The end is rarely easy. And, God, can it be awkward. Personally, I don’t apply specifics for each gender on how to end a thing (a “thing” being anything that lasts a couple months or seven dates, give or take; ending a “relationship” is a whole other bag of misery). When it comes to the end, whether you’re a man dumping a woman, a woman dumping a man, or a gay dude dumping a gay dude, you want it to be as humane as possible.
But which method of ending a “thing” is most humane? Let’s have a look, from least to most kind.
The “Treaty of Versailles” Breakup
You don’t like the other person and don’t want to have sex with him/her anymore, but you feel bad; (s)he’s “a good person” and you want to break it off like an adult. Bravo. You know what’s not adult? Forcing someone to listen to platitudes and compliments while you crush them into a fine paste. It’s the “nice” breakup that isn’t.
“I enjoyed spending time with you”? Are you talking to an exchange student on the way to his/her departing flight? Just sack up and stop being so “nice.”
OK, I know there are mitigating factors — like if you were set up by someone important to you, if you have mutual friends, if (s)he’s got something of yours you really need back. But regardless of the circumstances, it is rarely, rarely a good idea to spend a ton of time talking it out.
Because honestly, what is there to say? Does anyone really want to be complimented by somebody who doesn’t want to bone them anymore? Once, a woman told me I was the most “emotionally available” man she’d ever met while breaking up with me. Uh, thanks?
I’m guilty here of the opposite: defaming yourself in the name of kindly dumping the other person. (I have a habit of drunkenly telling women I’m “dangerous” and “nothing but trouble,” which are half-truths which really only imply “you’re lame.”) Everything said during a Treaty is code for “I don’t find you sexually attractive.” If you found your partner sexually attractive but had other reasons, you’d have to employ a different method, like the Slow Fade or the Lights Out.
The Lights Out (aka the “Michael Douglas”)
This is the Treaty’s polar opposite, replacing the lengthy detente with the sudden and complete heartlessness of Michael Douglas (pre-Zeta-Jones). One day you think everything’s fine, the next you’re staring holes into your phone and wondering if you should call the police.
Look, the Michael Douglas happens. If you’re thinking about employing it, realize that you also probably need to distance yourself from any mutual friends or acquaintances and any bars you’ve frequented as a couple. People can react badly to the Douglas, saying mean things when they see you in public. With the Treaty, you make awkward small talk if you see someone again, but the Douglas can breed tense, potentially violent interactions.
But here’s the beauty — first, it’s just over. Period. Like death. Second, if you’re cruel enough to pull a Michael Douglas, the other person might actively avoid you. I still refuse to get near this bar where I met a girl I really thought I liked — all because she gave me the fully flared nostrils of the Douglas. Now I can’t see her — I’ll be unable to handle the pity in her eyes.
The Slow Fade
How many times I have used the Slow Fade? I couldn’t even count. How many times have I had it used on me? A ton.
First, you cancel a date. (The moment someone cancels a date with you and doesn’t either seem genuinely sorry and make up for it with plans for an extra-meaningful next date or have a hospital bracelet for an excuse, it’s over. ) Then, it gets really, really busy at work. Like, insanely busy. Your weeks become “crazy.” You’ll hang out soon, really soon, just once the dust settles. Oops, you’re headed out of town to see the family!
And … scene.
Now, the Slow Fade is sort of disingenuous. But. You’re distracting him/her from the pain by making a big production of wanting to see him/her, if only things would settle down. The hope is, by the time (s)he figures out what’s happening, (s)he doesn’t care as much. Which is why it’s my preferred method of pulling out.
None are perfect, however. What’s your breakup method of choice? (I once heard of the Minnie Driver, but I’ve never had it explained to me.)