General Etiquette > Dating

What to Say

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A friend and I were debating what to say when ending a relationship last night. I say if you're ending things after a few dates but before getting serious because you don't mesh well, it's kinder to stick with "We're looking for different things," "I don't feel the chemistry, etc." I might not like the daily phone calls along with multiple text messages and emails after a first date, but maybe there are people who do. However once you're serious, it's ok to tell them "You demanded too much of my time," "I can't handle your jealousy," "I'm not attracted to you anymore."

She says it's always kinder to tell them the truth. So if after the first date they call you twice a day, you should say "You're making me feel claustrophic."

What do you guys say? Should you always be honest during a break up, always give a polite vague reason or somewhere in between? Or, does the type of answer depend on how serious your relationship is?

I think if you save up being honest about your feelings, needs and boundaries until you are ready to break up, you are missing the chance to have a happy healthy relationship.

If your date is doing something annoying, why not ask him nicely and calmly to stop or change it?  You find out an awful lot about a person from how they react to that.  There are a lot of things, like texting too much, that are just habits, or things that other girlfriends liked - not character flaws.

Similarly, if you are serious with someone surely you are discussing and dealing with these things (space, attraction, obligation/expectations/committment/jealousy) as you go along?  If you are breaking up a serious relationship, surely the cause is not news to the other person?  If the person you are seeing has never heard your real opinion, I don't understand your definition of a "serious relationship".

I asked a similar question a long time ago. And in hindsight, I think the reason I wanted to give my reasons for breaking up were actually because I wanted him to say "oh I can change those things, lets stay together." But outside the context of a break up, I didn't want to pay out a litany of things that bothered me about him.

So to answer your question, I would say if you would stay with a person if they changed the things that you are listing as your reasons for breaking up, then don't break up with them, just communicate about the issues.

But if you're done with the relationship or think they definitely can't change, then just break up without comment. Break ups aren't the time for constructive criticism.


--- Quote from: EllenS on July 02, 2013, 11:12:25 AM ---I think if you save up being honest about your feelings, needs and boundaries until you are ready to break up, you are missing the chance to have a happy healthy relationship.

--- End quote ---

I agree with this and with Gollymolly too. The breakup speech should not be the first time you mention some annoyance that you've saved up until you were so annoyed you didn't want to resolve it anymore.

I'm also a big believer in the polite fiction when breaking up. Seriously. You're breaking up with the person; they'll be hurt. There's no reason to compound it with "I'm breaking up with you because you snore, I hate your teeth, and three years ago you burned the toast." As much as I've overanalyzed the "It's not you, it's me" tales I've been told when getting dumped, in retrospect they were easier to take than a litany of one's faults, especially if it's the first time those faults have ever been mentioned.

If you discussed an issue during the actual relationship and it still wasn't resolved, sure. "We've gone around and around and we still can't agree on whether to have kids," I can see that. But hitting someone with both a breakup and a list of petty annoyances or superficial flaws--it's unnecessary.

POD to Gollymolly2. There are things that people will do that rub you the wrong way, and you can politely ask them to change these things. But some things aren't merely behaviours, but a part of who that person is: they can happily decline from calling you every hour once they realise it bugs you, but giving up their extensive trilobite fossil collection is too much to ask. Or whatever, it depends on the person.

I think the whole point of a relationship is that, as long as both people are being honest with each other, they can adjust the small things that aren't hugely important and that they're willing to change, so that they can see if underneath the basic human beings are compatible.

If they aren't, then it isn't the time for constructive criticism. That time was during the relationship. If a fundamental part of who they are just isn't working for you, i.e. some of what isn't working is a part of them that they couldn't change without still being honest about who they are, then say so without blaming them or a part of them. Not "we have to break up because your room is full of five hundred million year old fossils and it's freaky," but something more like, "there just isn't any chemistry for me; you're not what I'm looking for." Break-ups are never fun. If you've both given it an honest try, then the least you can do is end it without making it their fault somehow.


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