Science is right: brutal break-ups are the way forward

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Jasmine Andersson
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Being dumped is like finding yourself hungover on an involuntary bungee jump when someone suddenly cuts the safety straps mid-descent. 

The pain of an unexpected break-up sits somewhere on the scale between having an operation without general anesthetic, and stubbing all of your toes on a metal coffee table at the exact same time. 

That’s why if it’s done badly, the agony of a heartbreak can be so unbelievably blinding that it stays with us for years.

But according to an academic study at Brigham Young University, there is a better way to break up with someone: don’t beat around the bush, and stop trying to be nice about it.

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Eternal Sunshine Of The Spotless Mind understands the pain of the break-up (potentially like no other film does)

The researchers at the university asked 145 people how they would react to textual, visual and conversation indicators that their partner was going to break up with them.

From marking the responses on speed, communication and efficiency, it became clear that speaking to a person clearly and directly, without spending 20 minutes on disingenuous emotional platitudes, is the way forward.

“An immediate 'I'm breaking up with you' might be too direct,” said Linguistics Professor Alan Manning, who co-led the study.

“But all you need is a 'we need to talk' buffer - just a couple of seconds for the other person to process that bad news is coming.”

As a serial offender who has often returned to indecisive exes, I would quite like the study to be printed as a public service announcement.

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Summer is a complete and utter mess around in 500 Days of Summer, but he's not much better either

As someone who has endured a supposedly ‘nice dumping’, I have wasted months of my potential singledom in a pseudo-relationship with someone who was simply too cowardly to tell me they would never commit.

We spent one week in the throes of romance, in a way that would make even the biggest rom-com aficionados physically sick, only for me to fall victim to the gold glaze of ignorance, cold as ice, the week later.

And after being dumped by that particular person a number of times, it might not come as a surprise to hear that that relationship was the hardest to get over.

Social media manager Sarah arguably endured one of the worst break-ups of all time, but it wasn’t the horrific scenario that she found most difficult to process – rather, it was working through her partner’s indecision.

“We went to a house party where our drinks were both spiked. I was affected first and had to be carried out,” she told “He realised his was spiked in the taxi ride home and we were in a really bad way. An ambulance was called and we spent the night in hospital strapped to ECGs.” 

“Two days later we met up at a cafe and he said he wanted to 'have a break'. I then spent three days in despair, waiting for the jury to come back on our relationship. He called to ask me to come to his house,  where he broke up with me sitting on the end of his bed. I had to drive home afterwards and was a complete mess.

“In retrospect, I wish I had just called time at the cafe. Instead, I let him string the whole thing out and it was the most brutal dumping of my life. It took me a while to get over that. It was a life double-whammy, a drugging followed by a chaser of rejection,” she added.

The break up
The Break Up is all the evidence you need that a clean break-up is the best option

A drawn out break-up doesn’t only affect the dumpee’s future relationships – it can also mean that we end up staying in relationships that are simply not right for us.

And although when the shoe is on the other foot it can be tempting to think of a friendship with an ex in the future, giving the relationship a strict brush off makes it clear to your ex that a romantic reunion won’t be on the cards.

“I’ve never been a fan of big break ups. After all, unless you never had anything in common or you were badly wronged, why would you never want to talk to someone who was once your best friend again?” Matthew, a teacher, told

“But staying friends can be hard, because it’s often not what one party wants,” he added. “I remember a sudden break-up after I didn’t say ‘I love you’ back to a woman I’d been with for 11 months. We stayed in touch and got back together soon after the break-up because she wanted to give things another go. What I should have done, and what I wanted to do, was break up with her. Instead, we went out for another year that made us both miserable.”

Blue Valentine
Watch Blue Valentine if you're going through a break-up and need a massive cry

The so-called ‘brutal’ break-up (read: communicating clearly and directly) isn’t just better for your ex-to-be. It’s the healthy option for you, too.

“I ended a five-year relationship over the phone,” said Amy, a writer. “It might sound bad, but having tried before, I knew if I gave him any space at all he would manipulate me into not doing it. Being able to hang up (and having a three-hour drive between us) meant I didn't have to go through a night of talking and cajoling and emotional blackmail.”

When we split up with someone properly, there is no grey area around whether or not that relationship is over. So-called ‘kind’ break-ups are not only harsh, but they delay the healing process for the dumpee.

“You can be firm without being unnecessarily cruel,” Amy added.

”Dragging it out and not really saying what you mean only leaves the other party confused and surely that's crueler in the long run.”

Although we are bad at taking advice about what to do with our exes — especially when it comes to not social-media-stalking them so heavily in the heat of the break-up that we know who they spent their 17th birthday with at Bognor Regis’ Butlins — sticking to our guns and deciding to call it quits can pave the way for a happier and less fraught future for the person we care about. 

And if we’re on the receiving end of the bad news, it’s good to remember that after the jolt of pain is through, not only will your healing process be a lot more effective in the long term, but cathartic angry break-up playlists have never been so good. 

Images: Fox Searchlight Pictures and Rex Features


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Jasmine Andersson

When she isn't talking about her emotional attachment to meal deals or serenading unfortunate individuals with David Bowie power solos in karaoke booths, Jasmine writes about gender, politics and culture as a freelance journalist. She wastes her days tweeting @the__chez