Taking the hard way out

When you’ve decided you don’t want further contact with someone, it’s easy to ignore their phone calls, IMs, texts or emails.

Perhaps you rise a level to at least send a “we’re not a match” email.

It’s hardest to actually tell the person face-to-face. However, if you’ve only had one encounter, it seems counter-productive to arrange a meeting just to tell the person you won’t be seeing them again.

So a phone call is in order. But what do you say? How do you phrase it to not focus on the other’s deal breakers? You don’t want to stoop to a level of name calling or pointing out the other’s bad breath, disheveled appearance, incessant cursing, bad manners or lusting after you. You want to do this task with class and leave the other’s dignity intact.

You procrastinate making the call because you don’t want an altercation and since you barely know the person, you have no idea how he’ll respond.

But you decide you must act consistent with how you’d like to be treated — respectfully — so you make the call.

This was the thought process I recently went through to decide how to tell Erotic-Dream-Guy he shouldn’t bother contacting me again. He’d called 4 times in the previous 3 days and I didn’t pick up because I was busy at the time. But I also didn’t call him back. I thought about our interactions and how I felt during and afterward. While he was funny, smart and knew many of the right things to say, he also chastised me for telling my truth, told me I was evasive when I thought I was being polite, and had made many blatant sexual remarks even after I told him I was uncomfortable with them. Generally, I felt disrespected which is intolerable for me.

So I dialed. I thought about what I would say and how to phrase it to be as non-blaming as possible. I didn’t want to lie with the common, “I’m taking a break from dating,” or “I’ve met someone else and we really hit it off.” Neither were true, and I’d heard these so often I know they are avoidance lines.

He answered and asked about my weekend. I told him it had been busy (which it had) and I knew he’d called a number of times. He said he’d like to see me again. I thanked him and continued, “Because you are a direct man, I’ll be direct with you. After our last conversation I determined that we want different things and we weren’t a match.” He said he was disappointed and respected my decision. He didn’t ask for clarification, so I didn’t elaborate. I thanked him for his interest and wished him good luck. He said thank you and we hung up.

If he’d become confrontational and said, “What do you mean we want different things” I was prepared with a comment that I know is nasty: “I want a respectful gentleman. You want to get laid.” Luckily, I didn’t have to stoop to this low-level comment. I don’t like myself when I become snarky.

It is much harder to tell someone personally, not in text, IM or email, that you don’t want further contact, but it is, I believe, the right way. Have I always made the effort? No. But I felt cowardly when I took the easy way out. Dating is hard enough when you have to deal with cowardly people along the way. I think we need to have the courage to do what we know is right and treat others respectfully, even when they have not always behaved that way toward you. Their bad behavior is no excuse for you to lower yourself to their level.

How have you respectfully told someone there is no need for further contact? What did you consider doing that you’re glad you didn’t?

For more information on how to break off contact with grace, get your copy of Moving On Gracefully: Break Up Without Heartache


11 responses to “Taking the hard way out”

  1. Katie Avatar

    Bravo! Well done. Proud of you. I so appreciate that you hold yourself to a standard of behaving respectfully no matter what.

    BTW, your “prepared comment” is not necessarily nasty, unless it is delivered with a tone of voice that is scathing, self-righteous, value-laden or otherwise mean. Properly spoken, I think it could be a matter-of-fact statement that simply states two people’s wants in a non-judgmental way. An educational opportunity, even.

  2. Ellen Avatar

    Well, I must thank you for putting the right word to men’s bad behavior, “disrespectful.” I remember talking to a guy on the phone that I had met online and agreed to meet at a local mall (my favorite place for the 1st meeting, since there’s lots of people, we can walk and window shop and avoid the interview-meeting-date over coffee) and almost as soon as we met and started walking around, he told me a dirty joke about a certain male body part. It caught me off guard and I laughed, so I really felt awkward talking about how it wasn’t appropriate and I didn’t. We had a nice meal at the mall and parted. He did call me the next day and asked if he could tell me a doctor joke (I work for doctors) and I very clearly said, “no,” but he told it anyway and I remember thinking that, if he disregarded my wishes so soon, I could hardly imagine how he’d be later. I told him that I didn’t appreciate his nasty joke aimed at my employer and he said it was just to break the ice. He then asked me out again and I said, no thank you, and that was that. I do have friends that think telling a guy about his disrespectful or inappropriate behavior will change them and they can still date them, but I believe we “get what we buy.” Thanks for the wise post.

