Social Question

nikipedia's avatar

Why are you supposed to break up with people in person?

Asked by nikipedia (27481points) October 11th, 2010

Isn’t it better for everyone when you have some more literal and figurative distance, like via text message or email? That way, the dumper can have more resolve and probably be more articulate, and the dumpee doesn’t have to cry in front of the dumper. What am I missing?

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49 Answers

harple's avatar

It’s about respect for what you had, and the person you are “dumping”.

diavolobella's avatar

I feel it is cowardly and shows a lack of respect. The person might cry in front of you or they might be angry, but if you cared enough about them to have had a relationship with them, they should be significant enough to merit the time and personal attention that a face-to-face conversation provides. Some things in life require showing up, such as ending a relationship, going to a funeral or visiting someone who is dying or very ill, and you do them in person because they require respect, sensitivity and caring. Avoiding difficult situations because it is easier not to deal with them shows a lack of empathy and maturity.

TexasDude's avatar

It shows that you care enough about the dumpees feelings to willingly subject yourself to their tears and concerns. It shows humanity.

zen_'s avatar

I only break-up like that with online friends. Here, a PM will suffice.


iamthemob's avatar

If you liked them enough to date them in person, you should like them enough to break up in person.

Also, it allows for a discussion and closure.

Austinlad's avatar

Think how you would feel if someone you loved dumped you via email. Sure, a written follow-up email is fine if the dumper couldn’t say everything he/she wanted to say in person—but to do that initially is exceedingly unkind.

tinyfaery's avatar

I agree with the above. It’s a matter of respect. Of course, if you don’t respect the person then do it in whichever way you see fit.

ucme's avatar

Because by definition it would be impersonal not to.

nikipedia's avatar

But I would prefer to be dumped over email. It would give me an opportunity to process the information and decide how to react and not lose my shit and embarrass myself in front of the person dumping me.

ANef_is_Enuf's avatar

Most people want to discuss a breakup. Discussion can happen through emails and whatnot, but you lose tone. This is a situation in which tone is vital. I think that is the real issue, though I doubt it is the one most people jump to. Most people would find it disrespectful… even dismissive, to break up with someone in any way but face to face.

wundayatta's avatar

Email is the coward’s way out. It is very disrespectul. It says sayonara and you’re so unimportant that I didn’t need to face you. It says, “fuck off!”

Of course, there’s nothing the dumpee can do other than spread the word that you’re pretty callous. But they might not do that. So if honor is no biggee to you, use email. Better yet, message him: “you’re history, dude!”

nikipedia's avatar

Why does it have to be the coward’s way out? I am seeing lots of loaded words without a lot of reasoning.

You know what I think would be disrespectful? To make a specific date to get together in person—for which I would probably set aside time and money, and make an effort to look nice—and then get dumped. That sounds horrible. I would really much prefer a well-worded email.

TexasDude's avatar

It is important to note, as an amendment to my answer, that it is acceptable to break up with someone through electronic means if you don’t feel safe around them.

tinyfaery's avatar

Niki, if a man you were in love with for years, a man who you vacationed with and went to family gatherings with, a man who slept in your bed and you in his, emailed to say, hey, I don’t love you anymore and I am breaking up with you, you’d be okay with that?

nikipedia's avatar

I mean, the problem with getting dumped is getting dumped. The medium doesn’t really seem important to me. If this was a thoughtful, carefully written email then I don’t see how that would be any worse than getting the speech in person.

diavolobella's avatar

@nikipedia. If you only want opinions that are identical to yours, why did you ask the question?

ucme's avatar

When I first read this question I thought the last word was prison!! Now that would be a little harsh

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

I think it’s better to break up with people in person because you get to experience the pain, the see person maybe for the last time…
It’s worse than breaking up through phone where you can’t see what the other person is doing, you also dont get to see hes emotions/feelings while you guys are breaking up.

iamthemob's avatar


It’s because text is flat, and can be interpreted incorrectly (and generally more negatively, often) by people reading it. They’ll put their own tone to it.

And because breaking up with someone should not be a speech, it should be a conversation.

Breaking up with someone isn’t the equivalent of dumping them. Dumping them is a careless, thoughtless act. If you ARE going to dump someone, you’re a jackwagon whatever way you do it. If they deserved it, it’s still you being petty. Breaking up is a way to end a relationship of one sort without ending your association with the person overall.

