Why is breaking up face to face considered good form?

Careful with your tone, Eve. I mean, recalling an old boyfriend with the the phrase, “What a weiner,” can leave a lot of room for misinterpretation. If you know what I mean. [Grinny here.]

Well, yeah, but wiener sounds so much more ladylike than, say, asshat.

Here, here!

I’ve fallen to pieces when someone broke up with me, cried, probably made an ass of myself. I’d rather the person dumping me did NOT see that. So in order of dumping preference -

  1. E-mail
  2. Phone
  3. In person.

The more of my dignity I can save, the better.


I initiated a break-up of a 3.5 year relationship via mail and did the follow-through in persona partly for this reason. Not so much for fear of my physical safety, but the reason I was breaking up in the first place was the verbal abuse and I didn’t want to hear it. Or be interrupted. Or dismissed and he go on like nothing had happened (he tried that at the face-to-face meeting and I had to keep assuring him that, yes, I was indeed breaking up with him).


Having been on both sides of the transaction, I’d say that once you’ve been on a few dates with someone, in person is far preferable to any other method - unless there are special, extreme circumstances, such as abuse, psychosis, or physcial distance. If it’s less than a few dates, indirection (such as an e-mail, or simply not returning messages) is fine, even though it can suck for the (non-) recipient.

I’m a bit sympathetic with msmith, though - the brute reality is that the break-up-ee is going to feel shitty no matter what, and in some cases it’s not at all clear that an in-person breakup does any more than make the break-up-er feel shitty, too. I’m not sure I buy that in the grand cosmic scheme, one is necessary to counterbalance the other. But the in-person breakup at least has the virtue of being unambiguous and immediate.

I’ve fallen pretty heavily a couple of times on the first or second date, only to get the silent treatment - but y’know, they didn’t owe me an explanation, and it was needy and self-indulgent of me to expect one.