Eventually, when you meet someone new, everything will click and mesh, the two of you will be great together, and you’ll decide to spend the rest of your lives joined in marriage. And—hooray! The difficulties of dating will be over.
But until this happens, if you’re like most of us, you’ll probably date several different people before finding that life-mate. And this means that a time will come when you realize you need to end things with these other people.
Whether it’s a decision to end a long-term relationship or simply the decision not to go out with someone for a second or third time, it can definitely be an awkward, tricky territory to navigate.
So here are some things to avoid if you’re eager to keep the situation from being even more unpleasant than it has to be.
The Classic, Impersonal Touch
I know several people who have been dumped via text message. If you’re the dump-er, this option might sound kind of appealing.
It can be tempting to take the option that doesn’t force you to see any disappointment on the other person’s face or hear the heartbreak in their voice. Just text out a couple lines and you never have to see or think about them again.
Super simple, right? Wrong.
This might be easy, but it can be rather rude and impersonal. This person deserves the courtesy of hearing from you in person (or at least over a phone call) that you’d like to end things.
And know that, if you’re tempted to just text, there is a big possibility this person might hold on to resentment over a text-breakup. The people I know who’ve experienced it certainly do. So, even apart from their feelings, this could actually bite you in the rear if there’s any likelihood you’ll have to see them again at some point in the future.
A Third Party is No Party At All
A similarly impersonal approach that might seem handy would be to have someone else deliver the bad news for you. Here again, you wouldn’t have to worry about the awkwardness of seeing or hearing the person’s reaction. Having a friend do it for you gets you off the hook, doesn’t it?
No. It does not.
This option is the rude and impersonal of a text, multiplied. Here, you might actually look cowardly as well as rude. Add in the fact that it could lead to a backlash toward your neutral messenger friend, and this becomes an even worse idea.
Vagaries Are Seriously Not Your Friend
Okay, you probably realize there’s no other solid option than to deliver the bad news straight to them, no messages or messengers involved. So how are you going to phrase things?
A gentle, non-accusatory route is probably a given. Even if you know precisely why you don’t want to continue things with this person, you obviously aren’t going to bluntly give them a laundry list of their faults and failings.
But don’t let your attempts at kindness give the wrong impression. It’s not doing you or them any favors to leave hope where you actually have none.
Let me illustrate. Perhaps you have no desire for a relationship with this person at all, but what you say is something like, “I don’t think it’s working for you and me to date right now.” Anything that gives the other person the impression that you might like to try again somewhere down the line when you very much would not, is a recipe for disaster.
Unless you’re open to this person trying to pop back into your life in some grand, do-you-love-me-now gesture about six months down the road (after all, that’s how long it tends to take people to reconsider in movies…), it’s probably best to lay it out and be clear that you don’t think the two of you work. Period. It might feel harsher, but in reality, it’s much kinder to avoid giving false hope.
Don’t Put the Blame on God
A faithful Catholic knows that, really, everything is in God’s hands and works according to His plan. That being said, it is absolutely not appropriate to pin a breakup on God.
The reality might be that you’ve prayerfully discerned that you should not continue forward with dating this person. You might really feel that God has other plans for you right now. But this does not mean you should break things off with the person by saying something like, “God doesn’t want me to date you.”
There are a lot of problems with putting things this way.
- You sound mighty cozy with God. Phrasing it with such certainty makes you sound a bit high and mighty like you’ve got a direct line to His will and hear things with the certainty of an Old Testament prophet.
- You’re implying that if this person feels differently, they are in opposition to God’s will. Ouch.
- You are, in a less obvious way, still trying to weasel out of the awkwardness inherent in owning that you don’t want to date someone any longer. Just man (or woman) up and admit it.
The one caveat to this would be if you’re breaking things off in favor of priesthood or religious life discernment. If this is the case, you’re literally leaving this person in order to pursue God, so mentioning what you think God’s will is would probably be pretty relevant. But still, try to avoid phrasing it with me-and-God-are-super-tight certainty.
Excess Emotion Can Send Mixed Messages
It is quite possible that, even though you don’t think you should continue forward with dating someone, you wish it weren’t so. There are a lot of reasons this might happen, but the important thing is that when you deliver the news, you don’t let that emotion or regret cloud the message.
I know a certain couple who dated for about four months. Their breakup involved a poem, a two page single-spaced letter, and a thank you card. I’m not saying it’s wrong to feel things deeply, but come on. Their situation ended up just feeling messy and confusing.
If you need to mourn what could have been, that’s fine. But save it for after you’re finished telling the person that you’d like to end it.
Breaking up is hard to do. No doubt. But its difficultness is no excuse to do it poorly and make things harder for yourself, the dump-ee, or both of you.
Clean, simple, and honest is best. And once you’ve done it properly, you can finally look forward to whatever God has in store for you next.