Respecting the Upfront Break-up

22 Apr

I’m a pretty direct person. I believe if you say you’re going to do something, you should do it. I’m not a big fan of the gray area. I think I’ve always been this way, and I’m this way even in dating. What makes me a little different, I think, is that I’m like this with a break-up as well. I respect a person who can get out of a relationship directly and with as little drama as possible.

So let me start off saying this: I just want to give a thank you to all the men (and women) who can end a short-term dating relationship (or even a serious relationship) with directness and class. It is much appreciated.

Recently I had a couple of dates with a man I’ll call Peter. Very nice guy, met him at a fundraising event and he got my number from a friend (with my encouragement–I do my best to give them a little nudge). I went on a couple of dates with Peter, and I thought it might go somewhere, but the chemistry was just off. We had a very nice time with good conversation, but it just wasn’t…there. I’ve known really great first (and second, and third) dates, and I was just hoping for more. So after the third date Friday night, which was pleasant but ended a bit awkwardly (Do you go in for the good night kiss? The good night hug? Stare at each other oddly?), I wasn’t gung ho about a 4th date. I assumed there would be one because he told me he’d call. But at that point, I decided if he DID ask me out again, I’d politely say we weren’t a good match. It wasn’t something I was looking forward to, but better than avoiding his phone calls/emails, right? But last night I was pleasantly surprised to get an email from him saying that he apologized for not calling, he had thought about it after our date and he realized he just didn’t see a romantic relationship in our future. THANK YOU, Peter. Thank you for being upfront about it. It was such a relief! That’s all I ask for–a clean break.

I practice what I preach. I’ve been on first or second dates that I’ve known weren’t leading to subsequent dates, and on one particular occasion, before the dessert had even arrived, my date asked if I thought there would be another date in the future. And I looked at him and said nicely, “No, I don’t think so.” My friends gasped at that one–“What did he say? What did you do? What about the awkwardness of eating dessert after you crushed his heart??” But you know what? It wasn’t that bad. I told him I enjoyed meeting him, but after 2 dates I just didn’t think we were a good fit. And he was fine with that. We finished our meal, said goodbye in the parking lot, and left. The world didn’t end! Last time I heard, he got engaged–so apparently I didn’t shatter his soul or anything. Better that than me using the assistance of caller ID to avoid his call, don’t you think?

But I’ve had it the other way, where I’ve had to track a man down who was interested in ending the relationship. Don’t be that guy. Don’t be an ass. This man, who I really cared for, was doing the whole “gradually stop talking to her and see if she notices” thing. This then leads to “if you make yourself completely unavailable she’ll have to break up with you” step. Come on. A man over 35 shouldn’t engage in this kind of behavior (nor should a man of 25, but after 30 there’s just no excuse). Near the end he didn’t get in touch with me for 4 days (4 DAYS!), after previously hearing from him multiple times a day via phone or email. That’s a straight up bitch move. I finally had to call him and tell him I was coming over to return his stuff and then I broke up with him. Dude–come on. You Are Too Old For That. I don’t care that you don’t know what to say, or you hate conflict, or you don’t know how I’ll react. I might even cry on you (in fact, I did cry on him–it was the least he deserved, so ha.) Man up! Just say “This isn’t working for me. I’m sorry.” I might cry a little, but you’ll live, and then we’ll both be on our way. Is this not the most effective? Do men expect boiled bunnies on their stoves post-break up? Do they think we’ll rend garments and sob loudly? Please.

One last story–I had a guy friend meet a girl on Match. They went out and had a nice time, but he just wasn’t feeling it, and on top of that she was a little desperate (he let me read the emails…hoo boy.) She asked him out for another date, and I asked him if he wanted to go out with her again. He said not really, but he didn’t know how to turn her down. So I told him to email her that he thought she was a nice girl, but he just wasn’t interested (but more tactfully than that). He was amazed and thought it would just crush her. Seriously? First, give a girl some more credit (and give yourself less). Second, if it does, she’s crazy but she’ll get over it. Don’t waste your or her time. And third, wouldn’t you rather just be done with it instead of wondering if they’ll call, or feel badly if you don’t call, or hide in plain sight from a ringing phone or Facebook IM? Even after all these excellent reasons, he still thought I was a little harsh, but he did it anyway. Front page news: they both survived and moved on.

So, the lesson to be learned in dating: be a nice person. If you know the relationship isn’t going anywhere, don’t prolong it. Don’t drag it out. Just…end it with tact and kindness. Do us all a favor, make a clean break and MOVE ON. Think like a surgeon (actually, I had a not unpleasant breakup WITH a surgeon, and it engendered so much good will that I told my friends what a gentleman he was and we’re still friends. See, kids–this could be you and your ex!) Your dating partner will thank you for it (if not then, then later to their friends, who won’t believe how nice you were).

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