How To Break Up With A Woman

The ladies themselves (and some experts) reveal the truth about how guys should sever ties…the right way.

By Kimberly Dawn Neumann

reakups suck. There’s no other way to put it. But keep in mind that what happens in the moments before, during and after you deliver those three little words (“This isn’t working”) will forever determine how you’re remembered. Will you be that great guy she remembers wistfully… or the jerk she can’t believe she ever dated?

Unless there has been some egregious violation of the dating code — she did something so unforgivable you get a free pass to behave like an idiot — most women would ask for one thing: End it like a man,
Tell her, “I value the time we spent together.”
not a frat boy. “Dumping someone is never fun but if you’re clear about why your relationship has to end and you know that it’s time, you owe it to the woman to make the break,” says dating guru David Wygant, founder of “Just be kind, honest within reason, and brief.”

With that in mind, we decided to gather input from women and experts about the best way to let a gal go.

Don’t do a disappearing act
Sadly this is an all too common tactic with men, but listen up… it’s just not cool. “My friends and I agree there’s nothing worse than fading away into oblivion!” says Stacey, 29, from Pensacola, FL. “Then the girl is left just wondering and waiting.” Women need some sort of closure, and you owe her some kind of explanation before you decide to vanish.

Do consider the timing
Though it’s not totally your responsibility to see how she survives the breakup, you can help ease the transition by considering when you break the news. “It’s thoughtful and courteous to be aware of what is going on in her life,” says JoAnn Magdoff, Ph.D., a psychotherapist in New York City. In other words, don’t be an extra-special jerk by delivering the news when she’s already going through a rough patch. If she lost her job yesterday, give it a little time before having the big talk.

Don’t rely on technology
We live in a world of cell phones, BlackBerries, and IMs, which means it’s easier than ever to get in touch with each other. But, please don’t use it as a way to escape confrontation. “Using technology to break up is a cowardly act—it means you don’t have the balls to face me,” says Kerry, 37, from Portsmouth, NH. “If you liked me enough to kiss me, sleep with me, have a romance with me, then I think the very least you can do is honor that connection by ending it in person.”

Do give her face time
You may be tempted to deliver the news and then get the heck out of there, but there’s nothing worse than bringing up the subject when you don’t have adequate time to discuss it. Yes, that means you will have to talk to her and you might have to witness some tears but it’s the right thing to do. “My ex broke up with me by meeting me for a drink, and we had a very open and civilized conversation,” says Gigi, 39, from New York, NY. “Yes, it still hurt, but because of the classy way he handled it, we didn’t lose our friendship, too.”

Do choose your location wisely
“There’s no reason to break the news behind closed doors—but a bit of privacy is a good thing. What you shouldn’t do is deliver the news someplace where she’ll lose dignity. “If you’re at a party surrounded by friends where everyone will see her if she bursts into tears… that’s not a good call,” says Wygant. “This is between the two of you, not your whole posse.” Wygant also suggests staying away from your favorite haunt or where you had your first date or anywhere that will evoke painful memories. Think neutral, think semi-private, and think about letting her save face.

Don’t be too honest
Women need “reasons” so they can accept the breakup and move on. But there’s one big caveat…don’t be spiteful or hurtful. “Getting broken up with is insulting at some level and just being rejected
There’s no reason to break the news behind closed doors.
feels bad enough. So why make the person feel worse?” says Laurie Puhn, J.D., author of Instant Persuasion: How to Change Your Words to Change Your Life. No woman wants to hear that you’re dumping her because she has bad breath or she’s no longer attractive to you or you’re insanely attracted to her best friend. These kinds of reflections shouldn’t be shared: “You’re no longer entitled to give advice or criticism because you aren’t her boyfriend anymore,” says Puhn. Instead, your reasons for breaking up should focus on how you two aren’t the right match. Try saying something like “Both of us are good people, but I don’t think we’re the right fit together.”

Don’t hedge
You start to deliver the news, you see her lip quiver, and you think, Oh no, she’s going to cry. Should you attempt to soften the blow by saying, “Well, there might be a chance for us in the future but right now the timing isn’t good” or “Maybe when things quiet down at work” or “I think I just need a break”? No, no, no! Giving a woman a false sense of hope will not help her heal. “If you know it’s over, spare her the agony of pretending that you might call her sometime when you won’t,” says Dr. Magdoff. “If you really aren’t certain about the future, you can say ‘I’m not sure, but please don’t hold your breath…’”

Don’t freak if she gets emotional
We’re reputed to be the more sensitive sex, remember? So yes, there’s a chance that your gal might start sobbing or screaming or otherwise emoting… and you need to let her. “If she gets hostile or weepy, stay calm and let her deal with those emotions for a while—remember, you’ve been thinking about the breakup for weeks, she heard about it 10 seconds ago,” says Puhn. If she gets more and more worked up as the minutes pass, however, take your leave and give her some down time to adjust to the new information. “Before walking away, however, set a specific time to talk later to give her security that you’re willing to explain yourself and listen to what she has to say when she’s calmed down,” Puhn adds.

Don’t use the “It’s not you, it’s me” line
Everyone knows if someone leaves you it’s because you’re not who they want and that’s the bottom line. “Anyone on the receiving end of this line can see through it,” says Magdoff. She suggests a better phrase to utter might be, “Who you are and what you want are absolutely terrific, but where I am right now is a very different place.”

Do break up with her before starting anything else!
That’s called cheating! And if you intentionally stray in an effort to make her break up with you, you’re a chicken and deserve whatever reaction you get! Also, forget about using the “I’ve met someone else” escape clause. Introducing a new love into a break-up discussion only tortures your soon-to-be ex. “After three years together, my boyfriend ended it with me over the phone by saying he’d met another woman on his trip to Europe,” says Jenny, 30, from Seattle. “I spent the next two years wondering, What’s it like for them? Is it different from when he and I were together? Do they order the same kind of takeout? Do they listen to the same music we listened to? Do they laugh as much? Do they laugh more? And what makes her so much more appealing than me?” Get the point? Mentioning another woman really hurts and intensifies the pain.

Do keep in touch, but only on special occasions
Calling just to check up on her in a week or a month is not really helpful. It just confuses things and catapults you back into the forefront of her mind. There is one exception here though… the special occasion. “If it’s her birthday or a holiday and you were very close, then it is sweet to call to wish her well,” says Puhn. However, don’t call to make plans, don’t call to discuss sensitive issues and don’t talk for longer than ten minutes. “Be acquaintances and keep in mind that acquaintances rarely talk more than twice a year,” says Puhn.

Don’t engage in break-up sex
We know… it’s comfortable, she’s vulnerable, and you think one more time won’t hurt anything. Wrong. When you get intimate she’ll be reminded of the amazing physical connection you two had, and suddenly you’re right back in it. Do you really want to go through another breakup? Ex sex doesn’t end things… it just drags it out.

Do reassure her
One final point—let her know that she mattered. Puhn suggests saying something like “I enjoyed being with you, and I value the time we spent together, but we just aren’t right for the long-run.” She needs to know that you didn’t consider her ‘a waste of time’ or unimportant. That will help her risk giving her heart to someone else in the future.

Kimberly Dawn Neumann is a New York City-based freelance writer whose work has appeared in Cosmopolitan, Maxim, Marie Claire and other publications.

To read the other side of the story, “How To Break Up With A Guy”, click here.

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