Ok so I have a confession to make: I have never actually broken up with anyone. Nor have I ever been broken up with. (Yet.) So, my practical experience in this area is limited. However, I do have friends. Very open friends. Very open friends with tumultuous love lives. Very tumultuous love lives. And so, having sat with several women and a fair few men, keeping them supplied with tissues,  mini-rolls and hugs as they navigate the stormy waters of heartbreak, I do feel qualified to air my opinions on break-up etiquette.

So, here they are…

The Dumper:

– If you have been on a couple of dates (less than 4) and you aren’t really feeling it, you may send a text or have a phone conversation to that effect. If you have been dating longer than that or are in a relationship, it has to be face-to-face. Anything less is just cowardly. (The only grey area I can see here is if you are having a long distance relationship. If you had been in love, then you should go and see him/her and do it face to face. If this is not possible, then I suppose it is ok to do it over the phone as making them come to you to be dumped seems a bit harsh!)

– Avoid clichés but remember they are clichés for a reason. Obviously anyone who says “it’s not you, it’s me” is going to have their eye spat in and their car keyed but do try to rephrase the idea of it not being their fault. (Unless they cheated on you or posted naked pictures of you on the internet or insulted your mother obviously, in which case it is totally their fault and they should be punished. I’m talking about if you just decided you didn’t see it going anywhere.) Reeling off a list of everything that’s wrong with them and why you don’t want to spend another second of your life with them may not be the kindest thing you can do to an emotionally vulnerable, just-been-rejected former flame.

– Do throw in some compliments. Nothing too cheesy (“You are just way too good for me” etc., see above) but a couple of allusions to their gorgeousness or how they helped you to be/see/understand something better or their passion/humour etc. will help soothe them a little when they replay the conversation back in their minds.

– Do not do it in a public place. I know that you don’t want a scene but it’s cowardly and embarrassing. Try to find somewhere neutral (not their house and ideally not yours) that isn’t their favourite place ever (they may want to go there again without being reminded of their one way ticket to Dumpsville.)

– Be kind. It never hurts.


The Dumpee:

Do not beg. It won’t work and afterwards, the shame of that will sting worse than the break-up itself.

– Do not throw all the insults at them than you can think of. Think grace and poise at all times.

Do not rescind everything nice you ever said about them to your friends. a.) They’ll know that you were either lying then or you are now. b.) If you get back together, you’ll have to do some very sheepish backtracking (He/she won’t thank you for the “And they were terrible in bed anyway” comments) and c.) Next time you gush about a new partner, they just won’t believe you. Oh and d.) It’s undignified.

– Leave social media the hell alone! There is nothing you can write/post/instagram that won’t look bitter or sad. Just change your relationship status (or leave it blank as I have always done, to avoid that sad little broken heart icon appearing in everyone’s newsfeed in the event of a break up) and maintain a dignified silence.

Also try to avoid online stalking.

Or real life stalking.

– If your friends are intermingled, do not force them to choose sides or insult your ex with you. You can expect complete loyalty from the friends who are yours alone but shared ones shouldn’t be ripped in two. And there will be events that you are not invited to. The same will be true of The Dumper. Unfortunately, you will just have to find a way to deal with that.

– This may not count as etiquette advice, but try not to have a total nervous breakdown. It’s unnecessary, and the music is so depressing.


– If you bump into your ex with their new partner, be super duper nice. Ridiculously nice. Even if you aren’t that nice. Honestly, it is the only option that brings you out on top.

And don’t forget to look fabulous too. Can’t hurt. 😉

Thank you!


The Etiquetterie