Why Can’t Men Breakup in A Respectful Way?

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Thanks for your excellent blog. I discovered it recently and have really been enjoying it. I have a question for you: Why can’t men break up with a woman? I was with my most recent boyfriend for seven months. Everything seemed great. We were at the meeting friends, parents and (his) kid’s stage. He always said ‘I love you’ at the end of every phone call. Then, all of a sudden, he started pulling away.

Despite me gently confronting him about it on numerous occasions and giving him every opportunity to break up with me – if that’s what he wanted, he never did. Eventually, he just became so emotionally distant that I had to break up with him. He seemed relieved and was back on Match.com the next day. It’s only been a few weeks and he’s already gone and deleted all evidence of our relationship on Facebook (we’re still Facebook friends), probably so the next woman can’t see it. Next woman? It seems like yesterday we were talking about our future together. It breaks my heart that while I was investing more and more into the relationship (for instance, slowly forming a bond with his young daughter), he was checking out and didn’t bother to tell me about it.

Sadly, this is a step up from my last boyfriend who did a total, utter and complete disappearing act after six weeks of what I thought was awesome dating — he called me every day, took me out every weekend and treated me like his girlfriend (until he didn’t). Looking back, I don’t think I’ve had one boyfriend actually man up and tell me the relationship was over for him. I’ve also read countless articles and books by women who’ve experienced the same thing. (Heck, you have a whole program addressing why men disappear!) I’m starting to think expecting a man to break up with me is unrealistic, and if I want to know how the relationship is going I have to be one step ahead of him. Can’t rely on calm, rational conversations. Makes me so sad.

What do you think? Is a respectful break-up too much to ask of a man? Or is a man who can’t give a woman a respectful break-up a bit of a loser and I should be happy to be rid of him?

Sonia

The closest you came to truth was in your last line: a man who can’t break up like an adult is not the kind of man you want in your life for the next 40 years. Imagine being in a marriage where confrontation is avoided at all costs, where silent treatments are the norm, where the fear of expressing your feelings reigns.

Unfortunately, there are plenty of marriages like that. And guess what, Sonia? In half of them, women are the primary culprits of poor communication.

Now, of course, this is not scientific. This is anecdotal. But I’ve been around the block long enough to know that the primary reason you complain about how “men break up” is because you date men. If you dated women, your complaints would be leveled at a completely different gender.

All you can do is take responsibility for your own actions and let the unhealthy folks fend for themselves.

Example: John really likes Jennifer. They’ve talked a bunch, hooked up a bunch, shared a lot of personal feelings, and John is ready to take the next step to become her boyfriend. Jennifer, however, is still hung up on her ex. She thinks John is a great guy. She doesn’t want to hurt him. She doesn’t want to blow him off. She doesn’t want to commit to him. She doesn’t know what to do. She doesn’t know what to say. She half-heartedly returns his texts. She sees him occasionally, but doesn’t make him feel loved or appreciated or safe. She doesn’t have the conviction to either give him a chance or to let him go. So she does nothing. Eventually — eventually – Jennifer does the slow fade, and hopes that John finally gets the hint — although she never told him anything directly.

We can quibble with the details, of course, but this is just one anecdote.

I can cite my girlfriend from 1996, who dated me for four months, cheated with me over Christmas break, acted atrociously enough for me to break up with her the following month, and then told me she cheated on me in order to punish me.

I can also cite this brilliant song, The Fade Away by Garfunkel and Oates, which is all about women who don’t communicate directly.

Moral of the story, of course, is not to defend anyone who acts in a less than fair, healthy, or considerate fashion, but to point out that the emphasis of your email is on whether MEN can break up respectfully. Yes, they can. I considered turning pro at one point in time. But all you can do is take responsibility for your own actions and let the unhealthy folks fend for themselves.

The answer is not to “remain one step ahead” of your boyfriend at all times, but rather to choose a boyfriend who presents a secure attachment style, talks about his feelings, and lets you know where he stands.

Not surprisingly, that’s on YOU to change your decision-making mechanisms, not on all men to change their communication styles on your behalf.

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Comments:

  1. 21
    MT

    Really gotta thanks Sonia, SparklingEmerald, Indira, m, oso, et al. for really trenchant comments. So good.

    Do you know what I think Sonia does that makes them ghost?     She’s nice and respectful.

    Perhaps they felt uncomfortable due to being a mismatch with her in terms of respect. (You’ll see those with more casual interpersonal attitudes scoff at respect as being uptight, etc. Kind of like when someone with a filthy mouth scoffs that someone who doesn’t curse is a prig.)

