Q: How should you break up with someone while sheltering in place?

A: There is no perfect way to end a relationship. And if your breakup is going to be messy, there’s no avoiding that, either, no matter what state the world is in. Which is not to say that the quarantine isn’t a complicating factor.

For those who aren’t living together, breaking up is much the same as before, only now through a screen. It used to be considered crass to break up over the phone, but these days have their own, unique standards. If you have a tendency to hem and haw your way around confrontation, you’ll need to focus on being more direct over the phone, where you lose nonverbal communication cues.

If you live together, it’s more difficult to break up now. One of you can’t just pack up and move in with a friend while looking for a new home. You will likely go more slowly, take more time to complete, have a more emotionally intimate experience in the breakup.

Which doesn’t mean you have to avoid doing anything. The truth is you don’t need to have it all figured out. All you need to do is speak the truth. The rest will come.

LAURIE DAVIS EDWARDS, alignment coach and founder of the Worthy One


A: For some, the coronavirus quarantine is accelerating a split that already was in the making. For others, it may be causing one or both members of the couple to reassess priorities.

Whatever the reason for splitting, I’d urge couples who’ve been in a longstanding relationship to hold off on initiating any drastic measures until after the easing of shelter-in-place restrictions. With anxiety and stress elevated for so many of us, removing yet another block from the foundation of a partner’s well-being would be uncaring and callous.

It’s a different story entirely if there is abuse happening or if both parties are clearly on the same page and don’t share a residence. A mid-epidemic exit is also excusable if the relationship is a relatively new one and didn’t have much of a chance to blossom before COVID-19 hit.

Though the decision may be a painful one, patience and civility will ease the path to new chapters in both of your lives — ones that will be written with each of you standing way more than 6 feet apart.

THOMAS P. FARLEY, etiquette expert