real life

"My friend is 25 and has never broken up with someone face-to-face.”

I’m in Kmart. Fucking Kmart. The shiny DVDs and the kids disappearing into aisle four and the smell of air-conditioning and packaged sweets.

I’m staring at the electronics section when my phone rings. It’s someone I’ve been ‘seeing’.  They’ve met my family. Patted my dog. Stayed in my bed. We had plans that night.

“Caity, I won’t be able to see you tonight.”

“Oh, umm, no worries…. Is something up?”

“Yeah, it’s not just about tonight… I’m just not ‘feeling it’ anymore. I’m just not ‘feeling it'” 

It had been four months. My dog LOVED them. I did too. And all I got was a phone call.

It made me crazy. I turned into one of those people I never want to be. I was stalking social media. Turing up at parties I thought he’d be at. Cornering friends, friends of friends. Trying to understand why this person, who had once been so in to it (“once” meaning the actual day before) all of a sudden disappeared after a phone call and five meaningless, gutless words.

But, as much as I hated it, I have done the exact same thing since. A friend of mine takes it one step further. She is 25 and has never broken up with someone face-to-face.

Aren’t we all guilty of it?

Face-to-face breakups are difficult. They’re confronting. And, with so many different alternatives, we (millennials, in particular) aren’t partaking.

I’ve done it via Facebook, text and once a really bad phone call. – a writer in the office told me.

But where is the line? (Is there a line?) How long to do you have to be dating someone before a face-to-face breakup is required?

We asked around the Mamamia office.

The conversation went something like this:

Six months.

Ummmm, two weeks.

Four weeks.

Six months sounds about right.

Three months.

Ideally it should be done face-to-face at any stage but… knowing what people are like, that’s not realistic.


Some responses were not so time-dependent:

Four dates.

Two dates warrants a face-to-face. It’s so rude not to do it face-to-face. This is someone you liked enough to go on a second date with!

NO WAY, two dates is too soon, that’s just awkward and kinda inconveniencing for them.

If you’ve shagged the person, a face to face is 100% necessary.


One woman had it down to a science:

One month over text. Two months over phone. Three months face to face.

Finally, an exasperated editor asked:

How many of you actually have broken up with someone face-to-face?”


Surely, everyone breaks up face to face? – this was from a different editor. Slightly too optimistic.

Radio silence.

And then:

Is that even a thing? – a 24-year-old asked. (She swipes left like a demon.)

“I’m 25 and I’ve never broken up face-to-face.”

I’d do it via homing pigeon if I could – a 24-year-old added (She also also kills it on Tinder.)

“I was going out with a guy for a year-and-a-half and he broke up with me via text one morning. I woke up, reached over and grabbed the phone and he ditched me.”

No agreement was found, but everyone left the conversation thoughtful. Thinking a little differently about what it means to break up with someone, and what it means to do it well. Nicely. Decently.

(Carrier pigeon that is not).

We all know the argument about the devices and millennials and the way screens are turning us distracted, maybe lazy, definitely lonely because we’re connected-but-not-really. Avoiding the face-to-face break up is just another example of the way our lives, and relationships, have changed.

But the woman who sits next to me made an important point. This is a smart woman, she has always broken up with people while looking them in the eye. She is now married, and worried about the demise of face-to-face heartbreak.

She says we are missing out on the small challenges.

Relationship deal-breakers. Post continues below video.

That having those tricky conversations, facing someone and being able to tell them – in real life – something you know they don’t want to hear, makes you a stronger person. Adds a layer of hardiness to both your skin and theirs.

That these face-to-face breakups better equip you to handle other tough conversations that life is bound to bring. They make you more human, add depth, add substance. Make you stronger. Build character.

We are shying away from these little life challenges, hiding behind our devices. Making it harder for ourselves in the long-run. Maybe we should start embracing the small steps, the face-to-face breakups. A text message isn’t going to get us out of every tough situation.