1. You have to actually break up in order to break up.
You can break up in theory, or you can break up in reality. Only one of them is an actual break-up. People who break up in theory decide they’re no longer together, then proceed to sleep together, call each other every day, and know each other’s daily plans.
People who break up in reality end the relationship and all elements of the behavior associated with the relationship for an undetermined period of time. Note: you can technically be “broken up while he’s in business school,” but not if you’re together every time he’s home for vacation.
If you’re unclear as to which of the above is an actual break-up, please don’t date my friends.
2. There is no such thing as a mutual break up.
It may feel mutual, look mutual, and be hailed as mutual to everyone you tell, but the truth is that someone in the relationship wanted the break up more than the other person. There may be an agreement that things aren’t working, but no one wants to be the person to come to that decision a day later than the other.
3. If you can break up in-person, do it.
If it’s long-distance or you’re dealing with a lunatic, you’re off the hook here. You’re also off the hook if your relationships lasted for less than two months, and the idea of exclusivity was never mentioned.
4. You might have to break up with someone you don’t think you’re dating.
There are differences between seeing each other, dating, dating exclusively, and “in-a-relationship.” In three out of those four situations, a formal break up is required. If you’re just seeing each other (under six dates, little to no meeting of each other’s friends, no daily communication) you can disappear on account of a “crazy upcoming work project” or “funk I just can’t climb out of,” but if this person is in your life to the point that they know what upcoming work projects you have and will message your friend to make sure your “funk” isn’t something serious, you need to have a talk.
5. You cannot be friends with someone you’ve just stopped dating.
This is not to say that you can’t be friends with someone you once dated — you just can’t slip from romance to friendship without consequence. Just say, “For now, distance would be the best thing for us. Would you like to contact me when you’re ready, or should I do so?” Or something less Dr. Phil than that.