    Believe it or not, I think there probably is some amount of self-selection in the dating process.   Yet, her ghosters may have just enough EQ to feel guilt.   Just not enough to express it.

    BTW:

    I’ve ghosted, and I can tell you — the ghosted guys did nothing wrong at all. They were so nice that I had no idea how to say no and said “yes” to dates that I didn’t want to go on. (So I ghosted before a first date, but after I had said “yes”. I was new to 18 and WRONG. Although it’s even more infuriating to think a guy would PURSUE some dates, get you involved, and THEN ghost.)

     

  2. 22
    MT

    I’d rather be too “serious” about these things than be, well…basic.     Let’s face it – this kind of millennial attitude that justifies ghosting is “basic” and it’s unbecoming.   I think it’s much more desirable to live with passion and acknowledge others’ right to have felt it (whatever the duration of the interaction) than dismiss it with flipness.

    That’s what I really hate – any comment that expresses the importance of acknowledgement & respectful termination is dismissed as “clingy” or “psycho”, etc.   Gotta love it.     Gaslighting at its best.

    Listen, sometimes you can get over someone in an hour (if s/he TELLS you) but you can’t get over it in these situations where you have to spend 3-300 days to figure out on your own that it’s over (and all of the implications.)   What I CAN’T get over is how a person could leave another to spend their time like that and why we have a culture that takes pride in this crap.

    Friends don’t let friends be bros/basic.

    1. 22.1
      Richard

      I agree with you. I understand that when you don’t know someone, it’s hard to care, but people lack some simple compassion.

      I guess it’s projection. You don’t feel anything and you don’t care, so you think that the other person can’t feel much for the situation yet either.

      Or maybe you realize they care but don’t want to “hurt their feelings.”

      It’s really a bad cop-out though. Ghosting is worse than the truth to me. People need to realize that if you hate being ghosted on, then imagine how that feels for the other person.

      A ten second explanation, even a sentence or two, stating your feelings or lack thereof is not the end of the world. It’ll save you and everyone else a lot of trouble.

      I don’t know where this idea that you “don’t owe anyone anything” came from. It seems that this idea has extended to basic decency as well. People really put others through the wringer with the little things they do, not realizing how their actions affect others.

      One person’s attempt to assuage guilt by avoiding the talk could mean someone else gets quite a hit to their self-esteem which has long lasting repercussions to their dating life and other areas that are affected by self-esteem.

      Sounds dramatic, but is this the type of game you want to play with people’s feelings?

      1. 22.1.1
        MT

        Yes!   The “I don’t owe you anything” trope you see so much now. Honestly, if there’s any solution, I think it’s just to lead by example and call this crap out where it rears its ugly head. Thanks for your spot-on comments…

  3. 23
    MT

    Not to mention…sometimes the ghosted person isn’t really “feeling it” either, which makes the resulting hurt and degradation that much more ironic.   S/he may have even had an “us” talk planned, which makes it that much more hurtful that the other party had such little care.

  4. 24
    MT

    Also, it’s beyond flip for JemmLee (in response 8.3) to show contempt for Sonia’s feeling that EMK “helped” her with the understanding that she would not want to be yoked to someone with these communication “skills” 40 years down the road…since it relieves her of “responsibility.”

    Actually, Sonia has PROVED that she wants to take responsibility – for Pete’s sake, she’s put herself on a Godd*mn dating blog to figure it out. She would have LIKED for the guy to TELL her her part in it, but that didn’t happen. Let’s posit that your schema is true — that these guys “put up” with her because she’s “great in bed”, etc….but couldn’t do it one last time when it would actually help her and things in general?   PATHOLOGICAL, no?   I’d say that would STILL put them in the category that EMK suggested as self-absorbed mutes.

     

     

  5. 25
    MT

    Yes, while it would be best to have the REAL answer from these fools as to why they break up this way, unfortunately Sonia is left to (naturally) obsess in order to figure this crap out. In THIS case, it HELPS her to give her her life back and tell her to stop, since it is NOT her.

  6. 26
    MT

    JemmLee, it doesn’t mean your heart is bad that you have held this position on “ghosting” — it just means that ghosting is destructive, so a caring person should change his/her ways to align with a good heart.

