What's the etiquette for ending a short-term relationship?
May 23, 2010 9:20 AM   Subscribe

What is the decent method for calling things off with a woman after a month of dating, sleeping together, but never defining the relationship? In person? Over the phone? Via e-mail?

For me, after one or two dates it's acceptable to just not contact them again if things aren't working out. I've gotten a few thanks-but-no-thanks e-mails after 4 or 5 promising dates, and I didn't think that was distasteful, even if we've just made out. Every other breakup was more the several-month sexual relationship type and those should be face-to-face. But this is a grey area for me. It's important to me to not be a dick about these sorts of things, because I'd appreciate the same consideration if the shoe were on the other foot.

Several female friends told me there are taboos about breaking up over e-mail/cutting off contact after having sex with someone you're dating. An e-mail would afford me the opportunity to tactfully choose my words, she could respond or not, but it seems like it could come off cold and cruel. I'm not especially good at doing it "live" so there's the real risk that I could make things worse face-to-face or over the phone, but I wouldn't shirk that responsibility if it's necessary.

In my case, I'm a 27-year-old guy who's been dating a 25-year-old woman I met online. We've been on about eight dates over the last month, we slept together a few times, and I've determined that we're not a good long-term match so I want to call things off before they progress further. We don't have strong phone rapport (most communication is via e-mail, text message or face-to-face), we've never talked about exclusivity (though I generally believe that there is an unspoken exclusivity sentiment by the both of us), and she's been in a respectable number of relationships (so this is unlikely the first time she's been dumped nor do I particularly fear that she would be heart-broken as a result).

So, assuming that I definitely need to end whatever kind of relationship we have going on, what kind of consideration do I owe her?
posted by lamprey to Human Relations (54 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
...the real risk that I could make things worse face-to-face...

Dude, you're breaking up with a mature adult. You sound like an honest guy who has thought this through and made the right decision for yourself and for her. She might not see it coming, and that sucks, but there's no way doing it in person is going to make things worse than doing it over an impersonal medium. And no one save an asshole or sociopath is "especially good" at breaking up with people. They might be used to it, or have some techniques that make it a little less painful on either end, but you're not at any sort of gigantic disadvantage from anyone else.
posted by griphus at 9:30 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Face-to-face. No matter how "respectable" her number of relationships may be, you owe this woman more consideration than email, not only because you've slept together - eight dates in a month could lead someone to be misled as to the other party's level of interest. You can tactfully choose your words before meeting her in person as well.
posted by Devika at 9:34 AM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

Well, if I were the dumpee in this situation, I wouldn't want to read this in an email, and I wouldn't want to get together just to be dumped. I'd want the guy to call me, and be willing to take some time to discuss things if I needed that. Even though I probably wouldn't need said discussion time, I would appreciate the guy's consideration of my feelings and willingness to do whatever he reasonably could to make things easier for me. Being in a rush to get off the phone in these situations always comes across as really jerky.

Otherwise, when you state your reason for the break up add in what positive things you honestly can (i.e., the verbal rapport's not there but that you find her very attractive physically), and don't promise to be friends unless you really are prepared to do so.
posted by orange swan at 9:35 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I know people will probably not agree with me on this, but I think this is always done in person. Especially if you've slept with her.

Doing so via email or on the phone would be much easier. It's awkward and maybe a little scary to end things in person. But, unless you feel the person is dangerous, there's no reason not to tell her in person. It sucks, but you will definitely be able to look back on this moment later and know that you did the decent thing if you do it in person.
posted by marimeko at 9:35 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

I've just been dumped by a text message, and it saved me time. In my case, I specifically requested to be dumped by a text message should the need arise, so I don't advise it, but I would prefer not to go on a date all hopeful for a great time only to hear that I'm being dumped. Besides, it's easier to reply "f you too" via email.
posted by Svitlana at 9:36 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

I hate the breakup date. It's awkward for everyone.

I think a phone call is always the decent thing to do, unless email has been an acceptable mode of "important" communication already.

