Author Topic: What to Say  (Read 6643 times)

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IWish

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #15 on: July 03, 2013, 09:09:26 AM »
A break-up is absolutely not the time to give someone relationship feedback.

I agree. Nor is it the time to give them personal flaws feedback. It's only going to make one person feel unburdened.

I was in a three year relationship once and the guy just stopped calling. (We normally talked several times a day and spent every weekend together.) After a day of no contact I knew what the score was, but wanted to speak to him to put an end to it officially. I thought he owed me that. When I finally was able to reach him by phone a week later his excuse for not calling me sooner to tell me was that he was working on writing me a letter with the reasons and hadn't finished it yet. He proceeded to read the draft to me over the phone which was actually a numbered list of all my personal and relationship flaws. 

More than fifteen years later I can still remember every single item on his list!  >:( It may have helped to unburden himself but it caused me years of pain and self doubt. A simple "I don't feel the same way anymore" would have been so much kinder.

WillyNilly

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #16 on: July 03, 2013, 11:56:00 AM »

I call this the "It's not me, it's you" breakup method.

Sure, it can feel good at the time to tell someone exactly why you were forced to break up with them - a list of deeply personal flaws that made them unbearable to be with, and make it clear that if they weren't such a loser, you'd still be with them.

But really - telling them this isn't going to make them feel better about getting dumped. It's going to make them feel worse. They've been dumped *and* insulted.  If they were willing or able to address the issue, they would have done so in the relationship, so the excuse "But I'll help them be a better person in the next relationship" doesn't fly either.

If the 'flaw' were fixable, then you could have addressed it during the relationship. If you didn't or couldn't, then telling them isn't going to change it.

There are a few specific cases where you can point to a single, large incompatibility, like "I want kids and you don't". There are also some extreme cases like "I'm leaving you because you hit me. Do not contact me again or I'm going to the police." or "You slept with my sister".  Otherwise, an "I don't think we're a good match in a romantic relationship" or "We want different things out of life" are as deep as you need to go.

You can flip it and see how you'd feel if someone dumped you and said "The sex was great, but quite frankly you're boring and needy, and the way you snort when you laugh is like fingernails on a chalkboard".

Mind you, I do think you have to deal with things differently when you're dealing with a marriage or cohabiting relationship, rather than dating (or even extended, exclusive dating) There's generally no way that's not going to be messy, if for no other reason than having to find a new place to live, splitting joint assets, and deciding who gets the dog.

Exactly!

If it's a minor thing that the person is willing to change, then you owe it to them to at least be honest about it at some point during the relationship and ask them to please tone it down/alter it. Holding it all inside until a breakup is dishonest and silly, almost petty, and shows you aren't really trying to make things work. But it it's a major part of who they are, then telling them that the break-up (which is almost never painless) is due to a fundamental part of them can be just plain unkind. It shouldn't be, "I'm not interested in a relationship because you want to have 83 kids," but, "I'm not interested because we're both looking for different things and we're just not a match for each other." That way, it's not the desired 83 kids that is portrayed as being the problem, but it instead acknowledges that both of you have aspects that aren't compatible, rather than just one of you being at fault. The actual incompatibility is that one wants 83 kids and the other doesn't. This is a minor but important distinction.

A break-up is absolutely not the time to give someone relationship feedback. That should have happened during the relationship, if you were giving it a fair go. If you are ending things, hopefully, both people should be aware of what things aren't quite working, rather than one person thinking everything is going well and the other person suddenly dropping a bombshell on them. They should, hopefully, both be aware of the incompatibilities to some extent before one or both decide to call it a day.

I think this philosophy is not really applicable if we are talking about a "relationship" of 2-4 dates. If someone tips badly for example or is a bit snippy to waitstaff, or maybe opens doors and goes through first themselves not holding it for their date, it can be awkward to bring it up in conversation so early on in dating. But by the third time they do it, its certainly a good reason to stop seeing someone. Its just who that person is, and sure maybe they would change if there was a conversation about it but its also perfectly reasonable to decide you don't want to "train" a boyfriend, you want one that comes pre-trained.

