So far, your breakup conversation is going great. You’ve managed to avoid clichés like “It’s not you, it’s me” and “I love you, I’m just not in love with you.” Nobody has cried yet, and you’re thinking you just might make it out of here without him bringing up the jewellery he just bought you, which you would very much like to keep. What now?
Breaking up is hard to do, but wrapping up a breakup is even harder. One ex-boyfriend, at a loss for how to end our breakup summit, stood up and said, “Be well.” (“And thank you for shopping at CVS,” I added in my head.) I once panicked and filled the breakup silence with “Are we good?” after saying my piece—we were not good. On one hand, what you say now doesn’t really matter: You’ve already quit, so they can’t fire you. On the other hand, it’s usually in these final moments, when you’ve already delivered the speech you’ve been rehearsing in front of the mirror for a few days, that a reckless grenade slips out, causing a mature, adult conversation to spiral into a bilious back-and-forth. Here are six of those grenades, to be avoided at all costs:
Even if he won’t be okay—even if after your breakup he'll spend the next three to six weeks watching Law & Order, swaddled in a weighted blanket—he probably wants you to think he'll be okay. “Will you be okay?” sounds a little self-aggrandising. What he hears is, “How will you survive without the divine blessing of my presence?" If you want to sound concerned without sounding condescending, say: “If you need to talk, I’m around.”
“You’re going to find someone so much better for you.”
The last thing I want to think about when I’m being dumped is the fact that I’m about to be single again. Unless you are prepared to offer up the names and contact information of several viable rebounds I might consider, keep the “so many fish in the sea” wisdom to yourself. Right after you’re done talking, I’m going to go kvetch about all your flaws to my friends. When they say I’ll meet someone better, I’ll be touched and soothed. When you say it, I’ll burst into tears and then spend the next few hours wondering whether you’ve already met someone else.
“I hope we can still be friends.”
Every time someone says “I hope we can still be friends,” a dolphin gets tangled in some fishing line and dies. “It’s the worst, because there’s no closure,” one friend said. Besides which, when the dumper tries to initiate a friendship, it sounds like she wants to have her cake and eat it too—that she wants to date other people while still enjoying the dumpee’s good qualities. If you’re ever going to be friends, it’s up the dumped party to initiate it.
Where “I hope we can still be friends” doesn’t quite provide enough closure, “good luck” is like a closure bomb. “Good luck” and its many cold variations suggests that you, the dumper, are totally cutting me loose, kicking me out of the sex nest, etc. In theory, I want to be cut loose—I want space to move on—but I also want to know that you’ll be feverishly keeping up with my personal and professional successes for years to come. If you want the dumpee to know you wish them well and will continue to care about them, say: “If you feel like it, give me an update on [specific personal or professional thing they’re stressed about.] I’m still rooting for you.”
“I’m sorry you’re upset.”
Even if you’re not actually upset about a breakup, you should mirror the response of the person you’re dumping: If they’re devastated, you should try your best to look devastated too. There’s nothing more humiliating than losing it during a breakup while the person doing the dumping stares at you, dry-eyed and stony-faced, and says, “I’m sorry you’re upset.”
For God’s sake.
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US.