How To Break Up With Someone Over The Phone

2 Oct

I don’t advocate breaking up over the phone if you’ve been with for someone more than a few months. However, there are situations in which you date someone, it starts to go badly and at least one party loses interest. If the other party does not realize that they have lost your interest, they may end up calling, texting, and emailing to find out what they did wrong, or to try to make plans, etc.,  Chances are that you have either avoided all of these messages, or have half-heartedly responded to some saying that “You’re very busy with work.”

So instead of being a jerk and allowing this poor person to wallow in misery, whether or not they deserve it, you should put yourself in this person’s shoes. Chances are you’ve already been there. So what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone and break up with him. Here’s how:

Gather your Thoughts: Write down your reasons for the breakup. Is she boring? Lazy? Too interested in Dungeons & Dragons? Has he been caught in a lie recently?  Make a list to help guide you through your conversation.

Avoid Clichés: You know exactly what I’m talking about.  Don’t patronize someone or attempt to placate their anger by saying:

  • “I love you, but I’m not in love with you.”
  • “I like you, but I’m just not ready to date right now.” 
  • “I think we’re just meant to be friends.”
  • “You want more than I can give you at this time.”

Tell the Truth: Okay, so possibly only me and a handful of other women are capable of doing this, but I feel that if you tell someone why you’re breaking up with him/her, or why you don’t wish to date him/her, it’ll help the person in future relationships. Here are some examples I’ve gotten from other people. I picked them because they go from vague to specific:

  • I think you’re great, but I just didn’t feel a spark or anything when we kissed.
  • I am attracted to you, but we really have nothing in common. (Then get specfic) I was talking about television and you don’t even own a television. I can’t have a girlfriend who doesn’t watch television.
  • I thought it was just a “friends with benefits” situation. I didn’t mean to lead you on.
  • You are very clingy and I need more personal space than you can offer. (Then get specific) You can’t just show up at my office for lunch every day when we don’t have plans.
  • You seem to be very immature and I’m looking for a potential wife.
  • I decided to get back with my ex-boyfriend (this could be a cliche’, but if it’s true, then do tell!).
  • The few times we’ve gone out, you have leered at other women. I’m not just saying you have “checked out” other women, but you have actually turned your head all the way around to follow someone walking around the room. That’s creepy.
  • I don’t like it when you invite me on a date and 9 times out of 10 ditch me for “better” plans.
  • You talk with your mouth open, burp in public and make potentially racist jokes.  So, although you’re good in bed, I am embarassed to be seen with you.

Sit with a Friend: If you’re the type of person who freaks out over confrontation (and you know who you are!), then ask a friend to sit in the room with you while you conduct the breakup over the phone. It may sound childish, but it’s way more mature than avoiding someone’s phone calls because you’re too afraid to pull the trigger.

Call from an Appropriate Environment: Whether you’re with a friend or on your porch, do make sure that you’re in a quiet area and that you have at least half an hour to devote to the call.  It’d be rude to break up with someone while you’re, say, on a train and about to go into a tunnel. If you’re going to give the person the courtesy to call and break up, then you may as well give them the courtesy to listen to what she/he has to say.  It’ll be over before you know it and you can move on with your life. Besides, constructive criticism goes both ways, so they may or may not tell you something about yourself that you can take into (or leave out of) a new relationship.

Make the Call.  Here’s how it should go: 

  • Say Hello.
  • Tell the person why you’re calling (to break up).
  • Let the person know that you respect them enough to call (even if you don’t respect them and you’re just trying to make them stop calling you).
  • Tell them why you’re breaking up.
  • Leave it open for questions/yelling.
  • End the call with the fact that you’re sorry it didn’t work out. Then say, “Take Care.” DO NOT SAY “Good Luck.”  That just makes you sound like a tool.

Here’s an example: “Hello. This is Jessica. I am sorry I haven’t called, but I’ve been thinking it over and I don’t think you and I are right for one another.  I am not good at these sorts of things, but I respect you enough to call you. So, remember the other night when you invited me for a quiet dinner and all of your friends showed up and it turned into a Frat Party with Keg Stands?  Well, I was surprised at how crazy you got, considering you’re 30 years old and I really didn’t think that I’d spend our second date taking care of you while you vomited all night.  I understand that things get out of hand sometimes, but you made a bad impression on me and I’d rather not date anymore.”

Then let him say everything he wants to say.

Then end with, “Well, I’m  sorry it didn’t work out. It was very nice to meet you. Take care.”  

And that’s it.  If you’re lucky, you can be off the phone in 5 to 10 minutes. But sometimes, the person will get mean (especially if you’ve been mean) and it’ll take longer.  

And if you’re the person who has been broken up with, then visit to talk about it!

A cartoon depicting a cavewoman getting dumped through a cave painting.

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4 Responses to “How To Break Up With Someone Over The Phone”

  1. Martin October 2, 2010 at 11:07 PM #

    Hmnnn …. your “how to” guide on breaking up over the phone made my stomach turn. My ex-girlfriend, whose family I had met and with whom I had discussed marriage, ended our three-year relationship over the phone. She signed off saying that she was walking into a subway station and was going to lose reception. Cruel, cowardly and just plain disgusting way to end a relationship. I couldn’t believe that I meant so little to her.

    Sorry – unless you’re in an abusive relationship or one in which you fear for your safety – after a serious relationship you should have enough courage, decency and respect to end a relationship in person.

  2. Ophera July 4, 2011 at 4:37 PM #

    i agree that if its been more then a few months then you should do it in person but if you are like me and cant see them as you are moving to the other side of the country and they live already a few hours car drive away and even more if you dont have a car and you have only been dating a month. i would say over the phone is alot better then the other person or yourself spending a lot of money and time to travel over the country just to break up with them as depending when and where it is you might have to spend the night some where near there and again that costs money (unless you stay with them which is just unkind).

  3. K. August 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM #

    Wow! HORRIBLE advice. After a few months, breaking-up by phone is cowardly, disrespectful, cold, and cruel. Though I guess if the “dumper” has been dodging phone calls, we already know they’re cowardly, cold, and disrespectful.

    And no matter how you breakup with someone, telling a vulnerable, hurting person what you believe is wrong with THEM is harsh, cold, cruel, and damaging. Talk about what isn’t working for YOU in the relationship, not trying to tell them what you think is going on in their head.

    Remember, you may be wrong in what you believe they think or feel, or this could just be your perception of something they’ve done, but that doesn’t mean you know everything and can proclaim that they ARE clingy (just say you need independence in a relationship) or ARE immature, etc.

    After a few months you hope to end a relationship in 5-10 minutes?!? Wow. Just wow.

    • M August 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM #

      I don’t advocate breaking up on the phone with someone when you’ve been with them for a few months. Absolutely not. The point is to get someone to PICK UP THE PHONE and BREAKUP instead of dodging calls and being a coward. I think it’s better to breakup, state the reasons for the breakup and make a clean cut than to just stop taking phone calls. Sometimes breaking up with someone can be just as hard as getting dumped. As for the rest of your advice – I think you have some valid points – but I don’t agree with all of them.

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