Dear Abby: During World War II, while I was overseas in the Navy, I received a “Dear John” letter. It was devastating, especially because I was so far away and unable to immediately respond. Do you think it is appropriate for a person to send such a letter while the person is far away, especially while in the service, or should the person wait until the service member returns home and say it’s over face-to-face? After all these years, I have heard many pros and cons about this question. I can think of no one else with such a wealth of knowledge in this area to ask but you. After hearing from you, I will finally put this to rest.
John in Vineland, N.J.

Dear John: A decade ago I would have said — and did tell someone — to wait until the person came home. My thinking was the news might demoralize the recipient and distract the person enough to get her/him killed. I changed my mind after hearing from service members stationed in the Middle East who told me I was wrong — that it’s better to get the word while there were buddies close by who could be emotionally supportive. They suggested that if the service member hears the news when he gets back — alone and possibly traumatized by what he or she has been through — that it could make the person more vulnerable to suicide.
I agree with Abby's advice now. No sure about the reason "emotionally supportive buddies".....but, I just think it's more mean to lead someone on than it is to break up with them.

I always see people saying, "so and so is a jerk for breaking up with whatsherface"....never get that. Not everyone is gonna stay together forever....broken hearts and breaking hearths are part of life.

If you have the intention of breaking up with someone, the sooner and more directly you do it the better....and it's definitely less cruel than simply "drifting away."