When to Dump Someone – Right Away!

woman looking to the couple with her arms crossed

A recent conversation with a client led to this blog post.

He’s a nice guy – very self-effacing – who was casually seeing someone when we first started working together. After only one session, however, I gave him a tip that helped him get the woman that he REALLY wanted. In subsequent weeks, we’ve had almost nothing to talk about on the phone, since he’s been so happy with the new girl. What I didn’t know, until the other day, was that he still hadn’t gotten rid of the OLD girl.

Now try not to get mad at this guy. We’ve all walked a mile in his shoes and made similar non-decisions. Our rationale usually comes down to something like, “I really care about her and don’t want to hurt her.” This is our self-preservation speaking. It’s far easier to avoid a conflict and do the slow fade, hoping she takes a hint, than it is to have that sit down, gut-wrenching, breakup conversation. My client isn’t a bad guy. He’s just being a selfish wuss.

And yes, there is a difference.

As always, I tried to get him to see the error of his ways without directly pointing it out to him.

“If your girlfriend found another guy, would you want to know?”


“How would you want her to tell you?”

“I’d just want her to tell me the truth. ‘I met another guy. I’m really sorry. It’s nothing personal.'”

“And how would you feel if she said that?”

“I’d feel bad, but I’d understand where she was coming from.”

“Okay. So you know what you have to do.”

This certainly isn’t genius psychology on my part. Sometimes people just need a nudge in the right direction, a little validation of why they’re hesitant to act, and permission to do something that might be a bit unpleasant. Breakups are invariably unpleasant.Yet they occur in 99% of all short-term dating relationships.

Some people deal with it better than others. I’ve broken up with women I really cared about after three months because I didn’t see a future. From the women’s perspective, the breakup came out of nowhere, since nothing was wrong – yet I have no doubt it was the right thing to do. Similarly, I’ve offered to write a new dating profile for one woman who broke up with me. And why not? I loved her. Why shouldn’t I help her find the guy who is going to be her one and only? Breaking up is no reason to start hating, especially if you haven’t been wronged.

But if you’re my client, who truly claims to care about Girl #1, he’s not doing her any favors by prolonging a relationship that he knows is ultimately doomed. Not for a week, a month, or a year. Yet hanging on is what we do – to stave off loneliness, to prevent unrest, to protect her feelings. And it all comes at a cost. Every second you’re investing in the wrong person is a second you’re not investing in the right person. And every second that your partner spends with you when your heart isn’t in it, you’re stealing from her.

You might think you’re being kind, but you’re actually being cruel.

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  1. 1
    The Relationship Journalist

    I agree – it’s better to dump someone as soon as you know the relationship is going nowhere. Good call, Evan!

    Lisa Steadman
    Author, It’s A Breakup, Not A Breakdown

  2. 2

    This is so true! Since being strung along at the tender age of 16, I’ve made it a point to kindly end things as soon as possible with subsequent relationships I knew weren’t going well. I call it my “cruel to be kind” approach. Unfortunately this credo doesn’t seem all that common.

  3. 3

    I agree, if you know that this is not he one, why waste their time…

  4. 4

    It’s unfair to both people to stick with a futureless relationship, but what if you’re just unsure?
    Its hard to know whether the relationship will work out in a few short months.
    How can you be sure that its time to cut the cord?
    In your friends case, it should be easier since he’s moved on and found someone else that he’s happier with, obviously thats a sign that the previous relationship wasn’t the right one. But if you’re in a relationship, which you’re investing a lot of yourself into, and you do care about that person, but you feel unsure, what then?
    I know you should be honest and voice your feelings to your partner but if you have done so and they don’t understand your uncertainty?

  5. 5

    I am in a really interesting situation right now… I am dating a girl who ADORES me, been going for about 3 months now. She tells me I am the centre of her world and I do lover her back. But my ex, who I have spent some quality time with recently, is completely head over heels having seen how I really am, not what they thought I was. This has made them offer everything – even marriage. Of course, if I were single, I would jump at it. And what is stopping me? Terrible feelings of guilt and empathy perhaps? Or a lack of surity about my ex’s new found love for me? If I wait, I’m doomed to lose both of them. It’s time to take the plunge and go with my gut – back to the ex – or not? I cannot decide.

  6. 6

    to jim,

    Stay in the 3-month relationship,you are in right now, see where that goes….

  7. 7

    to jim,

    for some reason, one woman, attracts others, a common fact…..

  8. 8
    what attracts women

    I think some people do better at this than others. When you feel it in your gut its probably true, but it doesn’t always make it easier.

  9. 9
    Ben Ther

    I agree it’s better to dump as soon as you know it’s not going to last forever. However, I dated one chick who dumped me after six or seven months by telling me she just didn’t see us growing old together. What made me angry was I could look at her past relationships and small things she said and realized she was never going grow old with anyone. She had never had a relationship last more than a year. I sort of felt used at that point. She had and always would date guy for a few weeks to a year and move on. Had I really known that I would never have dated her.

  10. 10

    I would love to send this article to my current ex.