Dropping contact out of the blue is almost never cool.
posted by gjc at 9:38 AM on May 23, 2010

The problem with doing it by email is that you're likely to start a whole back-and-forth - she will probably feel compelled to respond to your email, you will feel rude if you don't respond to that, ad infinitum.

Theoretically, doing it in person is the most mature way to go. But that either entails making her think you're getting together for a date when you're not, which is really going to end up being a bummer for her, or telling her on the phone or by text "I think we have to talk; let's get together" which means she'll figure out ahead of time what's up.

But by phone has its issues too. The last guy I dated broke up with me by phone (after three months of dating) and the first words out of my mouth when he did it were, "Wow, and over the phone, too." But honestly, once I got off the phone with him and calmed down, I thought that was the best way for him to have done it, under the circumstances and for the reasons stated above. That's what I would recommend. If you had dated a few months longer my opinion might be different, but seeing as it's only been a month I think the phone is the way to go.
posted by amro at 9:41 AM on May 23, 2010

Seconding griphus. If you were comfortable enough with this person to exchange bodily fluids then you should be comfortable enough to contact them personally and let them know that you don't want to lead them down the garden path when you don't see a future together. As for myself, I would prefer to hear this by telephone rather than in person as who needs the face-to-face awkwardness that results from the "I'm just not that into you" soliloquy. Since you are a decent person and want to sign off in a respectable manner, following up by sending flowers with a note that says "Good to have met and all the best" would be a nice touch and a good way to ensure that there are no hard feelings when you bump into each other at the movies.
posted by braemar at 9:42 AM on May 23, 2010

I'd want nothing more than an e-mail. Why waste her time meeting or talking on the phone if there is no chance you'll stay together? E-mail lets the dumpee deal with her feelings in private, away from you. The impulse to do things the "decent" way usually seems to be more about the dumper than the comfort of the dumpee.

I know I'm an outlier in this regard, but having been dumped many times and in all kinds of ways, e-mail is definitely best.
posted by vincele at 9:43 AM on May 23, 2010 [6 favorites]

There's no way to make a breakup go well, so just stop trying. Just call and say, "Hey, I wanted to tell you: Whatever we've had, it's been fun, but I'm moving on. It seems like the best thing to do. I wish you well." Then politely and briefly respond to whatever she decides to say and quickly steer towards the end of the conversation. Hang up, deep breath, move on.
posted by argybarg at 9:45 AM on May 23, 2010

...following up by sending flowers with a note that says "Good to have met and all the best"...

This may be a bit much. Especially considering those flowers are going immediately in the trash after she realizes they're from the guy who just broke up with her.
posted by griphus at 9:45 AM on May 23, 2010 [10 favorites]

Face-to-face is the way to go in an established relationship where you see each other often, but it is way overrated if you're still in the early stages, when you're "dating" but not quite a couple. Either you go to meet your dumper suspecting nothing and anticipating a nice afternoon, and then bam dumped, or your dumper proposes the get-together with "we need to talk," and you think "man I'm probably getting dumped, why do I have to drive fifteen minutes to Panera for this, just get on with it."

Phone is fine; email less so, but acceptable if you are really uncomfortable with the phone. Keep it short, something like "I really enjoyed spending time with you but I don't think it would work out in the long run, and I don't want to string you along." You want to say enough to let her know that she's a good person and this was a difficult decision for you, but the more you say, the more you risk accidentally saying something that would either hurt her or give her false hope to cling to.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:50 AM on May 23, 2010 [9 favorites]

Phone, email or text that "we need to talk". Then it must must be in person UNLESS she replies to your call, email or text that SHE wants to follow up in another way other than in person, having figured out what's coming and knowing her own preferences.

Your post suggests to me that you have sufficient emotional maturity, consideration and social skills not to totally butcher a face to face meeting. Very admirable. Write out what you intend to say and read it over a couple times to yourself first. Then take the interaction as it comes. Having worked it over on paper in your own mind will steer you in the right direction.
posted by kch at 9:51 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

...This may be a bit much. Especially considering those flowers are going immediately in the trash after she realizes they're from the guy who just broke up with her...

