How do I break up with him?
April 22, 2011 10:18 PM   Subscribe

How do I break up with him?

I'm gay and there's a guy I've been seeing for five weeks. In the third week, he asked me if we could delete our online dating profiles on the website through which we'd met. I guess that was his way of asking for exclusivity. I agreed. Earlier this week, he left for a foreign country for two months for work. He asked if we could stay in touch and resume dating when he returns. I also agreed to this. However, upon reflecting on the relationship, I realize that I don't feel that it will work out.

He seemed great on paper. He's reasonably handsome, intelligent, perceptive, etc. I definitely felt chemistry for the first few weeks. However, we are both artists. He is a filmmaker and I'm an academic-in-training who has spent some time acting and who loves the arts. I feel that because of his own insecurity surrounding his artistry, he has been unwilling to recognize my creativity. I feel that I've gotten more recognition for the creative dimension of my person from his friends than from him. This bothers me deeply and, whether I'm justified in feeling that way or not, it's preventing me from missing him in his absence or even feeling attracted in a romantic way.

The problem is that, on the one hand, I feel that it is wrong to break up with someone over the phone (especially if that person is at the other end of the planet); on the other hand, I don't want to stay in touch for two months by phone and e-mail "stringing him along" only to tell him when he returns that I don't think the relationship is going to work. So my question is: how do I break up with him? Should I do it over the phone while he's away or wait until he gets back?
posted by cscott to Human Relations (30 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: Also, whenever I do break up with him, how much do I tell him about why I'm breaking up? Is it okay to just say "I don't feel that we have much romantic chemistry" or do I go into detail about his behavior and the issue of his insecurity about his creativity?
posted by cscott at 10:22 PM on April 22, 2011

Five weeks? I'd do a phone break-up, no copious explanations needed.

(But I also think at five weeks, it's a bit weird to dump someone for a reason like that--how much validation about your artistic persona can you get from someone in a month?)
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:23 PM on April 22, 2011 [16 favorites]

Five weeks is not five years. It's not even five months. I think in general it's probably optimal to break up in person in many circumstances, but I don't believe it's not some hard-and-fast rule that can never, ever be broken. The only real hard-and-fast rule in circumstances like this, to me, is to be respectful and kind.

on preview: I wouldn't go into details beyond "I'm not really feeling the chemistry." "You don't pay enough attention to me as an artist because of your insecurities" is a recipe for hard feelings.
posted by scody at 10:23 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Given the circumstances and the brevity of the relationship, I think it's perfectly acceptable to break up over the phone. Please don't go into a diatribe of why you're breaking up, it really isn't necessary.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:24 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sooner rather than later. By phone if needed.

Be kind. I would go with "the chemistry isn't there".
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:24 PM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

er, obviously: "I don't believe it's not some hard-and-fast rule..."
posted by scody at 10:25 PM on April 22, 2011

Five weeks? No matter the reason, you're just not that into him.

Let him know ASAP, by phone seems like the surest bet since he is on another continent. Keep it short and simple and wish him well. Ask him to let you know when his next show/viewing for his artwork his, and say goodbye.

Find someone who you're really attracted to and recognizes your creativity and feels an equal attraction to you!!

Good on you for realizing that it isn't working for you. Good luck with the phone call, breaking up isn't ever fun.
posted by arnicae at 10:27 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice, guys. PhoBWanKenobi, it's not that I expect him to say "You're going to the Academy Awards!" or "Omg you're amazing!" after never having seen me perform. But I've done a myriad of accents and impersonations in front of him and his friends (because I have a good ear and that's something I do well). His friends loved it (i.e. one of his close friends is also a film director and said "We need to cast you in a film") while he remained silent and has always been very stingy in terms of acknowledging my creativity (i.e. "you're capable," "you're alive," "you're passionate," "you're an eccentric actor," "you're a good mimic"), choosing adjectives which are complimentary (and always with a furrow between his eyebrows, as if he's offering even these compliments grudgingly) but fall just short of affirming my creative abilities. I can't be certain about what's going through his head, but it seems to me that this was his way of maintaining the upper hand in the relationship, by describing himself with great pride as first and foremost "a creative soul" and refusing to see me the same way even though I, too, am a creative soul. Whatever the case, he's away and all I feel is anger and a lack of interest.
posted by cscott at 10:40 PM on April 22, 2011

Another way to look at this situation is that your reaction is a projection of your own emotions, insecurities etc.

A very good book on this subject is Emotional Clearing by John Ruskan.

Here's a cursory look at what I'm talking about.
posted by knilstad at 10:50 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: The thing is, though, that before I saw his film (which I told him I thought was nicely directed, smartly written, and well acted), all I'd seen was a one-minute clip of its trailer and had heard him speak intelligently about his craft. On those two bases alone I was generous enough to describe him as "creative" and "talented." I imagined that he was these things without all of the evidence before me. I'm not saying he had to be equally generous toward me, but he never even came close. I don't think this is a case of psychological projection because it's not as though I refused to offer him praise or affirmation of his creativity and then accused him of doing this to me.
posted by cscott at 10:59 PM on April 22, 2011

It is not wrong to break up with someone over the phone. It just isn't. Some people say there's some rule that every breakup must be done in person. But there is no such rule. Do whatever works.

