Can I break up with someone over chat?
February 23, 2014 3:49 PM   Subscribe

I need help with the logistics of breaking up with someone. I have been seeing this person for about a year. It started out as a casual thing and he asked to be exclusive (I am female). I have cautioned all along that I am not ready for something serious (just out of a years-long relationship), and to be honest, although I have enjoyed my time with him, there are a number of deal-breakers that make it time for me to move on for both our sakes. We haven’t had any fights or anything. I just feel like it’s time. I need to find out if there is anything approaching a consensus on how to actually go about this though, because, as always, there are complications.

The problem is…how to do it? I know everyone says to do it in person, and I am not trying to shy away from that, but: We live about an hour apart by public transportation (neither of us has a car). When we meet, it is with the intention of spending at least the night and often several nights together. My place is no good because I have housemates and there is no privacy, plus I don’t want to invite him over (again, suggesting time together) to dump him. His place—I would travel there with him expecting me to stay, and then dump him and leave—and then his housemates are all, where did she go? and he has to deal with telling them he just got dumped, or has to lie.

Public seems kind of awful and again, would imply a nice date together that would actually be a meeting for the express purpose of dumping. I know people say if you can’t possibly do it in person but the second choice is the phone—but we both loathe the phone, never ever use it, and half the time he doesn’t know where his is.

However, we do chat online most days, off and on throughout the day. We have had fairly serious conversations over chat in the past. Yes, I could say “We need to talk,” and set up an in-person meeting, but that would be tantamount to saying “I am breaking up with you” anyway because we simply don’t have “we need to talk” level conversations. I keep hearing that breaking up over chat is horrible, but in this case, it seems to me it would be the kindest thing, to simply cut to the chase there and break up with him there and offer to talk with him about it further over the phone or in person.

I am not trying to avoid an in-person conversation or run away from this; I just can’t figure out how to arrange the in-person conversation without telegraphing what is coming anyway, and that seems even crueler, to draw it out like that. He really likes me, he has no idea this is coming, he is emotionally stable and is going to be sad and miss me but it is not going to be the end of his world or anything. We have both known all along that this has an expiration date.

Tl;dr: I truly want to do this in the most compassionate way possible. It just seems that in-person breaking up involves either setting him up to expect a nice few days together and then dropping something horrible on him instead, or using language to arrange a meeting that says I'm breaking up with you anyway, thereby making him wait until we can meet up in person for me to--what, reinforce it? Is my idea therefore of delivering the initial news via chat a horrible one? If so, what would be the better alternative?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (68 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Don't do it by chat. A year's worth of dating merits an in-person breakup. Sure, it sucks to have him be expecting a fun time and to get dumped instead, but he'll get over it. Go to his place, do it soon after you get there, and be ready to leave right away or stay and talk it through a bit depending on what he wants. Yeah, it'll be kind of awkward with the housemates, but that's not the end of the world.
posted by aka burlap at 3:58 PM on February 23, 2014 [11 favorites]

Miko's breakup script would probably be appropriate. I think your reasons for not meeting in person are stronger than your reasons for not using the phone--maybe neither of you likes the phone, but you need a richer communication channel than chat to convey all the padding.
posted by Monsieur Caution at 3:58 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about
"Hey, I'd like to talk to you for a few minutes on the phone, would now be a good time?"
Yes, he might guess your intentions but then it's his call to continue the (break-up) conversation over his medium of choice.
Or alternatively, arrange a meeting but warn him that it's going to be short but you need to discuss something with him. Don't let him get all excited about the prospect of a nice date, if you can.
posted by SecondSock at 4:04 PM on February 23, 2014 [14 favorites]

Unless you are separated by an ocean or a wide expanse of continent, or one of you is in prison, you need to do this in person.

I don't really understand your squeamishness about breaking up after spending a night together, unless things are so bad that you legitimately do not want him in your home.

I especially don't get not wanting to have anyone else around at all or not wanting to do it in public.

Look, breaking up is awkward. There's no ideal setting. Here are some breakups I have been through:

- Broken up with the day after returning from a long international trip, when I was not expecting to be dumped and was in fact extremely excited to see my boyfriend after my long absence.

- Mutually agreed breakup during a long walk in the park, in public.

- Mutually agreed breakup in his room in our shared apartment, of which we were two of several inhabitants.

- Broken up with at a large house party I was hosting, while the party was in full swing.

