How do you end a relationship that's not even really a relationship?

‘Tis a strange time in which we live. Sure, some people have - gasp! - actual boyfriends or girlfriends, but many millennials seem only ever to be “seeing someone.”

It’s a concept our parents just don’t understand. 

We are constantly in a grey area which makes one of the trickiest part of our exploits, well, ending them. How do you break up with someone if you’re not even in a relationship?

Sure, ghosting might be OK if you’re in the early stages of messaging but after you’ve been on a date, most people would say that’s just rude.

And after how many dates do you have to end it in person rather than with a perfectly-worded message? It’s messy because there are no rules.

Fortunately, Joanne Davila, PhD and author of The Thinking Girl's Guide to the Right Guy, has revealed what she believed to be the answer to our troubles.

Here are the five steps to breaking-up with someone you’re seeing:

1. Think about how long you’ve been dating

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the longer you’ve been dating someone, the more you owe them a proper break-up.

“The more intense the feelings, the more you owe it to someone to be clear about the breakup - if not in person, then certainly with some elaboration about what changed,” Davila explained to My Domaine

“I would say 10 dates may start to approximate a real relationship that requires a legitimate break-up.” But after just one date, Davila believes you don’t really owe that person anything - unless you’ve done a Ted Mosby and professed your love to them.

2. Don’t call it a break-up

One of the most common qualms of a person wanting to end things after just a few dates is not wanting to seem presumptuous - what if they’d lost interest in you too?

“It doesn't have to be framed as a breakup,” says Davila. “It can be something more like, 'I've enjoyed hanging out with you, but I'm realising that it's not what I want going forward. I don't know if you feel the same way, but I figured I'd let you know so that we can both move on.'”

And if in doubt, Davila says a short casual text is better than nothing.

3. Do not - we repeat, do not - ghost them

“For the ghoster, it's a sign that they are avoiding dealing with important feelings and fears,” Davila explains. “When we don't deal with our fears, we don't learn to be appropriately assertive, which is what is needed for a break-up. 

“We also don't learn how to treat others with kindness and compassion, which is also needed for a breakup.”

And the person on the receiving end can be left feeling “confused and uncertain” which may knock their self-esteem for future relationships.

4. Don’t leave it open-ended

Some people try not to end things once and for all to spare the other person’s feelings, but this is not a good move, according to Davila: “It's really important to be very clear. If you don't want to date that person anymore, then it has to be a hard ending. 

“Being vague or open-ended when you don't really mean it doesn't do either person any good. Of course, that doesn't mean that you are mean to someone - just clear and direct, but nice.”

Don’t be that man or woman who is always misleading people.

5. Be honest (to a point)

When ending it with someone, you sort of have to give a reason. And if you’re the one being broken-up with, you want to know why. But how do you do so without hurting their feelings?

“If there really is something concrete that can be said in a constructive way (for instance, I can tell that we have different interests; we're already having arguments, and I don't like interacting that way), then say it,” Davila advises. 

“But if there isn't any glaring disconnect, it's not worth saying something that will make the other person feel bad.” So how do you give them a reason that’s not a cliché (even if sometimes it really is you not them)?

“Just say that you're looking for a different type of person. There's nothing wrong with who they are; it's just not a good match for you. This may not feel satisfactory to the receiver, but, in the dating world, the receiver needs to learn to take this and move on.”

It’s a brutal world, that of modern dating.

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