The non-breakup break up

They’d been dating regularly for 4 months, even taking a 4-day vacation together. My gal pal kept telling me what a nice guy he was — very thoughtful bringing her little presents every time he saw her. They became intimate early on. She liked him and enjoyed his company, but wasn’t smitten by him.

But in the last month she’s been questioning his long-term potential. She doesn’t really like some of his decisions, which she considers short sighted and if they were to be together in a few years, the outcomes of these decisions would have an effect on their life together. A few days ago they had a date — with him sleeping over — but she hasn’t said anything to him about her concerns. She asked about seeing him this weekend before she goes abroad for two weeks and he said he’s too busy.

Today in her mail was a travel journal from him for her trip. Accompanying the book was a note, “These last few months I’ve enjoyed the privilege of getting to know you. Have a fabulous trip.”

When she showed it to me, we agreed what it was — a non-breakup breakup. We debated whether it was or not, but decided that since there was nothing suggesting a future rendezvous, it was his way of saying goodbye. If he had any desire to see her again, he would have included something like, “I want to hear all about it when you return” or “I look forward to your safe return” or “I don’t know how I’ll go 2 weeks without seeing you.”

But there was none of that. The absence was glaring.

We discussed that this is a coward’s way out — he didn’t want to risk potential drama by sharing his feelings on the phone or in person, so this was his way of saying, “Have a nice life.”

Or could he be leaving the door open so when she returned, if he felt like seeing her he could give her a call? I’ve experienced men going poof then a few weeks (or months) later they were lonely or missed me and made contact. She said this note was the death knell and she wasn’t interested in seeing him again. She needed a man who was more straightforward and not nebulous.

You may think we were overreacting in our interpretation of the note. Since there was nothing explicitly breaking up, the meaning was up to us. Maybe he was just trying to be nice? Wouldn’t a mature man be more forthcoming if he’d intended to break up? One would hope. But unfortunately in my experience, most aren’t.

What non-breakup break ups have you experienced? Share your stories and examples with us.

Dating Over 40: Moving On GracefullyWant to know more about how to break up maturely and respectfully? Get your copy of Moving On Gracefully: Break Up Without Heartache.


8 responses to “The non-breakup break up”

  1. Joan Price Avatar

    What’s the worst that could happen if she actually talked candidly to him? Oh — it would come out that neither of them is madly in love with the other? And that’s a problem because…?

    If the travel journal was a non-breakup-breakup, it was no more cowardly than your friend who has never voiced the truth to him about how she feels about their relationship. She is no more forthcoming to him than he is to her.

    If we don’t learn to talk to our lovers at this point in our lives, when will we?

    Joan Price
    Author of Naked at Our Age: Talking Out Loud about Senior Sex

  2. John Chapman Avatar
    John Chapman

    @ Joan: Well said.
    “If the travel journal was a non-breakup-breakup, it was no more cowardly than your friend who has never voiced the truth to him about how she feels about their relationship. She is no more forthcoming to him than he is to her. “

  3. Brenda Avatar

    ah yes, the non breakup breakup……..I had my share of those. I had one guy who I dated for three months (out of state relationship), and after coming to see me for a weekend, he arrived home, did not call me to say he arrived home, and let several days go by before touching base (all very unusual for this man who was in constant contact with me); then texted me to say that his father was having some “issues” and it was too much for him to deal with AND have our “relationship” – thus he needed to take care of that situation and one text later, said he would not be back out in 2 weeks (for when we had concert tickets). He then went “poof”, two weeks later overnighted the concert tickets to me with no further explanation, and I never heard a word until one year later, almost to the day when he was interested in getting back together again.

    Of course, I said no. I liked him A LOT so I was very disappointed in how he handled things. I decided that I needed someone who communicated much better than that. I really thought for a few months after that that I would hear from him when he resolved his father “situation” but in retrospect, that was just an excuse for bowing out and not being that interested in me.

    Honesty is always best – I would have appreciate a phone call, as opposed to an impersonal text.

  4. Dating Goddess Avatar

    Yes, true Joan. However, my pal was still a bit unclear if she wanted to keep seeing him or not so felt it was a bit premature to talk to him about it until she’d sorted it out herself.

    I find it’s hard for people to have what they perceive will be a difficult conversation, no matter what their age. 🙂

  5. Sam Avatar

    In and out.. like the hokey pokie. The non-breakup revolves around a need being met on an unconscious level by the partner and this doesn’t necessarily mean it is known consciously. But on the conscious level it makes sense that the relationship might not be the best thing. It’s the age old dilemma of heart vs mind. Logical vs emotional. The emotional is much stronger and that’s why we keep going back. Until the emotional is no longer getting it’s needs met by the partner in questions, we will continue to go back time and time again.

  6. Wayne Avatar

    I wouldn’t have said any of the things you expected him to say. I would have probably said “Have a great time and be safe”.

    Some men (especially me) are built different and don’t always say the thing that a girl expects, like your hair looks nice or I miss you or any of those other mushy things, but I do surprise her with practical gifts!!

    I don’t really know if I am classed as selfish because I am not meeting her emotional needs, but it is hard for me to change who I am so I think she has either accepted it or tolerates it.

    Maybe there is no hidden message maybe you are just over thinking the whole thing?

  7. dani Avatar

    This is kind of a difficult situation to read. many times there are break ups simply because of misinterpretations. As a man i can tell you that this may not be a break up, just his way of saying “have a nice trip” and nothing more. It is important not to be a mind reader because we can guess but we really don’t know what’s going on in the other persons head.

    From the tone of this article it sounds like the woman had already made up her mind to break up with him as he is not “long term relationship material” if that is the case then she will judge his actions as negative regardless of what they are.

    If she still wants to be with him then she should call him and tell him exactly how she feels. She has nothing to lose and open communication in a relationship is pretty much the basis of a healthy one

  8. Diane Bork Avatar
    Diane Bork

    I think you and your gal pal were right it was a subtle non breakup break up.

    The fact that he said he was too busy to see her over the weekend before she went away for two weeks should have given her a clue that all was not right in the relationship. She also states that she wasn’t smitten by him, he could have picked up on that. As well as not liking some of his decisions that could have impacted their future lives together. I wonder if that involved them having children.
    Maybe he had sensed some negativity coming from her even though she says she had not voiced her concerns.

    He obviously was a caring thoughtful man, and sending her the journal was his way of letting go.