I survived all of these experiences. Breaking up with someone sucks regardless of where you are when it happens. A week after you do it, he'll probably have forgotten where he even was. This is just not something that matters a lot in the long term.

But a breakup via chat after a year of dating? That's something you stay angry about for years. It really sends an "I seriously could not even give half a shit about you" message.

Also, are you totally sure this is going to be an unexpected thing, and not mutual? If your relationship has been circling the drain for a while, it's probably not going to be a surprise.

Just break up with him the next time you hang out. If he's going to be spending at least one night at your place, wait till after you wake up on the second day, just for awkwardness' sake.
posted by Sara C. at 4:06 PM on February 23, 2014 [22 favorites]

I also like the option of going to his place, because that way you can arrange a way home and not assume you're sleeping over.
posted by Sara C. at 4:06 PM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I think everyone I know under 30 has been broken up with over chat or text or email. I don't personally think it's as big of a deal as people say it is. It's a cultural thing. If you talk more over chat than you do over phone, I think it's totally fine to break up over chat. The whole 'you need to do it in person' idea seems pretty arbitrary to me.
posted by Jairus at 4:08 PM on February 23, 2014 [45 favorites]

I just broke up with someone recently, after a longer relationship than yours, and I went out of my way to do it in person, at their place, scheduled in advance in such a way that definitely tipped my hand that a serious conversation was due. By the time I arrived, she had gotten herself prepared for that conversation. Afterwards, she also confided that she assumed I'd planned to break up with her based on the way I had planned it.

The result? It went quite well for both of us, despite my own internal stress around the whole thing. So don't necessarily think tipping your hand is a bad thing. Plus, having an advance inkling of what's to come gives him time to make sure his roommates are gone, or know it might be coming, or even to suggest you and he meet somewhere else for that talk if that makes him more comfortable.
posted by davejay at 4:31 PM on February 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't really understand your squeamishness about breaking up after spending a night together, unless things are so bad that you legitimately do not want him in your home.

For me, I'd feel lied to. If you've already made the decision, don't spend the night with me and then tell me--it's kind of the evil mirror universe version of the surprise! we're on a date! thing.

And yeah, a year of dating? That is an in-person breakup, period. Breaking up via chat or text or email is cold and impersonal and distant, and trust me it feels incredibly cruel to be on the receiving end of.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 4:32 PM on February 23, 2014 [24 favorites]

Dissenting view here, but in-person breakup is overrated. Why make the other person schedule a night, so that you can feel better about breaking up with them?

Script: "hey, I like you, but I am not interested in seeing you romantically anymore. I will return your stuff on (date)."

This is a thing you are doing, which they probably won't agree with. Unless you want to answer questions, or face being yelled at, or have some negotiating to do about next steps, stay home. And if you do have any of those things, they can wait until the other person has gotten over their shock.
posted by gregglind at 4:40 PM on February 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

Breaking up over chat is fine. I'd rather get broken up with over chat rather than waste an evening with some melodrama. I suppose there are some guys who would prefer an in-person break up, but I can't think of any that I personally know.
posted by BabeTheBlueOX at 4:45 PM on February 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

I realize this is so retro it seems ridiculous, but because of the snowflake complications -- travel, expectation of intimacy when you meet, no privacy -- have you considered sending him a letter? An actual, paper, snail mail letter? It signals that you're not just brushing him off, you want to handle the breakup seriously. It gives you a chance to explain your feelings clearly. At the end of the letter, say that you want to meet to say goodbye properly, if that's what he wants, too. Meeting after a letter would also give him a chance to say what he needs to say to you, but with some time to prepare, rather than just springing it on him.
posted by kestralwing at 4:47 PM on February 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

I would initiate the conversation over chat, then let him know I was open to meeting in person for closure. Personally, I would go nuts if I got the, "Let's talk!" call and then had to wait to meet in person. You know him best to know what he'll feel here. I'm 33, have been through a few break-ups of years-long relationships and I would prefer the chat first method.
posted by Zosia Blue at 4:47 PM on February 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

No. Show some respect and dignity - do it in person, and if that is really too hard, at least call on the phone.

(BTW, if someone sent me a break-up text, I think I would take a screen shot, and send it to friends as proof that the sender is a jerk.)
posted by Flood at 4:48 PM on February 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Breaking up in person is something you do for them, not for you. It's easier for you to do it over text. Not wanting to face someone you cared about enough to date for a year being upset seems cowardly and callous (my opinion).

