How Relationships End
How do you let someone down when ending a relationship or even a dating stint?
I hear many complaints from people who just stop hearing from the other person, the MIA or Avoidance technique. I’ve also heard of people getting Dear John or Dear Jane letters—and these now come from the internet via email or even by phone via texts. In addition, I know of people who simply delete others from their cell phone contacts or Facebook Friends as a huge clue to the other that they are no longer wanted.
These are the new ways of rejection. Voicemail rejections, text deletions, un-friending and email let downs are common these days and hurt just as badly as the not-returned phone call or other disappearing acts. Some people want to hear the let down in person, and others want to know the whys and wherefores. But the ending of relationship, large and small, still hurts and causes confusion and doubt in many.
So why do relationships end? Sometimes people just grow apart, or the magic is no longer there. Maybe we still like and sometimes even still love the person, but we don’t know how to tell them that it’s over. We like them too much to hurt them, so we bumble into avoidance routines or finally say, “I want to date other people”, much to the dismay and wonderment of the jilted partner.
Sometimes, the cost of being with one person gets too high. They are too critical, or they spend too much money. Sometimes, they are violent or irresponsible, and we just can’t handle it anymore.
Constant button pushing is an easy way to drive someone away. In some cases, one person will pick a fight with his or her partner to end a relationship, then blame it on the partner as an excuse, and say, “See, this is why I am leaving.” This is a distancing technique, and a very unpleasant one at that. We use distancing techniques to feel better about the partings and to make it easier--mostly on ourselves, to go. It can be done as a demonstration of martyrdom, or it can be done in pure selfish cowardice, and everything in between.
Other distancing techniques include being constantly irascible and driving away the partner, who is greatly befuddled as to why his or her significant other is so angry all the time. In rarer cases, the unexpected end comes: the partner comes home to an empty house and a note—or, worse, no note. Or, the partner, completely unaware, goes to answer the doorbell and is served with divorce papers, to his/her shock.
When someone in the relationship says, “We need to talk,” it can mean the end, or it could just be the girlfriend wanting to spend more time with you, fellows! (Or she just wants the toilet seat put down...;))
Bottom line, when we need to end a relationship, we first begin to wonder within ourselves, “Was I crazy? What made me go out with this person?” Then we tell one other person; we confess, “I was crazy to go with that loon.” Then others begin to see the relationship is in trouble—everybody’s talking about it, and they talk about it with you: “Were you nuts, or what?!” “Man, he was nuts to go out with her.” Finally, you make up a story (called ‘grave dressing’ in the communication biz a la Stephen Duck) to tell everyone: “He was really crazy. He used to put the toilet paper on the roll the wrong way. I just couldn’t take all the annoying things he used to do.”
There ARE better ways to do it, though. How about looking at the situation as adults? Even when you love someone, this is possible, and if the other person has loved you too, it can become a mutually rewarding miracle of love to part with someone. Wouldn’t that be a great way to end a relationship instead of a fight?
First, acknowledge that you are not right for one another. You may love the other one, and they may not love you enough or they may have another path to follow. A woman may want to follow her career as a doctor rather than have children, but that is your heart’s desire. Probably never the twain shall meet. A man may have to move to be with his parents 1500 miles away to take care of them, and you need to stay here for your kids who are graduating college or having babies.
It is indeed possible to say, “I know you have to take this path, and I know I have to take mine. I will always care for you, and I wish you well.” I have had this happen twice in my life, and in each case, we set a last day to be together and celebrated each other in the most loving and romantic ways on the last day. Then we each said our “I love you’s” and parted. In one case, it was impractical for us to ever see each other again because he went back to another country to find his first love and put his family back together. In the second case, he went off to have babies, which I was too old to have, and we still see each other once in a while to catch up and remind each other of our good wishes for one another.
Both of those experiences did bring tears, but not so many, and sorrow, but not too much, and some pain, but not for long. That’s because we both agreed that this was the right thing to do, and that we would always care for one another, and so bon voyage! Because we handled the relationship ending in this way, the so-called "negotiated farewell", we experienced the true miracle of love, which is when you let someone go off to seek his or her fortune and follow his/her path.
This is something parents do for their children every day. You can do it for partners too, in large and small ways. This is why I always recommend telling the truth about why you are leaving someone or don’t want to date anymore. The more information you give, and the more kindness you give, the better it is. However, I am not saying to lay blame. I am saying to let the person know that you have another path in life and that you know they have another path in life.
Let’s celebrate our paths and help each other get there as friends. This is what truly works—not glib “ciao, baby”’s with no explanation or unanswered answer machine messages. Give people a reason, so they can get on with their lives.
I do want to be responsible here myself and say that relationships that are inherently violent or abusive should NOT necessarily use this technique of parting. That is another area of relational dissolution that is a special case, one with which I am quite familiar. If you are in an addictive, violent, jealous, or abusive relationship, GET HELP. You may not be able to leave the relationship safely without help. For help in Houston, call the Houston Area Women’s Center or the Crisis Hotline. Domestic Violence Hotline: 713-528-2121 Sexual Assault Hotline: 713-528-7273 or the Crisis Hotline 713 970-7000 | 1-866-970-4770 . OTHERWISE, LOOK ONLINE OR THE PHONEBOOK FOR HELP IN YOUR AREA. IT IS THERE, I PROMISE YOU. DON'T FORGET ROBIN MACGRAW'S EMERGENCY HELP APP.
How Relationships Grow
In dating, it’s a good idea to make sure you are at the same relational level as another person. Relationships can’t develop if you are picking people who are not at the same level or mode of dating. I also find that if your communication is “off”, the first date will never progress to a second one.
