Do I break up with someone while they are on a 5 week holiday?
March 17, 2014 5:55 AM   Subscribe

I have been seeing someone for approx 3 months. It’s exclusive and I feel as though he’s quite into it but at the same time our relationship so far has not been intense at all, quite the opposite and we have both been taking it slowly.

He’s gone on holiday for 5 weeks to SE Asia (currently 2 weeks in) and while he’s been away I’ve had time to reflect on the relationship and I’ve decided I want to break up with him. I won’t go into the details but ultimately I don’t see a future between us and I don’t feel we have the right compatibility. While he’s been away he has been IM’ing me every day so we’re in constant communication. This suggests he’s quite serious about the relationship (we don’t really talk about feelings much so I’ve found it hard to read how keen he is but his actions so far suggest he is)

I think I should wait until he gets back before breaking up with him but some friends of mine are telling me that I should tell him now so that he can ‘get over it’ during the last few weeks of his holiday. it would have to be by IM though as I doubt connections would be good enough for a call. This feels unfair and I also don’t want to ruin his holiday but at the same time it feels wrong keeping up the façade by text/IM and then just dropping this on him as soon as he gets back. At the moment I’ve been acting relatively neutral – not too keen but still responding / being interested in his holiday etc. What’s the best way to approach this?
posted by pennywise_1 to Human Relations (32 answers total)
I would wait until he's back to break up. Just find some reasons to be mostly offline when you normally chat. Let him know you're going to be largely unavailable and tell him you two will catch up when he's back.
posted by xingcat at 5:58 AM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

Being kind doesn't necessarily mean being untrue to yourself. You've said that you don't feel it would be fair to drop a bombshell on him while he's on holidays. If you feel like distancing yourself then by all means do that in as natural a way as possible when your main mode of communication is via text (I'm assuming). If you can wait these extra few weeks, let him know when he gets home, in person.

Breakups are never easy. Go with your gut feeling; take your friends advice under consideration if you feel it's relevant but in the end you should go with what feels right for you.
posted by h00py at 6:21 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't ruin a once in a lifetime trip. Be kind and polite in IM, and break up with him when he gets back.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 6:23 AM on March 17, 2014 [17 favorites]

Here's an alternate view: I'd recommend you break up as soon as you can, by text or IM. People on holiday have a lot of opportunities to make romantic connections, due to the nature of traveling. If he's reamining faithful to you in anticipation of a great relationship when he gets home, he may be declining romantic opportunities while he's traveling.

This is also coming from my own experience: I went traveling and my boyfriend could not come with me for various reasons. We maintained a Long-Distance Relationship while I traveled. Immediately upon returning home, he broke up with me. I was angry that I was denied the opportunity for fun flings with foreign men while on holiday. Had he broken up with me while we were long-distance, I would have been able to get over the break-up much more easily with all the distractions available to me.
posted by Ardea alba at 6:28 AM on March 17, 2014 [55 favorites]

I would hate being broken up with after a holiday trip, but I would hate it even more if it happened during that trip, from a distance.
posted by Namlit at 6:31 AM on March 17, 2014

Ardea alba: I'd recommend you break up as soon as you can, by text or IM. People on holiday have a lot of opportunities to make romantic connections, due to the nature of traveling.

I was just going to recommend the exact same thing. Even if he's not hooking up with someone in Phuket or wherever, it's still a different kind of travel experience when you are single. Three weeks is plenty of time for him to get over a three month relationship and have some fun.
posted by Rock Steady at 6:42 AM on March 17, 2014 [10 favorites]

Three weeks is plenty of time for him to get over a three month relationship and have some fun.

I totally agree with this. Even though breakups are sad they are also exciting, and this counts double on holiday.
posted by cincinnatus c at 6:51 AM on March 17, 2014 [4 favorites]

if your IM account goes dark, he's gonna wonder, but if it remains lovey-dovey until he gets back, he might feel deceived. favorited ardea alba because if i'm bound to lose, i like to know right away so i can cash out my chips.
posted by bruce at 6:51 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

So he's away for nearly half as long as you've even been dating? Just end it now. It's only been three months, I can't imagine he'll be that devastated, and it gives him a chance to have some fun in Thailand! Being dumped when you get back would be much worse - there's the let down of coming back from holiday and going back to work, tempered by the excitement of seeing your girlfriend...oh she's dumped me. Far more depressing.

Next time I would really consider taking a break if somebody you've dated for such a short time is going away for so long, it's impossible to sustain such a new relationship when you're apart for such a long time.
posted by tinkletown at 6:54 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

If it's been only a non-intensive three months of dating, then break up now. Otherwise you're going to have to fake affection in your correspondence or just suddenly sound troublingly awkward and distant.

He's on vacation. Let him off the leash!
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:00 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Do it now and tell him why you're doing it now: so he can have fun now and not come back to a breakup. When he sees the alternative, he'll understand that now is better than later.
posted by pracowity at 7:28 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

it would have to be by IM though as I doubt connections would be good enough for a call.

