The Non-Breakup Breakup: Why I’m Glad I Didn’t Pull the Fade-Outby Nikki Metzgar on March 21, 2012
Editor’s note: In case you missed them, catch up on Nikki’s previous Dating Diaries posts here.
I did something this week that I’m very proud of. I sent a break-up email. The reason I’m glad I did it is because I actually stood by my belief that you shouldn’t just stop responding to someone you aren’t interested in anymore, which was basically my main move when I first started going on dates. Like, more than the Lock Eyes, Look Away move, my signature was the Never Respond to a Call or Text Again. It’s so easy to do when you don’t know what to say or how to say it.
Because how do you fit “I’m not into you but in a positive way” in a text message? Still, that disappearing off the face of the earth act isn’t fooling anyone, and it robs the other person of closure. And if you never announce you’re breaking up, are you actually just still dating?!
A friend of mine has been dating a guy for about two months. They hang out once a week or more and haven’t put any labels on anything, but she did take him to a fancy dinner for his birthday and to me, two months isn’t nothing. Eight days ago they had dinner together and he mentioned he was going to California the next day for a trip. That was the first she heard of it and she doesn’t know when he was supposed to come back. She still hasn’t heard from him. To me, that reads like he’s trying to break up with her. If he’s not, he’s at minimum showing her how small a role she plays in his life. What’s definitely true is that after two months and a birthday dinner, she deserves way more than a Slow Fade.
Obviously sometimes the situation is more ambiguous. I had only been on two dates with the guy I emailed. The first time we got a drink, I definitely thought he was cute and I really enjoyed talking to him, but I didn’t really feel a romantic spark. I gave it another try and that time we went to see a movie, where we didn’t talk at all and at the end he walked me to the mouth of the parking garage (the danger would be inside, dude!) and planted a kiss on me that I didn’t really want. When he said, “We should hang out this week,” I didn’t really have the guts to just flat out say no on the spot. I think I nodded silently.
So I was caught having given him some positive reinforcement that I didn’t mean. He texted me a few days later to say, “Hey hey. How goes it?” [Sidenote: Ugh, curse the open-ended text!] So that one I didn’t feel too bothered to respond to. The next day, he sent a much more thoughtful one inviting me to a concert that night. I already had plans and wasn’t interested anymore, but not responding to that text was significantly less cool.
Luckily, I had his email address so I didn’t have to come up with a break-up excuse that would fit in a text nor would I be forced to call him. So I wrote a couple sentences apologizing for not responding to him earlier and explaining that I was really busy with my job and couldn’t prioritize dating him (all true!). He emailed back, which I didn’t really expect, to say that it was no big deal and he figured I wasn’t interested. I felt a little silly for emailing him for a moment, but even if it seems like I made a bigger deal out of it than I had to, I’m glad I didn’t just leave it to him to figure out. That’s what I would want. Maybe not a flat-out lie, but some explanation or comment so I know to stop wondering.
This other guy I’ve been seeing more frequently, The Casual Dater, hasn’t texted or called me in seven days and I haven’t made any effort either. I think the acceptable maximum for an actively dating couple to go without contact is about five days and I get the feeling that we were both mutually over things after our last, rather depressing date, but it still feels like an unanswered question to just not say anything. I kind of want to hear why he thinks things haven’t worked out but that might be my unarticulated anger talking more than a need to know if we’ve actually broken up.
I mean, he started this whole thing by saying he wouldn’t stick around and now he’s going to end it by just walking out without a word? If our relationship warranted a “no BF-GF stuff” talk, then I’m pretty sure it warrants a few final words. I think this is the part where I don’t just wait around for him to break up with me and I take the initiative on that, but when I think of it that way, it seems unnecessary and nasty to do so. If neither of us wants to date each other, why do we need to say it out loud? Because you don’t have to believe in heaven to give your deceased pet a funeral. I need the memorial! I guess it just might have to be between me, some wine and a friend, though.