Effective Relationship Exit Strategies

Once there was a time when breaking up with someone any other way besides having “the talk,” face-to-face, was totally abhorrent. If you told someone that you and your partner broke up via phone, it was like… disgusting. This was a time when yeah, breaking up actually was hard. Enter the age of apathy – aka now. All bets are off. No one is owed a decent break up these days. We’ve manufactured multiple escape routes – exit strategies – that are so overdone that they’re clichéd and easily catalogued. Here are the most effective of the bunch.

The Fade – Typically used to end short-term, casual relationships; The Fade is a breakup method you probably experienced as a high school student. Then again when you were 19. And once more at 22 and… well, who are we kidding? While The Fade seems to be an extremely juvenile method, it’s one that ironically does not fade with age.

Who’s the Culprit? People who don’t feel any particular allegiance to anyone or anything employ the Fade. You kind of know when you’re getting involved with a Fader, but their all-or-nothing, life-by-the-balls, free-spirit bullshit blinds you, it’s sexy, can’t look away from the light, and you think, “This aloof, mess of a person seems to really like me and will respect me enough to end things in such a way that future booty calls are not just acceptable, but welcome.” In reality, the Fader is so fearful of how you’ll handle rejection that they just avoid you at all costs. Many times, the victim of the Fader is more distraught by being Faded on than they would’ve been by an honest “I’m not into this” chat – a fact the Fader would know had they answered the phone the 40 times you called. Or any of the texts. Or any of the emails.

Who’s at Risk? Clingers. People who seem “too good to be true.” People who seem like they are on the rebound. People who are emotionally and physically available. People with a lot of exes. Optimists. People who are too naïve for their own good. People who text back in 15 minutes or less.


The Crash and Burn – The Crash and Burn usually takes two and is horrifying and brutal for the participants, but enthralling for the onlookers. And there are always onlookers, because the Crash and Burn method is loud, ugly, and uncontainable. There will always be collateral damage in a Crash and Burn relationship – a reputation could go up in flames. Or a car. A car could go up in flames, too. Sometimes, these relationships even end in death (See: Sid and Nancy Vicious, Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love, Scott and Laci Peterson).

Who’s the Culprit? A Crash and Burn couple is usually live as hell. They’ve been fighting for months, years, or decades. They really hate and love each other. At least one person has been in therapy, on mood stabilizers, lit something on fire that they shouldn’t have, physically fought another person, been kicked out of a bar, blacked out 2~ times in one week, or has a bad relationship with one or both parents.

Who’s at Risk? Another Crash and Burner. Opinionated people. Someone really sweet who only understands their partner’s rage as they’re being hacked to death with a meat cleaver. People who did not get a satisfactory amount of attention as a child. Loud people. People who hung out in the East Village in the ‘80s.


The Cheat – Cheating happens for a number of reasons, but sometimes it’s done specifically to end a relationship. Either some sort of agreement was in place in which one party said to another, “I don’t care what happens. If you cheat on me, I want to know.” Or one party said to another, “I will fucking flip out and break up with you immediately if you cheat on me.” And so that knowledge gave one party the idea that, if ever they wanted out, all they had to do was cheat. So they did.

Who’s the Culprit? A cheater who cheats for the sole purpose of breaking up with someone is one of two things: straight up vindictive, or completely inexperienced. Most people generally do not want to know that they have systematically destroyed relationships for their ex; they do not want to be hated. They feel trapped, so they suicide bomb their way out. This brand of cheater is also probably gluttonous, sexually. They probably never go down on their partner (red flag!)

Who’s at Risk? Someone who is too trusting. Someone who does not trust enough. Someone who seems way too emotionally aware and mature. Someone who is so confident/ understanding/ apathetic with regard to their partner that the partner feels they must disrupt order in the most explosive way possible just to feel like they’re alive.


The Pathetic Fool – This kamikaze breakup method is usually unintentional. One party is acutely aware that they are less attractive, less intelligent, and less successful than their partner. In real life, in not-crazy-person land, the only thing they’re lacking is a spine. The absence of their confidence is a huge turn off – one that may have not been apparent from the outset, but slowly cripples the poor soul who took a chance on a wet blanket.

