions. Galanes is the author of author of Social Q's: How to Survive the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.

One of the biggest mistakes people make is that they think the breakup is the final thing. But the breakup is just the beginning of a new stage with this person. Even if you never hear from them again, you’ll hear about them and you’ll think of them every time you hear a certain song you used to listen to together.

Don’t lie to the person you're dating and tell them you’re moving to Paris or to Dubai, because you’ll inevitably keep running into them at Starbucks and it’ll be obvious that you lied. It's always better to be honest.

The best way to move on is to find something else that you can be excited about. It doesn’t need to be another person. It can be anything—yoga, running, cooking, home improvement, volunteering.

If you have a friend who just got dumped, be a shoulder to cry on. But if they ask you to corroborate how bad their ex is, how many terrible things he or she did, don’t do it! Because sometimes they’ll get back together, and then you’ll look like a jerk and feel like a fool.

Breaking up by text is mean. “Somebody who breaks up like that wasn’t really thinking of you, he was thinking, How do I stop this awkward situation fast?” It doesn’t give the other person the chance to respond and there’s no conversation. It doesn’t take the other person’s feelings into consideration at all.,, Manhunt, Tindr, and other apps and dating sites make it seem like there are a limitless number of potential dates out there, which makes it harder for a relationship to take hold. The way we prevent them from slipping away is to follow your impulse and to say honestly what you think is going on, to openly talk about it.

Before you change your Facebook relationship status, or un-friend the person you’re dating, make sure you’ve had a conversation with them about your relationship. It’s not nice to find out someone is breaking up with you on Facebook.

Sometimes people take the passive aggressive route so that you’ll break up with them and they don’t have to do the breaking up. In those cases, it’s best to communicate with that person and find out what’s going on to see if you can work it out. And if you can't it's better to end it sooner rather than to let the relationship suffer.


Philip Galanes

Comments [36]


Decision- I don't want to be friends with you anymore. Sorry. was the one line email I got back in NY from my bad vibe trip out to San Fran to visit a twenty years or so friend followed by her unfriending me on Facebook. Herself being my only Facebook friend on this new social page she badgered me to join. Got looked up by another female friend on it in LA a year later so I decided to be more socially active on it myself with other people I know.

Eh, you have to put some time and distance in. Was I forever crushed by the first girl who dumped me? No. Do I wish her ill at this point? No.

May. 20 2014 03:57 PM

@Tom- This seems to be a rite of passage for young college women and their parents. Had the same thing happen to mine as well to me. Unfortunately, it hurts like crazy but after a while, we do get over it and become stronger. I also learned to recognize those to stay away from.

I am with a wonderful person and am happy. My daughter is living out her life dream. There is a life after a bad break-up.

Get her someone to talk to.

May. 19 2014 02:38 PM
anonymous from Uptown

@MaggieG88, It's over, he has probably shown you, if not told you that numerous times, save your kisses for one who deserves them. Move on to some one that deserves you.

May. 19 2014 01:24 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

Ed from Larchmont: Have you considered that many of these breakups take place before finding the right person to marry?

May. 19 2014 01:16 PM
anonymous from W.P.

It's been 27 years w/ zero contact. Three bouts of therapy, lots of subsequent relationships, happily married now w/ children. But Tell me: Why do I still think about you every god damned day? It's the knowledge that you're still out there, like that Russian in the Pine Barrens episode of the Sopranos, waiting to re-emerge and pounce. And I'd be stupid enough to allow you a second opportunity to ruin my joy. Stay away.

May. 19 2014 01:12 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Nobody has the moral high ground. Members of our species will do what each PERCEIVES is in his or her best interest, unless they have been taught to have moral compunctions about allegedly hurting others. We have to rise above our animal instincts with science and technology today is allowing us to do just that. Soon we won't even need marriage to make babies.

May. 19 2014 01:02 PM

Men respond not to what you say but what you do--context not content. If you do not want a serious relationship with a man it is not enough to say so--he will only pay attention to your presence. Likewise, stop seeing and sleeping with a man who clearly wants no more than a hook up--he will not start a relationship based on sleeping together.