Assuming you're a guy: there shouldn't be that degree of rancor on the woman's part after a month of sex/dating unless she was a virgin and he hinted that marriage was in the cards. Flowers show off his decent side ie. "Sorry it took a few lays before I figured out I didn't want you around for the long haul".
posted by braemar at 9:52 AM on May 23, 2010

Personally I would prefer an email breakup simply for the fact that I wouldn't have to waste an afternoon or evening meeting somewhere just to get dumped. Dump me via email first thing in the morning and then I can do something else with my day.
posted by ian1977 at 9:54 AM on May 23, 2010

nthing over the phone -- I wouldn't want to get all dolled up for a date only to be dumped. Even if you clue her in that this is a "we need to talk" get-together, think of how she'd feel during the days before you meet up. You haven't been dating long enough that there's a real need to do it in person. Just give her a call and absolutely don't send flowers unless you want to piss her off and waste your money.
posted by Colonel_Chappy at 9:54 AM on May 23, 2010

Face to face is the non-dickish way to do it. For pointers on how to do it gently, see Miko's fabulous how-to-dump-gently answer.
posted by ambrosia at 9:55 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

Phone call or face to face. NOT VIA EMAIL.
posted by sdn at 10:00 AM on May 23, 2010

Hmm. Maybe send an email, but make sure that you give her the option of a phone call if she feels a particular need to talk things out. Something like "Hey, I realize this is a bit impersonal, and if you want to talk about it more, give me a call, but I don't want to drag this out.

This way, you're demonstrating that you care enough about this person to consider her feelings b offering to talk to her if she feels the need.

I know this can extend the break-up process, which no one wants, but I think it's a good compromise between email, which you prefer, and acting like a good guy, which to your great credit you want to do.
posted by elder18 at 10:03 AM on May 23, 2010

You know her better than a group of random internet strangers. Choose what you think will work best for her, while keeping this advice from Miko in mind.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 10:04 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

...degree of rancor...

Well, I didn't really mean it would be a hurl-against-the-wall-in-anger discarding, but more that I just can't see her wanting to explain that those lovely new flowers came from a guy who just broke up with her.
posted by griphus at 10:14 AM on May 23, 2010

I vote for a phone call. I don't want to waste my time having dinner with a guy who's going to dump me, and I don't want to look like a blubbering idiot in public if I take it hard. Email is too impersonal. A phone call allows me to express my feelings, while giving me an easy way out (i.e. hanging up). I don't think a phone call is cowardly unless you've been going out for six months and/or discussing moving in together.
posted by desjardins at 10:16 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

If I think the guy who dumped me is a great guy who's just not that into me, then getting break-up flowers from him would just be depressing as hell.
posted by amro at 10:18 AM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Absolutely do not dump me by text message. Unless you want to be part of my budding stand up comedy career.

Tell me on the phone. Specifically, call me to tell me. Unless we already have something fun planned, don't let me get all gussied up to be dumped. If we've been on 8 dates, I'll be wearing mascara and I will look like a maniac with the black smudges, even if I only cry the teensiest bit.

Don't put too much of the "you're awesome" in the front end of your dumping, because I'll get a little woozy. Make it clear what you're doing, and use the Miko approved method mentioned previously. But don't go too overboard on "you're awesome." Because too much feels so fake.

But this isn't really a problem for me these days, since I can't seem to attract the men who are interested enough to ask me on a date.
posted by bilabial at 10:19 AM on May 23, 2010

Face-to-face is the most respectful way to go here.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 10:20 AM on May 23, 2010

What elder said: on paper but with a clear offer for a follow-up conversation.

Plus that way she can quickly forward it to her friends without having to do her own narrative.
posted by salvia at 10:21 AM on May 23, 2010

I vote for face to face with a twist- call her and ask her to coffee or lunch, but make it clear that this isn't a date night. The "We need to talk" line is pretty much self explanatory. Then if she wants to just get it over with on the phone, its her call, and it's pretty clear that if she comes to the meeting, it's for a breakup talk.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:22 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

In-person or via phone. E-mail or text is way too impersonal after sleeping together.

