By MH Staff - Posted on 25th November 2013
Breaking up gets messy, so we hired a team of five uniquely qualified advisers to help you walk away
Like a work project that goes way past deadline, splitting up can be a painfully drawn out affair. “It’s built into the human psyche that for a decision to be ‘right’ we have to agonise over it,” says business strategist Graham Alcott, director of website think productive . It’s far better to cut the pain short. “Work meetings are a good model,” he says. You want to be in and out, so mentally set the agenda before you see her: what you plan to say, how you want to leave things. “Decide what contributed to 80% of your decision to break up – work commitments, compatibility, whatever – and only address that. It’s less for you, and her, to deal with.” YOUR EXIT STRATEGY: Set an “implementation deadline”. Arrange a place you have to be after you’ve broken it to her. This way, you will just say what has to be said, instead of spending hours going over things.
If you suspect your girl’s a screamer (the bad kind), anger management specialist David Woolfson ( angel planet ) says location and timing are key. “In the morning we’re less stressed and tired so it’s hard for you to feel aggressive,” he says. “A cafe that neither of you have visited before is ideal. Homes are full of inflammatory memories, and a public place means there are social boundaries that help keep things quiet.” If she still blows, acknowledge her anger. Tell her that you know why she’s angry – even that you’re angry with yourself for not making the relationship work. “Never tell her to calm down. Infuriated people need someone to take control, but not to take their power away.” And, as with any cornered animal, don’t touch her. “This conveys intimacy. It delivers mixed messages and can stoke further rage.” YOUR EXIT STRATEGY: Ask a question. “Rage activates our uncivilised brain, so to calm someone, force them to use their rational brain by asking questions.” Try something specific about the relationship, such as, ‘Why do you think we could never agree on holiday destinations?’
Unless you’re the romantic equivalent of a five-day test match, she’s not going to be happy that it’s over. Prepare for questions, says Dr Bethany Dick, who works at the Royal Cornwall Hospital and knows how to deliver bad news kindly. “A swift, smoother response is gentler than dragging things out.” Try not to overwhelm her with information. “Grieving people stop taking things in,” she says. “Fire a ‘warning shot’ to see how much they can cope with. If you live together just say: ‘I’ll be moving out.’ If she breaks down, add ‘But we’ll discuss that on Tuesday.’” Giving her a specific time provides a step forward and brings the conversation to a natural end. YOUR EXIT STRATEGY: Phone a friend. “Don’t leave her alone. Call on a mutual friend who you trust to be unbiased and supportive,” says Dick. They will be the buffer you both need.
You may not be delivering news about a catastrophic earthquake, but careful language and a newsreader’s tone can make the break-up quick and painless. “Give the headline first, then the facts,” says BBC broadcast journalist Samira Ahmed. Tell her that you’re breaking up, with a pause before and after you say it, so she can absorb the information. Then follow up with the why, and keep things simple: “We argue all the time. I’m unhappy.” Be succinct. “Limit yourself to one idea per sentence, not ‘We’re breaking up and I’m moving out on Friday’,” Ahmed suggests. “Avoid sentimentality or drama because you assume that’s what’s required. Remember, it’s about getting the information across. YOUR EXIT STRATEGY: Take a breath. “Exhale before you speak. Then, when you open your mouth to talk, take in just enough air to deliver your line.” This news reader’s trick will keep your voice clear and your tone level.
Things can get nasty if your ex decides to vent on Facebook or Twitter. “What’s said online is hugely influential and a reputation can take years to recover,” says Katie Khan, social media manager for Abundant . How you deal with it marks the difference between dignified and undateable. “First, get a feeling for the online mood.” Maintain a noble silence if she’s just making snide comments, but step in if she starts revealing information that could compromise other relationships. “When companies issue a response to a smear, they keep it businesslike and request that the matter is taken out of the public domain.” Whether it’s your ex or friends rallying on her behalf, send a polite two-line response suggesting they email you privately. YOUR EXIT STRATEGY: Have a cooling-off period. “Hide rather than change your Facebook relationship status,” says Khan, “and wait three months before de-friending her or un-tagging photographs.”
We asked Women's Health readers to name the lamest way a man could break up with them (and don't forget: word has a way of getting around). No points for you if you... get a friend or family member to tell her (11%), change your facebook status to single (33%), go silent and never contact her again (46%), dump her via sms/bbm/whatsapp (10%).