The Most Common Way to Break Up Is Probably Not What You Think


Fear no more the growing plague of the dating "fade-away." Despite what some of your slimier exes might have done, ghosting — the act of suddenly going radio silent – isn't as common as we think. New data suggests that, surprisingly, most people are actually having that uncomfortable breakup conversation in person.

According to a 1,802-person survey conducted by Mic in April using Google Consumer Surveys, more 25- to 34-year-olds are ending their relationships the old-fashioned way. A whopping 72.4% said they they usually break up "in person," while only 5.6% said they "avoid the conversation" and let the relationship just fade.

And when it comes to being dumped? About 55% of 25- to 34-year-olds said they've been broken up with in person. We're typically dumped face-to-face far more often than we are over phone calls (16.8%), fading out over time (7.2%) and over text message (7.1%).

Of course, ghosting is something many reserve for the early days of dating, before ending the relationship truly constitutes a "breakup," as the survey language called it. But the results still may come as a surprise, given the common lament that our generation does everything over text, or worse, avoids the harder conversations in life altogether. 

Though other surveys have suggested that plenty of us have been ghosted at least once (about 26% of women and 33% of men, according to an Elle survey), this data shows that for our major breakups, we tend to be a little more decent.

Given that Mic's survey also showed that at least 50% of respondents ages 25 to 34 had been through a breakup (and that of that 50%, 38.3% had endured three to five different splits), that's really good news.

The healthiest way to let go: The news that we're not, in fact, all ghosting each other is good for a couple of reasons. For one, it's heartening to know people aren't quite as awful as we'd imagined. More importantly, how we break up actually makes a difference: The more we do to prepare ourselves for the loss of someone in our lives, the more likely we are to heal from it. That means having a mature conversation about what went wrong.

"Face-to-face or phone contact is a must," therapist Alison Arnold told WebMD. "It's important to give the person with whom you are ending the relationship the chance to ask questions and feel the sentiment underneath the words."

Being able to reflect afterwards on what went wrong is crucial. A recent study in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science found that reflecting on our relationship actually speeds up the recovery process: By repeatedly thinking about a breakup and why it happened, participants quickly gained back their sense of who they were as single people. 

Getting closure: Getting face-to-face closure also lessens the chance of the person getting dumped ending up stuck in a cycle of questions and Facebook stalking binges that only sets them back. 

"When you disappear into the ether without any indication why, all I can do is come up with a million and a half reasons why you're not into me," xoJane's Victoria Carter wrote

Matt, 24, previously said to Mic, "Ghosting takes time. Maybe not your own, but the other person's, who might be wondering, 'What if?' Why not just end it and move on? It's a courtesy thing." 

Thoughtfulness and maturity are ultimately what an in-person breakup is all about, which is why the fact that 72.4% of us are choosing to split that way is so reassuring. The sooner we confront our breakups, the sooner we can move on to the other parts of life — nights out with our friends, learning news hobbies and, of course, that next relationship.