There is a very firm difference between “breaking up” (i.e., ending a relationship) and “breaking it off,” (telling a guy you’re dating that you don’t want to see him again..)
Breaking up is a hideous business. It involves an in-person conversation/fight/world war during which one or both of you explain your decision to no longer be together. It can, on occasion, involve crying, sobbing, name-calling, psycho-analyzing the other person, diving up your possessions, determining norms for future communication, and dividing up custody of mutual friends/favorite places to go out, etc.
The aftermath involves spending a lot of time in your car sobbing while listening an assortment of the following: Jewel’s “Pieces of You,” Mandy Moore’s “Wild Hope,” and Taylor Swift’s “Red,” and basically any Kelly Clarkson song ever written.
There may or may not be instances where you find yourself on your couch, eating alternate handfuls of Kettlecorn and PopChips, waiting for your nightly dose of Benadryl to kick in so you can fall asleep in pool of your own tears and snot and grief. (Hypothetically, of course. Personally, I wouldn’t know anything about this.)
Breaking it off is a slightly less hideous business. In fact, if a guy is breaking it off with you, it’s pretty easy to endure. One of two things happen:
1) They just disappear (Please see Fade Away for more info on how that looks)
Hmm..wait. That’s the only way I’ve ever personally experienced a guy breaking it off. (CLASSY, BOYS!) But, in theory, I realize they could also do option 2.
2) Tell you, via text or a very short phone call, that they don’t want to see you anymore. (As I have learned from S, having this conversation IN PERSON is a real No.)
While I’ve definitely been momentarily bummed by the fade away, give me a few shots of Jameson, an episode of PLL, and a short pep talk from S, D, C, or one of my other lovely friends, and I’m over it. I mean, 1 or 2 dates is at max, 6 hours of my life and I’ll forget about that person soon enough.
That said, I don’t love being the one doing the “breaking it off.” I am actually a pretty nice person, despite my fervent hatred of cats and disdain for my peers who aren’t quite proficient in Shakespearean English. I don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, and hate to think of myself of the cause of even momentary disappointment.
If I’ve only been out with a guy three times or less, then I think it’s fair to break it off by text, especially if that’s how we have communicated previously. When they ask for a repeat date, and I’ve decided I don’t want to go on one, I just say, “No thanks.”
And, you see, they usually take it very graciously. I mean, like I said, most normal people don’t get that attached to one another after 2 interactions, during one of which they were probably drunk. Every once and awhile, though, you’ll get a bit of terrifying push back:
Ginnfer Goodwin? Is that you? HAVE SOME SELF RESPECT!
Anyway, so far, I’ve been able to skate by, breaking it off by text. But a few weeks ago, I started dating a really nice guy, R. R was, in theory, kind of the perfect guy. Why?
1. He was smart AND hardworking. Intelligence has always been a turn-on for me. I love it when somebody can tell me something I don’t know already, and I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that a concise, wittily-worded email or text from a guy doesn’t cause a stomach flip. But I’ve usually been drawn to guys who are smart slackers. You know, unmotivated guys who spent most of high school and college smoking weed and cutting class, but got by with a little bit of Adderall and a whole lot of cramming. R was different. This was a guy who was not only naturally smart, but interested in getting smarter. He was good at his job, he cared about what he did, and he was interested in reading, studying, etc. to improve himself personally and professionally.
2. He was actually a nice guy. We all know many men who call themselves nice guys. Most of them aren’t, and I think actually just adopt the term, “Nice guy,” so they can complain about all the things that go wrong for them and make self-pitying comments about “finishing last.” R was a genuinely, nice, polite person. He was interested in making the world a better place, he cared about his friends and family, and he planned the nicest, most thoughtful dates for us.
3. He was an ideal planner and communicator. Dude, did R READ this blog? Did he eavesdrop on a brunch conversation that I had with my girlfriends? Because he did exactly what I wish every guy would do to plan and follow up on dates. He suggested a restaurant I’d been dying to try for our first date, and floated a few dates and times for me to choose from. He didn’t harass me with mindless texting, just to confirm the day before. After each subsequent date, he would follow up with a text to say what a great time he had, and then call to ask when he could see me again and suggest some some possible destinations for us. I cannot tell you how much of a draw this was for me. S and I frequently commiserate about men’s inability to plan ANYTHING. And, as a the bossy oldest child, the bossy colleague, the natural planner in my friend group, I am SO SICK of making decisions. I make decisions all day. I plan things all day. There is nothing that turns me on more than someone else making plans. I mean, if I could write, shoot, and film a porn for women, I would call it “Men Making Plans.” Srsly. And R did that. Flawlessly.
And yet, after 3 dates with R, I had no attraction to him. I tried booze, I tried different lighting, I tried giving myself a pep talk in the bathroom every time he was going to walk me home from the restaurant or bar. But I just didn’t want him to kiss me, and after openly dodging his kiss after date 3, I felt like it was only fair to break it off. So, when he, like clockwork, called the next day to ask me out again, I realized I had to call back and say no, for good.
I consulted several dating gurus before making the call. Here is the wisdom I gleaned, which I will now share with you, dear readers, should you ever have to dole out a lil rejection.
1. Keep it short. No one likes to be rejected. As soon as they hear the word no, they want to peace out, be pissed and a little bummed, and then move on.
2. Don’t tell anyone your sob story. This advice came from my friend, I, who is the Professor Emeritus of dating in DC (I, please come guest blog for us!!). I wanted to tell this guy that I’d recently gotten out of a serious relationship, and that I just didn’t think I wasn’t ready to date anyone. Shes said, “Look, that sounds fake. And even though it isn’t fake, don’t burden him with your personal baggage. All he needs to know is that you don’t want to see him anymore. Don’t waste his time making excuses just cause it’ll make you feel better.
3. Do it in a timely way. R called me to ask me out again Wednesday. I called him back Thursday and delivered the news. This way, he can move on as soon as possible to someone better.
This wisdom worked. R was super gracious (of course, cause he’s a GREAT guy). I am sure he’s out right now, with some much more emotionally balanced woman, planning fabulous dates.
Real talk: Do I feel great? No.
Rejecting a good guy definitely wakes up the little voice in my head that keeps telling me to freeze my eggs or look into adoption regulations in post-Soviet states, because I very well might die alone.
But, I’d rather die alone than settle. Right now, at least.
Got any other good wisdom about breaking it off with someone you’re casually dating? Leave it in the comments readers!