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14 (Better) Ways to Break Up With Your Boyfriend

14 (Better) Ways to Break Up with Your Boyfriend

Breaking up is hard to do. Here are some tips for gay and bisexual men to make it easier.

We've all done breakups the wrong way. We have fought, broken trust, shouted, and lied through so many bad breakups that when good, healthy breakups come along (calm conversations on the sofa) they feel unfamiliar and wrong.

Things weren't so bad once, right? You met him at a gay bar, or on Grindr. What started as a hookup became a dinner, then a cuddle, then another dinner -- and then you're waiting for him to text you back. And then you find yourself daring to mouth the words "I like you," "Are we dating?" and then "I love you." Things are great for a while. But then fights start, the sex dwindles, or he wants things you don't want. Then someday after a shouting match, you know.

Divorces, breakups, and relocations are among the most difficult experiences a person can have. On a body stress level, they are equated to the death of a loved one. People stop eating. We dip into unhealthy habits.

All that's OK -- you're allowed to have a few bad nights. But there are things you can do to alleviate the rough months, and better ways to do the breakup than sending that unforgiveable text, so pull up a chair and take a seat. Wipe your eyes. Listen to me: Friend, it's going to be awful.


A Word of Warning From Writer Alexander Cheves

My name is Alexander Cheves. I am known by friends in the kink and leather community as Beastly. I am a sex-positive writer and blogger. The views in this slideshow do not reflect those of The Advocate and are based solely on my own experiences. As with everything I write, the intent of this piece is to break down the stigmas surrounding the sex lives of gay men.

Those who are sensitive regarding frank discussions about sex are invited to click elsewhere, but consider this: If you are outraged by content that addresses sex openly and honestly, I invite you to examine this outrage and ask yourself whether it should instead be directed at those who oppress us by policing our sexuality.

For all others, enjoy the slideshow. And feel free to leave your own suggestions for sex and dating topics in the comments.

Hungry for more? Follow me on Twitter @BadAlexCheves and visit my blog, The Beastly Ex-Boyfriend.

01-breakup1. While you're dating, sit down with him every month and talk about the four F's.

This is more of a "breakup prep" tip and a good relationship practice while you're still together: Every four months, sit down with him, businesslike and serious (with notes if necessary), and talk about the four F's: friends, family, fucking, and finance.

Are you both seeing your friends enough? If not, what should you do differently to see them more? Are you visiting your families enough? If you two have family goals of your own, talk about them.

Fucking: Are you getting enough sex? How is the sex? Do you want more/less? Do you want to try something different? Are there other people out there you want to fuck or have been fucking, and how do you both feel about them? This is the part where you go over your relationship parameters, your "boundaries." Are you still monogamous? Do you want to be? How is your nonmonogamy going? How do you both feel?

Finance: This is more for couples who have been together for some time. Where are you both financially? If you have money invested in each other -- if you live together, sharing rent or jointly owning a house -- what is your financial standing? Don't overlook this one, because financial stress is one of the most common causes of divorce.

Whether it's your first meeting or your 300th, go into this talk with complete honesty, kindness, and an understanding that if you or him are not happy and, through discussion, realize things aren't working out, this meeting might lead to a breakup.

02-breakup2. Break up in person.

This isn't always possible if you're long-distance, but if you are able, break up in person.

You cannot read sincerity or tone in a text message, and it is incredibly easy to yell or say something hurtful over the phone. You need to break up with the same human being you've held and fucked -- to show them it's real, not a stunt or a game (and if someone ever does try to break up with you as a stunt or a game, break up with them ASAP).

If your boyfriend is abusive, this rule does not apply. If he has been psychologically or physically harmful to you, a text message is not required. You should cut off all possible modes of contact -- block their number, block them on Facebook, erase their pictures on your phone -- then get yourself to a therapist or community support group ASAP and fall asleep on your best friend's couch for a night or two.

03-breakup3. Try not to yell.

People don't listen to shouting. When you yell, it's an angry outburst and not something taken seriously. Some of us get hurt by the actual act of yelling, but many of us dismiss shouting and assume that whatever people say at the top of their lungs is "of the moment" (note: This does not forgive the act of shouting or make it kinder).

The best breakups -- along with, admittedly, the hardest ones -- are the ones where you sit and talk and realize things aren't working. These are mutual breakups and adult ones. Shouting matches and slamming doors might feel instinctive, but so is tribalism and violence.

Try to sit down with him and be calm when you break up. Lower your voice. This is a human beside you, and even if they were really, really shitty to you, they are someone's baby. Someone watched them go from diapers to pants. They have value simply because they are breathing, and you have some kind of significance to them, some sway over their heart, otherwise you wouldn't be in this position.

04-breakup4. Don't drag it out.

