Should Dumping Happen Fast or Slow?

Do you rip that Band-Aid off? Or is it nicer to do it gently, withdrawing over the course of a few weeks?

man and woman on a couch
(Image credit: Archive)

Last week, one of my best friends, Daisy Milliner, told me that a guy we both know unceremoniously — or at least unexpectedly — gave his girlfriend the Heisman. The GF didn't see it coming. Neither did the rest of us, it seems. I was rather shocked when I heard the news, because I'd seen this particular dude and his lady at a few holiday parties … where they were all smoochy and canoodling and lovey-dovey. What the hell? So I asked Daisy to get a little dirt on the situation. She said to the guy, "But you seemed so into her!" He looked confused. "But isn't that how you're supposed to be when you're in a relationship?"

His behavior seemed kind of phony — and yet he's actually a very genuine, caring guy, and I could see his point: When you're with someone, you should be 100 percent with them and affectionate ... until you're not with them any more.

Sweet Pants doesn't agree with me. He thinks that the sudden break-up is akin, as he puts it, to dropping a frog into a pot of boiling water. There are more humane methods that can be used, he says. He thinks that if you've decided to break up with someone, you should prepare them for it by withdrawing slowly, cutting back on affection gradually, slowly reducing the amount of contact you make, limiting the amount of time you spend with the person, and then breaking up with her, so she isn't totally and brutally blindsided.

I get this argument. I see the appeal of handling it that way, particularly if it's a very long-term relationship.

But when you realize that you're not going to be able to sustain a meaningful relationship with the person you've been dating, you often want to end it immediately. Even if you were able to muster the willpower to wait a couple of weeks, that doesn't mean you'll want to have sex with the person, or listen to his endless prattling, or put up with his unappealing way of clearing his throat in the morning, or whatever else it is. When you feel done, it's hard not to want to be done. And considering it'd be hard for most people not to act like a jerk around someone they are ready to break up with, I wonder if it really would be so humane, in practice.

Also, the slow-break-up maneuver seems a little sneaky and condescending to me.

And if we were to look at it from the perspective of the person being dumped, I have to wonder if the express route is not the best method. I imagine I'd prefer a fast dumping to the slow torture of wondering why a person is acting strangely, why he's pulling back, why he seems to be so much less sweet and loving than he once was.

I think the dumping should come fast — but if you really care about a person, and really want to help them through any pain you might have caused him, you might consider making yourself available after the break-up for walks and hugs and other small things to help boost the morale.

What do you folks think? Is there a right or wrong way to handle the dumping — and if so, is fast or slow better?