I would frame your question as two questions:
1. Is it better to have an idea that someone's about to break up with you, or to have them hit you with it out of the blue when you're not expecting it?
2. Is it better to have your roommates ask why your girlfriend had to leave already when she just broke up with you, or to be able to tell them she broke up with you at a time slightly later than that when you may be a bit more pulled together, but may also be totally angry that you got broken up with over text?

My answer to Q1: everyone is going to feel differently about this, so we can't answer it for you, but I don't think it's as easy as just saying "telegraphing what's about to happen is bad" or "getting hit with the news out of the blue is good". An argument could be made for either one.

My answer to Q2: Having to admit you've been dumped is going to suck regardless, but I'd rather not have to tell people I got broken up with over text. It makes it seem like the other person just didn't care, and that's insult to injury. Maybe not if you'd been dating for a few weeks or even a few months, but a year is a real relationship.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 4:49 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just can’t figure out how to arrange the in-person conversation without telegraphing what is coming anyway...

As a dumpee, I would rather have *some* idea that I was going to get dumped, rather than no idea at all. Yeah, it would make for an awkward couple of days, but knowing that being dumped is a possibility, and mentally preparing for that possibility, seems to me better than getting a SWAT-team strike dumping, and left standing there wondering what the hell happened.

Plus, in telegraphing, maybe the problem takes care of itself before an in-person meeting anyway.
posted by Capt. Renault at 5:04 PM on February 23, 2014

Personally, I think a thoughtful email might be a little better than chat. But I think chat would be okay-- agreeing with others here who say the in-person rule is more of a generational thing.
posted by three_red_balloons at 5:06 PM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I don't know. I'd really hate to come a distance just to get dumped. But that's just me. Etiquette is that a relationship of some seriousness and length is to be done on person.

But I do think that you have to tip your hand if you do it in person. Tell him that you aren't happy and you need to talk. Tell him that you want to meet for lunch in a place at a midpoint between you and him. Do it. An hour distance is hardly insurmountable and your excuses are really just you rationalizing.
posted by inturnaround at 5:11 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm firmly on the side of doing it in person, and do not think that scheduling an in person meeting is just so the person doing the breaking up can feel better about themselves.

Telegraphing what's coming isn't bad, i agree with the above people on that. I also think that meeting up at some casual public place like the outdoor seating at a coffee shop or something(weather permitting, and just an example) that's public, but not some tiny enclosed space with tons of people is a good setting for this.

I've been broken up with in an LTR over the phone, and only really got any chance to chat about it afterwards over IM. It was stupid, it sucked. Yea, in person breakups can be emotional and messy but that's how it is.

So yea, at least part of what i'm saying here is
I am not trying to avoid an in-person conversation or run away from this
I don't believe you. All the excusey sentences after this expanding on it makes it sound like yea, you're avoiding doing this in person because of XYZ.

Is there any way you can meet up over lunch during the week or something? Or at the very least, hit it as early as possible during one of the periods of time you'd usually meet up during?

I really think there's no compassionate way to do this without doing it in person. I've had terrible in person breakups, but i never resented the person the way i did when it was over the phone or something. Regardless of how it's structured, or always comes off as a mixture of "This is how little i cared" and "I am this immature and unwilling to deal with my shit and do anything remotely stressful if i can avoid it". It's one of those things you don't really get to chose how it's interpreted on, along the lines of "Offense is taken, not given".

I have never broken up with anyone over the phone or online or whatever even if it was a significant amount of local travel like an hour+ on public transit or whatever. I honestly regard it as part of being an adult human, with the only exceptions being like illness or separations of continents/opposite edges of the country or whatever.
posted by emptythought at 5:12 PM on February 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yes, it's best to do it in person. And failing that, better to do it over the phone, but ...

I don't know. I think there are circumstances that may be OK to do it over chat. How often do you see each other? If it's been three nights every weekend for a year, for instance, then no, I don't think you can do this over chat. But it's three nights every month for a year, then well, maybe.

I look at this way: If most of your relationship has taken place via chat with only some in-person stuff, then yes, I'd say it can probably be OK to do it that way (but also don't just drop it in during your usual Monday morning chat -- you still should set aside an appropriate time). If the online stuff is just a way to maintain contact until you see each other again (in other words, a poor but adequate solution), then no, I don't think you can do it via chat.

(I was broken up with via AOL instant messenger 15 years ago and that sucked, but since he said "I need to call you tomorrow night," I was just "Uh, no, we are going to do this now." So it was mostly my choice to have it happen that way. I do think he could've handled it better but I also think I'd maybe feel differently about it now.)

