Taking a break from committing suicide with food, Mike Pfeiffer will absolutely answer your questions on anything you put in the digital mailbag of firstname.lastname@example.org. Regardless of whether or not you think Mike is a mature adult, this column is probably best for Mature Adults. As a Mature Adult, you accept responsibility for any actions you take after reading this column. Just Dandy is intended for entertainment purposes only, and we’re sort of required to warn you not to try any of this at home.
So I’ve been dating someone for a while now, almost two months after meeting via an online dating site. Anytime we are together I have fun and don’t regret spending any time with them, yet as our relationship has evolved, I have come to realize I don’t want to remain in the relationship. There’s no one reason, but as is the case most of the time, there are several, almost all of which have to do with my own preferences, desires, realizations, attraction towards them, and where I am in my own life.
We live a little under an hour from each other by car and we both work full time making opportunities to see each other face to face each week rather limited. I know most people seem to agree that breaking up over the phone is never a good call unless there are extreme circumstances, yet I find myself seriously considering it in place of carrying on under the guise that everything is fine until the two of us are able to get together again.
What might be the best way, or at least the course of action which would minimize the damage for both of us?
Full disclosure, bud: I have fucked the answer to this question to this up countless times in countless ways and there are people who know me reading this right now thinking about the audacity of me giving advice about this, rolling their eyes in their skulls like magic eightballs until it comes up all like:
But the thing is that if you want advice, going to someone who’s never been tempted or fucked up means you’re asking someone who hasn’t been in a tough spot before. Friend, I have really fucked this up. Through inaction or omission or downright cowardice I’ve neglected to break things off with people once the relationship had run its course and every time It’s ended with the memories of something was fulfilling being totally soured into something between a “One that got away” and “Recieving vague waves of hate at all times” due to things left unsaid by me and things said very loud to me, respectively. This history of selfish choices puts me in a position to warn you and change your future for the better, not unlike Christopher Walken in The Dead Zone, and you’ve taken my hand so let me keep you away from the ice.
First of all, breaking up is hard to do but like a toy’s battery pull-tab it’s almost impossible to jam the little fucker back in there and break the circuit once you’ve figured out that it’s the choice you want to make. The longer you leave this person in purgatory you’re doing them a disservice. It sounds like you’re set and you mostly need help choosing a way, so let me start with a simple truth about planning a breakup:
There’s no good time to fix the subway.
What I mean by this is that although your choice will definitely make your life better, there is a requisite level of nuisance required to complete the repairs and if you decide you want to wait for the “most convenient moment” you will never find it because I suspect that you are the type of person who thinks it is never a good time to hurt someone’s feelings. But the work has to get done. Maybe avoid rush hour (like a birthday or… pet’s birthday) but you’ve got to set yourself a time to do it and stick to your guns. If anything, try and get it done before a major event so that you’re not faking it through something that you should be genuine about sharing with someone. Understand that you are doing the right thing even though it’s going to hurt the other person, and probably yourself, because by telling the truth once you are saving yourself from a potentially infinite amount of lies.
I can tell from your letter that even though you’re not interested in the relationship and know that it has to end, you’re struggling with the fact that following your personal concerns are going to make someone else unhappy. That’s why you’re thinking of prolonging the process until you can make time to see each other again. This is great IN THEORY but in practice it’s a poor choice because you have to treat breaking up like a magic trick and the prestige is not “a tank full of dead Hugh Jackmans,” just “some sad furtive whispers and a hug goodbye.” Put yourself in your partner’s shoes: As far as you know everything is cool, you’ve got plans to see each other that you’ve been pretty pumped for all week, they’re gonna come to you so you’ve prepared something special but then they get there and not only does the date feel weird but it ends with a breakup. That blows, and it’s a waste of good excitement.
Even worse, I suspect that because you’re a good person you might be tempted to approach the whole thing as an open ended conversation, which I advise against because as your considerate letter indicates you are prepared to do anything to make this person you care about feel comfortable. This is a great way to get talked out of a necessary choice and add the paranoia of an attempted breakup to this relationship. If you know what you want then you’ve got to come out of the gate strong and you’ve got to put yourself in a position where you can say something really hard. Do you really think it would be easiest to break up with someone at the end of a pretty good date in person?
Here’s a handy guide for what media you can use for different kinds of relationship ending:
- FACE-TO-FACE: Necessary when the word “Love” has been used mutually or where there is a pet or cherished piece of Star Trek memorabilia to be exchanged
- PHONE (Voice): Acceptable in informal relationships or if you’re in a doomed spaceship careening back to Earth, though in that case at least be sure to let her know you love her very much. Even if she knows.
- PHONE (Text): Acceptable AND necessary with people you only ever see at night who are terrible at taking hints.
- CIGARETTE (Face): Acceptable if I’m being a real pip and have done something incredibly rude for which I deserve a bubbling, scarred reminder on my nose of how not to act at a bar that has a TARDIS for a bathroom.
As you can see, you fall right in that nice zone where you can end this with a phone call as long as you’re polite, honest, and willing to take whatever barbs the other person might have for you with the understanding that you are doing the right thing and they’re lashing out as a result of hurt feelings.
I thought this was an important question to answer because so many times I’ve ended up hurting people because I was afraid of being direct and owning my own feelings (or lack thereof) and practiced a special sort of misguided altruism where I let people think everything was okay instead. You got a chance to dodge this, cousin! Racecar drivers handle dangerous turns by drifting, counter-intuitively oversteering in the opposite direction of the curve and that’s kinda what you gotta do. You gotta own this hard choice and you’ll come out clean, it’s possible to be nice by being kinda mean. Editor, please remove that rhyme or attribute it to Bob Dylan to make it acceptable.
Next week: “Dear Dandy, How do I get revenge on this dickhead who broke up with me over the phone?”