Breaking up is like a root canal for all those involved. Painful at first and then you go numb. Unfortunately, many questions can dog a process like this and many things can go unexpectedly wrong. Naturally, it is difficult to predict how your soon-to-be ex is going to take the news that you want out of the relationship, but if you watch out, you can lay a lot of the groundwork to ensure that neither of you leaves more scarred or furious than is strictly necessay. No matter what, your ex will be unhappy about being dumped, but you can make sure you don’t forget that you loved this person at one point in time (or thought you did) and that what goes around, comes around.

Do it in person

Like Carrie Bradshaw says in Sex and the City – it is rude to break up on a post-it. Even for those among us who are not total cowards, the temptation to break up while your significant other is away on holiday or a business trip, can be considerable. Whether it is an instinctive dislike of scenes, the desire to duck responsibility, or just being too soft-hearted to give people bad news, if you choose to break up by email or even the phone, you’re a marked person. You are seen as unfeeling and disrespecting of the relationship that, for better or worse, you did put something into. You’re a dog for shirking the decent course of action.

Be direct, quick, and firm

The other tempting device is to try and do things indirectly, beat around the bush and use phrases like “slow things down” or “take a break,” when what you really mean is “I’m through and you should be too.” You prolong your own misery and that of the other person by not being upfront. Are you afraid they will take it too hard or create a scene? Softening the blow by making it uncertain is patronizing at best and, at worst, stringing the other person along. Also, don’t drag the conversation out to prepare the person-just come straight to the point so they don’t sit there wondering who died. If your partner is the kind of person who can be manipulative, then be sure to come mentally prepared to hold you ground. If you’re certain that you do not want to “try” to make it work, then firmly deflect such suggestions.

Deal with the logistics

Whether you share a bank account, a dog, a lease, friends, or more vaguely-demarcated things, such as jointly bought books, music, and art-set a date to decide on who gets what and how the division is to proceed. Don’t insist on doing it right then; the other person needs time to absorb what is happening. Also, they might suspect you of trying to bamboozle them while they’re still reeling, since you’ve presumably had the time to think about how to make the break-up work for you. Each of you should come to the division-of-spoils meeting with a list of expectations of what you would like, what you’re willing to give up, what can be negotiated, and the like. If you share a lot of things, you might want an arbitrator. This may sound cold or conniving. In reality, it is very smart and sensible because too many people express all their resentment and anger while dividing up property. The issue of shared friends is much stickier and one that will need a few discreet conversations all around, as well as a deal of honor that neither of you will try to involve innocent bystanders. If there are fewer opportunities to get nasty, neither of you will do so and the break-up can remain fairly civil.

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