Ask Alison: How to Break Up

Good advice from someone who is terrible at dating



I'm in a long-distance relationship with my boyfriend of two years, but I'm pretty sure I want to break up with him. All reasons for that aside, is it within breakup etiquette to end a two-year relationship over Skype? It might seem cold, but in the long run, I'm guessing it's probably better than the alternative of mustering up the courage to dump someone over the course of a weekend, doing the deed, and then having two hours alone in a car to feel shitty about the heartache you've caused.

I feel like I get a lot of questions about long distance relationships, I assume for one of two reasons: one, the internet has widened everyone's social circles and two, this column is aimed at people in their twenties who maybe haven't yet realized that you can break up with someone after you graduate college. This doesn't help you at all, it's just something I've noticed, and it's fun for me.

Listen, you can break up with a person however you want. You're breaking up. It's funny that we question etiquette on something that is so inherently impolite. There is, of course, human decency. You were with this guy for two years, I'm assuming you loved him or at least were mouthing the words. You probably share friends who will certainly hear about you breaking up via computer screen. Does any of this make that drive seem like less of a hassle?

I'm all for long distance breakups over the phone if it saves a plane trip or an awkward weekend but a two hour car trip? Come on, you can do that. Imagine being on the other side of this and how much it would hurt to know you had invested two years in a person that couldn't spare a two hour car ride. Is that one way or round trip? It doesn't change my answer, but maybe four hours total makes me a little more sympathetic.

Ignore the being alone and feeling shitty part, because that's going to happen regardless. Breakups are hard and they make both parties feel shitty; the dumper and the dumpee. Your job is honestly harder, because there is a dread leading up and a guilt afterward that he won't have to deal with. What you're doing is brave, really. You see that your relationship isn't working and you're willing to end it, which is scary and so hard.

Don't wimp out at the finish line. Go see him and say goodbye.

My ex and I broke up about six months ago, and we're trying to be friends. Honestly, we don't really have a choice because we're both in college and we have all the same friends. At first, it was okay because we were still close and would hook up every now and then. But he recently started dating someone and it is killing me. I'm trying so hard to be logical about the whole thing because I know that we didn't work and probably could never work, but when I see them together, I have to fight back tears. What should I do? I love him as a person and I don't want to lose that.

Why don't I ever get to answer weird sex questions? I wrote that one thing about faking orgasms that everybody hated and now here we are, back to breakups. College breakups at that. Is it because I referred to it as "weird" sex? It's too judge-y right off the bat, I know it.


I can tell you that six months after a breakup is a really dangerous time, because you think you're over it but then you find yourself sobbing at their Facebook page while Frightened Rabbit plays in the background. In a situation like yours, where you have to see each other often, everything gets blurred and confusing. I know that it's hard but what you two need is distance from each other. I know that it feels and sounds impossible, believe me.

There is no way to guarantee friendship with anyone in the future. College friends are the first ones to go as you get older, I promise you. I don't know what it is, they get really into local politics or get married or you realize that you had nothing in common to begin with, but you will drift away from most of the people that you think are your whole world right now. And that's okay! That's how growing up works. But if you hope to have a long-term friendship with this guy, the best thing you can do is avoid ugliness and resentment now.

I'll leave you with this because I think you'll like it: one of my closest friends is my college boyfriend. We dated for five years, starting in high school. We broke up for all the vague reasons you gave: we both knew that it wasn't right, couldn't give each other what we needed, blah blah blah. By the way, as you get older, you also won't have to give your reasons for breaking up anymore, which is another perk.

But we tried to be friends right away, or at least, I did. Because I was still very much in love with him and couldn't imagine not talking to him every day. So we continued under this strange facade, where I would call and we would exchange pleasantries and then I would cry and he would comfort me. I behaved with an amazing lack of dignity and self respect for almost a year and he let me do it because neither of us knew any better.

We would have these huge, impassioned fights about nothing I can remember anymore, where I would tell him that I hated him and cry (because that was kind of my thing at this point in my life) and then we would make up a few days later and act as though we were the best of friends again. I fluctuated between being so grateful for this person to irrational anger and it became my normal for a long time. We eventually had to re-break up and I had to deal with the death of a relationship a year after the fact. You can't avoid the hard part, kid. You can prolong it, you can make it more confusing, but you can't keep it from happening.

We took maybe six months apart and were able to come back into each other's lives with clearer boundaries and a much healthier friendship. Although, I do hate most of his girlfriends, I mostly chalk that up to his terrible taste in women.

I'm finding myself more and more attracted to my roommate. Our relationship has always been flirtatious, but nothing's ever happened. Should I make a move? We just renewed our lease for another year.

You don't state your gender, but I have never been so sure that a question was from a dude. Read the question above, dude. No, obviously you shouldn't date your roommate. I know zero times where this has worked, but I can think of three guy friends who have tried.

I recently went out with a guy who lives in my neighborhood, and now I have a panic attack every time I walk into my grocery store, in part because it's a terrible grocery store where homeless people ask to use your cell phone while you're shopping for lady yogurt, but also because I don't want to run into this guy. I can't imagine trying to avoid a person that I share a living room with.

If this attraction is based on more than your roommate being "super hot" and you really think there might be something to it, move out. She can find another roommate and you can find another place to live. It will be the eventual conclusion whether you sleep together or not, but if you move out now, at least she won't steal your deposit.


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If you have questions about relationship etiquette, please send them to Ask Alison [at] The Atlantic (.com).