And while I don't think its necessary a good opener "Its been lovely but I think we should stop seeing each other; I just hate the way you walk through doors." I think its perfectly ok if asked to answer as part of an exchange, "oh its just small things that make me think we are incompatible, little things like how you walk through doors. Its a valid way for you to be, but it just doesn't mesh with what I'm looking for."

Twik

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #17 on: July 03, 2013, 12:06:31 PM »
Personally, I'd say most breakups (if no emotional/physical abuse involved) boil down to "I'm not feeling it." And there's not much anyone can do about that, on either side, except continue on and look for someone who does feel it.
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Softly Spoken

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #18 on: July 03, 2013, 12:15:44 PM »
IWish: I think you can put "Insensitive jerk" as #1 on your ex's list of flaws!  >:(

I also find it interesting that the person who is breaking up is always assuming that the other person is "flawed."

We all have different standards. One person's "pig sty of an apartment" may be someone else's "comfortable and laid back living space."
Wanting or not wanting children when your SO feels the opposite is incompatibility, not a flaw.

If you are breaking up with someone you are breaking up with them because they are not right for you, not because they are a flawed human being. We all have our "flaws."

I think the problem with listing specific reasons for a break up is it falls under the JADE umbrella, and opens the door to arguments: "But I can change / I don't do that / I only did that once, etc." Someone is feeling smothered? Maybe the other person is feeling neglected!

If someone possesses a major flaw that will prevent them from maintaining a successful relationship, they most likely are in denial about it and will not thank you for enlightening them.

Telling someone their flaws are the reason for a breakup is basically saying "You aren't good enough for me."

If you tell someone you want to break up and they say "Why?", I think an honest  and neutral answer would be "We aren't compatible enough."

I broke up with a guy because he was going to be spending all his time working and going to school, on an essentially nocturnal schedule. He gave no indication of how we would be able to spend any time together, or where I would fit into this new plan. So I had to be the one to say it: "This isn't going to work." He admitted that there didn't seem to be a way to maintain much of a relationship. So it was sort of mutual but I was the one who had to force the issue. If I was more passive, I might still be in that awful non-existent "relationship." He wasn't flawed, he just was a bad fit for me.
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TurtleDove

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #19 on: July 03, 2013, 01:50:18 PM »
I think so much depends upon the actual cirucumstances.  On one end of the spectrum, if it's two people who met on a dating site and went on three dates with zero friends in common, a "sorry, we simply are not compatible but I wish you well!" should do it.  On the other end, if it's a couple married for 20 years with three kids together and tons of mutual friends, who own property together, and one partner cheated on the other with a third person known to both, more explanation is needed.  In the middle would be two people who have dated for a year, have some friends in common and run in the same circles - here you wouldn't want to do or say anthing that would leave the other feeling dropped (as I think most people would if there were NO explanation) or humiliated (as I think most people would feel if they were presented with a list of reasons why the relationship didn't work). 

I am never a fan of simply cutting someone off with no explanation, but a simple, "I'm sorry, but I just do not believe we are compatible.  I think you are a fabulous person and I wish you well" will often allow both people to come to closure.

Tea Drinker

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #20 on: July 03, 2013, 07:36:50 PM »
I would agree that there are few circumstances in which cutting someone off without a word is appropriate--that's for abusive relationships, and maybe for ones where someone has repeatedly tried to say "I don't think this is working" or "I am unhappy about XYZ, and if we're going to make this work we should go to counseling" and been ignored or brushed off.

On the other hand, if you've been making an effort to communicate all along, and still conclude that you need/want to break up, at some point it really does come down to "I'm sorry, but this relationship isn't working, and I'm breaking up with you." It's too late to negotiate from No, really, I can change, please don't leave" rather than about child custody or joint property. Sometimes two people can love each other, and want it to work, and just not be good matches.

If the question is What to say to third parties, in many cases "it just wasn't working anymore" is more appropriate than details. Not always: if true, answers like "we just couldn't agree on whether to have children" or "he loves being a long-distance trucker, and I couldn't deal with that much time apart." Those are cases where both parties would likely agree that this is what happened. Even if in their heart of hearts each thinks the other's opinion about children or time alone is unreasonable, they both know that that disagreement was at least a big part of why they broke up. (Often there's more than one reason: if you are suddenly driven to distraction by how someone clips their toenails, that's probably not all that's bothering you.)
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miranova

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #21 on: July 04, 2013, 04:57:21 PM »
Someone posted in this thread that not telling someone what you want them to change before a breakup means that you aren't willing to work on things at all.  I don't disagree, but I also don't feel that it's wrong to have a philosophy of dating where you just aren't all that willing to have to WORK to make it work.

