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Health & Sex

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How to Break Up Gracefully

There may be 50 ways to leave your lover, but some are better than others. Learn the dos and don'ts of ending a romantic relationship.
WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

It's not you, it's me ... or is it?

Just about all of us have heard -- or even said -- this line as a way of ending a romantic relationship. The problem is that it often leaves the dumpee thinking the exact opposite.

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But is there really a way to make a clean and honest break? Is it ever OK to lie when ending a romantic relationship? Can you IM him or her that it's over, or do you have to do it in person? Is it really possible to be friends with your ex after a breakup?

WebMD went to the experts to get the best breakup advice ever. Read this before you even think of uttering another clichéd breakup line or texting the bad news to your soon-to-be ex.

All Relationships Are Not Created Equal

"The nature of how to handle a breakup has to do with how you experience a relationship," says New York City-based psychoanalyst and psychotherapist Janice Lieberman, PhD, who specializes in relationship issues.

For starters, she says, not every relationship deserves a dramatic breakup. There are no hard and fast rules about what constitutes a relationship. "There are people who think they have a relationship with two dates and people who don't think they are in a relationship after 20 dates," she says. "If you have gone on one or two or three dates, not calling is breaking up, but after some kind of romantic and sexual encounters, it is a courtesy to call," Lieberman tells WebMD.

"Sometimes it's easier not to call, and there are people who will just run away," she admits.

The explosion of Internet dating has also muddied the waters in terms of when an actual breakup is necessary, she says.

"People have Internet relations for a long time and then elevate to phone calls. Sometimes it takes a long time for a face-to-face encounter. This can be problematic, because people get very involved with each other and then when they finally meet, there are so many other cues that indicate they're not suited for one another," she says.

The warning signs that a breakup is imminent have also changed thanks to Internet dating, Lieberman says.

"People will go out with someone they met on or, and then you can see if they are surfing the Net and looking for someone else," she says. This is far less subtle than, say, acting cold on a date or not calling when you said you would.

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