How to end a relationship in 15 easy steps

Maya Afilalo


Step 1: Begin hunting for a guy. Not just any guy. Look for a man who will notice when you make an effort to apply your eyeliner evenly, but won’t judge your sushi-print pajamas. The kind of man who knows how to change a flat, but cries a little when you watch An Affair to Remember snuggled together under the wool blanket your Aunt Rosemary gave you for Christmas two years ago.

Step 2: Ask your friend Mindy if she has any friends she can set you up with. Meet her friend Todd. Todd has sandy blond hair and a Canadian accent. Decide you like men with Canadian accents, but not sandy blond hair. Tell him your Aunt Rosemary has passed away and you’re not ready to date now. Ignore pangs of guilt from lying about Rosemary’s death.

Step 3: At work, start chatting with Mitch, the guy from finance. Decide you like the way Mitch stirs his coffee. Two swirls clockwise, one swirl counterclockwise. You wonder if this is enough to base a relationship on.

Step 4: Decide it probably isn’t, but fuck it, you never know until you try, right? You ask Mitch out to coffee.

Step 5: Anticipate your date with Mitch. Imagine your shared life in a Victorian house with a Beagle and three children, two girls and a boy. Scold yourself for letting your imagination run wild, but keep fantasizing anyway.

Step 6: Pretend to be unfazed when Mitch mentions that his girlfriend loved the lasagna recipe you gave him. Smile and say, oh, I’m so glad. Add that you can also give him your recipe for tuna casserole. Wonder if this is a pitiful form of revenge.

A few hours before your plans to get coffee with Mitch (you can no longer call this a date) call him and say you have a migraine. Never reschedule.

Step 7: Don’t give up hope. Rediscover your passion for spelunking, and join a singles group that organizes a trip to the caves every other weekend.

On your second trip, meet Vance, a divorced accountant with two daughters. You’d make a decent stepmother, you think to yourself.

Accept Vance’s offer to cook you dinner at his place. Admire his drapes, and how clean the kitchen is for a bachelor’s house. As you dig into the salmon with creamy dill sauce, you and Vance swap stories about your spelunking conquests. Vance has been to Stephens Gap in Alabama, which you’ve always wanted to explore.

Maybe I could take you there sometime, he says. You wonder if Vance’s daughters also enjoy spelunking. You decide they do, and that the four of you would take lovely family trips to the caves.

Before your imagination can run any farther, Vance asks if you’d like to have a glass of wine in the living room. You accept.

Step 8: Conceal your horror when the door opens as you and Vance are kissing, and the next words he says are not “I forgot it was my night with the kids,” but “Mom?”

Step 9: Accept Vance’s apology, but refuse his request for a second date.

Step 10: Lower your standards. Although you and your friends prefer going to McShea’s, a quaint Irish pub with a friendly bartender named Jake, insist that the gang go to The Bull. You are more likely to find a man at The Bull because no one knows you there.

Step 11: Pay for the first round of drinks to make up for forcing your friends to come to a bar that reeks of cheap beer, even though your paycheck doesn’t come until next Thursday.

Sip your whiskey sour and scan the room. Make eye contact with a cute guy in a plaid shirt sitting at the bar. Smile. He smiles back. Definitely An Affair to Remember/wool blanket/Victorian house material.

Saunter over to the bar, order another drink (really, you can’t afford this), and try to attract his attention. Begin eavesdropping on his conversation. Listen to him speak, and realize he is gay. Ask the bartender to change your gin and tonic to a shot of tequila.

Step 12: At home that night, make an account on OkCupid. In the morning, laugh with your roommate at your drunken decision.

Step 13: After two one night stands, innumerable shots of tequila, and zero dates, log back onto OkCupid.

Scan the faces of men and think to yourself, this isn’t so bad. Click on the profile of a man whose username is MapleMan14. You scroll through his pictures and realize that he is, in fact, Mindy’s friend Todd. Decide sandy blond hair isn’t so bad after all.

Send Todd a message. Make a dumb joke about dating in the 21st century and isn’t it funny how you’ve already met in person? Chastise yourself for your silly remark, but be pleasantly surprised when Todd asks you out to dinner.

Step 14: At dinner, order the roast chicken with pesto because it’s neither the least expensive nor the most expensive item on the menu. Laugh at Todd’s jokes, which consist mostly of Keanu Reeves impersonations. Relish the way he elongates his vowels and how he pronounces the word “sorry.”

At the end of the night, marvel at how good of a kisser Todd is. Want to go mini golfing next week? Todd asks when you pull apart. You nod. If you have a daughter with Todd, you would love to name her Rosemary, after your aunt.

Step 15: Try not to panic when your mother calls to tell you that the real Rosemary is sick. You should get on the next train down, she says. Choke back your tears as you dial Todd’s number. You tell him that your aunt is sick. I’ve heard that one before, he says, hurt. You hang up the phone. Then you really do cry.


Maya Afilalo is a junior majoring in English with a concentration in Creative Writing and minoring in French. In addition to fiction, she writes creative non-fiction and for the screen. Her work has been featured in Penn's arts & culture publication Filament Magazine. When not writing, she can be found watching professional women's soccer or running (slowly) along the Schuylkhill.