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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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The Woman who loved Fixer-uppers

12 Aug

I have a problem. I’m a nursemaid. I see a man with “potential”, and I jump in with both feet. I ignore their protestations of their personal problems, their “rules” for dating, their guidelines for what they will and will not do as my “boyfriend”, their inability to commit, their low self-esteem, their body image issues, their young age and related immaturity, their irrational hate for their jobs (but their refusal to do anything about them), their massive credit card debts, their crappy dating histories, their lack of trust because of cheating exes, their love of illegal substances, their arrested development, their emotional constipation. Ironically the one thing they all have in common is that when they date me, they’re pretty unwilling to change, when they should be interested in changing more than anyone else. They’re stuck. But at this point, I’m starting to wonder if I love them BECAUSE of these problems, because of their “potential”. But why? My parents are happily married. My father and brother are two of the most stand-up, dependable, terrific men I know. But these men…I’m attracted to them, one right after the other, bam bam bam–one having more problems than the last. Well, that’s not true–I’d like to think my taste is improving. Nathan has a career in architecture, he has a master’s degree from Michigan, he owns his own place, he used to swim competitively. But then the flip side–he hated his job and his bosses, his health went to shit, and his condo has been in a state of sad neglect and de-construction (literally, the walls are all stripped to the studs, he basically lives in one room and he has plastic sheeting hanging everywhere) almost since he bought the place 5 years ago. His condo is a metaphor for his life. He’s a work in progress. A fixer-upper. But in all fairness, I can’t say he didn’t warn me. Oh no, he warned me. And yet I thought the absolute power of my charm, wit, and talents would be enough to win him over. I overestimated the power of ME! Sadly, all of that wasn’t enough, as we broke up Sunday after 4 months of dating. And while I’m sad about it, and I miss him very much–the way he smelled, his laugh, how comfortable we were talking to each other, the way he scooped me up and held me while we watched a movie–I also don’t miss trying to fix what I didn’t break, what I’m unable to fix, what I have no control over. I can only do what I do best, which is to be supportive, love him as best as I can, and be a reminder to him of what is possible when he can get his act together. But do these guys get it together when they are with me? Oh no–only after I’m gone. Then they move in with their new girlfriends, get married, have babies, go to college, change jobs, and get promotions. I’m like the good luck ex-girlfriend. Lisa calls me a life coach. I’ve missed my calling!

I can only hope that as i have turned 30 this year, I can change my future choices (because Lord knows I can’t change my boyfriends). From now on I can strive to not rush things, “shop” carefully, pick someone who is ready to commit, wants me, and knows what they want. This kind of vetting takes some time, and until now I haven’t been giving it the time it deserves. But has that been working for me? After so many examples of the same fixer-upper boyfriend with different faces (who knew there could be so many??), I’d have to say…definitely not. So I guess I’m a work in progress too. As long as I recognize it, I’m ok with that. And as for Nathan–I don’t think he’s a lost cause (although I think he kind of thinks that of himself). He’s taking baby steps. I hope he figures out what he’s looking for, and I wish only the best for him. He knows how I feel about him. And we were important to each other, I know that. Maybe my loving him, even for a little while, is enough to get him moving in the right direction, though we’re no longer together. He’s a good man, and I trust that he’ll find his way…eventually. And he introduced me to the Black Crowes and Mofro–I love him for that alone!

As for me–time to get back to being my own work in progress! I’ve got stuff to do!