Why Can't Men Breakup in A Respectful Way

Thanks for your excellent blog. I discovered it recently and have really been enjoying it. I have a question for you: Why can’t men break up with a woman? I was with my most recent boyfriend for seven months. Everything seemed great. We were at the meeting friends, parents and (his) kid’s stage. He always said ‘I love you’ at the end of every phone call. Then, all of a sudden, he started pulling away.

Despite me gently confronting him about it on numerous occasions and giving him every opportunity to break up with me – if that’s what he wanted, he never did. Eventually, he just became so emotionally distant that I had to break up with him. He seemed relieved and was back on Match.com the next day. It’s only been a few weeks and he’s already gone and deleted all evidence of our relationship on Facebook (we’re still Facebook friends), probably so the next woman can’t see it. Next woman? It seems like yesterday we were talking about our future together. It breaks my heart that while I was investing more and more into the relationship (for instance, slowly forming a bond with his young daughter), he was checking out and didn’t bother to tell me about it.

Sadly, this is a step up from my last boyfriend who did a total, utter and complete disappearing act after six weeks of what I thought was awesome dating – he called me every day, took me out every weekend and treated me like his girlfriend (until he didn’t). Looking back, I don’t think I’ve had one boyfriend actually man up and tell me the relationship was over for him. I’ve also read countless articles and books by women who’ve experienced the same thing. (Heck, you have a whole program addressing why men disappear!) I’m starting to think expecting a man to break up with me is unrealistic, and if I want to know how the relationship is going I have to be one step ahead of him. Can’t rely on calm, rational conversations. Makes me so sad.

What do you think? Is a respectful break-up too much to ask of a man? Or is a man who can’t give a woman a respectful break-up a bit of a loser and I should be happy to be rid of him?

Sonia

The closest you came to truth was in your last line: a man who can’t break up like an adult is not the kind of man you want in your life for the next 40 years. Imagine being in a marriage where confrontation is avoided at all costs, where silent treatments are the norm, where the fear of expressing your feelings reigns.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of marriages like that. And guess what, Sonia? In half of them, women are the primary culprits of poor communication.

Now, of course, this is not scientific. This is anecdotal. But I’ve been around the block long enough to know that the primary reason you complain about how “men break up” is because you date men. If you dated women, your complaints would be leveled at a completely different gender.

All you can do is take responsibility for your own actions and let the unhealthy folks fend for themselves.

Example: John really likes Jennifer. They’ve talked a bunch, hooked up a bunch, shared a lot of personal feelings, and John is ready to take the next step to become her boyfriend. Jennifer, however, is still hung up on her ex. She thinks John is a great guy. She doesn’t want to hurt him. She doesn’t want to blow him off. She doesn’t want to commit to him. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know what to say. She half-heartedly returns his texts. She sees him occasionally, but doesn’t make him feel loved or appreciated or safe. She doesn’t have the conviction to either give him a chance or to let him go. So she does nothing. Eventually – eventually – Jennifer does the slow fade, and hopes that John finally gets the hint – although she never told him anything directly.

We can quibble with the details, of course, but this is just one anecdote.

I can cite my girlfriend from 1996, who dated me for four months, cheated with me over Christmas break, acted atrociously enough for me to break up with her the following month, and then told me she cheated on me in order to punish me.

I can also cite this brilliant song, The Fade Away by Garfunkel and Oates, which is all about women who don’t communicate directly.

Moral of the story, of course, is not to defend anyone who acts in a less than fair, healthy, or considerate fashion, but to point out that the emphasis of your email is on whether MEN can break up respectfully. Yes, they can. I considered turning pro at one point in time. But all you can do is take responsibility for your own actions and let the unhealthy folks fend for themselves.

The answer is not to “remain one step ahead” of your boyfriend at all times, but rather to choose a boyfriend who presents a secure attachment style, talks about his feelings, and lets you know where he stands.

Not surprisingly, that’s on YOU to change your decision-making mechanisms, not on all men to change their communication styles on your behalf.