Whether it’s a long-term girlfriend, a woman you’ve just started dating, or even a f-buddy, not being an idiot about it will save both of you lots of trouble. Best ways to break it off with your girl after the jump!

Caasi Cofer

If you’re ready to call it quits with your girlfriend or even one of your friends with benefits, you’ll save both of you a lot of trouble if you know what you’re doing. The thing is, most guys have no idea what they’re doing when it comes time to break up with a girl. And so I, as a woman with plenty of experience in both aforementioned relationship roles, am going to share the break-up techniques that result in the fewest number of hard feelings, public outbursts, and restraining orders.

Method: Sending her an email
Appropriate For: A woman you’ve been dating for no more than a few weeks

According to relationship expert and psychologist Megan Fleming, the email should contain two passages: One that thanks her for the time you’ve spent together and the opportunity to get to know her. And another that mentions something non-physical that you like about her. Fill out the rest with how you’re not ready for a serious relationship and send it off. That way when she forwards it to her friends — and she will — they’ll respond with something like, “Well, you don’t want to be with a guy who’s allergic to relationships anyway, so this is for the best!”

Method: Gradual radio silence
Appropriate For:A f*ck buddy

To be honest, I’m tempted to tell you that you should never do this: The woman can get confused. However, if you’re getting tired of your booty call, simply stop texting or calling her. She may get the message and do the same to you. But if she doesn’t, just respond to one of her texts by saying that you’ve been super busy and that the rest of the month is looking crazed. What you’re basically saying is, “I don’t have time to have no-strings-attached sex with you,” which is a polite way of saying, “I don’t even want to have no-strings-attached sex with you.” She should get the message.

Method: Make her do it
Appropriate For:A woman you’ve dated for at least six months

Remember how committed you once were to making her think you were the most amazing boyfriend of all time? Well, do the opposite: Pick meaningless fights, be emotionally unavailable, don’t compliment her, and cease all thoughtful gestures (goodnight calls, suffering through chick flicks, saying “I love you” unprompted, showing her any PDA). Women are like relationship seismographs; we closely monitor even subtle shifts in couple tectonics. So if you act like that long enough, she will eventually want to discuss what’s going on. When she approaches you, it’s okay to be apologetic, but don’t go into details about why you’re sorry for whatever it is you did or didn’t do. It may take weeks or even a few months, but she’ll eventually be so fed up with you that she’ll determine you’re not worthy of her and ditch you. Conventional wisdom says this is a dick move. But I asked Fleming anyway because I’m a journalist, and to my disappointment she said this was okay because “the guy gets to not feel like an asshole and the woman walks away feeling empowered.”

Method: Telling her in person that you want to end things
Appropriate For:Any relationship, but it’s your only option in a longterm relationship

It takes balls to sit a woman down and tell her you no longer want to be with her, but you’re a man. So act like one. And here’s good news: Fleming says guys generally feel a huge sense of relief after the conversation ends. The hard part is starting it. “There’s never a ‘right’ or ‘easier’ time to do it,” Fleming says. “Plus, if you feel like you want to end things, it’s unlikely she hasn’t felt the tension or disconnection.” (Like I said, we’re relationship seismographs.) Now, even though you’re doing the dumping face to face, you shouldn’t be literally face to face with your soon-to-be ex. Instead, have the conversation while sitting together on a couch, or hanging on a park bench, or walking; studies have found that men find it easier to have tough talks when they’re side by side. Be willing to talk it out and share information on why you’re over it, so give us intel on what the hell is going on inside your head. Just don’t use phrases that smell of rejection like, “I don’t love you anymore.” Stick to why you and she aren’t a good fit since that feels less like a straight-up rejection.

Lastly, tell her you want to be friends since, according to Fleming, women want to know that the person with whom they’ve shared so much isn’t going to permanently disappear. But I recommend saying that you want to be friends — and then adding that you aren’t quite ready to be friends right now. It’ll make her think you still love her, and it’ll make her think you’re struggling with this and will be drowning your sorrows in a roll of uncooked cookie dough, much like she will be. And really, those are the two best thoughts you can leave her with.

Modern Man