Hamstrung by your own integrity

Early in your relationship you both promised that if there was ever anything that bothered one of you so much to consider breaking up, that one would have the respect and courtesy to share this in person or at least on the phone, not in an email, text, IM or voice mail. Having been broken up with in each of these virtual vehicles by midlife men you’d dated for a while, you felt it was disrespectful.

Several months into your current relationship, your man went AWOL, not returning your calls, emails or texts. You had no idea where he was, or if he was OK. He had promised to make daily contact to check in, so after four days of silence you’d had it. You were ready to break up with him for his inconsideration and breaking his agreement — something that happened too frequently for your taste. You take your promises seriously and consider keeping or renegotiating commitments to be a sign of maturity, responsibility, and integrity.

But believe it or not, integrity can be a problem. Because you made the commitment to not break up without actually talking to him, you can’t send him an “I’ve had it. We’re done.” email, text, IM or voice mail. You are hamstrung by your own integrity. You have to wait until you speak to him to tell him your feelings.

Friends say you shouldn’t feel beholden to your promise because he isn’t holding up his agreement to connect daily — and this isn’t the first time he’s broken an agreement. So that releases you from your vow. But you know that you need to act in accordance with your values no matter how badly someone else acts. You want to be able to live with yourself knowing you act in integrity even if someone else does not.

Then he texts you after several days with a plausible reason for his silence, even though you think any reasonable man who cared about you would have reached out sooner. His texts sweet talk you into releasing your ire.

Eventually it is he who ignores your mutual pledge and breaks up with you via text. This cements your observation that his promises to you meant little. So while you are sad because you liked him a lot despite the clear mismatch in values, you are also relieved because you know a relationship is doomed with someone who doesn’t put integrity as a priority.

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8 responses to “Hamstrung by your own integrity”

  1. PreviouslyQueenofE Avatar

    Sometimes you have to use the only vehicle left to you. I broke up with a guy via email because he was refusing to take my calls! I knew that it would drag on and on if I didn’t do it that way. We had had conversations that informed me that he was one of those guys that just stopped communicating when he was done with a relationship – apparently he’d let one gal hang for a month before she finally showed up in his front yard screaming at him – so I was not about to let it drag on. It was such a relief – he did call me after I sent him the email, and I explained clearly in the email why I was doing it that way, and he admitted that he was not good at communicating. It ended amicably. Another breakup was also via email – the guy broke up with me with a long email, in which he was saddened but truthful – and that was good for me as well. It would have been an angry, emotional scene and I was not willing to go there, and actually it was a relationship that should have ended a while before, I suspect he was trying to get me to break up with him by acting hateful. Doing it via email – we had a couple of replies back and forth – allowed us to think carefully about our words and not get ugly or accusatory.

    Anyway, my point is that sometimes you have to use the best method of communication available, regardless of how impersonal it seems. I don’t think I’d ever go the post-it note route, but emails are modern-day letters, and before phones that’s all we had. Just my two cents!

  2. Catherine Avatar

    OH so timely! I am in the middle of this right now. The guy I have been dating casually for 7 months has just gone poof, no calls, no emails, nothing! It came at a bad time in my life when I was grieving the loss of one of my animal companions, but I didn’t burden him with anything. It kind of feels like being kicked when you are “down”.

    We had an agreement that if at any time the relationship was no longer working for either one of us, that we would be kind enough to say “this is no longer working for me”. Instead all I have received is silence.

    I am trying to decide if I should send an email asking if he is a man of integrity, and if he ever planned on honoring that promise. Of course I probably wouldn’t get an answer to that either.

  3. Loving Annie Avatar

    Integrity is everything, as is keeping your word.

    He broke up with her via his disappearing act. Doesn’t matter that he showed up a few days later, charmingly conned his way back into her good graces – and then, true to form, behaved like an assclown again, and ended it.

    THE SILENCE OF NO CONTACT SHOULD SAY IT ALL. On her part after his stunt.

    She shouldn’t have taken him back at all – she could have either dismissed him in her head because he wasn’t showing he respected or valued her by his disappearance – or when he did call, then told him off.

    Either way, she kept her integrity.

    Breaking up via text is cowardly and lacks maturity and manners.

  4. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Catherine: Ugh! I don’t think sending him an email will accomplish anything, as confronting his lack of integrity won’t get him to have more of it.

    Annie: You are right — silence says it all. Sad, but cowardice is not usually loud.

  5. Catherine Avatar

    Dating Goddess – you are probably right, confronting a lack of integrity doesn’t put people back on the path to integrity…. I guess I just need to move past the wondering what the heck happened and be glad there wasn’t any drama. It is for this reason (and a few others) that I think I prefer to remain single, dating just isn’t worth the bother. At my age (mid 40’s) there seem to be nothing but toads in the dating pool, maybe it will be better when I am 60, but by then who cares?

  6. Paulette Ensign Avatar


    Some of us who are 60 do!


  7. Devon Avatar

    I’ve been divorced 5 years and dating about three and a half. I think it’s important in the beginning to listen and observe without too much attachment to a particular outcome. Listen to what he says and more importantly watch what he does. Does he come through, call, act respectful, show interest and show up- does he make time for you, are you part of his life or just an accessory? The actions of men are very telling. Sometimes women ignore the signs for a variety of reasons. I did when I first jumped into the dating pool. Not any more and I’m in the best relationship I’ve ever had.

  8. Judy Avatar

    This hits home in recent timing….regarding integrity and electronic communication. I have recently ended a relationship via email. I told myself that I should be restricted from electronic communication devices when I am angry. As he hid behind emails, txts, and IMs most of the time I don’t feel bad about it.
    Here is the short story….we made plans, which were confirmed in the morning, to go to the movies that night. He was going to take a nap and do some paperwork. I had plans to go to a friend’s house during the day which was about an hour away We agreed that I would call when I got back around 5 or 6. On the way home I was running late due to freeway traffic. I called while sitting in traffic and left him a message that I maybe running later than 6. He txt me back saying he was at a party and should be leaving shortly. At this point all was well we were both running late. “Okay, so maybe we won’t be going to the movies and there is always tomorrow or the next day.” Well, not so much. As soon as I got home a friend called and asked if I wanted to go hiking. I had to say no that I had plans and was waiting for a call from him. I left a message on his voice mail around nine telling him that I was not happy. He txt back that he was trying to get out of the party and that he would call me soon. At 10 I emailed him….Salutation- Mr. man of my word (his proclamation) – I kept my word, you made your choice. Thanks for the reality check. His response… was an apology for hurting my feelings and that he thought that I would understand and clearly that was not the case. (Understand what? That I was not important enough to excuse yourself and say I have a date) He also stated that I didn’t need to attack his integrity….auh okay..(What integrity?) Integrity equals responsibility, accountability and honesty. Integrity would have been a phone call at 4:30 letting me know that he was at a party and would not be able to go to the movies. I haven’t heard from him since nor do I want to. I had a date with a different man a week later and he is very much a man of his word!