May. 19 2014 12:58 PM
Ed from Larchmont

The great pain people feel at a breakup argues for the commitment to lifelong marriage.

May. 19 2014 12:57 PM
John A

I refuse to accept any comment that says this or that other sex is much worse in a breakup than my (commenting) gender is. Different plus misunderstood is not the same as evil. Understanding is all and Galanes seems to have it.

May. 19 2014 12:54 PM

I moved to New York to be with a significant other of 3 years when he decided to go to law school. We broke up two months after I arrived- as time went on we still maintained a 'friendship' that was no different than our relationship. We continued to sleep together, greet and leave each other with a kiss and developed an even more open and comfortable relationship. He denied my wishes (twice) of being a couple again even though we continued to act like one. Even though it pains me, we have such a strong bond I don't know how to fully accept this and just walk away.

May. 19 2014 12:51 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Marriage is bunk! Long live the autonomous individual who needs no crutch nor a pet nor a companion nor a sex slave, but is strong enough to face life ALONE without fear or regret. To face the slings and arrows of life all alone is the ultimate test of inner strength.

May. 19 2014 12:51 PM
Amy from Manhattan

Not as "glittery" as he was...or as he *thought* he was!

May. 19 2014 12:47 PM
Hurt from NYC

Great Idea!
Have the Mean breaker-upers call in and tell the world how they stomped all over someone emotionally.
I wish there were a way to publicly shame these people.
Disgusting, selfish human beings.
It doesn't matter how many years go by, the feeling of rejection lives.

May. 19 2014 12:47 PM
Ed from Larchmont

It certainly makes marriage, commitment until death, refreshingly simple and dependable.

May. 19 2014 12:46 PM
Charles Imbimbo from Teaneck

Regarding the gentleman whose daughter's relationship ended, have her see a therapist/counselor at the university which she attends. University counselors have a great deal of experience in such matters. I know this because I'm a therapist at a university.

May. 19 2014 12:45 PM
Pat from nyc

I prefer to "check out" emotionally of a relationship and have them break up with me. This is only after I have tried everything to make it work. When the breakup happens, I feel so relieved and no guilt. Maybe I'm chicken

May. 19 2014 12:45 PM
Anonymous from The City

What about friendship breakups? A very dear friendship ended recently in the most unpleasant way. We were thick as thieves for more than a dozen years. Is there a way to tell people in common that I don't want to be cc-ed on the same emails or comments as this ex-friend? I don't want to make them uncomfortable, but I also don't want to be connected to her anymore.

May. 19 2014 12:43 PM
Anonymous from The City

What about friendship breakups? A very dear friendship ended recently in the most unpleasant way. We were thick as thieves for more than a dozen years. Is there a way to tell people in common that I don't want to be cc-ed on the same emails or comments as this ex-friend? I don't want to make them uncomfortable, but I also don't want to be connected to her anymore.

May. 19 2014 12:42 PM
Melinda from New Jersey

Great Show! Can you touch on temporary break ups? Many people in my generation (25 - 35 years old) have broken up shortly, gotten back together, and continued a successful relationship. I fall into this category. My husband and I broke up within the first months of our relationship. I was the breaker-up and he was completely devastated. In a way, his devastation brought me back. I realized a month later I had made a mistake, was afraid of commitment, was dealing with some mental health issues of my own and that I wanted him back. It took a lot of rebuilding of trust, but we're now married and have a child and very much in love. I often feel though that my husband still feels pain from this incident. Can your guest speak about how temporary break ups affect long term relationships?

May. 19 2014 12:42 PM
Anonymous from The City

What about friendship breakups? A very dear friendship ended recently in the most unpleasant way. We were thick as thieves for more than a dozen years. Is there a way to tell people in common that I don't want to be cc-ed on the same emails or comments as this ex-friend? I don't want to make them uncomfortable, but I also don't want to be connected to her anymore.

May. 19 2014 12:41 PM
anonymous from Uptown

I don't like this 10:1 35:1 business, men use this nonsense to cheat, it's bull.