I've broken up with someone over the phone. We had been together much longer than you have, and I could have easily done it in person within a few days. I just felt the whole thing would be easier by having a quick conversation and then us being able to do our own thing. I threw in that I was sorry to do this over the phone but I thought it'd be easier. I didn't want to pretend to set up a date and have her come over just to get dumped. She was fine with it.

When people say it's so terrible to break up by phone and it has to be done in person, I always want to ask them: "Have you ever been broken up with in person, and how enjoyable was that?" It is usually a miserable experience to be broken up with in person! The person thinks they're going to spend some nice romantic time with you, and then they have to deal with this crushing blow when they're face to face with you. It's overly intense and embarrassing. You should be glad you have an excuse to get this over with on the phone.

(And I think we're in no position to judge your reasons for wanting to break up. You're clearly not feeling it — that's the only reason you need.)
posted by John Cohen at 11:04 PM on April 22, 2011 [4 favorites]

cscott, I don't mean this in a snarky or insincere way whatsoever: you don't have to convince us that you're justified in breaking up with him. If you're not feeling it, you're not feeling it; under the circumstances, that's enough. You're allowed to feel what you're feeling without needing to prove to anyone that your feelings/preferences are the right ones. Again, I'm totally not being flip; I'm saying this primarily because based on your AskMe history, it seems you have a tendency to second-guess yourself and/or overthink things early on in relationships, and I think this might be good practice in not overcomplicating things for yourself.
posted by scody at 11:08 PM on April 22, 2011 [6 favorites]

This might not qualify as an answer but, anyway, here it goes;

It might be worth keeping in mind that sometimes people are just being very polite when they say they love something. So I wouldn't give much credit if my significant others friends loved something that I do (especially If I known them for a month). I'm not saying they didn't like it, only that there is a chance that they were being polite.

In addition, people might have different ways of showing appreciation (and affection). Just because you don't feel appreciated doesn't necessarily mean he is not appreciating it.

As for the break up, saying something like "the issue of his insecurity about his creativity" would be quite awkward I think. I guess I would keep it really simple just like what scody wrote, "I'm not really feeling the chemistry".
posted by caelumluna at 11:24 PM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Waiting two months so you could go out for coffee one last time to break up with him when he gets back would be much worse than the ignominy of a phone break ups. Breaking up by phone is tacky only if you are in close proximity.
posted by skewed at 11:27 PM on April 22, 2011

Response by poster: Caelumluna, that might be true, but I think it's too pessimistic an outlook on life and socializing to assume that people are just "being polite" when reacting to something you do, especially if they seem sincere. I think it's better to just take things at face value unless there's a clear reason not to. And while he was furrowing his eyebrows and choosing vague adjectives to describe my creativity, I felt hurt because I had seen him speak so highly of other actors and creative types with eyebrows raised and a certain glow about him. So maybe he didn't think I was creative or creative enough for his tastes. Fair enough, he's entitled to his judgments. But I'm not going to date someone who thinks I suck even if he's into the rest of me.

Again, thanks for the advice, everyone. I've only offered a detailed explanation of my reasons because a couple of people on this thread seemed puzzled by my reasoning. I understand that I don't need to prove to anyone that my reasoning is correct. All that matters is that I'm not feeling it, so it needs to end.
posted by cscott at 11:37 PM on April 22, 2011

I agree with others that it's better to break up sooner than later in this case. It's nice that you are already being respectful of his feelings, I'm sure it'll be fine.

And as for Caelumluna's comment, I think his point wasn't to advise you to be cynical, but rather just merely pointing out that people are different. We all have our complex past, and our own inner world, and we don't all act and express ourselves in the same way. There are so many things that are beyond our control and imagination, and in that sense I think it's important to not judge so quickly, and cut people some slack. Don't be driven by your own personal feelings and point of view all the time, but take a moment to accept that the other people are as complex as you are, and try to understand them for who they really are, and communicate with them. I think that's the only way we can really connect with one another.
posted by snufkin5 at 12:24 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

A little off topic, but is it possible that he's so into you that he's afraid of praising you too generically? If everybody thinks you're great, and he says the same thing, might he worry that you'll think he's only into you the same way everybody else is? It sounds like he's choosing his words carefully - could that be a sign of care?

That said, if you break up with him now, he can have an exotic overseas fling if Tomasz invites him out for coffee more than indicates a strictly polite interest.
posted by amtho at 12:36 AM on April 23, 2011

Call him. Break up with him. Just pull the band-aid off quickly rather than slowly.

It will be better for him. It will be better for you.
posted by munchingzombie at 1:11 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

You're just not feeling it. That's all you need to say. Do it quickly so you can both move on. If that needs to be over the phone, then so be it.
posted by mleigh at 3:08 AM on April 23, 2011

Actually, I think that feeling lack of validation is a great reason to break up. There are people who always have to be the "star" in their own area of interest, and they will build themselves up shamelessly while stubbornly refusing to acknowledge the skills of anyone else who they perceive as competition. (Meaning, he can speak in glowing terms of people in a different circle or another level, but YOU represent a threat to his position as the acknowledged "creative soul" of his social/professional circle.)