Dumping someone is something that you can never be proud of. Breaking up with them is.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

I would think it cowardly but if you think it’d be better for you, make a mention of it sometime during a relationship..something like ‘if you ever break up with me, do it by email so I have time to process my feelings’...

mrlaconic's avatar

I think the dynamic of your relationship between the parties needs to be taken into consideration as does the reason for the breakup. as @iamthemob said text is flat so you need to be careful and you need to be clear. My first serious G/F broke up with me after 6 months she took a trip to the UK with her family for a 2 weeks.. came back and just dropped the bomb on me over email… and it really hurt because I didn’t see it coming.

As a side note (and perhaps contradictory to my statement above) I really enjoy the new sprint commercial where the guy and gal are having a meal together and she texts the breakup, then emails the breakup, and then calls… even though they are sitting right across from each other.

aprilsimnel's avatar

It depends on the situation. I know in one instance, I’d rather I had been broken up with via phone call or email.

Brian1946's avatar

I remember getting dumped by a woman because she felt that her daughter resented our relationship, and she didn’t want to jeopardize that.

She told me that in person and it hurt, but it wouldn’t have been any more painful if she had told me the same thing on the phone, in a letter, or by some other means.

The painful thing was that I got dumped.

What mattered to me was that she was honest about it and I knew why she ended it, rather than leaving me to further depress myself with my own imaginary and self-deprecating reasons.

nikipedia's avatar

@diavolobella: I thought maybe someone here would be able to make a compelling case. My bad.

iamthemob's avatar


Has no one made a compelling case?

diavolobella's avatar

@nikipedia I think several people have made a compelling case. It seems like you already had your mind made up when you asked the question and were hoping for validation. When you did not get it, it seemed like you were annoyed by that. Even after many responders told you exactly why they thought getting an email was worse than being told in person, you again said that you didn’t see how. That gave me the impression that you just don’t want to hear viewpoints that differ from yours so you are discounting the opposing opinions. You still might not agree with them, but several very valid arguments have been made for why breaking up in such an impersonal manner would not be appreciated by the person on the receiving end.

nikipedia's avatar

@iamthemob: Not really, no.

Austinlad's avatar

Then why waste our time, @nikipedia? Ignore the grownups’ good advice and do whatever you wish.

iamthemob's avatar

@nikipedia – that last statement is a true example of why you shouldn’t break up with someone over text or email! ;-)

nikipedia's avatar

Jeez, testy crowd today.

I maintain that this was a genuine question, and not a single answer did I find compelling. (Sorry if that’s insulting to any answerers.) I offered more explanation in order to try to get someone to really address the issue rather than throwing around charged but ambiguous words like “respect.”

Before you go accusing me of only wanting my own opinion validated, please consider that I have been using this site for two and a half years and asked well over 200 questions. I think I have a pretty good track record of asking genuine (if occasionally provocative) questions. Like they say over at wikipedia, assume that people are acting in good faith. Most of the time it’s true, and if it’s not you’ll find out soon enough.

diavolobella's avatar

@nikipedia The issue IS respect. Respect is hardly an ambiguous thing. People have given you heartfelt answers, but because they don’t validate your opinion you are suggesting that they aren’t of any value and that they aren’t really addressing the issue. I thought I was very directly addressing the issue and so were the others who took the time to give you thoughtful responses.

The last thing I have to say on the subject is this. Go ahead and break up with this person via email. I’d be willing to bet you what you will get in response is going to be some variation of “I can’t believe you didn’t have the guts to say this to my face.”

I betcha.

iamthemob's avatar

Text can be easily misinterpreted as particularly testy when it is not meant to be. The fact that you seemed surprised by the response when you thought your posts were reasonable should be proof of that. Therefore, it is always better to communicate in person, and this is especially true when the topic is something that is highly emotional.

Do you disagree, after experiencing this?

nikipedia's avatar

@diavolobella: I assure you that if I had come here to ask for Fluther’s permission to dump someone via email I would have provided as many relevant details as possible.

@iamthemob: Tone is definitely harder to communicate by text, but I think this just means you have to be particularly careful in how you craft your email. I don’t really think anything in this thread is evidence of misreading tone. Sorry.

marinelife's avatar

1. If you break up by email, you are saying to the other party that they have no say in the ending of the relationship and no opportunity to ask questions or offer their response.

2. If you break up other than in person, you are saying that the relationship was not important enough to end in person. Less important than a doctor’s appointment. And thus, be extension, that the person was not important enough in your life to spend time breaking up with in person.

3. If you are going to break up with someone, they have the right to be heard on the subject. The breaker upper has the obligation to listen thoughtfully and carefully to what they have to say, which can only be done in person.

iamthemob's avatar


So…you find words like “respect” to be ambiguous, and think that people have misinterpreted your question as genuine, even though it was one that you crafted, and have interpreted people as being testy rather than simply responding, and still think that it doesn’t support the concept that text can be misread in tone.

