How to break up with someone the right (safe) way

November 11, 2012 8:24:31 PM PST
Any time you break off a relationship, it can be hard. But the way a lot of teenagers are breaking up these days -- via social media -- can be downright dangerous.

A new initiative called Futures without Violence is trying to teach teens a safer way to break up.

The headlines are everywhere: Young Love Gone Horribly Wrong; Teen Dating Turned Deadly. In the past year, 10 percent of students reported being physically hurt by their boyfriend of girlfriend.

Breaking up is now a dangerous thing to do, and experts say social media is adding fuel to the fire.

"It's either text or it's either Facebook and everyone sees it and it's just drama all over," 15-year-old Trey Smith said.

Casey Corcoran, program director of Futures without Violence, says the problem is so widespread that teenagers now need to be taught how to stay safe when relationships end.

"The challenge of text breakups is there's a character limit. You can only say so much. You don't get tone of voice, you don't get body language," Corcoran said. "There are concrete skills that go into healthy breakups. Teens need to know what they are and they need to have the opportunity to practice them in a safe environment."

High schools, colleges, hospitals and even insurance companies are now investing in new teen violence prevention classes. They're being taught on campuses nationwide, offering simple strategies to help teens break up better.

"We really want them to have the conversation around breakups and really make some decisions for themselves on how they're going to be most respectful," said Nicole Daley, who helps teach a "Break-Up Summit."

Daley says educators in this day and age have to add a fourth "R" to their lesson plans: Reading, 'Riting, 'Rithmetic and Relationships.

"There's a lot on how to deal with the aftermath of a breakup, but there's not a lot that actually shares and talks about how do you want to have the conversation," Daley said.

For example, the program advocates face-to-face breakups in most situations.

"It allows for body language, tone of voice. It allows for dialog," Corcoran said.

And it suggests a technology time-out.

"Posting something online is not the best decision. It usually serves to escalate the problem rather than de-escalate it," Corcoran explained. "It involves more people than need to be involved and it can stay online forever."

And while breakups can be painful, they'll hurt a lot less if they're done with respect.

"It's really great to actually have a healthy way to breakup with a person," Smith said. "Even if you're not friends, everything's just neutral. So that person can move on."

While the program does advocate face-to-face breakups for most relationships, proponents stress that an abusive relationship is different and should be ended remotely.

For more information, visit www.futureswithoutviolence.org.


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