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How to Break Up with Someone Over Text (Plus, What It Feels Like to Be on the Receiving End)

While many of us can agree that breaking up with someone over text is bad dating etiquette, sometimes, it’s not so bad. What we often fail to consider is the fact that maybe, just maybe, the offending party had a valid reason to choose such an impersonal way to cut ties. Or the fact that the receiving party may have preferred it that way. So, we reached out to some folks who’ve been broken up with via SMS and were a-OK with it. Plus, we also got expert tips on how to break up with someone over text, in case, you were wondering.

First, when is it OK to break up over text?

Though breaking up with someone over text should never be the first option, below are some instances where it may be necessary:

1. When you’re afraid they’ll cause a scene. It’s a cowardly move to send an “I’m sorry. I can’t. Don’t hate me,” because you don’t want to have to deal with the inevitable blowback of emotion. However, there are people who are a bit more on the dramatic side and may cause a scene, whether that’s starting a row that’ll alert the neighbors or flipping out in the middle of a restaurant. In order to avoid the chaos, you may opt to break up over text, which is understandable.

2. You’ve tried breaking up with them before. You’ve tried to end things graciously, but each time you sit down and talk, you find yourself feeling bad and wind up staying in the relationship for another two months. If you feel like you’re going to keep chickening out of an in-person breakup (and stringing them on in the process), a kindly-worded text may be the best move.

3. If you feel unsafe. Your safety is paramount, so if the person you’re about to break up with has exhibited any violent or verbally abusive tendencies, it may be better to end things digitally for your own safety.

4. If your other option is ghosting. As common as ghosting is, we can all agree it’s the absolute worst way to put the kibosh on a relationship. Instead of leaving the other person hanging and with a million questions, just send a text letting them know you won’t be moving forward. It’s not the kindest way, sure, but it beats leaving them hanging wondering what happened.

4 People on Being Broken Up Via SMS

Because breakup texts get such a bad rep, we reached out to four people who’ve been on the receiving end and were completely fine with the way things ended.

 1. Nina Nguyen, sex educator, LGBTQ+ expert, racial/social/gender justice educator and co-founder of Fraulila.de, an informative LGBTQ+ platform in Germany. 

“I have friends who have also been dumped by text and their stories were traumatic compared to mine. I think the main difference between me and them is the fact that I already knew that relationship was dying and had intentions of ending it myself, I just didn't have the guts to do it over the phone, so I was waiting for the weekend to do it in person. [My ex’s] message wasn't too short or too long, it was just the sincerest way to [express] what [we were both feeling].”

 2. Skye Cardoz, founder of Kind Hearts Brigade 

“I’ve been broken up with over text and email. I appreciated it both times because the first one was long-distance and the second one was just after the lockdown happened. Both worked out because I'm a non-confrontational person and at least it didn't happen face-to-face, which allowed me to process the incident better. I was in the comfort of my own home, and I chose to go to sleep in my own bed and cried immediately. It also worked out because now, the last face-to-face memory I have with one of my exes is a brilliant one. It was a great [last] date and I'm glad I have that memory instead of us crying and saying goodbye.”

 3. Tim Connon, founder of Paramountquote Insurance Advisors

“I have been broken up with over text and was OK with it because I had seen the signs that the woman I was dating was losing interest. I was basically prepared for it by the time she texted me. So it did not come as a shock when it happened and since I was prepared, I was OK with it.”

 4. Viktor Holas, founder and creator of Wisebarber.com

“I ultimately think it's a bit shallow to break up with someone over text, but I was cool with it both times it happened to me. Both times were early in the relationship (less than six months), so the attachment maybe wasn't as deep. Without any feelings of bitterness, I just thought both times, ‘Well if I'm not important enough to warrant a breakup in person, I don't really need to waste any of my emotions on it.’”

4 Tips to (Amicably) Breakup With Someone Over Text

If you’ve been mulling over a breakup text in your Notes app for some time, here are four tips on how to affably craft it, according to Master Certified Relationship coach, Amie Leadingham.

 1. Use the “sandwich break up” method. When it comes to matters of the heart, a little tact goes a long way. Instead of delivering a direct and cold blow like, “Hey, I don’t think things are gonna work out between us,” Leadingham recommends you use the sandwich method. “Start with a compliment first, then share why the relationship is ending and then end with a compliment,” she tells us.

So, the above text would instead read: “Hey, I while I’ve really enjoyed our time together, I don’t think we’re romantically compatible. You’re a great person and I know your soulmate is out there.” This of course is a generic example, but Leadingham advises you to be sincere about the compliments. “When you share why you are breaking up, don’t focus on the negative reasons. Instead, focus on the fact that your values, life vision and goals in life don’t feel like they align, and you both are not a good fit. Avoid getting into details,” she explains.

2. Avoid accusatory language. Couples who have been together for a while may fall into this trap. Instead of using attack phrases such as “you did this” or “if only you hadn’t done that,” try and articulate your feelings without pointing the finger. “Remember, the goal is to end the relationship without making the other person feel even worse,” says Leadingham.

3. Be mindful of your timing. There’s never a right time to say goodbye, but try not to break up with someone right before their birthday or some other celebration. Additionally, when you do craft your text, be mindful of when you’re going to send it. A breakup text at 3 a.m. is just as cringe as a “Yo, you up?” text, so try and be thoughtful.

4. Be empathetic. “I always tell my clients to be empathetic,” Leadingham urges. “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How would you want them to break up with you if it were over text? Whatever you end up sending, imagine receiving it yourself. How would you react?”

The takeaway: A breaking up via text is never ideal, but if you must do it, try to lessen the blow as best you can.