So, either you really weren’t being genuine in your question, or you can’t craft a careful piece of text, and therefore shouldn’t be using the internet to break up.

Or, you don’t believe that personal observation can provide evidence. Which is weird, because I thought you were a scientist.

Or, you don’t really recognize a compelling case/had your mind made up before you asked so no case can be compelling.

nikipedia's avatar

For the record, I really resent that this question has been derailed into a personal attack on my motivations. Let me reiterate as clearly as possible—in case there was anything ambiguous about the language I used previously—this was an entirely genuine question and was in no way intended to be specific to a personal situation in my life. If I had intended it to be, I would have asked the question very differently.

@iamthemob: Since you insist on continuing to question my motives (and apparently now my writing skills, and maybe even my professional capabilities as a scientist):

1. Yes, I find abstract concepts like “respect” ambiguous. This does not make them meaningless or worthless—I am saying that they are open to interpretation and are not as useful in constructing an argument as a more concrete term or idea.

2. I assume you meant people misinterpreted my question as not genuine.

3. It seemed to me the “confusion” over the genuineness of my question related more to the content than the tone; however, if someone wants to disagree about what they found “confusing” I don’t see any way for me to prove otherwise. That said, anyone who was confused about the tone might have some problems with reading comprehension that the people I date (and ultimately cease dating) don’t share.

4. I assume the observation you’re referring to was your own observation that a misunderstanding in tone had occurred in this thread. I disagreed with this observation, and I am not sure how you make the leap from that to implying I am not a competent scientist.

5. If you think I am not capable of recognizing a compelling argument, or if you continue to insist that I only asked this question for validation despite my repeated, explicit statements to the contrary, I imagine there is little I can do to change your mind.

Regardless, I would very much appreciate it if you (and everyone else) could lay off the personal attacks and either leave the thread or return to the topic at hand.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@nikipedia I think my answer was compelling in that it took into consideration that different people (in this case, you and me) might have different reactions to being broken up with in such a manner (I think it’s cowardly, you think it’s preferable) and that therefore we should let our partners know that ahead of time by casually talking about it before so that our partners know how to best break up with us – however, their choosing to do so will be as much about respect as anything else stated. After all, a person (knowing you and in a relationship with you) choosing to NOT email you will be disrespecting you just like a person emailing me will.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

Unless the person you want to dump is dangerous then whether or not you respect them anymore (you’re dumping them after all) then it’s a testament to your own self respect to be able to face the person you once invested time in.

In all my years of relationships and dating adventures, only once did someone use text/internet to “break off” and I thought it was the lowliest thing. I’m on good terms with most everyone I’ve ever dated except that one person, I don’t even want them as an acquaintance and no one I know has ever had that happen to them either.

lynfromnm's avatar

I think the person who is being dumped should receive the courtesy of being heard. It helps them if they can say their piece because it’s easier to move on if they can get that off their chest. If it’s an exchange of texts or emails, the other person doesn’t know whether you even bothered to read what they said, and the anger and hurt tend to fester.

chyna's avatar

Because a post it note just doesn’t get it right.

Blackberry's avatar

@nikipedia I understand why you thought some answers were vague. People simply said, ‘It’s disrepsectful and text can be interpreted wrong’.

No answers were wrong, they just weren’t detailed enough, because with questions like these, you have to be detailed.

It simply depends on where you were in the relationship. If you are dumping a person you knew for 2 weeks, an email is fine.

These answers were assuming both parties have been in love for years or something, and that is when it is appropriate to to do it face to face. Although some people, even after a long time, may still be able to handle an email break up. There is typically one person in the relation that has a lot of emotions, they couldn’t handle just reading am email. But if both parties are in control of their emotions enough to take the email as is, there shouldn’t be any questions if the email is thorough enough.

If someone wants to break up, what will discussing do besides try to reel the person back in? Some break ups need to be fast and quick; an emotional car crash is not always necessary.

iamthemob's avatar

Does everyone forget that there is also the phone? @Brian1946 mentioned it…but no one seems to have picked it up.

I understand why people might not want to deal with being called to meet somewhere only to have a breakdown. I also don’t understand why if you’re the person initiating the breakup you wouldn’t just go over to their place to do it…so all those problems would be avoided.

However, a call can be almost as personal, and can be ended quickly if things start to go wrong. But it gives the other person a chance to respond. Also, it gives both of you the chance to agree to meet if you want to.

And @Blackberry, I was not assuming that they had been together for years. However, breaking up implies an established relationship of some sort. This is more than a couple dates, but not necessarily your soul mate.