I've spoken with some guys who think they have to drag out the breakup period long after they know it's over, for different reasons: Some have said they do this so that their "list" -- the list of reasons why they're breaking up, which they can eventually present to their partner when the dreaded talk happens -- can pile up with more negative items.

Others say they do this because they feel it's foolish to throw something away so easily, and they think it's important to give their relationship a chance. But I think a great majority of couples hold on to relationships because they get comfortable, because they fear something better might not come along, and because they reach a point that being single seems frightening.

Single might seem frightening, but here's what's worse: Staying in a relationship you do not enjoy while simultaneously deceiving someone else into thinking you do.

I always have mixed feelings about couples counseling and programs designed to reignite failed relationships. Here's a fact: No one is meant to stay together forever. We're not designed that way. Some of us end up sharing the majority of our lifetimes with others and are happy the whole time, but those people and those couples shouldn't be seen as "lucky" or their relationships "ideal."

There is no ideal in dating. For some people, a relationship that lasts a few years and then moves on to a friendship is the "ideal" scenario. Others may have different goals. Whatever way you look at relationships and their longevity, they are all terminal. Feeling like you have to salvage your relationship because you love someone is understandable, but you might be keeping them from an amazing relationship with someone else and keeping yourself from the same thing. You might be keeping both of you from an eventual post-breakup friendship that outlives -- and is far better than -- anything you had as partners. The old adage is true: Sometimes loving someone means letting them go.

Humans do not have soul mates and there is no need to hunt for a "life partner" -- a partner for here and now, and however long you stay together, is enough.

05-breakup5. Never go to sleep in party clothes.

You're going to want to go out and fuck, get fucked, or simply get fucked up. That's fine. You're allowed to do these things at any time in your life. But when breakup season rolls around, we almost give you a pass: Here, honey, go have your wild night. Call a taxi. Uber home.

But do not go to sleep in your "fuck me" shorts that show off your ass or your "free meat" tank top, because you'll wake up the next day feeling dirty and lonely (and probably feeling like shit) and the party clothes won't help. They'll make you feel ragged and cheap, and you'll be tempted to grab your phone off the nightstand and text him.

06-breakup6. Break communication.

This is a hard one -- probably the hardest part of breaking up. It will be so tempting to text him or call him, and I'm going to be honest with you: The late evenings and nights are going to suck.

As the world dims and the streetlights come on, you will feel unimaginably lonely. Happy couples will appear everywhere -- on billboards, on the sidewalk, in the mall -- reminding you of your plight. At night, you will sink into a depression that you think will only be alleviated by one word of communication from him.

It won't. You need to break communication. More importantly, you need to find and understand yourself apart from him. When those evening lights come on, remind yourself: This is you, solitary and single, in the world. These are your actions and your thoughts. This is your experience. This is your sadness, but this is also your story -- a timeline that existed before him and will exist after. You have the tools to go on.

07-breakup7. Don't isolate yourself.

Your breakup period is the time you call that friend you haven't spoken to in months and ask them to lunch. This is the time you invest in friendships. Isolation is when people turn to unhealthy habits and when depression drops into worse levels. Humans are social creatures -- we need each other to live.

Go to movies with friends. Plan a weekly friend date. Invest in people you don't know so well. Set aside time and budget for better friendships. This is how we get through hard times.

This is an important one for me, because I have a hard time making friends. It's awkward and weird for me. My default mode in a breakup is to go out and have every kind of hot, anonymous sex possible for months on end. It's tons of fun, but it leads to feelings of intense loneliness when, after the fucking, you have no one to cuddle and no one to call and invite to lunch.

When I'm in a dark, post-breakup place, I have to remind myself to talk to friends and invest time in friendships. I literally leave sticky notes on the bathroom mirror to call or text [insert friend name here] and make plans with them.

08-breakup8. Try to steer clear of alcohol, drugs, and other substances.

I'm not antidrug. In fact, I think Nancy Reagan's "war on drugs" and the social stigma surrounding addiction has led to disastrous results. I think it's wrong that we criminalize people who are not well and who have problems with substances while we give people with chronic illnesses medicine (typically unaffordable ones) and let them roam free.

All that being said, you should avoid party nights and hard substances in your post-breakup period. We have enough data to know when people turn to substances that lead to problems. Many people develop problems after breakups and following the deaths of partners and family members. Isolation increases this likelihood, because again, we are social creatures: We will connect with something. If we're not connecting with friends and other human beings, we will connect with alcohol or meth and the relationships (typically bad ones) we foster through the use of these.

Harm reduction is key here, because you're probably going to go out and have at least one night of bad decisions -- even if this simply means going to your local bar and ordering too many beers. Alcohol is the most abused drug in the United States, and although it's not heroin, you are still more likely to develop problems with it following a breakup.