After two long term relationships in which the bad qualities of the other person never changed one iota, my new philosophy of dating was that I was looking for someone who already shared my values, goals in life, sense of humor, work ethic, energy level, etc.  I was 100% uninterested in changing someone else.  So if something wasn't working for me, no, I'm not going to ask the person to change it.  Either someone is a hard worker or they're not.  Either someone wants kids or they don't.  Either someone has the same crazy sense of humor as I do or they don't.  Either they are generally clean and neat around the house or they are not.  I truly don't believe that these type of things really can be changed, so I'm not going to ask anyone to change them.  If that means I'm not willing to work on the relationship, well, ok.  But the thing about dating is, it's voluntary.  If I don't want to "work" on it, I'm not obligated to. 

Of course, some small things could just be mindless habits that if you know annoy someone you can stop doing.  Little things like that I could see mentioning.  Like "would you mind leaving your shoes on my tile entry instead of taking them off on my carpet?"  sure.  But things like "you are too jealous, you text too much" (actual examples from this thread), no, I'm not going to mention those things and ask someone to change them before a break up.  That is who they are.

When you are married for 25 years, of course you will have to work on your relationship!  But dating?  dating is supposed to be easy, fun, and NOT feel like work.  I had years where I never got beyond 2 dates with anyone, but I didn't waste any time trying to change anyone and when I met current DH, I know he was the one for me when I wanted him to stay exactly the same and NOT change at all. 


Tea Drinker

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #22 on: July 04, 2013, 07:28:20 PM »
Someone posted in this thread that not telling someone what you want them to change before a breakup means that you aren't willing to work on things at all.  I don't disagree, but I also don't feel that it's wrong to have a philosophy of dating where you just aren't all that willing to have to WORK to make it work.

After two long term relationships in which the bad qualities of the other person never changed one iota, my new philosophy of dating was that I was looking for someone who already shared my values, goals in life, sense of humor, work ethic, energy level, etc.  I was 100% uninterested in changing someone else.  So if something wasn't working for me, no, I'm not going to ask the person to change it.  Either someone is a hard worker or they're not.  Either someone wants kids or they don't.  Either someone has the same crazy sense of humor as I do or they don't.  Either they are generally clean and neat around the house or they are not.  I truly don't believe that these type of things really can be changed, so I'm not going to ask anyone to change them.  If that means I'm not willing to work on the relationship, well, ok.  But the thing about dating is, it's voluntary.  If I don't want to "work" on it, I'm not obligated to. 

What would have annoyed me when I was dating is if, say, someone had assumed that of course I wanted children, gone along for months without mentioning the idea beyond an offhand reference to seeing their nieces or nephews, and then launched into "when we have kids, we should..." or "what do you think we should name the kids?" without stopping for "How do you feel about children?" or "I've always wanted kids, how about you?"

Similarly for anything else major that isn't immediately obvious from interactions: if we're visiting each other's homes, I can tell what someone's level of tidiness is, but it may take a while to get a handle on their financial attitudes. If someone isn't spending a lot, is that because they're putting it aside for retirement, or are they paying off credit card debt from an expensive vacation they really couldn't afford? A lot of people hesitate to bring up finances with someone they don't already know.

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Of course, some small things could just be mindless habits that if you know annoy someone you can stop doing.  Little things like that I could see mentioning.  Like "would you mind leaving your shoes on my tile entry instead of taking them off on my carpet?"  sure.  But things like "you are too jealous, you text too much" (actual examples from this thread), no, I'm not going to mention those things and ask someone to change them before a break up.  That is who they are.

