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Modern Buffalove: Breaking up is hard to do

The devastation of a break-up between two people who’ve shared a long, committed relationship is enough to make you never want to get serious with anyone again. It can be a long, sad process to carry out the break-up, followed by recovery time once the split is made.

But what about a person you’ve shared maybe two or three weeks or dates with, but aren’t interested in pursuing any further? What type of explanation do you owe this person that has “sort of” been in your life?

The most common way of backing out of this budding connection going nowhere is a series of slow responses to messages and calls that quickly leads to no response at all. The term used for this, of course, is “ghosting.” Disappearing out of thin air with no explanation. Leaving one to ask, what happened? What did I do?

Is honesty really that hard? Do we avoid providing real explanations in an effort to reduce awkwardness and hurting people’s feelings?

The answer is yes.

I usually take pride in my ability to keep it real when it comes to relationships. I consider myself a clear and honest communicator. However, even I still have some lessons to learn in grace, as shown in a way I recently handled myself trying to break things off.

While “Matt” and I were on our way home from our first date, I was strategizing how to handle our goodbyes. I anticipated him getting ready to ask me out again or attempting a good night kiss... both of which I had already decided I wouldn’t accept. Luckily, by the time we pulled onto my street, I had come up with a fantastic idea about how to make this work out for everyone.

When this seemingly great catch (for someone other than me) asked me out for dinner again as we pulled into my driveway, I announced instead that I had a friend I’d like to set him up with!

I explained all the reasons why they would get along great, and why she was much more his type than I was.

The look on his face was a mix of confusion and disgust. I knew I’d crossed a line of insensitivity and displayed an overall lack of couth. He accused me of the old bait-and-switch and said he felt led on. I couldn’t have agreed with him more. He was right, and even worse, I blindsided him after an otherwise lovely first date.

Karma stepped in when I mistakenly took his sunglasses instead of mine on the way out of the car. I had to immediately return to the scene of the crime to make the swap instead of continuing my escape.

I realized I owed it to this guy to be honest and explain to him what was really holding me back. Matt and I spent the next hour talking about ourselves and our recent relationships. I think he understood where I was coming from, and eventually agreed to be set up with my friend.

The above is embarrassing and not recommended. But it does serve as an example of a bad break-up strategy.

Another bad break-up strategy that seems mostly used by men is telling women what we want to hear. In their effort to not to be a jerk, men say things like, “I’ll call you” or “I can’t tonight but let’s plan for next week” when they actually have no intention of ever calling or getting together again. I’d personally rather hear a no than a maybe. The truth won’t hurt me, but the frustration of mixed messages will.

Let’s all start doing each other a favor by ending the relationship exploration a little more promptly and with a little more clarity. The next time someone you are not interested in asks you out on another date, it’s okay to say one of the following that best describes the way you are feeling:

1. You are an attractive person and I enjoyed going out with you but I’m feeling a friendship chemistry instead of a romantic one.

2. Your lifestyle and routine sound really exciting for you, but it’s just not my pace and you deserve a better fit to enjoy that with.

3. You seem like a great person but it’s obvious to me that we are on different pages and may be victims of bad timing, but it doesn’t feel right to see you again knowing that.

4. Thank you so much for the interest and the opportunity to get to know you more, but I have to pass on a second date. I’d be holding you back from a better match.

5. I’ve realized it probably wasn’t fair to accept a date with you tonight, the timing isn’t right for me emotionally to be open for a romantic relationship.

You may be challenged for further explanation or clarification, but leading with kindness and taking responsibility for your decision, instead of trying to pretend it’s the fault or failure of the other person, is the only way for both to part with dignity.

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