Who’s the Culprit? Someone who cannot handle the “pressures” of dating someone so out of their league. These pressures are completely self-inflicted and don’t exist outside of the Pathetic Fool’s neurotic skull, but self-fulfilling prophecies can be a bitch.

Who’s at Risk? Someone who has Broken Bird Syndrome. Someone who has decided to date “Nice Guys” or “Nice Girls” after experiencing a tumultuous relationship. Someone who is overly forthright/ confident/ honest because they’re tired of playing games.


The Break-to-Breakup – The Break-to-Breakup happens when one person is like, 99% positive that they don’t want to carry on with the relationship, yet they’re afraid to be confrontational, so they lessen the blow by taking a week or two to “think about things,” “get their life in order,” “see how they feel.” A date or general allotment of time is given. When the couple revisits the relationship, the person who initiated the break says, “I think it’s best we go our separate ways.”

Who’s the Culprit? The average woman. If I hear a male friend say, “We went on a break,” I know that in two weeks time, that dude will be out at some sleazy dive in the LES that his friends forced him to go to; drinking Heinekens at the end of the bar while wishing he could get it up for the half-naked bartender. Bonus points for texting his ex to ask if she’s “sure about this.”

Who’s at Risk? The dude who entered the relationship as an equal, became superior over time, made his girlfriend cry, broke up with her a few times, took her back a few times, grew to love her, and never expected this to happen. Not in a million years.


The Reverse Psychology – Rather than do the dirty work themselves, the Reverse Psychologist acts like a major dick until the other party gets fed up and ends the relationship. This can be done a number of ways, including:

  1. defend people that their partner hates
  2. mysteriously get overwhelmingly busy with work, friends, and other activities despite having nothing to show for it
  3. dismiss any of the partner’s feelings as “irrational”
  4. inform their partner that this is “the way they are” and that it will “never change”
  5. deny that they’re acting different/being a dick/ready to end the relationship

Who’s the Culprit? The Reverse Psychology method is to men what the Break-to-Breakup is to women. This is their preferred method of ending a relationship. Like the B2B woman, the man would like to avoid any responsibility for the failure of the relationship and thus, forces the woman to execute the breakup. This relieves the man of any guilt whatsoever. Or so they think.

Who’s at Risk? The girlfriend who must be terminated immediately for any and no reason.


The Clean Break – The Clean Break should be aspired to; alas, it is the unicorn of the dating world and does not actually ever happen. A Clean Break would involve a rigorous conversation, a mutual feeling of relief, and semi-instant closure for both parties.

Who’s the Culprit? The detached-from-reality Dumper who thinks that everything has gone swimmingly.

Who’s at Risk? Someone who can keep a smile on their face as the carpet is pulled from beneath them. Someone who has an admirable amount of control over their emotions. Someone who should seek a career in acting. TC mark


More From Thought Catalog

  • http://www.facebook.com/brad.pike Brad Pike

    Do I smell some man-hating in this article. Why yes I think I do.

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      I think both sexes are equally committed to using any number of faulty breakup techniques, I don't hate men or anyone, really.

      In fact, I am jealous of the men (and women) who have perfected the Reverse Psychologist as I have tried it once, it didn't work, I had to default back to the Break-to-Breakup (which did work). I think the RP method is sort of well-intentioned, if not a bit pussy.

      On that note, women are better at the Break-to-Breakup because I think men feel sympathy and will afford a “second chance” to a woman after a “break” whereas a woman initiates a break as a way to wash their hands of the relationship (also a pussy move). In this way, I think men are scared to hurt someone else, which is why this method doesn't work as well for them. And so, in some regard men can be considered noble.

      So no, I don't hate men. If my use of the words “dick” or “asshole” anywhere throughout the piece gave the impression that I was speaking of a man, I consider those words gender neutral. Please do not feel personally chastised in any way, we are all dicks in a relationship at some point.

