Sometimes, It's Okay To Break Up Over Text

Photographed by Lauren Maccabee.
If you ask most people if it's okay to break up over text, the answer would be an automatic "no." It's rude and thoughtless, the general consensus goes. And two years ago, that's exactly what sex educator Bianca Laureano would have said, too. But now, she's changed her mind.
"I think it depends on the relationship and what's going on," she says.
If someone is in a violent or abusive relationship, for example, that's a valid reason to break up over text. Or, if someone has an anxiety disorder and the thought of breaking up in person seems impossible to them, that's also a fair excuse. Codependency is another reason it's not just okay, but actually necessary to break up over text, says Chelsea Leigh Trescott, a breakup coach and podcast host of Thank You Heartbreak.
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"In codependent relationships, sending a breakup text is more often than not the only way out, and therefore a significant sign of self-respect and self-preservation," she says. In codependent relationships (aka, relationships where one or both partner relies totally on the other for emotional or physical support) it's easy to persuade yourself or be persuaded by your partner to stay in an unhealthy situation. In those instances, text is better because it allows less room for conversation.
"The ideal breakup text will act as a statement: Say what you are doing, why you have reached this conclusion, and remember to only speak on behalf of yourself, leaving no room for a dialogue or defensiveness," Leigh Trescott says. For people in co-dependent relationships, she suggests writing something such as, “I’ve done everything in my power to make this relationship work, but staying together is no longer a possibility. In order to get clarity on this situation and heal myself, I’ve decided that I can’t be with you any longer or engage in conversation either. This is what I need for myself.”
Maybe that sounds harsh, but cutting off communication is necessary in situations when communication is the very thing that will undermine your decision. And if you're worried, you can own the harshness, Leigh Trescott says. Admit that you know breaking up over text isn't ideal, but it feels like the best option.
Laureano suggests similar language for people who want to use text to break up because of their anxiety. "I encourage people to lean on the side of what feels most legit for them," she says. If someone says that they just can't break up with their partner in person, then she says it's okay to do it over text. Often, partners are aware if someone has an anxiety disorder or other cognitive disability that might prevent them from being able to have hard discussions face-to-face, so the text might not come as a shock.
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"It's okay for us to identify the ways that are best for us to communicate and to share the information that we need to share," Laureano says. "It's never a wrong decision to take care of yourself." Still she suggests saying in the text that you're sorry for doing it this way, but you don't think you're able to get the words out in person because it's too anxiety-inducing of a situation for you.
Just remember that your partner might not have the ideal response of, "Thank you for your honesty, take care." Even if you're breaking up with them over text, you will likely have to have a back and forth conversation about why you want to break up and whether there's any way to fix the relationship. "A text does not necessarily give a full complete wrap up or conclusion to a relationship," Laureano says. Breaking up via text can leave open opportunity for further confrontation, she says, so be prepared to answer questions once you've sent the initial message.
If you're not dealing with mental health or any tough relationship situation like codependency or abuse, though, breaking up via text still feels rude and thoughtless. "When it comes to two healthy people whose relationship has simply run its course, initiating a breakup through a text is a sign of disrespect both to your partner and the relationship itself," Leigh Trescott says. So her advice for crafting a breakup text in those situations is simple: don't.
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