May. 19 2014 12:39 PM

I stayed friends with a woman for over 20 years; we were only "together" for a few months (around when the Berlin Wall came down, and we were able to joke about it being like our relationship). But the friendship hit a snag Christmas 2012 over crap. I made nice in October, but she nagged me about something earlier and it fell apart again. I valued this friendship as I have not broken up well with others, but should I just give up the ghost on this?

May. 19 2014 12:38 PM
Chadpaul from Chicago, IL

The problem with breakups is each party wants to be the one to decide the other isn't right for him/herself. Women, especially, want to keep a man interested until they decide on his suitability, and this is why they resent breakups so passionately. They see deciding as a female prerogative. They expect men to take rejection "manfully" and to maintain a gentlemanly silence afterward, while they feel free to share every detail of every perceived imperfection with their friends. They think, why, it can't be the woman's fault, could it?

May. 19 2014 12:38 PM
anonymous from Uptown

I stand by "tell him off" ..albeit quietly, after all he flat out lied to you! and you will feel better and then you can put that behind you.

May. 19 2014 12:36 PM
Anonymous from Uptown

Pardon...."time flies" and you can't get it back!

May. 19 2014 12:30 PM
Andrea from Philadelphia

@Tracey I don't think you need to tell him off, but how about just letting him know you're on to him. Go up to him one day and say, calmly and pleasantly, "So, I guess that Paris thing didn't work out, huh?" Maybe he'll be embarrassed and confess, maybe he'll keep spinning his story. But it will make him realize what a ridiculous approach to breaking up that was. Reminds me of the Friends episode where Chandler breaks up with Janice by telling her he's been transferred to Yemen.

May. 19 2014 12:30 PM
Anonymous from Uptown

Men are not worth the time or pain they cause as they flounder in and out of relationships...they are emotionally "constipated" ALL of them..not worth losing sleep over. A tiger cannot change his stripes, when you are unfulfilled in the relationship, end it! Tempest Flies.

May. 19 2014 12:29 PM
Elizabeth from East Village

Yes, in NYC there ARE 35 women for every available man. What is the self-respecting solution.

May. 19 2014 12:28 PM
Anonymous from Uptown

Tracey, what in the world is stopping you from telling him off?

May. 19 2014 12:26 PM
Anonymous from Uptown

Cindy, he wants YOU to do it, he wants YOU to let him go so he doesn't feel guilty.

May. 19 2014 12:25 PM
Wally from LI

(With apologies to the Beatles):
It's Leonard Lopate's Lonely Hearts Club Band
We hope you will enjoy the show
It's Leonard Lopate's Lonely Heart' Club Band
Sit back and let the time go slow.

PS - I turned my radio off

May. 19 2014 12:22 PM
jgarbuz from Queens

Baloney. Go to an old age home where the average age is 80 and look to see how many couples you find. If you find one couple in every 50-100 people in the home, that will be good.
But yes, men are more humane than females. Many men do feel guilty about breaking up but most women are quite ruthless and heartless about it.

Remember, a female needs a man the way a rider needs a horse. The horse is clueless.

May. 19 2014 12:14 PM
Truth & Beauty from Brooklyn

The best way to break up is face-to-face and truthfully (but tactfully).

Men are very different from women in that once they are no longer interested, they just disappear and never talk to their ex again; women just keep feeling the pain.

May. 19 2014 12:12 PM
Tracey from Boston

A guy I dated for almost a year (last year) told me he was being transferred to Paris for work. Doesn't stop me from seeing him practically every day at our old Starbucks. I couldn't care less, but I'd still love to tell him off.

May. 19 2014 08:34 AM
Cindy from NYC

My BF keeps NOT breaking up with me. But every time I think things are going great, he says: "This isn't feeling quite right to me." My friends say he's got commitment issues, and I should dump him. What do you think?

(Pls tell Philip I love his column!)

May. 19 2014 08:17 AM
Laura from UWS

First please do tell us all about how the NY Times handles it's break ups. Non-disparagement clauses included.

May. 17 2014 01:25 AM

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