Saturday, January 22, 2011

It's not you, it's me

I recently found myself in the uncomfortable position of having to tell a man to stop contacting me. This was not someone I was dating, it was just someone I was getting some very unwanted contact from. Even though I don't know this man, and even though his repeated contact was  making me incredibly uncomfortable, I still had a hard time deciding how to phrase my, "never contact me again" message so it wasn't overly mean.

Like a lot of women (and men?) I am not the best at ending things, in the sense that I try too hard to be nice (translation: vague) so as to spare feelings. Not only that, but I've let things go on way too long with guys I'm not interested in because I'm not sure how to tell them to back off.* This leads to frustration, I have found, for both parties. And it's something I've decided it's important for me to work on. And I believe that lately, I have made some progress. I've been able to be much more honest, and it's empowering. But it's still not my favorite.

I wish I could just buy a box of pre-written break up cards, with options such as:

"I don't see us working as a couple. You're a nice guy, with a lot to offer. I can't be what you need me to be. If this isn't enough explanation for you, turn over card."

Then the back says,

"You're a pervert with no ambition.*"

Unfortunately, there is no such a product. Which means that I need to get more gumption. I was talking about this with Ryan, from TheSinglesWard blog, and he pointed out that if you don't tell the guy the truth, he won't be able to change the thing you don't like about him (if it's changeable) and that when you're honest, it can lead to a more healthy break-up and posible future friendship. But I think one of my fears is that he'll lash out at me and it will go something like this:

Me: I'm sorry, but this isn't going to work out.
Him: Why?
Me: We're too different...
Him: How so?
Me: You're a loser.
Him: Well you're ugly! And I hate you! And you have weird elbows! And you have split ends!
Me: (running away, crying)

Of course, I would never just say "you're a loser." That was just a catch-all for whatever I might really say, which would be much gentler than that.

What I need to remember is that nothing I could (or would) say would do irreparable damage to a guy. Even at my meanest, I'm not that mean (unlike the heart eating monster in that picture). And time heals all wounds. Heaven knows I've been hurt before, and I've gotten over it (except that bit about my split ends).

How do you break up with someone? Have you been broken up with in an awful way? How would you want someone to break up with you?

*This is not referring to anyone who may be reading this, I assure you.


Katherine said...

I was just talking to a friend about this recently! She was being pursued by s/o she wasn't interested in, and didn't know how to end it. I suggested the generally effective, "I think you're a great guy, but there's just no spark." Followed with the somewhat helpful, "You're going to make some girl very happy someday [that girl's just not me]." You can't argue with no spark! Now if there really is something awful he could work on, I suppose throwing that in there might be good, but I just run away before we get to that point.

Heidi said...

The translation into vague is totally what happens to me! I hear myself saying it and thinking, "ya... I know what I want to say and that little island is being covered by my entire ocean of vagueness."

Today's Gift said...

I don't break up with people, I just drag it out forever and then eventually stop talking with them. They usually get the picture and stop contacting me.

Mark said...

Hey, if I’m such a nice guy, then why do you have such crappy taste in men?

Recently, my sister went through my facebook friends list. Quite a few of the women there had at one time told me “Sorry, I’m not interested”. I explained that we still kept in touch because we parted as friends. I like reading what they are up to and seeing pictures of their kids. They like seeing that their offspring look nothing like me.

My sister asked why a few girls were not in my friends list. I’ll call them @#*$# and *!=&*, just so I can pretend their names are comic strip swear words. We didn’t go our separate ways amicably, and a couple still had to see me every week at church.

A good separation depends on maturity from both parties. You’re probably going to run into the other person again, so you might as well be nice. For a guy, being nice means definite and firm. Tell him you are no longer interested. That’s it. If he can’t handle it, then he needs to grow up and you shouldn’t have gone with him to Prom last spring.

Most guys don’t want to hear that Rover went to live on a farm in the country with a nice family. They want to know that their dog got hit by a truck. They want the bad news, so they can move on. That probably sounds mean to say to a woman, but for a guy, the truth sets us free.

One more thought. If you’re tempted to say that you think of him as a brother, make sure his family isn’t from West Virginia.

Mark said...

I just re-read the annotation.

How many times does a guy have to be arrested for indecent exposure to prove to Elizabeth that he's a pervert WITH ambition?

Heather said...

You could make some mad bank if you really did make cue cards like that and sold them on etsy! They could be , "break up help cards." Score!

BlackLOG said...

Sadly the only way to break up with some people is being blunt. As you said yourself trying to be nice and doing it in a very vague way, to not hurt their feelings, often leads to misunderstanding and false hope.

Worse break up attempt ever was with one of my first ever girlfriends. I had been going out with her for 2 weeks (a long and established relationship, I had even met her parents, clearly things were moving way to quickly) so I decided to play the mean card, in the hope that she would chuck me. It took six long weeks of hell before she got the message. I never tried that one again.

How would I like to be dumped….”I’m sorry it is not working out for us but my intelligent beautiful friend really likes you and would be happy to console you….”

Ok, so the friend would turn out to be the mortal enemy of your now ex and the type of person who would put a restraining order on you for saying hello or for attempting to hold a door open for her. In hindsight, breaking into her apartment and waiting in bed for her was probably not the best move in the world. On a positive note you would probably have got over your ex by the time you got out of prison….

lizzie mc.- said...

I had a guy chasing me once. And would take no hints... and I'm not generally a vague person. So I said something like, "I don't like you. I'm not interested. Stop pursuing me." Result. He chased harder. It's the whole TP stuck to the bottom of the shoe scenario. Good luck.

And just so you know. Had a guy return the favor of the break-up once with a line like, "You're everything I want in a wife. You're the most Christ-like person I know." On Valentine's, no less. So offer closer. Give no hope. And pray he takes the hint!

Heather said...

Like a band-aid.
It's better to be ripped off quickly. No one likes slow lingering pain.

Vaughn said...

honestly is always the best policy. ALWAYS. Sometimes getting bowled over and thrown down is not on the top of your "to do" list, but if it saves you from getting hit by a car or other catastrophe then it is definitely worth it. Same goes with the whole cutting people off, just be honest and quick about it. Everyone will be happier later. If they are crazy....even harsher, and EVEN quicker. There will be pain no matter what. Just broad side the dude upside the head, (figuratively of course)and get it over with.

Elizabeth Downie said...

These comments are great! Thanks guys. Mark, your second comment cracked me up. And Blacklog, great idea about the break up tip. ;) Who wouldn't love to hear that!?

Christopher said...

One time just after dropping off a girl I'd been out with a few times, I texted one of my buddies the following "[NAME] is voted off the island" ... only problem was that I accidentally sent the text to her instead of my buddy. I felt awful but it was effective ... left very little ambiguity.

Britt said...

Elizabeth, this is just about the funniest post I think I've EVER read...the post as well as the comments. Thanks for such a good laugh!

Limequat said...

I'm so surprised that nobody has mentioned! These are cards you might never actually send, but they have a lot that are similar to what you're talking about, and fun for a read anyway.

Liz said...

I usually just try to ignore the guy until he goes away.