How to Let Him Down Gently

So you’ve been dating someone for a little bit, but you’re not really into whatever you guys have for whatever reasons. I’ve been through several, several uncomfortable breakups, from long-term to casual, and although I might not have dealt with some of them correctly, there are others that ended quite well.

Here’s a rundown of some of my most memorable breakup experiences along with some commentary from my student-therapist self.

The Pushover: I dated this guy for a year, and honestly, the relationship was good. We had plenty of good times together, and I really cared about him, but I wanted to see other people. I wasn’t physically attracted to him, and I never got those *butterflies* around him. Whenever we fought, he would throw in the towel, agreeing with everything I said, regardless of whether or not I was right. I was restless and felt *stuck* in a relationship that didn’t give me excitement and I wasn’t even old enough to drink yet.

The Break Up: I told him I didn’t want to be in a relationship anymore, and we both cried like babies (because we were babies). I was kind, and there for him, but felt an immense guilt about hurting him. It also didn’t help that I immediately began dating again less than two weeks afterward. He heard about it, and it didn’t only ruin my friendship with him, but also our mutual friends.

Advice: When you’re breaking up with a guy you’ve been seeing for awhile, even though you’re tempted to date other people, it’s still important to give yourself some time alone. Even though I was already mentally checked out of my relationship, there was no rush getting into a new one so quickly. Dating so quickly afterward was a sign of disrespect according to some of our mutual friends, and it was really a disservice to everyone, especially myself. Not to mention, your new guy does not want to feel like a rebound.

The Fling: Dated this guy for a total of one week, and even though I was extremely attracted to him towards the beginning, I started to notice some bad habits of his that immediately turned me off. He was clingy. He overstayed his welcome. He would blast his alarms for hours in the morning at MY APARTMENT (note: I’m not a morning person). He was obsessed with Good Charlotte (He’s a grown ass man listening to music I listened to during my highschool emo phase). He had terrible credit. He was a cheapo.

The Break Up: Honestly, I ghosted.

Advice: While ghosting someone is nonconfrontational and super easy to do, this doesn’t mean it’s the right thing. Again, it’s a respect thing, and you’re basically showing someone that you’re an asshole douche when you ghost them. This guy had no idea what happened, and made numerous efforts to spark something up when nothing was there. Don’t ghost, just be direct, and say, “Hey, I don’t want to lead you on or waste your time, and it’s been fun hanging out, but I don’t think we’re compatible.” Blah. Something as simple as that illustrates more class than a ghost.

The Guy You Love But It Won’t Work: I went out with this guy for about half a year, and I was crazy about him from the beginning. I thought he was perfect, but I could see all the red flags. He was handsome AF, charming, intelligent, confident, and a generous philanthropist. YOU THINK A GUY LIKE THAT IS ONLY SEEING ONE GIRL? Well, there are some guys like that, but he wasn’t one of them. This guy “ended things” with me for another lady the first month we were hanging out. When things went sour between the two, I wanted to play the “cool girl” to get him back. And he did come back, but it wasn’t the same anymore. Even though he pushed me to be a better, more successful, more considerate person, at the end of the day… there was no trust in the relationship. This, and a whole buncha other issues too, such as jealousy, insecurity, and terrible communication.

The Break Up: I broke up with him through a text message, “I’m sorry. I’ve been busy. I also started seeing someone else, didn’t know how to tell you.” As you can imagine, this was not the best way to end things with someone I cared about. I still believe I sent that out of spite because he did that to me towards the beginning of our relationship. What I’ve learned from my painful and mindfuck-y divorce was that if someone isn’t right for you, don’t force it. You cannot force love, kindness, respect, communication, and trust. But especially trust. These are the building blocks of any healthy relationship.

Advice: I should have waited before sending that text message. I should have texted him something more honest. The real reason why I didn’t want to see him anymore was because we weren’t right for each other, timing-wise and maturity-wise. We wanted different things. We always had an issue with communication, and that dysfunctional-ass final text message pretty much illustrated exactly how fucked up we were with discussing about our feelings. I actually messaged him back months later explaining that I think about him often, and hope he’s well, but I wanted something more serious, and seeing him was not helping me move on. He appreciated that text a lot more, and even commented on how much I’ve “grown.” Pssh…

The Longterm Relationship: Dated this guy for four years, and we lived together. The relationship was great, if you didn’t count the fights, which happened quite often. Towards the end of our relationship, we were fighting daily. Big ass fights, not physical, but we would just verbally attack each other all day. He traveled about a third of the year, so I was alone a lot. Whenever I tried to tell him I missed him, it built up to a point where he straight up told me I needed to get a life.

The Break Up: I wanted to break up with him for a month, but didn’t know how to say it. I started hanging out more with friends, spending more time at work functions, and simply going out to cafes away from him. I didn’t have the courage to tell him, until we both went out drinking one night, and he asked me, “Do you still want to be with me?” and I answered “No…” Then he went through a crazy fit, first insulting me, then begging for me back. The whole thing was painful AF. I started dating another guy a month afterwards.

Advice: There’s clearly a trend here! And it’s basically… I don’t like being alone. I like being in a relationship (clearly), but I don’t want to be in a relationship that is boring or makes me unhappy. Ending a longterm relationship can really shift your world into instability for a bit, and again… dating so soon afterward is not only a betrayal but shows others how much you (don’t) respect someone you supposedly “love.” I should have given myself time to at least find a permanent place of my own, fully moved out of my ex’s apartment, before dating again. I remember my mom told me I should have just stayed in the apartment by myself…but at the time the idea was too depressing. Going out to bars/clubs/living dat single-girl life so quickly after a break up is also setting yourself up as easy prey for creepers. After this breakup, I met the biggest creeper of my life, and ended up clinging to him because I didn’t have a solid handle on my own life.

From my experience, being direct, honest, and gentle helped me the most. Communication is something I’ve learned with experience (and still learning), but also an awareness of post-dating etiquette. There’s no need to end things on a spiteful or hateful note (unless the dude was super abusive or something), and just remember that you wouldn’t appreciate it if you got dumped by a dude who started dating immediately after you. In the end, we can all learn to be better.


One thought on “How to Let Him Down Gently”

  1. I really enjoyed reading this post as I’m considering ending things with someone I haven’t dated that long and want to do it in a nice way.

    I completely agree with you on getting into relationships or dating so soon after breaking up or ending things with someone. While you may have mentally checked out of the relationship, it does send a weird message to your ex if you are already “on to the next” so soon.

    My ex broke up with me towards the end of last year and maybe a month or so later he told me he was “newly seeing someone”. While I was happy for him, it kind of hurt to know he seemed to move on quickly.

    Liked by 1 person

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