  7. 27
    Mae

    Like the poster, I’ve actually never been broken up with face to face.   I’ve been single and dating for my entire adult life (I’m 33).   Not every relationship involved the man pulling away, but many did.   I have a male friend who was with a woman for years, cheated on her repeatedly and waited, wondered and pretty much prayed for her to break up with him.   He told me that among his male friends, non of them admitted to ever actually breaking up with a woman.   Now, this evidence is pretty anecdotal.   That’s true.   But, instead of making some vague assertions that it’s always men or that women do this too, let’s look at some cold hard numbers.   John Gottman (the researcher who became famous for studying couples’ relationships and predicting with 95% accuracy who would break up) found that more than 80% of the time, wives were the ones to bring up difficult issues with their husbands. 80%.   Should we assume that despite this, shitty fade out break ups are occurring pretty evenly among men and women? That just does not make sense.   Turns out, there are actually biological reasons for men not having the balls to come out and say the shit they are feeling.   By measuring men’s physiological responses during arguments, Gottman found that men are much more likely to be overwhelmed or flooded by their physiological responses and therefore “stonewall”, instead of dealing with the issue.   They choose “flight” instead of “fight.” I think Gottman’s findings can be directly applied to dating situations.   This type of non confrontational behavior is more likely to be a male issue.   And it seems that unfortunately it may be engrained in male DNA.   That is unfortunate, and causes women a great deal of heartache, but it probably isn’t going to change anytime soon.   But let’s not go around claiming that this is a people issue instead of a male issue, when actual science is telling us otherwise.

  8. 28
    GL

    “Let the unhealthy ones fend for themselves.” Exactly.

  9. 29
    John

    I don’t think all men break up without any regard. For me it has been quite the reverse. It makes me think it is not a gender issue, but a personality issue. I almost never dated a woman who would remain civil after break-up. The exception was the woman who would become my wife. I was a student and I flew across the continent, to break-up decently. Later we got back together, and were subsequently married. Then came her turn to break-up with me. She went to the police with a tale of woe. I was arrested, was confronted with endless bizarre allegations, lost virtually everything I owned, and had to send close to $100,000 to remain in contact with my daughter. That is what too many men face, and perhaps it should be considered in this discussion. This is largely excused in our culture under the rubric of “Hell hath no fury like a woman fury like a woman scorned.”

  10. 30
    Blondie99

    I don’t ghost I always tell the guy upfront, but in online dating when it’s only been a few dates I admit to doing it via text.   The truth is I hate hurting people.       I feel bad.       And if we have not gotten physical I don’t think I owe them more than a text.    Some people are just really bad at hurting people. I am not saying this is okay to do at all, but it happens.      I do know some men are afraid of women’s emotions.    The few times I did it over text or the phone in longer term relationships was when I was afraid of the guy.

  11. 31
    Vik

    Hi Sonia,

    i would say just ignore everyone’s advises and live your life the way you are. You should not change yourself for anyone. Value yourself and the right man will come across. You are a strong woman, and that is not a negative quality at all. It is just the way you are and you need a man who compliments your personality. For you clear and open communication is a must. Too bad if guys are not able to handle that with you. May be you need a much matured guy who understands why you come from where you come from. The one who is willing to put with your confrontation and yet like you for that because he gives you the freedom to speak your mind in your relationship. The one who does not get biased by your views and assumes you are not worth the argument and gives you the message that may you are the problem and he can’t handle this anymore and eventually takes a coward exit.   If a guy does that, then it is good that you fish out such unfit candidates out of your life.   It gives you more perspective and insight about your own personality and what kind of men you deserve. So just try to learn the skills to date such type of men. If you do the homework right, you just have to go through one more experience to meet your Mr. Right. The ones who left you are not a good match for you anyway. So sooner than later. Forget and move on but don’t lose your identity and never change yourself for anyone. I had read an article once about this, and it said that it helps you in many ways if you don’t change yourself even for your dearest. And one reason I clearly remember was because you should be always prepared  for a day when even your dearest might leave you for good. And it is then that you will gather the courage to survive alone if you had your self identity. At some point in your life you might just become single again, who knows. Our dear ones leave us for good. So we must have our inner strength to move on. So be proud of yourself. And this goes for both genders. Don’t change yourself to be someone who you are not for anyone. Self love is the purest love and that is what will attract others toward you.

  12. 32
    abby

    Hello

    Thanks everyone for some interesting in sights. I was married 13 years. In retrospect I see I should have left years ago …cos I think he checked out ages ago ….faded while being married! Never shared things with me…always claimed to be busy…silent treatment…avoidant when it came to resolve issues…projection…blame…taking sides with his family without bringing people together to talk.

    The worst was when I found underwear in his pocket and his lies that it was bought for me…followed by finding some sex aid in his bag after a trip away.