    We dated, all the usual stuff like going out to dinner, movies, bowling, seeing a cover band or two (we were also sleeping together) for around three months. He kept telling me how much he liked and cared me, sending me texts every couple of days during the day, ringing me just to see how I was doing after work at times. Showing he cares also by remembering things I have told him like bringing over and remembering my favourite chocolates and also why ask me what my favourite flowers are?

    A month and a half into it I ask him what he thought about us. He compliments me and tells me he has a ball when he is with me. He will see how it goes. I then mention that I do not want casual. Just so he knows what page I am on. Got no response there. I ignore that and assume things are fine he did not disagree with me on my thoughts there.

    We continue seeing each other for another month and a half. Things were really good between us. We were still only seeing each other once a week though (never complained about that I had my own life also, he did shift work apparently, working nights), when I would make plans for us to hang out together he would cancel last minute (it was fine when he made the plans on his terms though). I had a week off from work in between that time and when I brought it up to him he was like “you will have more time for yourself then” never brought up wanting to do something with me during that week.

    Noticed a couple of red flags. I then mention if this thing is a friends with benefits then i do not want to be a part of it. He then tells me we are not on the same page and ends it with me!

    I think WTF? Why did you not tell me this a month and a half ago when I told you that I did not want casual. I just do not understand why he was not more upfront with me then. I ask him that and he tells me that he did not want to hurt me. He assures me that he had always been honest, never manipulated me into anything I did not want to do and he did not lead me on.

    That still has never made sense to me. Why keep something going for a month and a half if you know I do not want casual. Especially if I was upfront about not wanting casual before then. That is lying to me and leading me on!

    That is what had hurt me and the only reason why I felt manipulated was because I would have ended it right then and there if I knew he was never serious about me. Felt pretty deceived.

    Why would a guy do that?! The whole thing just baffles me and don’t understand how him prolonging something for another month and a half after I mention I do not want casual. How he could not see that hurting me?


  11. 11

    I agree but most people don’t follow that advice. That could be because it takes a while for people to realise what their feelings are. Because people assume that they can understand their own mind, but sometimes they can’t. But I do know a guy who isn’t happy in his relationship. He likes it for what it is but he’s always hitting on other women (they are long-distance) and he asked this other woman out. He basically wanted to have someone else as a sure bet so he could finish things with her. That approach to dating seems really immature to me. I know for a fact that there are lots of men who’d be happy with no formal commitment as long as they were getting something out of it. Those men are selfish because they’re keeping that woman trapped and preventing her finding someone else who could be committed to her.

    Well the thought of that happening to me freaks me out…so my aim is to hold my own fort as much as I can in any future relationship.   

  12. 12

    That was the whole reason why I mentioned that I did not want friends with benefits. Knew I had to be more upfront if I did my want to be treated that way. It just sux that I it told something I did not want to hear but confused that he was still willing to date me if I had not have ?? The whole thing was very confusing!

  13. 13

    he may not have SAID he only wanted casual but he communicated it well enough. Silence when you voiced what you want, then not seeing you very much, followed by flakey behavior. the actual words do not have to come out of his mouth for the message to be clear.
    As for why he didnt tell you? Probably like many men and women he doesnt enjoy conflict. Or he’s scared of crying women.   or he wanted to maintain his sex supply. I very much doubt it’s anything more interesting than that so spare yourself the quest for the answer. But I’m one hundred per cent certain it,s not because he secretly loves you.  
    I don’t excuse him for not being straight with you, but there is nothing you or I can do about that.  
    dont send him the article. Best have nothing more to do with him. Three months isn’t so bad, I know women who’ve been trying to squeeze a relationship out of a man for literally years.

  14. 14

    Glad I did notice that behaviour And did get that message loud and clear even though I was getting mixed signals at times. Especially when he was showing he cared sometimes but he may have just could have being polite I have also gotten told. Saw right through that also. Yeah he hides mention when we were ending that he did not like confrontation. I thought I had just asked one or two questions they was it. Of one which he did not even respond to earlier.

    Oh I learnt in the past not to drag on relationships if they are acting like that. Was not gonna let myself get strung along like that again. It hurts though it makes you wonder why he even dated you in the first place. Besides the obvious reason.

  15. 15

    This is part of why dating is so troublesome for me; having unresolved issues of rejection and abandonment had led me to become an avoidant and I haven’t been able to clear those hurdles yet.  

  16. 16

    It’s wrong in many ways to dump a current GF for an ex when nothing is going wrong with your current relationship and her – unless you don’t really love your current GF then that’s a different story.  Choose the person who appreciates you for who you are, not the person who realized your value after she had lost you.  

  17. 17

    James 16 – oh yes.   Agree with you 100%, especially the last two lines.

  18. 18

    I had a similar experience with a woman.   The whole thing lasted less than a month, but I’m still upset about it.   We had 3 good dates, and slept together.   Then, I noticed behaviors I didn’t like (I.e. Delayed responses to texts while she surfed ok Cupid, and I was always the pursuer).   I brought the delayed texts thing up, and told her I understood the difference between “Ms. Right” & “Ms. Right Now.” She said she hadn’t made up her mind, and that she wasn’t ready, and did not want to, commit to anyone or anything serious right now.   I was looking for something serious (that’s why i slept with her).   I ended it a couple of days after she made her comment, but feel bad about it.

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