As the great philosopher Alex da Kid once stated, “It’s not easy. No, it’s not easy. It’s not easy breaking your heart.” Anyone who has ever broken up with someone knows this firsthand. Breaking up is confusing and painful, but some new research out of Brigham Young University suggests that there may be a best way to do it.

Do you go to a fancy restaurant? Do you call them on the phone? Do you rent a skywriting airplane to spell out your break up? BYU linguistics professor, Alan Manning, and University of South Alabama english professor, Nicole Amare, claim that breaking up should be treated like removing a band-aid; quick and painless.

Their study of 145 people who received various bits of bad news revealed that when it comes to break-ups the person being dumped prefers to be told directly. This means no romantic dinner beforehand and no long “it’s not you, it’s me” spiel, just a short and sweet “we need to talk.” While this appears to fly directly in the face of what we have been trained to do as a society, Manning explains that this is due to us taking advice from the wrong side of the breakup.

“Most people told me that breaking up through the wrong medium can signal to others the initiator’s cowardice, lack of respect, callousness or indifference.” – Ilana Gershon

“If you’re on the giving end it’s probably more comfortable psychologically to pad it out, which explains why traditional advice is the way it is,” Manning says. “But this survey is framed in terms of you imagining you’re getting bad news and which version you find least objectionable. People on the receiving end would much rather get it this way.”

The introduction of recent technologies have made breaking up much more convenient, but also more confusing. With the presence of social media and texting there are now more ways to break up than ever before, but some people such as associate professor of anthropology at Indiana University, Ilana Gershon, believe this may not be a good thing.

HeartbreakBody4According to Statistics Canada, teenagers from higher income families are less likely to break up people via text message or social media. PHOTO: COURTESY OF ISTOCK

“Breaking up face-to-face is widely considered the ideal way to end a relationship,” Gershon says. “Most people told me that breaking up through the wrong medium can signal to others the initiator’s cowardice, lack of respect, callousness or indifference.”

Recognizing that there are wrong ways to break up with someone is the easy part, but realizing what these wrong ways are is much harder. While some mediums such as text messaging are commonly acknowledged as being a wrong break up method, other techniques like phone calls fall into a kind of breakup grey area.

“How you think about texting is linked to how you think about calling someone on your cell phone, which is linked to how you think about instant messaging and so on,” says Gershon.

Regardless of which method you use, the research from Manning and Amare remains relevant. From texting to in-person dinners and everything in between, make sure you keep it short and sweet with little-to-no buffer. Your heartbreak victim will be thankful for it. 

To read more about how breakups are changing in a big way check out Digitization of heartbreak: How the technological revolution has affected breakups.

Editor: Emily Thwaites |

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