    Adding it all up I guess he was desperately trying to shake me off. I didn’t get it cos I thought people who were married should say straight and respectfully they want out.

    I gave him 12 weeks after that find to be honest with me instead…He gave me silent treatment. ..He kept odd hours removed his ring said it was over…that he was only ever faithful because if his faith and nothing to do with me.

    I remained shocked. Said he was leaving but laughed in a mocking way too …so I said I would pack for him. Needless to say he went away during the biggest most desperate time during our marriage yet he left to go see his mother …albeit his dad passed away a month or two earlier he went home every two weeks!

    I moved his stuff to storage.

    I sent an sms. Don’t come back. Stuff in storage!

    I had enough of the disrespect.   Not the right way to do it but I did try over 12 weeks to get the truth from him.

    How does a person see their partner cry n beg almost week after week asking for the truth asking to resolve things even saying ok…maybe this is result of ur father’s death I will look past it.

    Just be honest.

    He refused.

    Sadly …3 years later and we go in circles…cos I loved him I wanted to reconcile. I missed all the hints ….

    He would ask me for dinner without notice if I couldn’t make it he would blame me for not wanting to meet.

    When we meet I would almost beg for us to reconcile n cry….All he would do is repeat all my wrongs over past 20 years….failure to change surname…failure to be Catholic. …failure to stay at his mom’s house when we visited despite my parents house being 3 doors away and I had a little 7 yr old sister who looked forward to seeing me!

    The list went on….I would mail him no response….just faded away.

    I got the message after 16 years

    He faded away.

    I am wiser now.

     

     

  13. 33
    adelaide ofori

    hmmmm a whole lots have been said….i tink knowing eachothers downfalls and admiting to the fact that anyone can go wrong at any time so as to understand eachother i tink the relationship is going to be enjoyable…the problem is we dont admit to our mistakes.we always want to to right all the time

  14. 34
    Dee dee

    I’d like to add that my boyfriend of 8 months just started becoming distant, difficult to reach and suddenly started the slow fade when I thought we were great as well. We’re both in our late 40’s and and were planning a future together.   He pursued me, impressed me and we became exclusive within a few months. All of his words and actions led me to believe we were on the same page and then suddenly I was initiating ALL contact. I thought I’d made the best choice possible and was told he’s just not ready for the “next leve l and wants to focus on other things”. Wth? I thought I could spot BS coming a mile away but some people are master’s at mixed signals and misleading other’s. It happens to the best of us.

  15. 35
    ...

    Men who slowly dissappear or fade away after at least 3 to 4 dates are cowards. Why cant men, man up and say how it is. How hard is it to be honest and say you no longer interested in that women. What happened to men these days? 0 gentlemen left.

    1. 35.1
      Henriette

      A guy doesn’t owe a woman anything after 3 or 4 dates.   If he stops calling, you already have your answer; he’s no longer interested.

      1. 35.1.1
        Callie

        I’ve seen people say this before and I ask, since when? Since when  are 3 – 4 dates so unimportant that they do not require someone to step up and just say to someone that they aren’t interested? 3 – 4 dates can be texting daily and meeting up once a week when  your schedule allows which means you’ve been actually dating a month. 3 – 4 dates can be not much by way of dates, but if you are already friends feel more like dates 8-9. 3 – 4 dates can be enough time for one person to talk to their closest friends and say, “I’ve never felt like this about someone before!” 3 – 4 dates can be enough time that you have had physical intimacy with that person.

        Can we maybe stop saying that 3 – 4 dates mean nothing and therefore  a person  is not owed a respectful end, and say maybe something like, “It depends on the quality of the dates, what happened on the dates, and what was going on between those dates.”?

  16. 36
    Erica

    I have seen even worse behavior from men than some of the things described here, but here is what helps me personally get over it: this sort of move on the guy’s part is so low that it immediately cancels out any and all value he may have previously held.

     

    When you realize that the way he chose to conduct himself is really not what anyone with any integrity would have done, why would you be hurt by it? I do feel for the people who got this sort of treatment after several months, but   after only a few weeks or a month you should really just be happy that you found out that person’s true character sooner rather than later.

     

    Things with my last guy got intense fast, it was really a whirlwind romance kind of thing rather than just “seeing someone”. And then one day he just did not come over when we planned for his (overnight) visit, after half a day of texting me with “babe”, “baby”, “sweetie” and kissy faces. Should I be heartbroken over somebody capable of something like that? I mean, it did sting a bit, however not because I lost *him*, but because I ever gave someone like that the benefit of the doubt.

