Over the course of the decade when Seinfeld ruled the TV airwaves, Elaine Benes kidnapped dogs, sorta faked her own death, and dated a wide variety of men both sponge-worthy and stab-worthy. You might think that the only romantic lessons we can learn from Elaine involve learning what not to do — like date your therapist, dentist, or former MTV Sports host Dan Cortese. But you would be wrong, my friend.
For, you see, despite her many romantic failings, Elaine was a genius at breaking up. I'm not saying she was a genius at figuring how to not get broken up with — that would require the self-control needed to not buy Jujyfruits on the way to see your boyfriend in the hospital — but over the course of the show's run, Elaine's devotion to a calm, clean, low-emotional-impact break-up evolved from a mere running gag into something that the rest of us could recognize, and put to use in our own lives.
This week marks the 25th anniversary of Seinfeld, and what better time to dig into the archives, and examine some of Elaine's key lessons in effective dumping? As the lady herself once said: "I can't be with someone who doesn't break up nicely. I mean, to me, that's one of the most important parts of a relationship."
1. WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH…QUIETLY SNEAK OUT THE BACK DOOR.
Why end things with a bang when you can end them with a whimper? Elaine was the ultimate mistress of the fadeaway, a low-drama breakup technique used in “The Rye,” which allowed her to end relationships without all that exhausting explaining, by simply walking out the door. Imagine how much more energy you'd have for dating if you didn't have to argue your way through a break up! You'd have a new special guest partner every week, too.
2. WHEN THE GOING GETS EVEN TOUGHER, LIE.
But what if the fadeaway hasn't helped you end your relationship? Well, there's always lying. In "The Watch," Elaine has a problem breaking up with her therapist who was also her boyfriend — a problem that she solves by enlisting Kramer to pretend to be her new boyfriend. Problem solved (ish)!
3. THERE’S NO BETTER TIME TO BREAK UP THAN WHILE STUCK TOGETHER IN AN ENCLOSED SPACE.
As Elaine and Puddy aggressively proved in “The Butter Shave,” the best time to explore your relationship's future (or lack thereof) is while you are trapped in an enclosed space for an extended period of time. The inherent pressure really helps everyone put their cards on the table. Involve the people sitting next to you, too — I'm sure they're bored and would love to have something to do.
4. DON'T FEEL GUILTY ABOUT ENDING A RELATIONSHIP OVER YOUR PARTNER'S QUIRKS.
Listen, nobody's going to give you the Nobel Peace Prize for not dumping someone over his dumb hat, OK? Save yourself.
5. KNOW THAT BREAK UPS ARE PERMANENT.
So don't take them lightly — a mistake Elaine made with Puddy in “The Junk Mail.” Think twice before you kick your steady to the curb over some flashy goofus with a crown from the Halloween supply store.
6. EXCEPT WHEN THEY'RE NOT.
Like everything in life, break-ups are what you make of them. And sometimes, the best (OK, fine, easiest) thing to make of them is an opportunity to take a new run at your relationship.
7. BE EXTRA-SENSITIVE WHEN BREAKING UP WITH A PARTNER DUE TO DIFFERING BELIEFS.
8. STAY FRIENDLY WITH YOUR EX.
After all, your relationship with them is a living advertisement for how good you are at breaking up!
9. DON’T LET ANYONE SHAME YOU FOR YOUR DUMPING BEHAVIOR.
Especially when they themselves have been known to dump a paramour or 50.
10. REVENGE HAS ITS PLACE.
Obligatory legal note: we do not encourage vengeance. We support peace, serenity, moving on, feeling good, puppies and kittens frolicking in a meadow made out of candy, etc. But if you can't move on, because the guy you were dating made up weird lies to try to get you in bed (a la "The Wig Master"), we theoretically can imagine a situation in which it would possibly make perfect sense to cut his hair off in his sleep. Conceivably.
11. BE PROUD OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP STANDARDS, WHATEVER THEY ARE.
12. WHEN IN DOUBT, YOU'RE PROBABLY BROKEN UP.
Wondering if your relationship has ended is one of the top five signs of your relationship having actually ended. As Elaine ponders in "The Strongbox," "I haven't talked to [Puddy] in like three weeks...I think it might be over."
13. DON’T ENDLESSLY REHASH WHY YOU BROKE UP.
14. IN FACT, DON’T DISCUSS IT AT ALL.
Not only do we not really know why Jerry and Elaine broke up, I doubt that Jerry and Elaine really know why Jerry and Elaine broke up. And while there's something to be said for processing and closure, there's also something to be said for moving the hell on and dating strangers that you meet on the street (as everyone on this show seems to do constantly).
15. STAND BY YOUR RELATIONSHIP CRITERIA.
If you don't believe in your set of standards, who will? Certainly not all those random strangers you're picking up on the street!
16. REMEMBER THAT NO MATTER WHAT TWISTS AND TURNS YOUR LOVE LIFE TAKES, YOUR FRIENDS ALWAYS LOVE YOU.
You know, in their own way.