  3. Beth Avatar

    I took your advice to heart, and thought about the “we’re just friends and not sex partners” coffee date guy and how I should deal with it if he contacts me again. As I expected, he texted me about getting together for coffee (at 9pm?) and I finally texted him back about what specifically he was asking for. He did try to actually call me back, but I was in the midst of typing him an e-mail asking him not to contact me and didn’t realize my cell phone was ringing in the next room so I didn’t pick it up in time. He texted again about that maybe we could get together for some wine but he didn’t know where I lived, etc.
    So I picked up the cell phone and called him. I had already typed what I wanted to say, and so I explained to him over the phone that I didn’t want him to contact me anymore and specifically brought up the comment about being sex partners. I didn’t yell at him or get nasty, I just said what I needed to say in a calm and straightforward manner. He said that he wondered if that was a problem and apologized for offending me in his awkward way. I reiterated that I didn’t think we have enough in common to continue to stay in contact and that I am a nice person and don’t like to dissapoint people, so it has been hard for me to “just say no”. He seemed to accept my terms when it was time to hang up, so we’ll see.
    I am not sure that he completely got the message, or if he will abide by my request, but I am glad that I did not cop out and send the e-mail. I will just have to wait and see what happens next.

  4. Karen Avatar

    I guess I have a slightly different take….if you hardly know the guy (only a few random dates & you didn’t know him prior to dating him, ie met him on the internet or something ) I think telling him you don’t want to see him again via email (but not text) instead of by phone is OK.

    The main thing is to be direct and clear, and after that you need to be as kind as possible and help the guy “save face”. I think that most men (perhaps unlike most women) would prefer to “hear” over email instead of in a public place or on a date.

    The other important thing is that with email, you are totally safe no matter what his reaction. This is important because face it—often you are breaking up with a guy because you think he’s a jerk! But he might actually be worse than that–he might be dangerous!

    Several years ago I broke up with a man I dated for a couple months (yes, met him on match.com) because I felt he was too weird and controlling. I made the mistake of agreeing to meet with him (“I deserve to hear this in person” he said and of course I fell for that). He came to my house, and we talked in the driveway. Then he asked to use my bathroom and I let him in—-but then, he wouldn’t leave! He kept trying to get me to agree to see him again, saying we were “meant” for each other, that he “refused” to accept that we were through, blah blah. He refused to “hear” what I was actually saying! I finally switched to telling him whatever he wanted to hear just to get him out of the house, but he still wouldn’t go. He wasn’t violent, just immobile, plus he refused to let me leave the room by blocking the door. I finally called the police from my cell (which I fortunately had with me) and they chased him off. The police were jerks–he told them we had been “engaged” (!?WTF?) and they didn’t take the whole thing at all seriously despite what I said and despite me telling them he was barricading me in the house. He then proceeded to “stalk” me for almost 6 months which again the police refused to help me with (jerks!).

    Anyway, now I realize that my safety is much more important than worrying about sparing a man’s feelings. You never know about some of these guys.

  5. Kate Avatar

    I try to prepare words in my mind ahead of time. I try to be as simple as possible – “I’m sorry, I just don’t want to see you any more” – something like that. If the other person insists, I says something like “There’s just no spark for me.” That’s usually enough. If it isn’t enough, I just repeat….Although I often WANT to say more (ie vent lol) – what’s the point? They are they way they are, and anything you say just puts the other person in a defensive position. It’s tough though – and I hate doing it – but really there’s no alternative…

  6. Mark Avatar

    I kind of agree that if you don’t know the person all that well, email is fine for cutting things off. I had a coffee meeting and a second date to see a movie, and the woman 86’d me via email. That was ok.

    OTOH, I had a six month relationship end over the phone and I insisted we meet in person, and we did. It didn’t seem right to end it over the phone. I wanted better closure than that.

    Of course the worst was a girlfriend who picked a fight to break up with me. She couldn’t just do it normally — she had to be in the middle of a fight with me to do it. That’s the worst.