But best case scenario: if possible, meet halfway at a neutral location (go to a park or something!) so that way you both can leave independently.
posted by darksong at 5:14 PM on February 23, 2014

I'd say go by chat.
I got dumped by email once, after over a year together. He did it that way because he knew that written words was my preferred form of communication. I took it as a kindness as we had similar travel issues and any meeting would have created that pleasant anticipation. He picked a time when he knew I was home, and let me have my initial reaction privately. He made sure to mention in the email that if I wanted to talk/had questions, he was free for the next couple days, whenever I was ready.
posted by platypus of the universe at 5:16 PM on February 23, 2014 [6 favorites]

Is my idea therefore of delivering the initial news via chat a horrible one?


If so, what would be the better alternative?

An hour on the bus is not an unreasonable amount of time to spend on something like this. Yes, they'll likely know something is up. That's not necessarily a bad thing; at least they won't be blind sided.

Public seems kind of awful and again, would imply a nice date together that would actually be a meeting for the express purpose of dumping.

"Can you meet me at X cafe [midpoint between you and them]? We need to talk."

Done. No nice date implied, serious conversation foreshadowed, travel time minimised.

If you really can't do it in person, then at the very least call them. Ignore your loathing of the phone. You don't get the nuance that you need for this kind of conversation over internet chat.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:18 PM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

Send him a text "we need to talk"

Then call him. Phone call is ok in this situation. You've made it clear all along that this is just a fun thing.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 5:20 PM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with in-person but vehemently disagree with making him travel via public transportation to a mid-point for what he thinks is a date. Let him have his reaction in private, just as you have used your private time to contemplate breaking up and grieving the relationship. If you know his patterns (and his roommates patterns) you can always travel to near his house, txt him that you are in the neighbourhood and need to see him and go overto his place briefly. Yes, that means you have travelled for a couple hours to give him the opportunity to react and grieve in private, but think you will feel better about yourself if you treat him with compassion and care.
posted by saucysault at 5:25 PM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I broke up with someone on the phone after we had been together for a long time.

Biggest regret of my life in so many ways. I wish I had at least done it in person.
posted by sockermom at 5:47 PM on February 23, 2014

dump him and leave


—and then his housemates are all, where did she go? and he has to deal with telling them he just got dumped

So what? He's a grown man. He will tell them eventually anyway.

I am not trying to avoid an in-person conversation or run away from this…

It really sounds like you are. Why is that?
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 5:47 PM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I keep hearing that breaking up over chat is horrible, but in this case, it seems to me it would be the kindest thing, to simply cut to the chase there and break up with him there and offer to talk with him about it further over the phone or in person.

This sounds totally fine for this relationship. The important part is that you offer to talk about it on the phone or in person.

Just consider whether he'll think of this as compassionate. You know him better than all of us.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 5:48 PM on February 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

I once drove a long distance to get dumped in public. Horrible (and then my car wouldn't start!). Don't do that if it can be avoided!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:49 PM on February 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

Do you know anyone with a car you could borrow or who would be willing to help you with this by driving you over and taking you back? Maybe this is an occasion where it'd be worth springing for a Zipcar if you have access? If it's an hour by public transit it's probably 30 mins or less if you take a car, right?

And yes I agree with esprit: if he doesn't want to tell his roommates immediately, he could just say that you weren't able to stay long this time. I really doubt they would question that and then he could give them the details at a later time.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 5:50 PM on February 23, 2014

You say: "we both loathe the phone, never ever use it, and half the time he doesn’t know where his is" and "we do chat online most days, off and on throughout the day. We have had fairly serious conversations over chat in the past."

Given that, I am 100% behind the idea of breaking up in chat. I loathe the phone, and for people like me, chat is not cheapo throwaway conversation. I like the idea of offering to meet in person after if he wants - it shows you aren't just tossing him aside - but I don't think he will be offended that you broke up with him in chat, given that chat is a regular mode of conversation for you.
posted by selfmedicating at 5:50 PM on February 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I came in to agree with Jairus. It really depends on what your and your BF's comfort level with chat is. Is it a normal mode of communication for you both? Then it's not as big of a deal as some people are making it out to be. (I'd like to clarify that I mean 'chat' as in AIM, Jabber, or what have you - not texting. I wouldn't recommend that.)