When you are married for 25 years, of course you will have to work on your relationship!  But dating?  dating is supposed to be easy, fun, and NOT feel like work.  I had years where I never got beyond 2 dates with anyone, but I didn't waste any time trying to change anyone and when I met current DH, I know he was the one for me when I wanted him to stay exactly the same and NOT change at all.
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RavenousEdenFleur

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #23 on: July 10, 2013, 12:42:56 PM »
I have been told there has not been chemistry on his end and yet had my ex call me everyday, invite me places, try to hold my hand at functions all after "breaking up" so be sure and firm I would say, I think if one person has feelings and the other doesn't or maybe the others feelings are not as strong there is going to be hurt feelings and it can be hard not to take it personally but there has been a lot of sound advice!

EllenS

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #24 on: July 10, 2013, 01:05:52 PM »
There have been a lot of really interesting and diverse points made here!

I think one thing I said earlier may have not been clear.  I don't think you should expect or try to get people to change fundmental things about themselves, and yes there are lots of valid reasons to break up with/not continue seeing someone, whether it takes you one date or several years to make up your mind.

My point was about being honest about who you are and communicating that from the minute you meet. If your date does something annoying on Date 1 or 2, don't wait till Date 10, when you are sick to death of them, to mention it.  That is just unfair.  Either say "hey, could you not do that because it's annoying", or say "no thanks" to Date 3.

I also think, if you are in a serious relationship and communicating well, you should be communicating about fundamental issues, too.  Isn't that what makes it a serious relationship?  If there are things you can't work out or agree on, or things about the other person that you have realized are not going to change, you break up - but if your feelings about those issues are a surprise to your partner when you do break up, then you have not been honest in the relationship.

cwm

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #25 on: July 10, 2013, 01:18:36 PM »
I had a really nice post and now the OP came and clarified things. Oh well, a few points are still relevant.

If something is annoying you, by all means mention it upfront. "Hey, it kind of bothers me when you leave your shoes on in the house. Could you not do that at my place? I'm trying to keep the carpet nice."

"Could you possibly not talk when you're in the middle of a huge bite of food? It's kinda gross to look at."

Things like that should be brought up within the first few dates/encounters. It could well be something they don't realize they're doing.

As far as what comes up later on in the relationship, be honest and gentle. If you've just found out that you differ on some very important views (religion, children, importance and closeness of family members, finances) then you can say that you seem incompatible on some very core issues and maybe would be better with people more compatible. If it's something you're willing to work through, be honest about that.

"From our conversations, you seem to want XYZ in a relationship, and I don't think I'm the best person to offer you XYZ. I want QRS out of this relationship, and that doesn't seem to be something you're able to give me. You deserve to be happy and not compromise your values, and so do I. I think it's best if we both started looking elsewhere for a more fulfilling relationship."

It addresses the core issues of why you're breaking up, opens the floor for dialogue. Maybe s/he is willing to give up XYZ and compromise with you on QRS, whatever those issues are. Perhaps they just didn't realize that it was quite that important to you.

miranova

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #26 on: July 11, 2013, 05:28:45 AM »
There have been a lot of really interesting and diverse points made here!

I think one thing I said earlier may have not been clear.  I don't think you should expect or try to get people to change fundmental things about themselves, and yes there are lots of valid reasons to break up with/not continue seeing someone, whether it takes you one date or several years to make up your mind.

My point was about being honest about who you are and communicating that from the minute you meet. If your date does something annoying on Date 1 or 2, don't wait till Date 10, when you are sick to death of them, to mention it.  That is just unfair.  Either say "hey, could you not do that because it's annoying", or say "no thanks" to Date 3.

I also think, if you are in a serious relationship and communicating well, you should be communicating about fundamental issues, too.  Isn't that what makes it a serious relationship?  If there are things you can't work out or agree on, or things about the other person that you have realized are not going to change, you break up - but if your feelings about those issues are a surprise to your partner when you do break up, then you have not been honest in the relationship.

I agree with bringing up little annoying things.  Definitely!  But I just can't agree that if someone is surprised by your feelings that you haven't been honest with them.  Maybe they've never asked for my feelings on a certain issue.  Maybe I've just figured them out myself and realized that to be fair to the other person I need to break things off.  Maybe I have tried to tell them things and they only heard what they wanted to hear. 

I am the type of person that can have an "off" feeling and have no idea why for awhile.  I can't have a conversation until I'm able to put things in words myself.  Then, one day or night I will figure out why something upsets me.  And if it's a dealbreaker, it just is.  I can't pretend it's not.  So while a break up may seem sudden, that doesn't mean I've been dishonest at all, it is just me trying to work things out myself within my own head.