I understand the preference for distance for some. However, every time I’ve heard someone tell me of a relationship that ended with an email, it’s always started “Do you know what that jackass did to me? He broke up with me by email/text. Didn’t even have the courtesy to call me.”

Blackberry's avatar

@iamthemob Oh yes, I agree with using the phone instead of emails and texts, although some will even say that is too impersonal, it is a good medium between face to face and email in my opinion.

wundayatta's avatar

Respect? It’s not a direct thing. It’s your reputation, and what happens when your reputation goes down. If you become known as someone who just plays with other people’s emotions, then that can have repercussions. People may not want to be your friend or get involved with you, or even trust you in the work place.

Breaking up by email just doesn’t seem serious. In a way, it’s stringing the person along. They wonder what the hell happened, and so they continue to try to bother you to get a satisfying answer to that question. If you break up in person, they can see how serious you are.

A lot of times, people have difficulty saying it straight. “We’re done.” “No, there will be no rekindling of the flame.” They try to let the person down gently (which is not a good idea since it doesn’t clearly say, “It’s over.”

Now I suppose that sending the “Dear John” email can allow you to say all that stuff without having to see the other person’s face, and thus make it easier to do. It’s like the way Pilots of Bombers feel. They let go of the bombs and they don’t have to see the carnage. It’s all clean. No fuss, no muss.

When you send a “Dear John” letter or an email, you’re doing what the bomber pilots do. You are taking the humanity out of it. “Dear John” letters were for women contacting men who were far away and were going to stay that way for a long time. There was no way to break up in person.

If you can talk to the person and you just send an email instead, well, people who find out will not think much of you. You will leave serious damage in your wake, and walk away without bothering to find out what happened. You’re just an aerial bomber. A person who doesn’t take relationships with the proper amount of empathy or sympathy. You become a person who is know as hard-ass and unreliable. And a coward.

If none of those things bother you, then you’ll use email. If you have some sympathy for the people you’ve been involved with, you’ll seriously consider doing it in person. It’s the honorable thing to do. Honor has to do with your reputation, as does respect. If you don’t find those kinds of arguments compelling, that would be a serious concern to me. I wouldn’t trust you as much. I’d think I’d made an error in judgment about your character.

That’s how serious it is. If there are a lot of people who think like me, you’ll find yourself marginalized or ostracized if you break up with someone that way. If you don’t care about your reputation, that won’t bother you. If it was me, I’d find that pretty compelling.

boxer3's avatar

I suppose I feel it’d give me more closure if it were done face to face.and I Physically saw the person I loved tell me that they could not be with me for whatever reason…
it’d be more “real” in the sense that it must be genuine if they’ve gathered
the courage to stand in front of me and say these things, especially
because I’m a huge advocate of honesty- I feel like I’d find more truth in this method…

Maybe that’s selfish of me though, I’m not sure.
I think its personal preference, whatever works for one,
may not for another, as many responses here have demonstrated..

BarnacleBill's avatar

Imagine how you would feel if you found out that you were fired from your job by an e-mail or a text message.

A relationship is comprised of two people, and unless the person has done something that renders them a total asshole, or dangerous or abusive, they deserve the dignity of being told in person that the relationship isn’t working out for you, and why. Otherwise, if you break up with them through an e-mail or not in person, you are essentially saying that you were just using the person all along, and that you never had any real regard for the person. That makes you a real schmuck.

lapilofu's avatar

Pehaps an obvious answer, but I think it really depends on context and the way that it’s carried out. A person has to judge based on their relationship what the respectful way to communicate serious matters is. I don’t see any reason a letter or email is inherently any less respectful than a conversation. I write serious letters to plenty of people I respect. I like having the time to think out my words and giving a person a chance to respond. Many of my close friends are similar.

On the other hand, I do think it can be a cowardly way out if the purpose is to avoid dealing with another person’s feelings. Giving someone a chance to think through what they want to say is admirable. Avoiding hearing what someone has to say is not—and I think that’s how most people here are seeing this.

Using written word instead of spoken because you don’t want to deal with someone’s reaction is insensitive. It goes without saying that you should still behave as helpfully and ethically as possible in the midst of a breakup; avoiding communication is shirking that responsibility. But I wouldn’t say that’s the only way to communicate in writing.

BoBo1946's avatar

@diavolobella very good answer and totally agree! There can be an exception to the rule…I’ve always done that in person, but usually, i’ve been on the bad end of the stick. doesn’t feel good! Having said that, this one girl, dated her for a short period of time…long story short, she was mean as a “junk yard dog” and due to possible loss of limbs, I broke up with her over the phone! She used words that are not in the dictionary. Woohoo….

iamthemob's avatar

I know it’s been a while, but this video from Kelly is just too good to pass up.

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