To weigh in on the flowers: I would not want flowers from a guy who just broke up with me. That seems strange. To be honest, I'd throw them away - not out of rancor, but because I was just broken up with and I don't really need a visual reminder of that fact. Especially not a visual reminder that will die soon.
posted by k8lin at 10:22 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

There is evidence just in this thread that there are very divided preferences on communication modes. Some people hate email; some people live by it. If I got dumped over the phone, it would be adding insult to injury, because I LOATHE the phone anyway, and my dumper would know this. You know her communication preferences--do it in line with those.

Getting someone "sorry to dump you" flowers is not the best idea.
posted by millipede at 10:26 AM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

...This may be a bit much. Especially considering those flowers are going immediately in the trash after she realizes they're from the guy who just broke up with her...

Assuming you're a guy: there shouldn't be that degree of rancor on the woman's part after a month of sex/dating unless she was a virgin and he hinted that marriage was in the cards.

Sorry, braemar, I can't agree. Neither I nor most of the women I know would keep flowers from someone who just dumped them. It's not so much rancor as "Why would I want to spend the next four days looking at a reminder of a guy who just said that he doesn't want to spend time with me?" Sending flowers is supposed to be about the recipient, not the sender.

Do it in person and don't send flowers, however well-intentioned.
posted by corey flood at 10:27 AM on May 23, 2010

If I got dumped after just a few dates I'd prefer a kind email - that way he doesn't see me get upset or hear my voice get all shaky on the phone. After more than a few dates, maybe 3 months or so and it being a serious exclusive relationship, then I'd prefer in-person in-private and as quickly as possible plus just take all your stuff back now.
posted by meepmeow at 10:39 AM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

It's only been a month but you give have slept together. Sleeping together is still considered pretty intimate, right? I think you should tell her face to face. Don't make it a "date" but maybe coffee or something even more casual. If you tell her "we have to talk" then she'll know that things are probably not headed in a positive direction. Be kind. Be mature.

Honestly, the only ex-boyfriends whose memories still cause me to feel bitterness are those that tried to slink away instead of just treating me like an equal person with feelings who should be allowed to respond however she sees fit. None of them were a blindside -- I knew things weren't working out -- but what was a blindside was the cowardly behavior. Like, seriously, we can't have a conversation? You poor, wilting flower of a man. Whatever did I see in you?

Don't be that guy.
posted by amanda at 10:47 AM on May 23, 2010 [4 favorites]

I don't care, I think email dumping is a lame and shitty thing to do. Even if it was a casual relationship, even if it was only a month, that's just low. It's like "when you care too much to send a text, but not quite enough to actually utilize your vocal cords."

I say if you've had sex together more than once, while sober, in person is the proper way to go. Drunken one night stands might get email, everyone else you've seen naked should at least be told in person.

When you call to plan it drop the "we need to talk, can I swing by for a little bit" over the phone. That way she won't be going up to it blind.
posted by Kellydamnit at 10:58 AM on May 23, 2010

I want to add that a "heads up" in the form of "we need to talk" is a must.

Someone broke up with me one time during what had been otherwise set up as a date. He arranged to have lunch with me just as he had a million times before. And he sounded just as he always had on the phone when he called.

As much as he was kind enough to tell me in person, telling me at a busy cafe (I'm sure he thought "in public" would save himself some drama he imagined was about to unfold) and basically setting me up to think everything was okay beforehand - was a terrible, humilating blow.

In person does not mean in public. It means face to face.

If this person doesn't see this coming at all, you should clue her in.
posted by marimeko at 11:06 AM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

I vote for the phone, I would be really upset if someone took me out on a date to dump me! I don't to do that sort of stuff in public even if I was not that into the guy I'd feel awful. No post dumping flowers either. I got dumped enough times before I was married but I'm glad no one ever did either of those things to me.
posted by Melsky at 11:29 AM on May 23, 2010

You need to do this in person – and this will be the most difficult for both of you and that’s part of the reason why. Sex, especially sex in the context of seeking a relationship has consequences and neither of you can get away from that.