I was the BF in a nearly identical situation several years ago; we both loathed talking on the phone but loved to use IM, lived an hour apart (but had cars), etc. I also had no idea it was coming when it happened, and yet in a way I did - I think we both knew things were not going to go further, and now that I truly know love I now realize it wasn't present in that relationship, so it wasn't devastating. We had a thoughtful, dignified discussion via chat. I believe she did ask me after the first few lines of conversation if I would rather discuss on the phone, but I declined, simply because I hate talking on the phone. We did meet in person a few times afterwards, but the serious discussions had already take place in chat.

It also helped in that we were part of a generation that was introduced to a lot of our computing background via the old dial-up BBS days, where chat was where a lot of people like us hung out, where people interacted. To me it wasn't impersonal, it was simply our preferred method of communication. I didn't find it rude or impersonal at all, but YMMV.
posted by SquidLips at 5:52 PM on February 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

Just go to his house and do it there. Then leave. Of all the awkward scenarios, having his roommates wonder why you left "early" is the last awkward. You could even come down on a Sunday so that they wouldn't wonder why you left after one day. I doubt they think about your travel patterns as much as you think they do.
posted by salvia at 6:02 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Chat is absolutely fine. I wouldn't give it a second thought.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 6:02 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

And yes, do it in person. On chat, you miss so much information. If he types
"oh wow

Is he crying or actually not that upset? You don't know. You're just sitting there watching the cursor or the "so and so is typing" indicator. Maybe you really don't care whether he's crying or totally fine. Of course it's not your job to fix, but do you care enough to want to respond with concern in the moment based on the way he reacts? If not, then go ahead via chat, but that's why people say it's cold and harsh.
posted by salvia at 6:08 PM on February 23, 2014 [7 favorites]

Eh, the whole "breaking up in person is the universally correct way to handle it" is a bunch of BS. For a couple who have done the bulk of their communicating by IM, and for whom that is the preferred and comfortable way of sharing thoughts, it can also be absolutely the kindest, fairest way to handle a breakup.

It allows your guy to be able to respond to you in real-time, but with the buffer of having a certain safe distance to collect his thoughts while doing so. (Vs. you crafting some perfect breakup email, and forcing him to choke down your monologue and then reply.)

You can always offer to meet in person, or take the convo to the phone, if it is what HE would feel better doing.

"Forcing" someone to sit through an in-person breakup can be not-so-nice, and is unfair in that you'll have had plenty of time to rehearse your end of the convo in your head, and to gear yourself up for the emotional fallout, while he...will be left sitting there with his jaw and heart on the floor.

To be kind, you can set up a time (soon) to IM at a day/time that you know will allow him to decompress afterwards -- maybe a Saturday mid-day so he has the rest of the weekend to deal with it before having to put a brave face on and go back to work/school/whatever.
posted by nacho fries at 6:28 PM on February 23, 2014 [9 favorites]

You only live one hour apart.

Tell him you're coming over on X day, take an early bus/train, go for a walk right when you get there, break up with him, get on the next bus/train. No need to stay the night.
posted by third word on a random page at 6:41 PM on February 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Do it in person, near him so he does not have to travel. DO NOT do it in a nice restaurant or his favorite park. Where ever you chose will be tainted in his heart, perhaps for years, so chose someplace mediocre or where he wouldn't usually like to go.
posted by Sophont at 6:42 PM on February 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

some people prefer the break up in person, some are okay with chat. what matters here is what HE would prefer and his main method of intimate communication. you know him best, ask mefi can only speculate. if he really is a solid internet person and conveys himself personally online on a regular basis, he would probably handle a breakup better that way. but if he has some old fashioned relationship tendencies, you should probably give him the respect he will be expecting and deliver it in person.
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 6:42 PM on February 23, 2014 [4 favorites]

I am not trying to avoid an in-person conversation or run away from this;

It really, really sounds to me like this what you are doing. I would be so pissed off and hurt if someone I had been dating *for a year* broke up with me by chat. I would view it as cowardly and disrespectful and a total dick move.

Others might be okay with it, but let me put it this way: I think very few people would not be okay with a proper in-person break-up.
posted by smoke at 7:02 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

LDR's are a different issue when it comes to "in person." I think it is worse to have to travel and spend money to see someone, expecting that it will be romantic, and then it ends and you're stuck there. I honestly think chat is okay under these circumstances. Otherwise it sounds like you might as well just take the train in and break up with him in public at the station and then hop another train, which sounds more awkward/bad to me. It might be one thing if you could drive in, do the deed at his house and then drive away, but it's not that easy for you. I'm fine with my LD ex dumping me over e-mail because going to his house for the weekend and then getting broken up with while being stuck there for two more days would have sucked massive ass.

