Why Can’t Men Breakup in A Respectful Way?


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?


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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  1. 41

    Evan gives good advice sometimes, but he takes a very defensive stance when it comes to questions posed about men.

    1. 41.1
      Evan Marc Katz

      I am a man. When one says something offensive or attacking to me, my natural reaction is a defensive stance. I understand if you would prefer that I validate the false, illogical, half-baked theories about men thrown around here, but that’s not something I’m prepared to do. There may be multiple sides to every story, but not every opinion is created equal.

  2. 42

    I’m just gonna go by your title and say that men don’t hreak up respectfully, the same reason women don’t break up respectfully.   it is a matter of character and not gender.

    There are some sh×tty men out there, just as there are sh×tty women out there.

    I was in a very serious relationship with a woman… then out of the blue she dumped me over the phone.   instead of being compassionate about it, she hid behind a phone and blamed it all on my flaws.   She also had the balls to tell me I didn’t love her.   She just sprung it on me, and As much as i wanted to work it out she made up her mind… and it was all my fault.


    Next thing I know she is with a new guy, fastforward 16 yrs and she is married to him, they have 3 children, and a very cushy lifestyle together.

  3. 43

    This is the reasons that common sense is rare amongst us, Obviously, action speaks louder than words and this is the matter of women are from venus who always wants to talk things, men, on the other hand, does not always say their emotions, Says men came from mars.Men have to lead and women had to follow, I guess. Whatta men Whatta men.

  4. 44

    I’m coming off of a breakup with an older man after 14 month relationship. I asked him how he felt about me and told him I needed to know in order to decided whether or not to start dating again. He had told me at six months that he was falling in love with me but his behavior began to change. He told me that he didn’t want to communicate until he was ready. Two weeks later and there was still no communication. I sent him a message every three or four days for a week and a half and finally said that if he could not have a mature conversation with me, I was ending the relationship. He texted me that he would talk when he was ready. One week later, and still no talking. I wrote out a very unemotional message telling him that I would not put up with the passive-aggressive behavior anymore. It was making me crazy and the stress was causing me more seizures. (I have epilepsy). He replied back “How dare you have the audacity to blame me for your epilepsy………” He told me I had gone “psycho” on him and then he said if I broke up with him, he’d break up with me…….????????? Then he blocked me on all social media, and phone. I’m a bit confused, but I’m not hurting. I’m feeling lucky to be rid of him. Looking back, I think he broke up with me the minute he said he did not want to communicate until he was ready. Lesson learned: When they go silent, call it quits.

  5. 45

    Right, men are monsters, not like every single woman who’s dumped me in the past few years, none of whom had a shred of human decency so as to actually tell me they were breaking up with me. But yeah, those damn men.

  6. 46

    Okay, I am going to say something revolutionary here. When someone doesn’t contact you, for chrissakes STOP reaching out to them! I see so many complaints here about how you kept calling and writing and the other person kept ignoring you, causing you a lot of stress and misery, but guess what? If you had enough self-respect to sever contact the moment you felt a chill, none of this would have happened.
    And then you proclaim that person evil, because they didn’t know how to respond to you when being harangued.   No, it’s not evil, it’s a normal reaction in those kind of circumstances not to want to engage.
    No one turns out to be evil when you invest yourself emotionally in someone who is actually invested in you.

  7. 47
    Phoenix S

    My relationship of four years (and we were friends for five years before dating) ended by him becoming incredibly emotionally abusive until I could no longer take it and walked away. It was devastating. I asked him countless times to tell me what was bothering him, what had changed, and work with me on resolving whatever was going on. He had hurt me many times throughout the relationship, and I made my share of mistakes too, for which I took responsibility and apologized for. He never took responsibility for his horrible behavior and blamed absolutely everything on me. He would shut down any attempt at conversation by deflecting, gaslighting, running away, yelling, talking over me, etc. anything but listening and taking some responsibility. And yes in the end he didn’t have the balls to end it decently so he became an incredible d!ck until I simply couldn’t take it anymore. I had to walk away completely devastated, from the man I had invested everything in. In retrospect, I regret not having more respect for myself and drawing a line long before things got to that point. But hindsight is always 20/20 and when you’re in the eye of the storm it is hard to see things as they really are. Going forward, I now know many of the red flags to watch out for, and would never allow such despicable behavior from a man to continue unchecked. Ladies, the minute they start this cruel, passive aggressive BS, have ONE rational conversation with him about it. If the behavior continues, GTHO of there. It will only become more difficult to extract yourself as time goes on. Don’t waste your life on someone who has so little regard for you. We have to start holding our partners accountable, and all the sad stories here, mine included, are examples of totally unacceptable behavior from men which should not be tolerated.

  8. 48
    Lisa Stanley

    Umm, I’m not so sure about the last line of this article…”not on all men to change their communication styles on your behalf.” Okay, a man wrote this article, and this last line rubbed me the wrong way, because women seem to naturally talk and share their feelings. But from my own experiences, men, when they want to break up, will give the silent treatment and not be forthcoming as to why. My girlfriends have experienced this too, and we conclude that this cruel tactic is cowardly and insensitive.   As a friend of mine once told me, “This kind of abuse makes me hate men in general.” And it’s just as bad if a woman acts this way, but it would be my guess that it happens much more often with men.

  9. 49

    I know that women can be equally as cruel as men but it does seem more common for men to ghost for fear of confrontation and many of my male friends tell me how terrifying it is for men to see/hear women cry.
    My experience recently was seeing a lovely guy that pursued me and told me a few weeks into the relationship that he was falling   in love with me. He was attentive and loving, caring and appeared so genuine. He even said he thought ghosting was very cruel and immature, he had never done that and never would to anyone.
    Then two months in this sweet, romantic, funny, doting guy overnight became distant and pulled back.
    Then he disappeared for days without contact and then reappeared with the classic ‘my phone broke’ line. I saiddod he want to leave things and break up. He insisted that his feelings hadn’t changed and it was just the phone issue.
    We made an arrangement to meet in a bar and he never showed up and phone went straight to voicemail.
    A week later he rings drunk giving apology saying an emergency had come up but couldn’t let me know because of phone.
    He persists in lying and says he still cares but his feelings are the same. He keeps ringing every few days and professing his innocence and feelings.
    Obviously it was just a slow fade as he couldn’t face being the bad guy by admitting his feelings changed. Actions speak more than words.
    However my point is this dragging it out and standing up and lying about still caring it just caused me so much more pain and heartache than just finishing . I feel totally played and like I meant nothing to him. Its like he   is the exact opposite of the person he presented himself as. Lying instead of honest stand up guy. Fake, not genuine. Cold and unfeeling rather than the emotional outpourings in first couple of months. I think it’s such a cruel thing to do to someone who you said you loved. I’m not perfect but I’ve always told the guy at the very least over the phone that things aren’t working out

  10. 50

    It’s pretty obvious that most men treat women poorly when they have no other motive. If you are being treated poorly by a man that once treated you well it means he has no use for you any more. He wants you to go away.   If you don’t pick up on this, the behavior escalate’s until it is intolerable. This may seem harsh, but you don’t deserve to be treated poorly. This is the way the majority of men are for whatever reason. It’s best to move on.

  11. 51

    we break up the same way that girls did with us in the past…

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