It’s lovely that you’re thinking of her. You should also be thinking about future women you’ll date 8 times in a month before realizing it’s not going anywhere, and you should think of your family and friends and her family and friends. I don’t know you – maybe this questions on the internet is all the asking/discussing/wondering you’ll do. And I don’t know her – but am familiar with the sample set of every single woman, gay and straight and open-minded, that I have ever known, but I’d put good odds on her having a long lunch, a dinner, or maybe even a night out with a friend or two to deal with this. As the person who has both subjected friends to my tales of woe, and as the person who has listened to the tales of woe (especially around online dating, which I think indicates how often people do that, rather than any unique problems with online dating), I beg you to man up and meet this girl for coffee or a walk and let her know you just don’t see a romantic future with her. Even if she happens to feel exactly the same way, it won’t be pleasant. However, you’ll have done the right thing and that will be at least one thing that your friends and her friends can focus on as a positive.

If you suggest a short daylight date like coffee or a walk she'll probably see what's coming. If she presses the issue, you can tell her on the phone, instead.

I am hardly a prude, but I’d also advise that maybe you don’t sleep with or have any kind of naked fun someone within the space of a month (or 8 dates) if you are truly looking for long term romance.

Sorry if I sound harsh – recently spend a lot of time filling up on chips, drinking gallons if iced tea, and listening to tales of woe from your side of the equation, and hers. All the woe-tellers had been told, by me and in group settings, slow the heck down and don’t do that think you keep doing again! For your OP, it doesn’t sound like this is a habit, so kudos to you for that.

Good luck in love!
posted by Lesser Shrew at 11:33 AM on May 23, 2010

If you'd only gone on a couple of dates and nothing physical had happened, I think e-mail might be okay.

But look, sex is still intimate even if it's pretty casual sex, what with the insertion of body parts into other body parts and the nakedness and all -- you owe her a face-to-face breakup date.
posted by desuetude at 11:54 AM on May 23, 2010

You were man enough to have sex with her.
Be man enough to tell her in person.

It would be different if you weren't having sex, but you are. That's my advice.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:15 PM on May 23, 2010

It's interesting that almost everyone seems totally sure of what the best method is ... and the answers are about evenly split between phone and in person. No, I haven't counted up the answers. But the idea that there's only one appropriate way to do things would be more convincing if there were anything close to unanimity here.

In fact, there isn't one universally, definitely true answer, and that's why the answers in this thread are split. I agree that email isn't the best way (even though you say you have a better email than phone rapport). But is in-person better than phone? I think that's an open question. On one hand, my gut reaction (and many people's reaction) to the question is that face-to-face somehow seems more proper, as if there were some rule against doing it long-distance. But you know what? There is no unwritten rule about this.

8 dates, even with sex, is just not a huge deal. I'm not trying to suggest that sex isn't "intimate" anymore these days (per amanda's comment). But having sex isn't crossing some magic line wherein you now must break up in person. I think a phone call is actually more respectful since it will probably be easier for both of you. But it's your choice, and there isn't an obvious right answer.

(Some of the above comments that say to do it in person actually seem to be implicitly struggling with this tension, e.g. "You need to do this in person – and this will be the most difficult for both of you and that’s part of the reason why.")
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:18 PM on May 23, 2010

Also, I sent you a MefiMail. I know you're new to Metafilter, so I should point out (in case you're not familiar with the private message interface) that it's the little mailbox in the upper-right hand corner of the page.
posted by Jaltcoh at 12:25 PM on May 23, 2010

I vote for phone. I wouldn't want to have to get all dressed up and looking forward to a date and then get dumped.

