We’ve heard them all – the ballads, poems, films and works of art that revolve around the theme of abandonment. In a blur of sadness, anger and disappointment, we have hoped, cried, and been excited for Bridget Jones, Carrie Bradshaw and the like. So far, so important.
The opposite of this, leaving, dumping someone or ending things, unfortunately doesn’t get quite as much attention. And if it does, it’s in the form of bad PR. (Remember the Sex and the City episode where Berger breaks up with Carrie by post-it note? SCANDALOUS!)
Anyone who rides the rollercoaster of online dating will sooner or later have the experience of things not working out. There must be 100,000 different ways not to communicate this (at the altar, in a birthday card, in front of the in-laws… the list goes on) and according to Paul Simon there are 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover. But what is the right way to do it? But what is the right way to do it?
Shall I say it or not?
Most of us have experienced it. Deathly silence in the chat, unanswered calls, and a quick disappearance into the bushes when you bump into them on the street. Ghosting.
Anyone who has been on the receiving end of it knows how awful it feels. You don’t know what’s wrong, what the reason was, or what you should perhaps do differently next time. You always have one particular question in your mind. What went wrong?
So this is your official challenge to actually end things next time instead of transforming into Casper the Friendly Ghost again. We’ll help you to do just that.
One more thing: We know it’s never easy to tell someone you didn’t feel a spark. Being fair and honest helps the other person to have closure and to move forward. And you would also want that for yourself.
If you do things the right way, giving honest feedback is a mature and respectful thing to do that brings clarity.
Ending things properly – the black belt of dating
The setting has to be right. Ending things by text is okay if you’ve only met or written to each other a few times. If you’ve spent a lot of time together and got physical, you should talk to the person face to face. The best place to do this is in a neutral place, such as a park.
During a lockdown, a video call or phone call may be fine as an exception. Relationships should ALWAYS be ended in person. There is a special place in hell for people who break up over text or WhatsApp.
The final conversation… a play in 3 acts
Act 1: Start with something positive
Saying a few nice words to begin with makes it clear that you’re not acting out of malice and that you still value the other person as a human being. You wouldn’t be in this tricky situation if you didn’t think anything was great about him or her. What was it? Now is a good time to say it.
Now is a good time to say it.
Now it’s time to be frank. Put it plainly as if you were ripping off a band-aid in one go. It’s not right, you’re not interested, there was no spark. Period.
You won’t do yourself or the other person any favors by saying things that leave the door open. If you gently make it clear that things really aren’t working for you, everyone involved will know where they stand and it’ll be easier to have closure and move forward.
Act 3: Finish things up by wishing them well
This is where things get conciliatory. By wishing the person well or success in the future,
you are (1) being polite and (2) showing real decency. Wishing happiness and good things to others is a great quality to have.
What happens next?
You can be proud of yourself! You’ve taken an important grown-up step and done it with the utmost grace.
You can’t change how the person feels or reacts. He/she might be angry, disappointed, or sad. After a while, this will no doubt turn into gratitude and relief. How long this takes varies from person to person.
How long this takes varies from person to person.
…at least for a while.
This will create clarity, give the other person a chance to recover from being rejected, and help clear the way for both of you to move on while on good terms.
And then it’s time to move forward and embark on new adventures.