     

    One other thing I wanted to comment on is some people in this discussion using terms like “the fadeaway” after one date – no, sorry, one date simply doesn’t count. A person doesn’t owe you anything after only one date, and I have “disappeared” (if you want to call it that) after only meeting the person once myself without feeling any guilt. If anything, providing an explanation why you don’t want to see them again would be unwarranted.

     

  17. 37
    Linda

    I learned the hard way. I now get to decide if or how long we stay together. If he calls, communicates, comes to see me, emails and makes an effort. That’s great. I will do the same. If not, no worries. I will keep dating and seeing other people since we are not married. I don’t think it’s wise to wait on a man or to let a man make the final decisions about my life. 50/50, communication respect, trust, and forgiveness are a must.

  18. 38
    jim

    i hate to sound mean, because that’s not my intent. but i believe the reason that “men” in general… not “this one guy” or couple guys….but your generalization seems to indicate a pattern of behavior…. and that means that the common denominator is YOU. if the men in your life felt confident in their ability to share how they felt without over-the-top reactions (which in my opinion are the #1 thing that scare men off) then they probably would not be breaking up with you one after another…and when they did they wouldn’t be so afraid of your reaction as to push you into being the one to pull the trigger and actually break up with them. call them cowards if you want, but men are well aware that it only takes one vindictive, emotionally unstable woman to ruin his life with a single word and no evidence what-so-ever. face it….with so much at stake for men… YOU just aren’t worth the risk, especially when they want to break up with you anyways because you’ve already driven them off emotionally. emotions aren’t bad. how you ACT in response to an emotion can be good or bad. learn some self-CONTROL. emphasis on the CONTROL part. i could give a whole lecture on how women demand that men exert self control over the issues of their hearts that are difficult for them to restrain, while women are given a pass. change YOURSELF for the better and you will start getting better responses from men, i promise you.

  19. 39
    ShortbutSweet

    People can also fade out whilst having another date planned.   I had a third date planned for over a week with my last date.   I sensed he was fading as the date approached, although he confirmed it was still on 6 days prior.   He stopped initiating messages and gave short, closed responses to mine.   He waited until I asked him, the day before the date, if we were still meeting.   He gave a lame excuse and even asked to re-schedule(?!).   He would have kept me hanging on for even longer.   Maybe he was uncertain rather than uninterested.   Anyway, I called him on his bullshit and asked if he was interested in me or not, it was that simple.   He couldn’t even say yes or no.   Instead, I got “let’s just call it a day”.   And that was it.   No apology or best wishes.   The annoying this was that we’d discussed respect and honesty in dating, on one of our dates!

    I have been in situations where I went on a first date with a guy and neither of us got in touch with the other afterwards.   That was fine.   I have also been on a first date with a guy and received a polite rejection message the following day.   I really appreciated this, even though I was disappointed.   In my opinion, if someone is still showing an interest in you, you should let someone know asap if you’re not interested in seeing them again.   It is not presumptuous (how can you get offended if you feel the same way?) and it gives the other person closure, allowing them to get over you and move on.   I would have appreciated an honest rejection from the guy above, and I would have wished him luck, had he had the balls to do it.

  20. 40
    Jacky Harrington

    OMG Evan you completely bailed on Sonia’s fabululously construct question by deflecting and placing the blame firmly on us women…… You didn’t get tom the heart of her question at all and completely missed the point!!! There is no excuse for men’s behaviour and Yes it is mostly men who pull this stroke not the women ( I am not generalising… It is fact) women will usually ( not always) break up via text….I’m not a bad looking women and I have a good personality I’m told and yet time and time again and in various relationships of varying stages, most men choose to extract themselves from me via the slow fade or even going straight for ghosting…..

     

    1. 40.1
      Tyrone

      My last serious relationship wasn’t that long in length. Just short of a year. She started acting distant and then one day, stopped taking my calls, responding to my texts and wouldn’t even answer the door when I went over. So I assumed that was that.

      Around six months or so months after that, I ran into a friend of hers that I’d met a few times and we exchanged pleasantries. I asked how she was doing and he said that she was doing alright, it was really rough for her dealing with the abortion and all. I asked him what he was talking about and he thought that I’d known.

      It’s something that upsets me to this day. And if its a “fact” that mostly men ghost women, then I am going to have to be glad that at least as a man, I can’t get pregnant and never say anything to my partner, while going about my life and making whatever choices I see fit without their input.

      Yes it is mostly women who pull this stroke not the men (I am not generalizing…it is a fact)

      See what I did there?

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