Remember that you're going to be "the asshole who dumped him" ANYWAY, no matter how you do it. Any method of breakup only makes it slightly less worse, it's never going to make it better. And frankly, at least over chat you've TOLD him, which beats the "take the hint" silent dump breakup any day.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:09 PM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

If it was you getting dumped in this relationship, how would you like to be dumped?
posted by cleverevans at 7:25 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

The problem is that "an hour on the bus" isn't a long distance relationship.

If you'd have to get on a plane to break up in person, well, OK.

But you decided to date this dude knowing about the commute.
posted by Sara C. at 7:26 PM on February 23, 2014 [8 favorites]

Yo, just say "we need to talk" over chat. He'll know what that means, you've left it to him whether he wants to pursue that over chat or meet in person
posted by c'mon sea legs at 7:30 PM on February 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

Send him a snail mail letter.

The traditional name for it is a "Dear John".
posted by brujita at 7:35 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

After crying my head off on the subway (I do not recommend) I decided the in-person breakup is some bullshit unless you really can provide the person with privacy.

Also, I've never had someone really seem grateful I broke up with them in person. They inevitably said something regrettable, or ugly cried, and it feels cruel to give them shitty news when you're the worst possible person to comfort them, yet you're there.

Phone is better than chat, but maybe split the difference and do video chat, like Skype or Google Hangout.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:14 PM on February 23, 2014 [17 favorites]

I would rent a car for the day, tell him you are coming to talk, do the conversation and high tail it out of town.

An hour by public transportation is not that big a deal by the way. My commute to Manhattan including subway is 1:10 minutes. I used to do it twice a day.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:32 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd much rather not waste time and effort traveling somewhere only to be dumped. Privacy would be another issue . I would hate to be dumped in public. Chat sounds perfectly fine to me. Or an email or whatever. If your instinct says chat is the way to go then do it that way. You know him and none of us do so I don't think we can give you much guidance here.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 8:37 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you break up with him via chat, be prepared for all of your mutual friends to think you're a jerk.*

At the end of the day, there isn't that much personal preference or generational issues at play here. You said it yourself: everyone says to do it in person. Yeah, they do. They don't say it because it's convenient, simple and easy, or fun. They say it because doing it in person shows that you do care about and respect this person, even if the relationship didn't work out. It shows that you care enough to look them in the face and be fully aware of whatever pain they're dealing with. It shows that you're willing to answer their questions and do whatever you can to help.

Go to his house (I agree the "hey, can I come over so we can talk?" heads up can be helpful) and do the deed like an adult.

*This shouldn't be your primary motivation, but it's true, and I'm hoping it might give you the motivation you need to do the right thing. There's a reason social mores exist.
posted by leitmotif at 8:50 PM on February 23, 2014 [3 favorites]

I usually am all about communication and responsibility and all that but if chat has been a main mode of communication for you, then I don't see why it won't do for this.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:05 PM on February 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not like there are different species of human, some of whom tend to* communicate via speech, writing, sounds, body language, and touch (* with variations, e.g., in the case of deafness) while other humans communicate solely via written words sent across the wires. It's not like, back in pre-history, a subspecies of early humans had evolved to prefer communicating via small written snippets, who sat in separate cave chambers and silently tossed over rocks on which they had carved images. No.

Instead, for almost every person, communication is fuller, richer, more nuanced, and more comprehensive when done in person. Like many here, I prefer to communicate via text and IM, so I get it. But when serious conversations happen, I want our communication to be the real thing. I want access to the actual person. So my advice is to break up in person.
posted by salvia at 10:10 PM on February 23, 2014 [5 favorites]

What about Skype or similar? That way you can at least see each other and talk to each other instead of dealing with the inevitable text-based misunderstandings. It's even more personal than phone but doesn't leave you stranded together with that expectation of a full weekend together. Or is Skype not a thing anymore?
posted by Athanassiel at 10:32 PM on February 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yeah, it's an hour, go see him. It might be a bummer that you don't stay over or his roommates are curious, but those are minor issues. Ask him to meet you at a cafe or someplace near your public transportation. In person is kinder.
posted by theora55 at 10:54 PM on February 23, 2014

