Aside from the birth of a child (or finding a really good sale on the Nordstrom clearance rack), no other experience compares to the euphoria of falling in love. It’s warm and cuddly and giggly. It’s marathon phone conversations late into the night and pet names and hand holding and doodling “Mrs. So-and-So” on the backs of notebooks. It’s a desire to make another person smile and laugh, a melting away of the rest of the world when he is in your presence, a nakedness of your very spirit in the need for that adoration to be reciprocated. Love is, in one sweeping definition, everything that’s good in us put out on display for another person to enjoy. But sometimes, too many times, love ends. And that, dear friends, is when the proverbial ish hits the fan.

Along with the obligatory dramatics that coincide with a breakup—the pleading phone calls, the subsequent squabbling, the returning of every single gift ever exchanged between the two of you—there’s the messy matter of letting go of an individual who had been a major part of your everyday life. So often it requires one, two, maybe even three, four or five attempts before the severance really takes place. For whatever reason, ranging from the need for companionship to so-good-I-almost-forgot-my-first-name sex, ladies can’t seem to break ties with a relationship they know has run its course. In the romantic world, it’s called the backslide. In the real world, it’s called a bad decision. And there are three main reasons why keeping an ex on the payroll is a poor idea.

1. It has your mind, heart and spirit partially invested in an arrangement that you yourself have deemed either unhealthy, unproductive or undesirable. That preoccupation prevents you from fully engaging in possibilities with other dudes who may be offering what you’re looking for—stability, commitment, intelligence, compatibility, a full set of pearly whites, a consistent record of holding down a j-o-b, whatever was missing from your last tryst in la amour. Plus, hanging onto him will only work to exacerbate his shortcomings in your eyes and help you carry your skepticism about men into new opportunities with new brothers. So to be fair to the dudes who have yet to cross your path, let him go quick.

2. There are physical risks to having even a purely sexual relationship (eh-hem) hanging in the balance. It may seem almost ridiculous not to call your ex to break you off when those hormones are raging and your body needs tightened and you’ve been listening to a lot of R.Kelly 12 Play….(you get the point). But because you are no longer part of a expressly exclusive pair, he, like any normal man, is probably testing the waters of his newfound freedom by dipping in another woman’s (or other women’s) pool of love. That’s not to say that he’s doing it unprotected – you’d have to be living in a cave to not know the Black community’s mind-blowing AIDS rate. But for your own peace of mind and body, it’s best to leave that coitus in the past tense.

3. Maybe most importantly, your gifts, talents and beauty—inner and yes, outer, even if you don’t presently feel like knockout—are too precious to be wasted on a has-been. Being part of that couple was a learning experience for that time. God put that man in your life for a reason, whether he turned out to be a certified bum or just a not-quite-right prospect. You walked away from it with a new perspective, a new angle or at the very least maybe you went out to a really nice restaurant one time. But by holding onto him, you are in fact holding yourself—and your own personal and emotional growth—back. It wasn’t meant to be. Fine. Beyonce said “to the left, to the left,” so you keep it moving to the right.

When you see the number on your caller ID, let it roll to voice mail. Eventually he will get tired of being dissed and stop dialing—and he’ll probably stew a little about what has made you so suddenly unavailable. If he shows up at your job with a proposition for lunch or stops by your house for a little post-separation nookie, kill the noise with a kind smile and a gentle reminder that you are looking for your king, not the court jester. A breakup doesn’t make him a bad guy. But it does make you a liberated woman, which means you’re free to explore and enjoy another chance at love (much unlike the VH1 version) that will give you stories to make your girlfriends envious and your grandchildren smile.

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