Then do it the usual way via text message. You've already decided to dump him. Your concern for his holiday seems misplaced. Leaving him with the illusion that you are still a couple when you have already left the relationship is dishonest and not helpful.

He will either not really care (in which case no problem), or he will be hurt upon his return that you cared more about his holiday than his feelings.
posted by three blind mice at 7:29 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

The usual way is via text message? That's the usual way of ending a three-month relationship? Yyyyyyyyikes. (I'm not doubting you, that just ... stuns me.)

As you can see from these answers, there is no one right answer. If it were me, I'd want you to do it in person. If it were some of the other folks in this thread, they'd want you to do it via text message while they were on vacation. You're not going to get a consensus response, and whatever you decide to do, he may wind up wishing you'd done it the other way. You'll just have to figure it out the best you can. I personally think breaking up in person is the respectful way to treat people unless you have absolutely no alternative, but not everybody feels that way. It's just one vote out of many.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 7:38 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Be kind and polite in IM

There's a good chance he'll be aware that something is up, and will worry about it, which won't help with the trip of a lifetime.
posted by JanetLand at 7:43 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Whatever you do, don't say anything in IM "just to be nice" that you don't honestly mean, i.e. say "me, too" when he says something that is more romantic than you feel. When he texts you, "I can hardly wait to see you again," he might be looking to see what your response is to judge whether you're exclusive enough that he should not call up that cute person he just met.

I'd be reluctant to break up with him (the firm break - this isn't working out, I'm really not feeling it, we probably shouldn't see each other, etc) but I think you should nudge the conversation into areas that make it clear you're not 110% behind this relationship. (You miss me? It's hard to know how I feel when you're not around. Maybe we should talk when you get back.) Then it's kind of in his hands whether he decides to be broken up with on holiday or immediately after.
posted by aimedwander at 7:52 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is one of the reasons why I hate texting and IMing. It is very hard to tell what the constant messaging from him means, if it means anything at all. Normally I would answer-- and I guess would still answer-- that when you should tell him depends on what kind of person he is and which you imagine he would prefer. But you say you haven't talked much about feelings and now you sense he is quite intense because of the number of messages. I'd guess maybe the IMs make it appear he's more attached than he really is.

Is he with a friend or a group, or alone? This would factor into my thinking too. I'd be more inclined to pull the trigger now if he has company. If alone, and he seems to be depending on you for someone to talk to, keep being that outlet for him; just try to talk mainly about the trip. But know that if you keep chatting with him for three weeks, chances are he's going to know to expect a breakup on return unless he is pretty dense.

I was broken up with right after a trip and was annoyed that I'd wasted time waiting for phone calls that didn't come or that were short and weird. By the time I got back, I knew he was going to break up. But I think I would have been somewhat hurt and annoyed either way. It may be the same with this guy. Whatever you do is not going to be perfect. But people break up a lot after 2-3 months, it is a common point for the audition phase to be over and it is probably also very common for something like a trip to precipitate the breakup. He may be hurt but he will be fine.
posted by BibiRose at 8:09 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I vote to break up now.

Once someone decided to break up with me, but circumstances dictated that we could not see each other for a few weeks. I realized he was being less communicative, more polite, and I asked him if anything was wrong. He said no. I trusted him. I put up with his distance. I turned down dates from other men. Then, when we finally had an opportunity to see each other again, he dumped me.

I was shocked. Aside from normal hurt at the breakup, I was furious at the deception. I think we would have been friends after the breakup if it hadn't been for that. I really wish he had told me what was on his mind then, however he'd done it.

Break up now. You can apologize for doing it via text and offer to meet up and talk when he returns.
posted by bunderful at 8:11 AM on March 17, 2014 [8 favorites]

Are you in your twenties? Three month relationship? The same one which you were unsure about in January? He's on a 5 week trip to SE Asia?

Do it now. He might be annoyed, but really, how devastated can he be after three months? Just do it now.

I'd probably try to arrange a Skype chat - almost every single town (especially with tourists) in SE Asia has an internet cafe which can handle video or voice chat. But if not, send him an email.

Doing it in person is best in most normal circumstances, but really, there's no point in waiting in this situation.
posted by barnone at 8:11 AM on March 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

If you'd been together for 3 years I'd say wait, but it's been 3 months.

Break up with him now and you'll probably be helping him in the long run. He won't have time to mope and be miserable as he'll have so much to keep him occupied while he's away.
posted by JenThePro at 8:14 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

This happened to me - the guy was acting funny my entire trip, and assured me he was ok every time I asked. He dumped me less than 24h after my return. So him trying to "spare my feelings" only made things worse, since I could tell the end was in sight, and was wondering WTF was going on. Also I was meeting people during my trip and having to tell them "well I'm seeing someone" meanwhile inside my head I'm sure he's going to dump my a** was a horrible feeling too.