I once had a friend who was inordinately proud of her cooking skills; while her food was tasty but not overwhelmingly fantastic, I praised her to the skies whenever she cooked something for me. I'm a decent cook myself, but any time I'd cook for her she never said much of anything nice to me (damning with faint praise, at best.) She even went so far as pretending to vomit in my kitchen sink when she found out I'd put a bit of chocolate in the chili I made for her.

Anyway... if you're feeling this kind of vibe early on, best to save yourself the continued grief and nip the relationship in the bud. His kind of crazy is a thing and don't let anyone tell you you're not justified in feeling what you feel.

As for breaking up over the phone, I think it would be better than stringing him along the whole time he's gone. It would be kind of a shame for him to waste his abroad-time being faithful to a guy who isn't really into him. If I were him I'd rather know now so I could make the most of my trip and maybe meet someone to have a fling with.

But yeah, I wouldn't go into the reasons you're breaking up, other than "not feeling the chemistry." I can almost guarantee he'll find a way to make you feel like you're the one being competitive and crazy and needy for wanting more validation from him.
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 4:44 AM on April 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I think your use of the word "generous" is key here. He withheld in ways that left you uncertain and feeling unappreciated, he just doesn't sound like he had the enthusiasm you want in someone you're with - that you're willing to give. Letting him go so you're free to find that person is the way to go.

and I'll throw my vote in, I agree that you don't have to justify why you don't want to be with him, not even to him - a polite "chemistry waned" is more than fine, even over the phone.
posted by lemniskate at 5:06 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

It seems to me that your are over thinking it. If you want to end the relationship, then do it. In fact, he deserves to know, so that he can move on too.

The only way you can get in touch with him is via the phone - so the phone it is.

Just hop on the bus, gus.
No Need to discuss much.
Just slip out the back, Jack.
Make a new plan, Stan.
posted by Flood at 6:18 AM on April 23, 2011

Look at it this way, if you break up with him over the phone now, he might meet someone while he's it's actually more fair to him to do it by phone...
posted by bananafish at 7:39 AM on April 23, 2011 [4 favorites]

bananafish said what i was going to. i'd be pissed if someone broke up with me right when i returned from abroad for that exact reason- i could have been spending all that time meeting attractive foreign dudes! you haven't been together that long, so it's fine. and you can even say it that way to him: "normally i think it's weak to break it off by phone, but i wanted you to have the opportunity to be single and enjoy yourself out there in ____ (country.)"

also, i agree that lack of validation in creative stuff IS a big thing. i used to be an artist, and date other artists, and actually, it can get uncomfortable going BOTH ways. that is, someone who never had anything nice to say about my work seemed . . . insecure. someone who gushed over it excessively seemed either insecure or not so genuine. it's a tough line to walk, so i don't date artists anymore and i think that more or less solved that problem. it's more fun to date someone with different talents so you can both be genuinely amazed at what the other person can do, rather than feeling competitive or insecure.
posted by GastrocNemesis at 8:03 AM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

If AskMe has taught us anything, it's the correct way to break up: ASAP and vague. Just do it.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:46 AM on April 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

Don't let all the comments get to you. Break up with him, feel utterly no guilt in doing it, and look for that guy out there who will give you the validation you need.

We all speak in different languages of love. Maybe what he really meant was that he thinks you are the MOST CREATIVE PERSON HE'S EVER MET. However, those are not the words he used. He doesn't speak YOUR language.

That can be ok. I don't always speak my guy's language, either. But it has caused some heartbreak when I tried my very best to make my heart believe that when he did X, what he was trying to communicate was YZQ. And it has been tough - both of us have really fought to try to speak each other's language to make sure the other one was getting what they needed. We're still together because at a basic level he understands what I need, and does his best to give it to me.

I'm not sure if that makes sense, but your situation seems clear: He may not be speaking your language, or he may just not be all that into your creative self. Either way, with feelings of disinterest and anger five weeks into the relationship, dump him and move on.
posted by arnicae at 2:00 PM on April 23, 2011

I don't get why you have to be vague. I think "I don't feel a lot of support from you about my work" is a perfectly reasonable justification for breaking up. I'm not understanding why that's not okay to say. ?
posted by GeniPalm at 6:29 PM on April 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Yes, metafilter has it right: now and brief, and a la Miko. Because no one hears constructive criticism when they're being broken up with, so vague reduces pain, time, and effort.
posted by ldthomps at 7:34 PM on April 23, 2011

You could even break up with him via e-mail.
Five weeks is nothing.
It didn't work out, so bye bye.
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:38 PM on April 23, 2011

I feel that because of his own insecurity surrounding his artistry, he has been unwilling to recognize my creativity

This sentence reeks of insecurity and constant need of validation on your part. That might be a problem you can't get rid of by dumping this guy. By all means, if you're not missing him, dump him. But keep your eye on the ball here.
posted by CautionToTheWind at 7:19 AM on April 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

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