There is little on this good earth more satisfying than making a problem go away with a text. The sweet moment after you deploy a made-up excuse, thus terminating all your responsibilities in an instant, rivals sex. Breaking up with someone is no exception. Most of the time, sending a breakup text has no consequences—that is, if you can get past the nagging fear that in doing so, you’ve consigned yourself to a karmic vortex that will leave you unable to ejaculate for three to seven years.
Here are four situations when it’s okay to send a breakup text:
You’ve gone on fewer than four dates.
The whole point of an in-person breakup is to open a dialogue about why you’re not compatible. When you’re ending a relationship-relationship, a face-to-face conversation can be really helpful for both of you. From that conversation you can get insights into your behaviour that might help you out in your future relationships (i.e. your snoring is unworkable). But when you’re only three dates in, you don’t know each other well enough to have valuable insights into the other person’s character. All you really know is whether you’re attracted to the person or not, and having a whole discussion about why you’re not isn’t constructive for anyone.
In these early days, you should feel free to text a kind lie. My preferred excuse is: “My ex is back in my life and we’re going to try to make it work” (inserting another person into the equation adds an extra layer of finality to the breakup) but you can also tell her you’re “not dating right now” or you’re “moving to Ukraine.” Make it about you. Three dates in, the dumpee probably isn’t emotionally invested in your whatevership at all, and she’s not going to read too far into whatever you say. You don’t have to be honest, you just have to be conclusive.
You want them to hate you.
One rarely discussed advantage to sending a breakup text beyond the fourth date is the fact that the recipient will probably never forgive you. Last May, a study found that “because remaining love feelings for an ex-partner are negatively associated with recovery from a romantic break-up, it may be helpful to decrease those love feelings.” The study found that “negative reappraisal” was a far more effective strategy for getting over a breakup than “positive reappraisal of love feelings” (reminiscing about the happy times) or “distraction” (rebounding with women you met on Tinder.) If you don’t care about maintaining a friendly acquaintanceship with the dumpee, you might actually be doing them a favour by delivering one last reminder that you’re an asshole.
You’re better at texting.
Another study, from 2017, found that the best way to break up with someone is to be direct and even a little bit cold. The study showed that while most dump-ers eased into the breakup slowly, with a lot of buffers and small talk, dumpees actually responded better to a quick buffer (“we need to talk”) followed by a blunt breakup.
A pre-conversation text also gives the dumpee the chance to steel themselves to the conversation that’s about to happen. When you’re going to meet up with someone to break up, you don’t want them to arrive with no idea what’s about to happen. You want them to arrive feeling composed.
You’re considering ghosting.
Earlier this month I read an advice column in response to a woman whose long-distance boyfriend had ghosted her after two years together. While I can justify the cowardice that goes into a breakup text, the cowardice that goes in to ghosting (especially after two years, but even in early days) is unforgivable. Breaking off a relationship in a text message isn’t great, but it’s a hell of a lot better than ghosting. That karmic vortex you were worried about? That’s where the ghosts go.