Fair Warning: I Break Up Via Email.

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 13.266% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

A while back, I was writing a breakup email to a lover of mine, and a friend asked what I was doing.
When she found out, she was horrified.  “Man, only jerks break up via email!” she said.  “That’s the worst!  You have to call!”
Well, I don’t want to be the worst, I thought.  So I vowed to do that via phone.  And then scheduling got in the way, since I can write an email any time but phone calls have to be arranged.  And weeks slid by, and crises on both ends kept intervening, and in the end what should have been a clean break turned into an embarrassing null-zone that lasted for far too long.
(And did damage to what could have been a respectful post-breakup friendship.  I’m not proud of how I handled that.)
Thing is, I’ll break up via the medium I spend most time talking to someone in.  Mostly, these days, I date remotely, and since I loathe talking on the phone (WHY IS MY TEXT-BOX MAKING THIS ANNOYING RINGING NOISE?), that means most of my communication with my long-distance partners is texting or email.  And so is the breakup.
Which might be rude, I guess.  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with needing a phone call to break up, and if someone told me “If you ever break up with me, it better be at least via phone,” then I’d do that.
(They’d know they were being broken up with the second their phone rang, as my girlfriend once went into the hospital for emergency surgery and I texted her the entire time: such is my distaste for Alexander Bell’s legacy.)
And I honestly don’t know how the world perceives breakups these days, in a time when it seems everyone meets their partner via online dating and sends naughty selfies.  I know some women think, “God, a guy who breaks up via text is the worst” – but I think those are largely in-town relationships, where the guy’s last six conversations were in her bedroom, and then suddenly he switches to text to avoid a fight.
So I don’t know what the perceived polite protocol is.  I’ve been broken up with via text, and in one notorious case via a Twitter DM, and didn’t think anything of it.  But as noted, I’m kind of a freak.
So here’s your warning: in the unlikely event you decide to date me, the breakup-email is an option.  I have no idea how society views that, but I figure you should know anyway.
(And in the unlikelier event you’re trying to date me now, well, I wouldn’t.  I’m supremely flaky at the moment, dropping out of communication as crisis after crisis hits the house.  My energy reserves are banked for family now, and I’m not trying to be rude, but I fear that’s the end result.  Maybe sometime later I’ll be all about the happy flirting and sweetness, but that time is not now.)


  1. Kri
    Oct 28, 2014

    I have broken up with someone over email. In that particular relationship, it was the only way. My partner was very gregarious and could (and did) out-talk me on any topic. I knew the only way I’d get the point across cleanly, and in the way I meant to say it, was to write it privately spelling out the whole situation and my reasons where he couldn’t interrupt.
    That said, my last partner broke up with me over text, and it was awful. It came almost without warning, with no explanation, was very ambivalent, and he refused my requests to talk about it in person. That I consider beyond rude, and possibly even cruel.
    Different relationship situations merit different levels of formality for a breakup. It’s all about the people involved.

  2. Liz
    Oct 28, 2014

    People do seem to have a horrified reaction to the dump-text or email, but I think you’re right. How much shittier is it to arrange to see someone face-to-face or call unusually, just for the dump? At least with text, they can save face and respond at their own rate. We do now conduct more of our relationships online – my oso and I see each other once a month, but talk more or less constantly by text/im. If he was going to drop me, I’d rather not have a phone convo, or meet up to end it, rather end it the same way.
    To Kri, it’s unfortunate, but people don’t owe you an explanation for ending a relationship. We don’t always get answers, and sometimes people just walk away.

  3. Dai
    Oct 30, 2014

    I love email and I hate the phone. I once had no landline phone for year, pretty much ignored my cellphone and I didn’t even notice anything missing. So, breaking up via email: sure. Unless I’m in a relationship where we meet personally all the time, them I would expect a meeting. I guess the breakup method should fit the relationship. People value different ways of communication differently, so take that into account and don’t break up with them in a medium they find really impersonal.

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