Harm reduction means having a sober friend with you who knows you're blue and will be there to make sure you get home safe. Harm reduction means deleting hookup apps from your phone for a while -- apps that might tempt you to party and play. For some, harm reduction simply means making sure you have Uber or Lyft downloaded on your phone. For others, harm reduction means using clean needles and not sharing them.

Harm reduction means facing the fact that, realistically, you will probably do something unhealthy when you're depressed, and taking every step necessary to make yourself as safe as possible within that reality.

09-breakup9. Get a therapist or join a community support group.

Even if you're good -- if the breakup isn't hitting you too hard and you're coasting along -- you should still sit down and talk to someone at some point about how you're feeling, and where your head is. Therapists and support groups are invaluable, and at different points in our lives we all need them.

I was 21 when I became HIV-positive. I was in a small town, and at that time I was the youngest person at the HIV community support group, which was run out of the local Ryan White clinic. I've never been so close to suicide as I was during the Christmas season following my diagnosis, but I didn't want to be that empty chair at the clinic, with survivors 30 years older than me wondering where I had gone. I needed to talk to these people and have them tell me that life gets better. I needed to hear about their romances and their husbands and their lives.

When you're fresh from a breakup, you need the same thing. You need reminding from others that life goes on after rough patches, because we tend to forget that and project our own feelings onto the world in the solipsistic funk that depression is.

10-breakup10. Be prepared for the likelihood that you're going to sleep with your ex at some point.

I've never met a gay couple who made a clean break. I'm sure some do, but most of us, in my experience, fuck again at some point after we say goodbye.

The language of breakups -- their severance and permanence -- gets muddled in gay culture, because we all know gay couples who establish thirds, boyfriends, and playmates with former lovers and former boyfriends. We all know gay men who still have solid friendships or are friends with benefits with former partners, even if they have moved on to other relationships with other guys.

You're probably going to sleep with him again at some point, and if you're still feeling the pain of the breakup, the morning after you fuck and the days and weeks of silence after that are going to feel like a second breakup. It will rip the Band-Aid off again and you'll probably drop into another bad blue state.

11-breakup11. In a breakup, always put yourself first.

I've heard many people say that when you're dating, you are entrusted with the care of someone else's feelings. This is true -- to a point.

The truth is that everyone is responsible principally for themselves. You are not the primary caretaker of his happiness -- he is. Feeling like you are obligated to make him happy can make the relationship a burden and a chore that you feel stuck in, and many people stay in relationships because they feel this way. Remember: It is enough of a reason when breaking up to simply say "I'm not happy."

If you're not happy -- even if he is happy, even if you've been together for 10 years -- there's a problem, one that needs to be brought into the room, talked about, and taken apart. Telling him you're not happy might lead to a talk you don't want to have, but you need to have it. No one deserves to go through life -- or through a relationship -- miserable.

12-breakup12. You don't have to compose a list of reasons.

This is more of an additive to the previous slide, but many guys feel they have to present a list of reasons why the relationship isn't working. There might be legitimate reasons -- he wants nonmonogamy, you don't; you want to get kinky, he doesn't -- but the problem with creating a list for the breakup talk is this: You will find that when you state them, they will sound paltry and weak.

Worse, they will give him something to combat, something to take apart and confront, or promise to amend if you guys just stay together.

If you make a list of problems with the intention of fixing them together, that's not a breakup talk. That's a "We need to have a talk" talk. If you're making a list of reasons to justify breaking up with him, it's already over -- the list isn't necessary.

13-breakup13. Don't try to be friends immediately.

Following a breakup, you're not in friend mode. You won't be for a long time -- and you need to face the painful fact that you may never be. Friendship following a breakup is for the lucky few who can do so. Do not break up with the intention of being friends at some point, because that is cruel: The feelings will still be there for one or both of you, and the "friendship promise" will agonizingly give him/you reasons to hope and keep working for the relationship to continue. Accept that it's over, say goodbye, break contact, and live your life on your own for a while.

14-breakup14. Don't trick yourself into thinking something good will never come along again.

It is important for everyone going through painful times involving other people to remember that life can only be planned to an extent. Many people -- I would say most -- picture life as this forward motion that follows predictable timelines and stages of progress. We inevitably think we should "be somewhere" in our love lives after a certain point, and for this reason there are thousands of people walking around America feeling heartbroken and defeated -- because they're 45 and single.

You don't have to be anywhere at any time. Life makes unpredictable motions and unexpected turns. If we could predict and plan it, it would be a boring experience. You never see love coming -- you didn't before and you won't again until it blindsides you. You may end up being friends with your ex someday -- who knows? -- but you may also never talk to him again, and in five years meet someone who replaces that painful history with something you could have never seen coming: A relationship better than any you could have asked for.

That's how life works, and that's really the only lasting hope I have to offer: Life is a vast and uncharitable expanse before you filled with guys you haven't fucked yet and people you haven't gotten to know -- but you will. Be ready for them.

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