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Why breaking up over an SMS is now so commonplace

A ‘Dear John letter’ is a letter written to a husband or boyfriend by his spouse or significant other to inform him their relationship is over, usually because the author has found another lover.

brunch Updated: Jul 14, 2013 15:27 IST
Shreya Sethuraman
Shreya Sethuraman
Hindustan Times

“I don’t think this is working out anymore. I’m breaking up with you.”

textIt is said that these words are most impactful when uttered face to face. But what if you get the news via SMS? What does it say about the sender? A few years ago, self-righteous types (and manicured etiquette consultants) would have deemed it too insensitive. Today however, it seems normal.

Image consultant Vishal Bhalla, 25, says he was recently in an unhappy relationship, one he wanted to end. "I was seeing somebody on the side as well," he adds. So he sent his girlfriend the following text: ‘See I can’t tolerate you and your emotional atyachaar anymore. So I don’t want to see you. Thanks for whatever you did’. "There were two reasons I did this over SMS: To avoid questions like ‘What? Why? Do you not love me anymore?’, and because I just don’t want to handle emotional women."

Get the message

Sounds harsh? It’s how more and more people are ending it these days, etiquette be damned.

Dr Sajid Ali Khan, psychiatrist and psychotherapist at Mumbai’s Kohinoor Hospital, claims that breakups and cravings for multiple partners are higher in the tech-savvy generation. "They now have less space and patience for individual emotions. Thus they prefer to break up over a text message."

Writer Moonmoon Ghosh, 27, was in a stagnant relationship for a while before she decided to break up with her boyfriend by sending a text. "He had stopped talking to me, and I had no idea if we would ever talk, or what the deal was, or if we were even in a relationship," she explains. "This went on for a long time. So finally I got over him and told him that we were done."

Objectively, it seems perfectly logical – you use SMS to convey your instructions, your reactions, your approval, your love. So why shouldn’t you use it to break up as well? Dr Samir Parikh, director of mental health and behavioural sciences at Fortis Healthcare takes the same view. "If you use text messaging as the main medium for communication for most things, then you’d use it for ending a relationship too," he says, simply. "Some people don’t want to do a one-to-one interaction because they want to escape the emotional outcome. Some are – at their own level – not comfortable regardless of any reaction."

Text appeal

Musharat Perveen, 26, a PR executive in Delhi, broke up with her boyfriend last month via text, stating that since he was in Dubai, she couldn’t have met him. "I didn’t want to call him because I knew he would have started making excuses," she complains. Perveen believes that an SMS is the best way to cleanse your life of "toxic people without facing them".

Mumbai-based counsellor Sakshi Singh, 27, was in a relationship for seven years.

But her boyfriend stopped talking to her over the last six months. Her repeated efforts to get him to open up yielded no results. "He kept saying ‘Please don’t wait for me’, then one day he just texted that it was over. Apparently, he got bored," she says.

Is this the new normal? Have relationships really become that fickle? "It has certainly become socially acceptable," says Dr Pulkit Sharma, clinical psychologist at the Imago Centre for Self, Delhi.It’s only words

While texting your boyfriend or girlfriend to end the relationship may offer a kind of instant gratification, it could make things complicated in the long run. "It epitomises lack of concern, nervousness and guilt," says Dr Khan. Dr Sharma points out that it offers no closure to either party "which is important when you’re closely involved with someone. Additionally, there are chances of the emotions resurfacing."

We might as well learn to make peace with the modern-day version of the Dear John (see box) letters. The term is believed to have been coined by Americans during World War II, to tell their significant other that the relationship was over. And if you are someone who steers clear of emotional drama and hates confrontation, then don’t be surprised if you’re at the receiving end. Karma does have its ways.Asin-Neil


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Reggie Bush dumped Kim Kardashian in 2010
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RKRussell Brand dumped Katy Perry in 2011

His Dec 31 text asked to end their 14-month-long marriage

Pen it down
A ‘Dear John letter’ is a letter written to a husband or boyfriend by his spouse or significant other to inform him their relationship is over, usually because the author has found another lover.

These are written due to inability or unwillingness to inform the man in person.
The reverse situation, in which someone writes to his wife or girlfriend to break off the relationship, is referred to as a ‘Dear Jane letter’.

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From HT Brunch, July 14

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First Published: Jul 13, 2013 13:55 IST