This is definitely an interesting conversation!!

EllenS

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #27 on: July 11, 2013, 12:33:08 PM »
But I just can't agree that if someone is surprised by your feelings that you haven't been honest with them.  Maybe they've never asked for my feelings on a certain issue.  Maybe I've just figured them out myself and realized that to be fair to the other person I need to break things off.  Maybe I have tried to tell them things and they only heard what they wanted to hear. 

I am the type of person that can have an "off" feeling and have no idea why for awhile.  I can't have a conversation until I'm able to put things in words myself.  Then, one day or night I will figure out why something upsets me.  And if it's a dealbreaker, it just is.  I can't pretend it's not.  So while a break up may seem sudden, that doesn't mean I've been dishonest at all, it is just me trying to work things out myself within my own head.

Well, sure... but you would talk about this stuff with the person, right?  And that would by some period of time precede the actual decision to break up, right? I mean, there is a big difference between 1) "hey I just realized I feel strongly about X, can we talk about it" which may eventually lead to a break up, rather than 2) "I decided this morning that we are breaking up because I must have X in my life." "What?  What are you talking about?  We have been going out 5 years and you never mentioned X?"

People not listening, or only hearing what they want to hear, are a totally legit reason to break up for that reason alone, IMO.

miranova

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #28 on: July 11, 2013, 01:33:27 PM »
But I just can't agree that if someone is surprised by your feelings that you haven't been honest with them.  Maybe they've never asked for my feelings on a certain issue.  Maybe I've just figured them out myself and realized that to be fair to the other person I need to break things off.  Maybe I have tried to tell them things and they only heard what they wanted to hear. 

I am the type of person that can have an "off" feeling and have no idea why for awhile.  I can't have a conversation until I'm able to put things in words myself.  Then, one day or night I will figure out why something upsets me.  And if it's a dealbreaker, it just is.  I can't pretend it's not.  So while a break up may seem sudden, that doesn't mean I've been dishonest at all, it is just me trying to work things out myself within my own head.

Well, sure... but you would talk about this stuff with the person, right?  And that would by some period of time precede the actual decision to break up, right? I mean, there is a big difference between 1) "hey I just realized I feel strongly about X, can we talk about it" which may eventually lead to a break up, rather than 2) "I decided this morning that we are breaking up because I must have X in my life." "

I don't see why there would necessarily be some period of time where I would tell someone what I was feeling yet wait to officially break up.  I don't see the point in that at all unless I'm trying to gather information.  If I already know what I need to know, why are we talking about whatever it is that's not going to work for me and then waiting for an inevitable break up?  Either I'm still trying to work out how I feel in which case I am not ready to communicate it, or I am ready and have decided that this isn't the relationship for me.  I don't think there is anything at all wrong with breaking up even if someone isn't expecting it.  It's not a like a job where you need to give two weeks notice.  I'm not even sure I understand the scenario I guess.  Either I know or I don't, so there isn't much to say until I know.  But I can admit I might be more of a black and white thinker than most and a lot of people need that transition time to let go of the idea of the relationship working.

For instance I've heard people say "I know I can't marry her due to X" in which case I would say "then why are you still dating?"  "Well....maybe we can figure something out...."  That's just not for me and not the way I work. 

As for five years...I've never been in that situation.   I personally am not going to date someone for five years without a marriage decision.  Not judging anyone else but I just would never be in that situation myself because if I didn't want to marry someone by LONG before then and/or they didn't want to marry me, we'd already be broken up.

I think it just comes down to personality differences but there is nothing dishonest about breaking up with someone even if they didn't know it was coming.
« Last Edit: July 11, 2013, 01:37:57 PM by miranova »

miranova

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Re: What to Say
« Reply #29 on: July 11, 2013, 01:41:28 PM »
I think it's starting to sound like I never communicated any feelings while dating, and that's not true.  I'm only talking about breakups and addressing the notion that if a break up is a surprise that is proof that someone wasn't honest.  I am only contesting that point which I really don't think is accurate.  I don't think I am obligated to tell someone that I'm thinking of breaking up with them, but let's just wait a few weeks first so he isn't surprised.  I am actually having a hard time understanding that.