How to Throw a Breakup Party

The first question that I would usually get from people when I initially started telling them about Exile Lifestyle was “When will you be coming back?” The second question was invariably “Is your girlfriend going along with you?”

Needless to say, when the inquirers found out that my girlfriend and I would not only be breaking up but also be throwing a wild and crazy breakup party in our empty townhouse before going our separate ways, the reactions were priceless.

Many people applauded our ‘mature approach’ to dating, while others lightly tssked and said it was a shame and that we probably wouldn’t go through with it. All but a few on both sides said that they wouldn’t be able to do it. Too strange. Too much drama.

But though the idea started out as a joke, after discussing it for a while we embraced the idea and decided to really go crazy with it. And you can too.

Before I get in to the logistics that go into planning and hosting a successful breakup party, however, I want to go over the reasons you might want to throw one to begin with. It’s not your typical fare — in fact, I’ve never known anyone else who has hosted one, nor even heard of one that’s taken place — but that’s part of the fun. There are no traditions to break, no expectations to meet. A breakup party is about as tabula rasa as you can get with an event (in more ways than one, I suppose).

Reasons to Throw a Breakup Party

  1. Different paths: sometimes two people who have a wonderful relationship feel that their lives are headed in different directions, and that by being in the relationship they are both being held back and holding the other person back. In this instance, it may make more sense to break up rather than keeping each other from doing what you each want to do.
  2. Relationship creep: It should be no secret to anyone who has dated for any amount of time that, over the weeks and months and years, the relationship changes. This is the result of many different things (hopefully it also means that both parties are continuing to grow) and can be a very positive thing, but sometimes the relationship changes in such a way that the people involved in it don’t want to be involved in it anymore. If this is the case, the mature and rational thing to do is end it before one person ends up killing the other (sounds like an exaggeration, but this actually does happen from time to time).
  3. Reestablishment of independence: Another feature of lengthy relationships is that the people involved tend to lose a bit of their individuality due to the sacrifices that each person makes for the other, the fact that they are almost always together, etc. For some people, this can eventually be too much, and being able to be JUST you again (instead of one half of a whole) may seem like something you need to do.
  4. Antiestablishment: This is probably the least rational reason to throw a breakup party, but to each their own. The idea of most relationships can be a bit abhorrent to some people (you date to find someone to marry, get married and have kids, white picket fences are built, credit cards are used to buy an SUV, trampolines, big-screen TVs, suburbs, 18 or more years of child-rearing, divorce, repeat). In this case, it may seem like a good choice to avoid the traditional relationship path and instead put limitations in place, such as a time-limit (wherein the relationship would end with a party at the end of x number of months or some such). I’ve never heard of something like that happening, but I’m sure it does.

Think about it, and if you find the idea of a breakup party appealing, then you probably have a good reason to want to have one. Discuss it with your partner (which will likely result in a lot more discussions about related things) and if you DO decide that a breakup party is the way to go, be sure to keep the following things in mind.

Things to Keep in Mind When Throwing a Breakup Party

  1. It’s a party: The last thing your friends and family want to do is attend a cryfest that’s more wake than bar mitzfa. Keep things lively, have fun music playing, and have all the trappings you’d usually have at a party (food, drinks, etc).
  2. Make sure everyone is in on it: It sucks to be the one person at a costume party who shows up in street clothing (or vice-versa), and it would suck just as much for someone to show up thinking it’s a normal party, only to find out that there is more significance to it than that. Explain what’s going on clearly in the invite, on your Facebook Events page, and when you are telling people about it. The more your invitees are able to prepare, the less likely it is there will be a cringe-worthy scene at some point during the festivities.
  3. Be innovative: This is a new kind of party, so there’s no reason you should do everything ‘the way it’s supposed to be done.’ For example, my girlfriend and I printed off pictures of the both of us and tore them down the middle (with some really funny results) and taped them to the walls. We also had artwork on display…a guy we met pretty randomly at a gallery opening loved the idea of the party and wanted to show his work at the event. We also set up a Twister board and had a contest called ‘Text Your Ex,’ where the funniest text message exchange between a partygoer and one of their exes won a prize. Because both myself and my girlfriend are moving at the same time, we both had a LOT of stuff we’d yet to sell, so we also had a ‘garage sale’ room of sorts that was a big hit.
  4. Make it official: People are going to want to see some drama, but if everything goes well there won’t be much of that. So how do you keep to the theme? You break up during the party. My girlfriend Kristin and I chose to break up at midnight, and we made it official by changing our Facebook relationship statuses (I know, I know) to ‘Single.’ Not only did we make a statement about the role social networks play in the lives of Gen-Y folk, but we also got one possibly awkward part of breaking up out of the way while among a supportive group of friends. Perfect!

The absolute most-important thing to keep in mind through all of this is that everyone looks at relationships differently, and this model will not work for everyone. In fact, I would hazard to say that it won’t work for the vast majority of people.

Even if you are the kind of person who this kind of thing appeals to, make sure that you have some long, intensive discussions ahead of time. If you’re even considering a breakup party it means that you want to stay friends with the person you are breaking up with, and if this event is in any way not mutual, the likelihood of that happening is greatly decreased.

What do you think? Are breakup parties a mature approach to a difficult situation or a cop-out for those who are afraid of conventional relationships? Have you had an unconventional relationship or breakup? Share your thoughts and stories in the comments below!

Update: May 9, 2016

This has been one of my more externally referenced and popular posts over the years. I’ve heard from hundreds of people telling me that they’d thrown breakup (or divorce) parties after reading this, and I have people asking me about it after talks and book tour stops to this day.

In the years since this post was written, I’ve penned a book on relationships that maps out some of the more complex rationales behind doing things like this. But primarily it comes back to 1. treating the person you’re dating with respect, 2. communicating clearly with each other, and 3. remembering that there’s no right or wrong way to date. Everything else is up in the air, and if you take advantage of that fact, a relationship can be a wonderful adventure with a person (or people) who add an immense amount of value and happiness to your life.

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