How to Dump Someone Before Going Off to College...Without Acting Like a Jerk

Leaving for college means lots of different things: feeling excited about the future! Feeling scared about the future! Realizing that you’re now an adult who is (yay!) living without her parents, and is (boo!) now responsible for stuff like laundry and grocery shopping and attending classes! Figuring out what the heck to do about your significant other who will be attending a different college than you! It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, as some old timey guy once said.

In all of the blistering self-reflection that goes on in the months following graduation, it's easy to avoid looking at your romantic relationship with a similarly critical eye. After all, everything else is so unstable — can't assessing your high school relationship go on the back burner for a while, until you pick your major or your classes or figure out just how to deal with your (likely horrible) freshman roommate?

Here's why it shouldn't: yes, the first few months after graduation often feel like living out that nightmare about showing up naked to take a test you didn't study for, day after day after day. But they're also a time to take the first steps and make the first changes that will allow you to have the kind of future you want.

That is hard work. And trying to do that while stuck in a longterm security blanket relationship — a relationship that no longer works, but feels comforting and familiar — is actually harder than going it alone. It's harder to make new friends, try new things, or even figure out the new things you'd like to try, when you're pouring most of your energy into a relationship that isn't providing you with happiness or fulfillment.

Figuring out whether to leave your high school relationship can feel like trying to solve one of those exploding murder-puzzles from Saw. But it doesn't have to be that way. You, too, can learn if and how to end your high school relationship before leaving for college, with these simple steps.

1. FIGURE OUT IF YOU WANT OUT

What reasons do you have to stay together? What reasons do you have to break up? Though odds are that if you're pondering breaking up, your relationship has run its course, there are always exceptions — in the time right after graduation, it's easy to get jealous of friends who are traveling to strange, new places and seeing all manner of strange, new genitals, while you have to stay in your dorm, away from temptation, playing Settlers of Catan and skyping with your SO. But, that envy for their seemingly appealing freedom is not reason enough

So really sit down, and make a list of all the reasons to stay or go. You'll most likely feel a pull either way; if you feel completely undecided, that's a sign that it's not time for you to initiate a break up yet, even if the relationship is troubled. Don't feel guilty about this —there's no shame in taking the time to really understand your feelings and not rush into mistakes. Even if you take a year to figure this out, don't worry; there will still be plenty of strangers left to have sex with in a year. Also, if you stay together, make sure to go out some times. That much Settlers of Catan can truly drive a person to the mouth of madness.

2. FIGURE OUT WHERE TO BREAK UP

So you've made the decision to end things. Now, how the hell do you do it? There are some evergreen ways to not be a dick when you dump someone, but the months after high school can present, err, unique challenges. Something as simple as the privacy needed to end a relationship can be hard to negotiate — chances are, you're still living at home, or one of you has already left for school and is dealing with that brand-new-roommate situation — neither scenario is conducive to breaking up with dignity (or doing much of anything with dignity).

So while the gold standard is always breaking up in person, at one of your homes, sometimes that's not an option. How else handle it? If you absolutely can't pay off your roommates or beg your parents to take a hike for a little while, see if you can meet someplace neutral but not full of people, like an almost-empty park. If you have any other option, don't dump in a public place like a bar or cafe; though it can seem like an easy solution to prevent an ex from freaking out too badly, or roping you into a torturous all-night conversation about how things went wrong, it will also force your ex to be the sobbing guy/ girl on the bus, or the person primal-screaming inside their Volvo in the Chili's parking lot. If you're long distance already, try to Skype or FaceTime at a time when you'll have some privacy; if you've been dating for more than a few weeks, don't do it by chat, text, or private message (the electronic equivalent of dumping someone at Chili's).

3. DON'T LET BARGAINING, BEGGING, OR BULLYING EXTEND THE RELATIONSHIP

The feelings of terror, insecurity, and uncertainty that permeate many of the waking moments of post-grad life can make you an easy mark to be begged, bargained, or bullied into giving the relationship another shot. Stick to your guns if this comes up. The world out there is scary, sure, but it's not going to be any less scary to negotiate while weighed down by someone you're no longer crazy about; in fact, the high-highs and low-lows of college life can turn a simply mediocre relationship that had run its course into a horror of a relationship that chokes the life out of you.

Taking on the world together as a couple in love rules, but sticking together out of fear and routine SUCKS. And it will just make you act shitty to each other, before leading to another break-up five years down the road, this one a thousand times worse because you have a lease and all this furniture and also you fucking hate each other now. So don't say yes to any pleas to give the relationship six more weeks, go on one last romantic date together, or finish first semester and THEN decide about the relationship. Give a gentle but firm “no," and be prepared to be the bad guy if you have to.

4. DON'T IMMEDIATELY LET THE WORLD KNOW VIA STATUS UPDATE

Your friends are scattered all over the country now, and you don't talk to all of them regularly; how can you quickly communicate this update to your former status as a partnered individual to them? Whatever you do, do not break word to your friends via status update (either changing your relationship status or actually posting about the break up). Posts like that are a magnet for weird drama (what do people mean when they like it? What about all the people who AREN'T liking it? What's their end game here?!?), and wholly unnecessary — the post-graduation gossip networks are among the strongest fabrics known to man, because half of your former classmates are just sitting around on chat all day since they only have class 12 hours a week. Just hide your relationship status for the time being, tell your core circle and a few other chatty friends, and trust that they'll get the word out to everyone important.

5. DON'T IMMEDIATELY HOOK UP WITH SOMEONE ELSE FROM YOUR CLASS

In the immediate aftermath of a post-grad break up, the temptation to make out with everyone else you ever wanted in high school, or every cute boy in your new dorm, can be overwhelming. And easy — friends who actually always wanted to be more than friends may start coming out of the woodwork the moment word about your break up gets out. Please do not hook up with these people, or at least, not right away. There's a world full of people out there who were never in a homeroom or a choir or a weird conceptual art project about deforestation with your ex; go hook up with those people.

Because no matter how satisfying it feels in the moment, rebounding with someone you know from high school will create a lot of unnecessary drama, which is the last thing you need right now. If they're actual relationship material, they can wait a few months; if you're just looking to get your rocks off, get your rocks off on someone else's shoreline, sailor.

Even with all this advice, there's still no such thing as an easy or painless break up motivated by life changes (shouldn't Google be spending billions of dollars working on that instead of all this "Mars exploration" business?). But this break up will set a good precedent for pulling the plug on security-blanket relationships in times of transition or stress for the rest of your life. You'll learn from this, in a way that will improve your dating life forever. Remember:

Images: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7