Are You A Coward When It Comes To Breaking Up?

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Although I was embarrassed with myself for coming up with what could be classified as probably the worst exit strategy in modern history, I know deep down that I hurt his feelings by being indifferent.   I could have kept it real and just told him that I just wasn’t feeling the situation however I decided to forgo my own self-respect – and his – by not telling him the truth.  But don’t worry Karma is very real. And I got retribution handed to me several times by men who pulled their own exit strategies in the most convoluted ways. And the dude? Well he is married with children now, so no need to feel sorry for him.

Yet despite the prospects of losing all respect and being on the bad end of karma, people still lie all the time when ending a relationship. And if anyone says they don’t lie, well they are just liars. Of course, a lie comes with variations and degrees. Little white lies like telling your dumpee a blanket and vague “it’s not you, it’s me” can be just as bad as giving him/her some crazy story about moving away to help orphan children learn to read English.  Not to mention all the other crazy stuff we do to avoid breaking up with someone in-person, including text messages, emails and passive aggressively changing Facebook statuses from “in a relationship” to “whoohoo, I’m single and ready to mingle.”  And we try to rationalize it all by telling ourselves that we genuinely are concerned about not wanting to hurt the other person’s feelings. But like the old saying goes, the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.  And if you are not careful, your “good intention” could result in slashed car tires and broken windows.

The truth of the matter is that despite our desire to not want to hurt someone’s feelings, when it comes to breaking up, many of us are cowards at heart.  Nobody wants to be made to feel like the bad guy. And we feel guilty because we accepted an invitation for romance and then reneged on that invitation for romance.  So we put on our kid gloves, also known as the less ego damaging approach, and maneuver our way around the unpleasant task of a difficult conversation.  We think we are being humane by giving folks the “it’s not you, it’s me” or the “I just need to concentrate on my career/children/rap album” lines or by offering “friendship” and “space,” while we work out our issues. But ultimately it just leaves the dumpee clinging to false hopes that once you get yourself together, you two could live happily ever after again. And that is when all the real drama starts.

A little older and hopefully wiser, I now realize that there is no need to construct an elaborate escape route from a relationship. And you damn sure don’t have to ship yourself off to some fictional location you heard about in the movie. In relationships, even when they are ending, the other old saying still reigns supreme: Honesty is the best policy. No matter what you say, if the dumpee has his or her feelings involved, it will hurt. But in the end, it is better for you and the dumpee if you deliver your message that you are “not just into” a person without sugar-coating the truth. That doesn’t mean you have to be brutal and harsh neither. As adults, we should have learned already how to tell someone that you don’t think this relationship is the right one for you without breaking their spirits or losing your respect.

Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.

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