The Four Breakup Strategies

Rumor has it you have to spend 10,000 hours doing something to become a professional.

I haven’t exactly spent 10,000 hours breaking up. But sometimes it does feel pretty close. We can call it “research” to give it a slightly more redemptive perspective.

Let the record show, most people say they prefer a straightforward, honest approach when calling things off. Let the record also show that no one actually does those things. We talk a big game. No one seriously wants to look another person in the face and say, “I’m sorry, but you’re just not worth it” which is essentially what all breakups are. Yikes, no one wants that.

So, based on the empirical data I’ve collected through my own personal breakups and the breakups around me, I’ve narrowed it down to the four most common breakup methodologies. These apply to full-blown breakups, “calling things off”, or even turning someone down for a date. If you see any of these coming your way, reach for the tissues and Ben & Jerry’s:

1.     The Fadeaway

Classically employed by men, starting to gain popularity amongst women. Signs include progressively delayed responses to all forms of communication. There’s still the occasional reply but the messages become increasingly concise and vague. One-word texts such as “haha” or “cool” frequent the Fadeaway technique. Be on the lookout for the period at the end of the one-word texts as this is a sure indicator that the ship is sinking. Eventually the Fadeaway ends in full-blown Ghost Protocol if the recipient doesn’t ever get a clue. You’ve received the Fadeaway if you’re still waiting for him/her to call you back from 2009. It’s a pipe dream, time to give it up kid.

Solution: Pick up the damn phone. In the words of Aziz Ansari, “if you own a phone you’re a terrible person.” Just let the other person down even if it’s hidden behind a cowardly text. We’ll even allow you some grace with a Facebook message or an email. For everyone’s sake- just shut it down so people can move on.

2.     The Sabotage

Typically used in response to the Fadeaway. After all, it does take two to tango when it comes to breakups. The Fadeaway often forces the other party to begin to employ a Sabotage technique. Sabotaging includes victimization and self-pity phrases including, but not limited to, the following: “You deserve better. I’m not good enough for you. I’m just not really in a place to be dating.” At this point, the Sabotager will often ramble at length about how wonderful you are and then proceed to list a long list of more reasons about how great you are. These are truly the most vague of the breakups and should be avoided at all costs. Quite often the victim of the Sabotage plan will feel a lack of closure and utter confusion.

Solution: Be honest. Express your genuine concerns and frustrations about why the relationship didn’t work. It’s better for your counterpart to hear the truth than to spend time wondering why, if they’re so “great” that you couldn’t make things work. Speaking the truth in love goes a long way.

3.     The Over-Processor

Frequently misdiagnosed as the Sabotager but there are a few key differences to note. The OP expresses their doubts throughout the entire course of the relationship. They make very reassuring statements such as, “I’m just not sure” quite often. In the name of honesty and openness the OP will verbally process every single thought they have about you and the nature of your dating relationship. They just want to “make sure we’re clear” that they still have absolutely no idea what they’re looking for. Like the Sabotager, they’re prone to long rants, but theirs are peppered with insecurity and doubt rather than victimization. Keep an eye out for, “I don’t know” at the end of every sentence.

Solution: Shhhhhhh. Stop talking. No one needs to know what you’re thinking all the time. And quite often you’ll end up saying things you don’t mean. Dating is an entire process of not knowing. You won’t know if you’ve made the right decision until you’re either married or broken up. And even then, you’ll still have doubts.

4.     The Smotherer

You don’t stand a chance at igniting the flames of passion with a Smotherer around. If it feels like your relationship isn’t getting enough oxygen it’s probably because it’s buried under text messages and voicemails. This isn’t necessarily a breakup strategy because the Smotherer is often quite unaware of their suffocating actions. Bless their hearts. This will frequently result in the other party employing the Fadeaway (see #1) to spurn the Smotherer’s advances. The Smotherer just has so much love to give and they’ll spend all day every day telling you all about it. Look for multiple text messages and never-ending dates. These people mean well, but often tend to over express themselves with too much too soon. They tend to be overly informative and affirming with statements such as, “I just wanted to let you know _____”

Solution: Down boy, down. You don’t need to be an elusive jerk, but there’s something fun about the mystery of dating. You want the other person to look forward to your advances, not calling the police. It’s easy to let your insecurities rare their ugly head and force you into overly pursuing someone. If you know you tend to smother then step away from the phone and take a chill pill. Absence really does make the heart grow fonder.