  • http://twitter.com/andshewasnt genna mae

    I've been seeing a guy for three weeks and already I think I'm on the verge of RPing him.
    Thanks for this. It was perfect timing!

  • http://twitter.com/FLYamSAM Denden

    I want to try 'em all!

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      I believe in you DenDen, I think you can do it

  • David St Bernard

    Fantastic article. I was just talking to my current beau about this stuff today.

    If you enter a relationship that seems doomed from the start, should you prepare yourself with a good exit strategy? If you start a contract job without a guaranteed renewal, should you not be keeping an eye out for other contract work?

    1. it's not you-singular who should be preparing for it, it's you-plural.
    2. yes, but respect the original contract as best as you can.

    Freaky to talk business about pleasure, but the contract analogy works pretty well.
    I just wonder what happens when kids gets into the equation. o_O

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    This was fun to read. I am [not] ashamed to say I have done some of these.

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      Thanks Michael Koh, missed your comments, have a nice weekend

  • RamonaCC

    I fade friends out when I don't like them anymore. Because that seems like the nicest way to do it. Then it can be chocked up to “growing apart” and sound real swell instead of me having to explain myself after saying, “Hey I don't like you as a person anymore so let's stop being friends, stop calling me.” Ya dig?

  • neex

    There was a period of about a 18 months where every other man with whom I entered into any semblance of a romantic relationship would pull The Fade on me instilling such an unsettling sense of anger that I still have no understanding of how to deal with it regardless of how I felt about the man himself. There's something about that cut-and-run method that has left me and countless others baffled by conflicting emotions. Unfortunately, though, I've done it myself. My motivation? Too lazy to even send a “I'm not that into you” text message. In other words, I'm the worst.

  • kt

    Is it possible for a person to employ all of those strategies over a course of one relationship? Because I'm pretty sure I dated him.

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      Yes. Yes. Definitely. We can call that one 'Jungle Juice' or 'Pu Pu Platter'

  • http://brianmcelmurry.blogspot.com/ Brian McElmurry

    I like what you write! Keep it coming :-)

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      Thanks Brian, I like that you like it, don't think I haven't noticed.

  • 4 legs good 2 legs bad

    so i know someone who made up a fictitious boyfriend with all the bells and whistles to basically break up with some one that they never went out with in the first place . what would that fall under???

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      …Was going to answer this one way, then realized I have done that and this may be a specific reference to my behavior, so… it's creative!

  • Grace Jung

    this is great. i'm a fan of your writing, stephanie. as for the “clean break,” i was fortunate enough to have experienced twice. and i WOULD like to pursue a career in acting someday.

  • Fredhampton

    What about just moving away? Serially.

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      LOL. This is hilarious but I hate you on other people's behalf.

  • Aurora

    Oh god, I'm a fader…

  • Bcoates

    College= the fade

  • TJ

    TRUTH: women utilize the Reverse Psychology method more than any other on this list.

    • http://stephgeorge.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      Maybe it's inadvertent i.e. they're just being themselves :)

      I gave that one to men because I've had several admit (shamelessly) to me that they've ended every single relationship this way.

      I know some people I've been personally involved will think I'm referring to and generalizing their behavior, but many guys I know have done the exact. same. thing. And told me about it.

      At the end of the day, we're all evil.

  • PA

    My leech-boyfriend won't get off me and I pretty much tried everything you listed,
    is there any other option?
    Or must I wait for death to do us apart? (I'm working on the assumption that the afterlife has better hiding places)

  • frankii

    Oh god how the hell did I unintentionally RP in one of my relos? I thought that wasn't supposed to be natural. It wasn't even intentional. I've been through the b2b many times with exes, no good. Funny I'm only 17 and haven't ever experienced a fade, but RP, b2b, clean, and the cheat (not me). Not long before the crash and burn effect goes over.

  • Lulu

    Woa, I've totally been Faded. I've had the inclination that that is what happened in my last relationship but after reading this I'm absolutely certain. Thanks for the news, only wish it would have arrived sooner.

  • ame-onna

    I hate when thought catalog reads my mind.

  • Thought Catalog

    Reblogged this on Njeriiam's Blog.

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