I wonder how the lines are drawn between men and women and phone/in person. I'm wondering if it's the men that are coming down on the side of in person as a sort of point of honor that women don't seem to need, or if some women would actually rather see your face while you're doing the dumping.....

Don't do the flowers, that might just reinforce any romantic feelings she already has for you, making it harder on her.
posted by newpotato at 12:33 PM on May 23, 2010

"8 dates, even with sex, is just not a huge deal."

To YOU. That's an important distinction. 8 dates, even with sex, is not a big deal to YOU, but the OP's question is about the woman he's been seeing and sleeping with. Unless you know her, there's no way to say whether sex is a big deal to her. For some people, anything past a third date is a big deal.

Personally, I think eight dates without sex or serious making out is enough that it deserves an explanation as to why one is suddenly not interested. That's if there wasn't any sex.

Once you've slept with someone, you owe them a little more than a "Thanks but no thanks" email (or worse, a text! GOD!).

The issue isn't whether sex is a big deal to the person saying goodbye.
The issue is respect and consideration for the person you're saying goodbye to.
posted by 2oh1 at 12:38 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

Personally, I would want to get dumped by phone. If you do choose to do it in person, make it somewhere that she can easily leave. A coffee shop or at a park. It would suck to get dumped just after ordering lunch and then be forced to sit there and eat it when all you want to do is go home and cry.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 12:43 PM on May 23, 2010

The love of my life dumped me after 6 years by changing her relationship status on Facebook. No final phone call, no goodbye, nothing. Most gratuitously hurtful, harmful thing that anyone has ever done to me in my entire life, hands-down. I'm still dealing with the pain, 7 months later.

Be a mensch, you already know what you need to do, and how to do it.
posted by dbiedny at 12:48 PM on May 23, 2010 [2 favorites]

"8 dates, even with sex, is just not a huge deal."

To YOU. That's an important distinction. 8 dates, even with sex, is not a big deal to YOU, but the OP's question is about the woman he's been seeing and sleeping with. Unless you know her, there's no way to say whether sex is a big deal to her. For some people, anything past a third date is a big deal.

I don't want to get into a back-and-forth about how I phrased this or how important their relationship is. But my sentence was supposed to be shorthand for: in the context of deciding which mode of communication to use, 8 dates isn't so serious as to require being done in person. For instance, ending a marriage would definitely require an in-person conversation. Some people clearly think the OP's situation also demands an in-person conversation, but I simply disagree; he should go ahead and decide what he feels is best. He won't be acting wrongly either way.

Maybe it was a bad choice of words on my part, but again, I really wasn't trying to spark a debate about whether a one-month relationship with some sex is generally a "big deal" -- I was just trying to reinforce that I think phone or in-person is fine given the OP's specific circumstances.
posted by Jaltcoh at 1:32 PM on May 23, 2010

8 dates, even with sex, is just not a huge deal.

To YOU. That's an important distinction. 8 dates, even with sex, is not a big deal to YOU, but the OP's question is about the woman he's been seeing and sleeping with.

This, a thousand times. How does she feel about the relationship? You said "I generally believe that there is an unspoken exclusivity sentiment by the both of us" which tells me that breaking up via email would probably feel cruel and disrespectful to her. Given the length of relationship and the information you've provided, I would personally prefer a phone call. But if you feel that she'd be more comfortable with a face to face conversation, then I think you should extend her that courtesy.
posted by contrariwise at 1:33 PM on May 23, 2010

I work for a florist. Do NOT send flowers for this. I've seen it done, and not only is it a downer for the recipient, but the florists will more than likely make fun of you behind your back.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:56 PM on May 23, 2010 [5 favorites]

I'd say face to face if that's not something that requires a lot of trouble to set up. While I think that's the polite way to do it I also think that having someone block out their evening and go somewhere so they can get dumped can be kind of a drag.