  7. Karen Avatar

    Mark, I can relate to what you say about those who have to pick a fight in order to break up! Ugh.

    And then there’s the guys who, when you break up with them, say, “but we never fought!” as if fighting always happens a lot before a breakup, or as if the quality of a relationship can be judged solely by the absence of toxic antisocial behavior. Weird.

    This comment always surprises me because I actually rarely have “fights” with anyone–I think it’s better in all cases of disagreement to try to work through your differences via respectful discussion with hopefully at lot of logic and common sense in it. And if you can’t agree about something big, you just agree to disagree or perhaps to change your relationship (ie by breaking up). Fighting in the sense of screaming, calling names, pouting, losing your temper–I don’t think it’s something an adult should do.

  8. Karen Avatar

    And then there’s the issue of how much to say about why you’re breaking up with them? Usually there’s a lot of things I don’t like about the relationship if I’m initiating the break up–I wouldn’t break up with a guy over one thing. But I feel that you don’t want to say too much because I don’t think it’s fair to totally deflate their self-image. So I try to pick a couple major things and talk about them if the guy insists on discussing in detail the reasons for the breakup.

    Also, I avoid bringing up anything about them that I don’t like but that they can’t really change–for example, an annoying ingrained habit or their career area or work hours. An exception might be a long-distance relationship where everyone knows that can be a problem.

    On thing I really hate is when then guy insists on trying to “logically argue” with you because he things the reasons you bring up are not “bad enough” for you to break up with him, in his opinion. As if I don’t know what I am doing! As if you could just “talk me out of it”! Dude, you should realize that I’m restraining myself from dumping on you the entire long list of things that I dislike about our relationship because that would be just mean. Newsflash: a person breaking up with you really wants to do so, and she doesn’t have to justify her decision in legal detail in order to break up with you.

  9. Mark Avatar

    Karen, I think it’s just hard for the person on the receiving end of the news. I also think that men can be really unaware that things aren’t right and the breakup can be a surprise. We don’t think about relationships as much as you women do.

    The reality is that when you are the one getting dumped, you may want to talk about it to understand why, but none of it does you much good. When you’re dumped the only thing that makes it better is time. It’s natural to want to understand why, but even if you do understand it, it doesn’t make you feel any better.

    It’s just a hard thing when you have emotions invested in a relationship. It’s forever. It’s not getting to be with that person anymore. It’s not getting to sit on her couch and watch a movie with her ever again. It’s shutting a door and it takes time to really understand that the door is never going to open again.

  10. Mitsy Avatar

    I think Goddess handled the break-up with this guy in a first-class, upfront kind of way. A guy who disrespects you in the “beginning” of a relationship isn’t going to get more respectful over time or without some heated discussions in between. I’ve been in more than a couple relationships where I thought that “enlightening” the guy might make him change, but in the end, his thought process was so ingrained that I could see nothing much was really going to change. I regret wasting time with men who were not willing to work a bit more to keep the relationship going in a healthy way.

    I also understand what Mark is saying because no matter who does the dumping, it does hurt on the other end. If you can avoid hurting feelings unnecessarily, I’m all for that. When they won’t take “no” for an answer, then I think a straight forward response such as mentioning talking about “sex” long before that would be appropriate is not out of line if they press the issue. Otherwise, going into details as to what you find offensive is not very classy. Best to avoid that if you can.

  11. Brenda Avatar

    DG did handle this very honorably. Unfortunately, most do not. My brother has found that most women he meets online either tell him that an old beau has come back into their life or they want to take time off dating……but the interesting thing is that they remain on the dating sites and then block his email.

    I recently had a man who I met online – and dated for 3 months exclusively at his request – email me a “Dear John” letter, where he told me he was not ready for dating or “anything else” and that he was going to work on himself – through therapy and a few local support groups. But within a week, he was right back online again, dating, which helped me see that he was NOT the man for me and NOT a man of integrity.

    I have often wished, as I believe DG has said as well, that it would be great to see how someone handles adversity early on in the relationship as that would tell you so much. With the man mentioned above, we never had a disagreement or anything other than a great time, but he backed off on the pretense of having issues with his daughter and his father and then the email 10 days later………….