I am older. If this was done in any way other than personally it would be unnaceptable.
posted by xammerboy at 12:16 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

as always, context matters... if you guys talk about serious things on chat already, i think it's definitely ok to start with the chat thing with the clear suggestion that if he would rather talk on the phone you'll call him. i agree that in the circumstance arranging a 'date' for the purpose of the breakup sucks - it'd be differnet if you already saw each other every day, but in this circumstance i think chat is perfectly cromulent.

a breakup over a medium that you already use as your primary means of communication with each other is a world apart from a text message that is basically "kthxbye".
posted by modernnomad at 1:16 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

I wish to God my ex had broken up with me via text or chat. He made me think we were going out on a date and then dumped me. It sucked so hard, much harder than if he had just texted me. If you think it would be received as well as such news can be received via chat, go for it. You know this guy/the dynamics of your relationship, and no one here does.
posted by tippy at 4:13 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I vote for not-in-person breakup. You can start via text, then offer option of video chat or phone call as needed. If you have anything more nuanced to say, follow up with a letter or long email.

I do not think it is kinder to break-up in person. What is there left to say? Expressions of anger? Hurt? Opportunity to lash out? Plea for continuance? Dissection of what went wrong? None of that will change your mind, and may just leave you both with bad memories that taint what has come before.

It's going to suck no matter what. Might as well give them the dignity to react in private, with opportunity for one more conversation if they still wish to talk.

Good luck.
posted by enlivener at 6:40 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Only once has someone broken up with me in person - I was furious with them for putting me in a situation where I was so emotionally naked in public. Only once have I broken up with someone in person - we lived together, and the process took weeks if not months. I strongly favor breaking up not in person, so that I and the other person can process emotions privately and speak in person if more closure is needed/wanted. I absolutely do not see being dumped in person as a kindness - it would make me feel humiliated as well as heartbroken. That said, I will always choose writing to express difficult emotions - it gives me time to process my feelings and choose my words. As others have stated, you know better than I do if your (soon to be ex) partner leans toward in-person conversations about difficult topics or (like me) written communication about difficult topics. Good luck.
posted by pammeke at 7:11 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Your biggest objection to going to his place and breaking up with him there is that he has housemates and it would be awkward for him to tell them. But he's going to be telling his housemates what happened no matter what (TRUST me).

Also, forgive me for sounding a bit harsh, but an hour by public transit REALLY isn't that far; it's still close enough that not doing this in person seems callous.

I like the idea of you being the one to go there, that way you already know you have the means to get yourself away rather than having him try to fumble his way back home while he's in a state of shock.

Good luck. This isn't fun for anyone to do.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:45 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Take the bus to his place, do it, leave after 10 minutes, bus home.
Tell him you're coming by to talk. Yes he'll know what's happening. He is going to hurt no matter what. You need to be merciful but quick. But maintain some respect. He will spend an hour knowing something bad will happen. You go there, break his heart, spend NO MORE than 5-10 minutes talking it over. And then you get up and leave, even if suddenly feel like you've made a mistake and you should stay and comfort him. He needs comfort, but not from you. If you feel he's the type of person who might be particularly prone to being self-harming (too much drinking etc), feel free to give a quick text to his sister/best friend telling them what happened and that they should check in if they feel it's best, but don't ask to be kept in the loop.

Breaking up is one of the very few times in life where selfishness is okay, and the best way to deal with it is to hurt someone else. But deliver a swift kind blow. Be the guillotine, not the gut shot. Of course, there are caveats to that broad statement, but generally there is truth to it.

Don't spend the night with him first... That seems cruel.
posted by jjmoney at 9:17 AM on February 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Use Miko's script and do it on the phone.


My sister had met a guy on J-Date and had a 'meh' date with him. She didn't much care if he called again or not. He did call, and ask her out to dinner, and she decided to give him another try, after all, he called and asked her out again, maybe she just wasn't picking up what he was putting down.

So she drives in traffic to get to this restaurant. They get seated at the table and he takes her hands in his and says, "You're great, but I just don't see us having a future together." So Sissy, stands up, grabs her bag, and starts to leave. "Hey! Where are you going?"

She said, "Frankly, I could be home petting my dog now, and you've made me schlep across town in traffic for no reason. I'm cutting my losses here."

And she left.