So kill it now. Don't string him along. He's not stupid and it will make him feel worse if you're suddenly less communicative than before. Give him a chance to have some travel flings at the very least!
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:30 AM on March 17, 2014 [7 favorites]

Do it now. 3 months is not going to be all that devastating. Plus travel flings are one of the best parts about travel and you're depriving him (and yourself!) of the opportunity meeting new romantic partners. You know the relationship is going nowhere, the kindest thing to do is not waste his time or give him false hope.
posted by horizons at 8:32 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I vote for doing it now. You all have only been going out for three months, so I think that's not-serious enough that he can mourn and still be able to enjoy his trip. If y'all had been going out for three years I would be singing a different tune. Do him the favor of not anticipating a happy return to your arms and being disappointed.
posted by greta simone at 9:04 AM on March 17, 2014

Break up with him now if you think he's the type to have a travel fling, wait until he's back if you think he would be so bummed out it would ruin his trip. Either option has its plusses and minuses. You know him better than any of us do.
posted by mskyle at 9:16 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Is he traveling alone? If so, maybe wait until he gets back - the fact that he is messaging you so much makes me think he might be lonely.

If he is traveling with family and friends who can comfort him, I agree with the consensus of the thread that you should do it now.
posted by amaire at 9:17 AM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was your boyfriend in a similar situation, except the relationship was a lot more serious (we'd been together for a year, I was very happy and had no idea my partner felt the way he did).

There is no really good way to do this, and I'll tell you that I still tell the story of the shithead dude who broke up with me the day after I got home from a month backpacking around Peru.

You're going to seem like a bad person for doing this. That doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, but just make your peace with the fact that this is a shitty thing to do.

I'm with your friends that you should do it in person when he gets back, and unless your relationship problems are so bad that you feel like you truly can't see him again, I'd probably at least wait until the jetlag wears off.

On the other hand, one thing I would do proactively is stop being in such close touch with him. Start distancing yourself now. Every day that you guys IM is a day he thinks, "My girlfriend loves me and misses me and really wants to talk to me." This was the most shocking thing about being broken up with in this way, for me -- it really hurt that my boyfriend knew the whole time I was gone that it was over, but he not only acted as if everything was normal over IM during my trip, he actively sought me out online during that time.

It's super weird when someone is acting totally normal, loving, excited to talk to you, says things like "I miss you", etc. and then you see them and the first thing out of their mouth is "It's over."
posted by Sara C. at 9:27 AM on March 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

If I was your boyfriend I would absolutely want you to end it ASAP. Finding out someone wasn't interested in being with me for weeks before ending it is the worst. Everyone saying you should just ease up on communication are telling you to give the knife a few twists before pulling it out. He'll know something is up, but won't be able to clear the air. Better to deal with the wound than that black cloud for his entire trip.

Also three months into a sort of casual relationship? This isn't like you're asking for a divorce and have to sort out where the kids will stay. It's barely even a thing. You're ending the thought of relationship potential, not an actual relationship. Letting him stew in those thoughts when it's not a reality isn't some awesome gift you're giving him. It's deception.
posted by Dynex at 10:32 AM on March 17, 2014 [5 favorites]

This isn't a long term serious relationship. Let him move on and be single for the remaining weeks of his vacation.

If he doesn't already, btw, and you taper off the communication and do a slow fade while he's away, he will suspect that something is wrong -- and that suspicion will really suck.
posted by J. Wilson at 12:14 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Don't ruin someone's holiday by breaking up with them on it. Frankly, I don't even see how there's even a question about this. You don't have to tell him you decided weeks earlier.
posted by cnc at 1:49 PM on March 17, 2014

Please, please give him the chance to get over the end of your relationahip surrounded by plenty of distractions and ample oppurtunities to rebound. Having to readjust to regular life and responsibilities after a trip like that is bad enough on its own - adding the baggage from a breakup to that is overkill.
posted by rideunicorns at 2:22 PM on March 17, 2014

I'll also vote on doing it now. If you don't, he'll engage you in romantic conversation, and you'll feel like a heel.
posted by xammerboy at 4:42 PM on March 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was once in your boyfriend's shoes and I got over it. Ask him to phone you.
posted by bonobothegreat at 7:28 PM on March 17, 2014

If you wait until just after he returns, you will have him wondering for how long you knew and for how long you withheld your feelings. He'll be replaying and reviewing the IMs for any false notes in your comments. And then he'll think you're just an ass for not being forthright and doing him the courtesy of letting him know as soon as you knew. All of this is especially true if, as you say, he thinks he's got a great and exclusive relationship going and has no understanding that there are real relationship issues. He'll wonder: Was the whole relationship a lie? Why didn't she discuss her issues with me ever and give me a chance to improve? For how long has she been pretending to like me?

I would tell him right away. As you see from posts above, the timing of the news on the trip could be argued either way. The bigger issue is being true to yourself and him and avoiding extending a period of active deception. And if he's totally blind sided by the break up news, then that's a learning for you to be more transparent during your relationships.
posted by Sonrisa at 9:09 PM on March 17, 2014

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