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How To Protect Your Reputation In A Break Up By Starting It Right

The Modern Break-Up Guide - How to break up with someone without hurting them or you.

By Ellen "Jelly" McRaePublished 10 months ago 7 min read
It's heartbreak for everyone in a break-up | Image created on Canva

Let's get really selfish about break-ups.

We know how much they suck for the person getting dumped. It's the worst feeling imaginable. It's heartbreaking (mostly). And it sets off a chain reaction of misery for the impending days/weeks/months/even years.

You're the one who has to inflict that pain upon them. Yeah, you're the catalyst of their misery. You're the one who suddenly grows devil horns overnight and everyone loathes.

Even if the relationship was coming to a natural end or you suspected your now ex of being unfaithful, it's still all on you.

If I'm being real here, it's a PR disaster.

For your own branding with your social circle, it's hard to come back from this stigma. Everyone assumes you're on some sort of narcissistic rampage, out to hurt every person you come across.

It can't possibly be that you're miserable and need to unlock yourself from a miserable relationship. God forbid someone realises how hard it is to be in your shoes.

There's only one way to walk away from breaking up your partner unscathed in the court of public opinion. You have to break-up with them without being a total a**hole.

It's not impossible by the way. But we have to dig deep, ignore all conscience thought to take the cowardly route, and we have to issue some respect.

In short, we may hate our soon-to-be ex with a passion, but now is the time to do it right.

Step One: Clarify your goal for the break-up

I'm calling it like it is. This split isn't any different to anything else you want to accomplish in life.

Here's the goal. You want to go from being in a relationship with this person to not being in a relationship with them. Simple, right?

When the break-up approaches, when the event itself takes place, it's going to be very easy to forget this goal. Why? Because:

  • Your partner likely won't share the same objective
  • Your partner will try to convince you to save the relationship
  • Your partner will likely become upset which throws a spanner into your nerve
  • Something else might come up as a distraction

Whilst breaking up is actually the end goal, you can't leave the event with any ambiguity on the table. You have to make sure:

  • Your partner knows you feel done with the relationship
  • Your partner knows there is no hope of reconciliation
  • Your partner knows they are single and you are too

PR Nightmare: It's easy to look like you're stringing your ex along 

Mutual friends and family who might have once liked you begin hating you because you look like you're using your ex. Even if you aren't. 

But it is easy to look like you are if allow ambiguity to remain between you. 

If you aren't clear about your break-up intentions, you run the risk of becoming the ex who won't let their former partner move on.

Don't be this person. It's a nightmare reputation to shake.

Step Two: Find the location that benefits you (and only you)

Ok, so in the court of public opinion, where you decided to break up with this person often doesn't up in conversation.

The location itself - the room of your house, the city it happened in - is often left out because the devastation of the break-up is too great.

When my friend told me about how her husband cheated on her and broke it off with her, she didn't even mention where the conversation took place.

I assumed it was at her house, but I have no proof of that. And in the grand scheme of things, it wasn't a detail worth clarifying.

It only would have come up had the break-up occurred:

  • In a public place - When someone goes to a very public place, even the back corner of a cafe where they think no one is around. The thought of strangers watching your very intimate and somewhat humiliating moment is terrible PR for the dumper. And horrifying for the dump-ee.
  • In a crowded place - You might think this is the same as a public place. But when the house is full of people, and they can eavesdrop on your conversation, the same anxiety befalls the dump-ee. It also looks bad on the dumper, as it shows little respect for timing.
  • In a stranded place - When the dumper decides to dump the partner when they can't escape each other. The most obvious example of this is during a flight. Though it's also a crowded and public place too, it's a space where the dump-ee can't walk away and be away from the dumper. A car on a road trip is another example. In the middle of a holiday, where you have to commute home together, is another. In a shared home where the dumper knows the dump-ee has nowhere else to go.

Why does the situation have to suit you? Well, this is when the selfish part enters into it again.

You have to deliver the news. You have to get your point across. You have to initiate the most awkward conversation in the history of conversations. That is unless you run over your partner's pet, or worse.

To make sure you achieve your goal - leaving broken up with zero misunderstanding - you need a space where you feel comfortable. 

This is going to suck for you, too. This location needs to be somewhere that doesn't evoke more anxiety than you already have. Or a space where you can veer away from reaching your goal.

PR Nightmare: Virtual break-ups

Despite our advancements in technology, and despite the way we spend half our life communicating with our partner via our phones and computers, don't break up with them this way. 

Never. Ever.

Don't become confused by the counterintuitive thoughts about dumping someone running through your mind right now. 

Why would you want to be face to face with the person you're breaking up with? Why would you want to be in the same room? Isn't distance from them what you want?

Here's where respect comes into play, especially if you want to win the PR break-up of the year.

It doesn't matter if you have empathy for your now ex, or not. It doesn't matter if hate your former lover, or if you want nothing to do with them. Respect them enough to treat them like a human. Don't cower behind any technology.

I don't care if the next season of Euphoria promotes breaking up with people via text message. I don't care if all the cool kids are dumping their partners using a TikTok trend.

Let them do something they will regret. Be smarter than all the lemmings.

Step Three: Managing the aftermath

Most people try to approach the post-break-up life with cushioning. It's kind of like the opposite of gaslighting; it's where you break up with someone with such respect, you have the ability to stay friends in the future.

It's so polite, obscenely so. It's what the PR agents for celebrities have you believe happens when they break up. 

Consciously uncoupling and all that. 

You can try to apply cushioning to your break-up all you want. But you can't change the facts you broke up with your partner. You've done, in the eyes of the heartbroken and romantics, a really shitty thing.

Who cares if you said everything right? Who cares if you shed a tear and emotively displayed your heartache? 

Your heartbroken ex doesn't care.

Even though the doctor nicely says you have cancer, it doesn't change the fact you have cancer.

It doesn't mean you should be unkind about it. It's easy to think, why try if it isn't going to matter? But don't think this break-up is going to go perfectly in your favour. You can't control how your ex will react.

Forget perfection because you can't control the fallout, either. You can't control:

  • What your ex is going to say about you
  • How your ex interprets your break-up reasons
  • Who they are going to tell, or what version of events they use
  • How or if they choose to seek some revenge on you
  • If they will accept your decisions and move on the way you hope to

All you can control is how you handle yourself. And how you respect their feelings.

If all else fails, my best PR advice for how to break up with someone is to implore honesty, respect and facts in what you do.

Don't break their hearts with lies. Be the bigger person. Don't play into the trashy and juvenile break-up games.

And know, that no matter what, this is what happens in life. You date and then you don't. 

Like death and taxes, break-ups happen.

We all need to live with them, no matter how badly they go.


About the Creator

Ellen "Jelly" McRae

I’m here to use my wins and losses in #relationships as your cautionary tale | Writes 1LD; Cautionary tale #romance fiction |

Reader insights

Nice work

Very well written. Keep up the good work!

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    Well-structured & engaging content

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    Original narrative & well developed characters

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    Writing reflected the title & theme

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