The moral, don't put people out for no reason. Breaking up face to face is overrated. The telephone is great for this, because you can hash everything out and vocal tones and subtlety are there. Also, he can't read and re-read and obsess about it.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:27 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

I would let him decide how he wants to do it. I'd probably say something like "I think we need to have a serious talk. Do you want to chat, or would you prefer I come to your place to talk in person?" Then I'd follow his lead. If he wants to just jump into a discussion over chat, then fine. If he prefers that you come down to do in it person, then be brave and do it.
posted by sam_harms at 11:17 AM on February 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

Ehhh. Having been dumped in person by a semi-long distance dude, it's really not necessary. I would offer to get together in person if he has questions or wants to get closure, but I wouldn't get his hopes up for a nice date only to crush them.
posted by namesarehard at 11:27 AM on February 24, 2014

The moral, don't put people out for no reason. Breaking up face to face is overrated.

But that's after one date. Which isn't really a "breakup" scenario.

A year is serious. People get married after less time than that.
posted by Sara C. at 11:44 AM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

Yes, I could say “We need to talk,” and set up an in-person meeting, but that would be tantamount to saying “I am breaking up with you” anyway because we simply don’t have “we need to talk” level conversations.

There is nothing wrong with this.

In chat: "I think we need to have a serious conversation and I think it's probably better to do it face to face. Is it okay if I come out to your place tomorrow, just to talk?"

When he asks you what the conversation is about, you can say "our relationship." When he asks if you are breaking up with him, you say: "Look, my intention is that we have this conversation face to face, rather than have it now by chat. Maybe it's best if we wait until tomorrow."

At this point, he has the option of insisting that the conversation continue now by chat, of escalating by phone, or of waiting to have the conversation in person, but entering that conversation armed with the knowledge that a breakup rather than a date is likely impending.

It certainly seems possible, even probable given your description, that he will opt for continuing the conversation in chat, at which point you do not have to feel guilty at all. And if he would rather do it in person, so be it. But the fact that he essentially already knows what's happening eliminates pretty much every one of your objections.
posted by 256 at 12:47 PM on February 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

I'd at least call.

I got dumped once on the phone from a long-term relationship, and actually, the distance kinda made everything easier. I felt terrible for a little bit, especially since she cheated, but just took some extra time to do things that I liked. It also cut down the the amount of crazy desperate GRAND GESTURES that I thought of, but were then logistically infeasible. After a couple of weeks, I got invited to a party by some girl I was in a class with, and once I kind of got back in the swing of socializing, I was pretty much fine. Then, a couple months later, I met the amazing girl I'm with now.

Chat's kinda bullshit, but the phone could be legit. Better to see him face to face, but maybe not worth a huge investment to make that happen.
posted by klangklangston at 1:13 PM on February 24, 2014

This is really a tricky situation.

On one hand, I can understand the desire to break things off via chat, especially if it's how you primarily communicate. There's probably a false sense of security that he'd be able to process the break up in private and thus you'd be doing him a favor. However, you don't know if that would be the case.

Case in point - my first relationship ended with my being broken up with on New Years day via text. While my then-bf might've thought he was doing me a favor by handling things 'privately' (I doubt this) - I was actually in the middle of a huge group of friends recovering from New Years Eve partying. I felt utterly betrayed, moreso because I was in the middle of a crowd and had no way to escape to let things sink in, or to compose myself.

If you don't want this man in your life at all - by all means, break things off via chat. But after a year of commitment, I think he deserves a heads up - not a sudden break-up text. An hour via public transit is NOT a long distance by any means (I do an hour+ bus commute twice a day). Give him a 'Can we talk?' heads up and then go see him when his roommates aren't around and you guys have privacy.
posted by stubbehtail at 12:07 PM on February 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

I broke up with someone by phone while he was at his mother's house with all his family....this was before cell phones. He was crying and sobbing and I was the bad person. On the other hand, when I put the phone down it was done. I did an in person once and I could not get out of the restaurant without paying the bill....never again.
posted by OhSusannah at 10:08 PM on February 25, 2014

My ex of 2.5 years dumped me a few days after this last new years. By text message. A couple weeks later she started posting photos of her and her kids hanging out with some new guy. Morning noon and night. And, yeah, she somehow thought after doing that we were still going to be "friends." Probably so I could look after her kids while she kicks up her heels.

Whatever you do, don't do shit like that.
posted by snuffleupagus at 4:52 AM on February 28, 2014

I should add we were about an hour or so apart, in the metro LA area.
posted by snuffleupagus at 5:07 AM on February 28, 2014

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