So if it's reasonable and somewhat convenient to meet for coffee, great, but I remember once getting invited to a date that I knew was a dumping and thinking "I need to spend an hour on the metro for this?"
posted by phearlez at 2:23 PM on May 23, 2010

I vote for a phone call for all the reasons others have mentioned. I once ended a similar type of relationship via telephone. The person I'd been seeing wanted to further discuss things in person, and I agreed so they came to my place for that talk. I simply reiterated what I had said on the phone. I didn't accuse them of anything or put them down, but I explained why it wasn't working for me.

I know this is a little bit of a tangent, but in the experience I mentioned, the other person took it very personally and accused me of lying, i.e. "the it's-not-about-you talk is always a lie, I know it's really because I'm not very attractive." You can't control how someone else will react. It doesn't sound like your friend is as insecure as mine was, however. If she takes it badly, at least you'll know you were as gentle as possible.
posted by xenophile at 2:25 PM on May 23, 2010

i vote for phone call. face to face would piss me off. a phone call works just as well.
posted by lakersfan1222 at 2:42 PM on May 23, 2010

Response by poster: Wow, so many strong (and divergent) opinions on my first AskMeFi question! This has taught me that there's clearly no consensus on what the right thing to do or the right way to act is -- everyone here seems to be speaking from personal experiences as both the dumper and the dumpee.

My overriding concern is her feelings and how to make the situation not suck more for her, if that makes sense. There are clearly risks of things going badly with any choice, and I gather from everyone that the key isn't necessarily the method by which someone communicate their feelings, but the thought and consideration that goes into how one does it (so thank you to everyone for pointing me to that advice from Miko).

If folks care to know, I've read what everyone had to say and I'm choosing the middle ground and plan on calling her (which actually was my first instinct, but since this is a new situation and my friends were split, I thought I'd ask some helpful internet strangers for advice). Calling seems like the best choice for me in my situation. I don't want to chance being too impersonal with an e-mail and I don't want to set up a dumping date, which seems inconsiderate to me as a participant in this particular relationship. I also don't want to overly downplay the fact that we had sex; I haven't had many partners and typically I wait longer, but in this case I chose not to. However, for me personally -- and judging from her sentiments on the subject as well -- sex isn't quite the sacred cow that it is to some on here. If it didn't sound dirty in this context, I'd less-hesitantly say "different strokes for different folks"

But thank you to everyone who gave such helpful insight on a difficult subject. Here's hoping that this is the last time that I have to even think about how to break up with someone. What can I say, overall I'm a romantic and an optimist.
posted by lamprey at 5:01 PM on May 23, 2010 [3 favorites]

"for me personally -- and judging from her sentiments on the subject as well -- sex isn't quite the sacred cow that it is to some on here."

It doesn't really matter if it's a sacred cow for you. It doesn't matter if it's a sacred cow for strangers on the internet. The woman you're breaking up with is the one who matters.

The thing you have to keep in mind when breaking up with someone is that you're the one ending it, so you owe it to that person to put their feelings first. It'll suck for you, sure, but you chose the outcome. She didn't. Be thoughtful.

"My overriding concern is her feelings and how to make the situation not suck more for her, if that makes sense."

Exactly. Best of luck.
posted by 2oh1 at 8:06 PM on May 23, 2010 [1 favorite]

"However, for me personally -- and judging from her sentiments on the subject as well -- sex isn't quite the sacred cow that it is to some on here. "

I think dating is very different in the US - in the UK there's no third date rule, it's rarer for people to date several at once, people just get drunk together and pair off until it stops working.

That said, I once got dumped by MSN whilst at work. I wouldn't recommend doing this. There's only so much an emoticon can do.
posted by mippy at 9:44 AM on May 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't want to chance being too impersonal with an e-mail and I don't want to set up a dumping date, which seems inconsiderate to me as a participant in this particular relationship.

I used to be a "do it in person" kind of person but over time I've come to appreciate the false expectations of asking someone out just to dump them. You know? So I agree with you about this.

One time I asked someone out but told them I was going to break up with them. It seemed to go okay, they still wanted to get together to talk about it in person (as did I), but they had the option to tell me to go jump off a bridge or that they'd rather not see me or whatever.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 7:30 PM on May 24, 2010

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