Love Better

The VICE Guide To Ending a Relationship

Don’t be a dick about it.
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So, you’re in a relationship you don’t want to be in anymore and you’re ready to tell your soon-to-be-ex that it’s over. In an ideal situation, you don’t think they’re a dickhead. But maybe you do. Any number of reasons might have led you here, which means you’re probably beyond the point of “should you/shouldn’t you”.


This isn't about whether to do it. This is about how to do it. 

I’ve had two spectacularly joyless break-ups: one sad and somewhat bittersweet and one disastrously messy but in desperate need of taking place. Unfortunately, both lead to month-long cycles of attempted break-ups and amateur dramatics – and far too much depressing sex in which you’re either trying way too hard to be desirable or avoiding even looking them in the eye. 

The unfortunate truth of a break-up is that at least two people are always involved and the reality is you're not equal. If you're the person who's doing the breaking up, you ultimately have a little bit more power in this relationship. Power you may or may not even be conscious of. So don’t be a dick about it.


If you’ve told more than 3 people you’re gonna do it, it’s time to do it. Basically: don’t tell half the town that you’re inching your way out and let the actual person be the last to know. You also run the risk of them finding out through someone else and entering a much bigger shit storm. 


If you’ve been seeing someone for a few dates, yeah sure, it might happen, and you can hope they shrug it off and move on. But once you’ve crossed the month or so mark (and especially if you’re in a longer-term relationship), if you’ve decided you want to end things, you need to actually tell them. 

Whatever your reasoning is for not sending that message, or grabbing a last coffee and telling them to their face, get over yourself. If you want to have a long term relationship in the future, you need to get used to confrontation. You're never going to get good at long term relationships unless you get good at your short term ones, and if you can’t communicate the absolute basics of “I don’t wanna date” then you probably shouldn’t be dating at all. 



Just in case you had your “Mr/Mrs Nice Guy” act ready in order to soothe your own guilty conscience, here’s an important reminder: Don’t try to do something nice or special beforehand. 

You’re not taking a dog for its last walk before going to the vet – and you’re not doing anyone any favours by creating a new happy memory that’s going to be tainted only moments later. A nice dinner or trip to the beach might sound good in theory, but you’re really only dragging out the inevitable, which is no fun for either of you. 


Break-ups shouldn’t be shared. They’re between you and them and not the other 30 people eating eggs on toast in Fidels on a Saturday morning. 

Sure, there are situations where a break-up sprouts like an Alien chest burster from nowhere and you find yourself ending things without any prior planning, possibly in public — but if you can, you should stick to private places for the big conversation. It’s a humiliating situation to put someone in, and fucking uncomfortable for whoever else is forced to witness it. Let the people enjoy their eggs. 

Besides, sitting across from someone weeping in a cafe makes you look like an asshole, so consider it self preservation at the very least. 



If you break up with someone while you’re drunk or high there’s a chance one (or both) of you will forget it even happened. Or things could get vicious and someone ends up legitimately hurt. Or you’ll end up crying into each other's wet necks at the Rogue and Vagabond and decide to stay together. 

Given that any of the above are a possibility, it’s not worth the risk. I’ve had the thrilling experience of once dating a chronic stoner and after weeks of anxiously building up to it, I invited him over and told him I wanted to break up. A few days later he came back to my house to hang out. He had no idea I’d broken up with him. And then I had to do it again because he’d been higher than one of Elon’s dumbass space drones and had forgotten the entire conversation.


Be really clear with the person. The language you use matters and you don’t want ambiguity to leave things up in the air. It shouldn’t be too much of a challenge to use the words “I want to break up” or “I don’t want to keep seeing each other”. 

People aren’t mind readers, so it’s on you to say what you mean. It's easy, in typical Aotearoa fashion, to throw around “kindas” and “I feel likes” — but if you’re in front of your future ex and only manage to mumble “I think maybe we shouldn't keep dating, idk”’ then be prepared for them to miss the point (or disagree). And keep missing the point. Or disagreeing. Over and over until you find that you’re stuck in a loveless partnership at 40 years old, eating a cold quarter pounder in front of The Chase and wishing you’d been a bit less of a lemon. 



The most important thing you’re going to hear is ‘Why?’ Even if they don’t say it out loud, the other person is going to want to know why you're ending things, so figure it out for yourself before you settle down for the big convo. Being vague, or not giving a reason at all, ultimately creates more damage for the other person. People can actually handle quite a lot of pain if they know the reason or the purpose behind it, so reflect on your reasons alone and try to be as concise as possible when you tell them. 


People often think “what someone doesn't know won't hurt them”, but half the time the secret you think you’re keeping is way more obvious to everyone but you. Partners often pick up intuitively that something's wrong in the relationship or a distance has been created, they just don't know why. 

So if there’s a significant reason that you’re breaking up, like you’ve cheated or are interested in someone else, tell them now. Dragging out the “why”, or leaving someone without a reason, just makes you a prick — And if you’re riding a high horse claiming to care about how they feel or might handle it, know that that horse thinks you’re a prick, too. You’re not making it any easier or protecting them by pushing that stuff aside. They’re gonna find out at some point, so at least let them hate you for the right reasons.



As tempting as it is to have one final ride on that glorious chariot, it’s not a good idea. Based on the last 20 years of TV and film making constant reference to how spectacular the break-up sex is, post break-up boning has almost become a cultural expectation. We’re made to feel like its a tantalising bonus to breaking-up with someone and that you’re about to have the best sex of your relationship based on your new desire to hate-fuck each other into oblivion. But it rarely goes that way irl. 

If you’ve already ended things, continuing to sleep together also puts you in a more powerful position. Be careful what you give to your ex physically and emotionally, because they’re probably in a more vulnerable and confused space than you are. 

It’s only going to further complicate the situation and probably make one, or both of you, feel like shit. It can be sad and awkward and will most likely make you wish you’d never sent that “are you out tonight?” message. 


Now, unless you’re in the type of friend-cestuous social circle where sleeping with friends, partners and ex partners is a talked about and accepted part of your lives, this is a pretty clear line in the sand. If you had any interest in any of their friends, whether it feels mutual or not, forget it. It doesn’t matter how hot they are or how desperate you are to stick your dick in something or vice versa — it isn’t worth becoming public enemy number one amongst an entire group of people. And especially if you still care for your ex, it’s not okay to mess with them like that. There are any number of people out there who’ll sleep with you, so stay away from the inner circle.


Once it’s all said and done it can be easy to find yourself bad-mouthing an ex S/O, and while talking to close confidants about the weird mole they had on their ass, or how they never showered, is all well and good, you don’t want to find yourself spinning out at a party and saying it to 20 people you’ve never met before. 

And I’m not talking about legitimate grievances regarding abuse or bad behaviour – definitely talk to friends/family/therapists if this is an issue – I’m talking about all the intimate, grotty and most importantly private things that you and your ex shared in confidence, that definitely make you look like an asshole if you decide to keep sharing.


It can be tempting to want to subtly smite the reputation of someone you were with, even more so if things ended badly- but think of how you’d feel walking into a pre-drinks where everyone knows you once shat yourself in the car on the way back from R&V. Even if they really hurt you, I promise that you’re the one who comes out looking like a dick if you dog on them at any opportunity you get. 


When all is said and done, the best thing you can do is let time take care of the rest. Ideally, break communication (telling them you're going to do that first of course), take some space, don’t get in their way and let yourself let go of the ex in question.

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Rachel Barker is a writer / producer at VICE NZ in Aotearoa.