People move quickly in this day and age. Our “fast food culture” has essentially created “drive-by dating” as a further expression of its need to save time. I have heard many people voice the desire to “not waste time” dating someone who isn’t right for them. I myself am a “snap judgment” person when I date. Because of that, I like Eight Minute Dating and other quick date companies like Pre-Dating. But I also haven't participated in them in the past, because I realize that the only way to find a real long lasting relationship is to get to know a group of people, and then one person will eventually stand out.
As you get to know people, you develop a bond and a trust factor. Sometimes, this begins just as friends and then turns into love. However, the key is to give people a chance. The Drive-by Dating does not really give people an opportunity to fully disclose who they are. After all, I find some people are fast people and some are slow. Some are nervous in those situations, and some are not. This does not make the slow or the nervous person bad. This just isn’t their venue for disclosing themselves properly.
You may have missed “the one” by making a snap judgment. We human beings do truly have tried and true methods to connect—in any relationship. There is indeed a certain order to this. If an individual “jumps the order”, so to speak, we don’t like it. We feel uncomfortable. Sometimes, we think they are rude or downright crazy. This is why, guys, women don’t like being propositioned on the first or second date. There is a time and place for everything, and you are “jumping the order”.
Intimacy is something that is later in the lineup of developing a relationship. So, let’s be clear, to both guys and gals—if you offer or ask for sex in the first couple of dates, you are literally “out of order”. This DOES indicate that you do NOT want a relationship. Why? Because you are not taking time to let it grow. You are “jumping the gun”.
Ladies, if you have wondered why you have been dropped after giving someone sex—or guys, if you have wondered why someone is offended when you ask for sex—this is why. A date implies that you are looking for companionship and relationship.
So, what is the appropriate order of things? Mark Knapp of UT created a theory of “relational development”, and that is what I will share with you here, with a little bit of name changing.
This is the stage where first contact is made—usually, just eye contact, a flirting comment or an open body language that lets someone know you’re available. Mark Knapp calls it Initiation.
At this stage, we are wanting to learn more about the other person—do they have common interests, will they like me and my interests? This is a period of seeking information, initial conversations where we explore experiences and backgrounds and history. Knapp calls this Experimenting or Discovering.
As the relationship intensifies, physical contact happens. Often, this is the stage at which the couple decides whether they are just friends or are having a romance. There is an exchange of personal information, and each person opens up, developing a trust that there is indeed a connection.
...is a time of integration. You and your partner hold yourself out to others as a couple. In everyday life, challenges occur as true selves are disclosed and each other’s habits exposed. Common interests and patterns are developed.
Knapp calls the last stage Bonding.
Here a formal public ceremony or a commitment is made in public, so that people see you and your partner as a unit.
Now, you can obviously see that if YOU are at the second stage of First Contact/Discovery and your partner wants to be at stage three, which is Physical Contact, there may be problems. How about a partner who wants to be bonded in public, the last stage, and the other is still at the growing or intensifying stage?
Some folks will jump straight from intensifying to the commitment stage, because once they have had physical contact, they think that means the two are a unit. In this day and age, that is not necessarily so. Make sure you agree with your partner at just what stage you are. This will cause less conflict within the partnership. Of course, some people get stuck at the First Kiss or Intensifying stage and never get to the First Committing, being seen as a couple by others.
Often, one partner thinks they are part of a couple, and the other doesn’t. If you are sharing things, sharing money, having sex and/or living together, you are in the First Commitment or initial partnership phase, no matter what you think. Many a guy does not want to admit that he is someone’s boy friend and will go to any lengths to swear he is not, but everything else in the relationship shows otherwise. The same is true of women who take everything offered them by a man, but refuse to commit.
I repeat, if you are taking things from someone, sharing things, and having sex, you ARE in the First Commitment phase. Your partner WILL have certain expectations of you based on those sharing behaviors. This is NOT uncalled for, but is rather a natural progression. Relationships are expected to be reciprocal, with giving and taking, and certain costs and rewards. If you are in a sharing mode with someone, and you do NOT want to be committed, STOP taking things from them, even the gifts, and stop sharing. Most of all, stop having sex. Otherwise, you are purposefully misleading someone to believe you are in relationship.
If you are the one who KNOWS you are not committed, then you are the one with upper hand who MUST have the integrity to stop, because you know more than the other does. You know you are NOT committed, and they don’t know that. I have heard people say, “but I TOLD him we are just friends.” As long as you are accepting his gifts and having sex with him, you are giving him mixed messages, and he believes he is in relationship. Because you are the one who knows how it truly stands, yours is the greater responsibility, and therefore, it is YOUR responsibility to stop the cycle. Yes, you will lose out on presents, maybe dinners, money, and sex. But if you are NOT committed, it is your responsibility NOT to lead the other individual down a path of misunderstanding and guaranteed heartbreak.
I liken this scenario to being a parent or grown up dealing with a child. The child is innocent and NOT in the know. The child does not have the experience or the capability to stop going after the candy if it is offered to him. That is why it is the adult’s responsibility to NOT offer the child the candy, if he/she knows it is wrong. In the adult/child scenario in reality, people go to jail for this behavior, and most people are incensed at the lack of control, irresponsibility, and perverse behavior of people who would take advantage of innocents. So, ask yourself if this is you. I don’t mean that you are a child molester. I mean, are you taking advantage of an innocent?
Just because someone is an adult doesn’t mean they aren’t innocent, and especially if someone is in love with you, they are in your power. You must be the one to behave responsibly in this case.
Look at your relationships or the problems you have in dating, and see how the misunderstandings have been caused by the differences in where you felt the relationship was going vs. where the other thought it was headed. Also, look at how your goals for relationship may have differed. Then, look ahead to seek someone who has the same goal and who is on the same level that you are. That should smooth your path in both dating and relationships.
Email Andrea at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.