At least tell me to take a hike!
June 13, 2008 10:41 PM   Subscribe

Not only have I never had an official relationship, I've also never had an official breakup. Guys seem to prefer falling off the face of the earth than telling me "I don't like you." Why is that?

In my approximately 10 years of noticing the opposite sex/getting involved with them, not a single guy has given me the decency of a "Hey, this isn't working out" or "I'm just not that into you" or whatever. Instead they stop calling, and I'm left to wonder what I did wrong.

I've heard all the same stuff - "He got scared," "He's just an asshole," etc. but I'm wondering, from guys especially, what really goes into the decision to just fall off the face of a girl's earth. If anything.

And just to clarify, I'm not a crazyperson who calls and calls and calls and calls until I drive both of us batty. This latest situation involved a guy who told me he didn't want a relationship in the beginning, I said I didn't either, and we had a nice time hanging out together, nothing too serious. However, he showed up at my house once at 4 am flashing his brights in my window begging me to let him in (I didn't), and now about two weeks later, he could be in a coma for all I know. We hung out after the brights incident, and everything was fine. I haven't tried to get in touch with him apart from returning his call a week ago, so I really am baffled.

I'm also not opposed to suggestions that this is something I'm doing, though I know I'd need to give more explanation. I would like to know what I'm doing wrong, if it IS me, so this doesn't happen anymore. I guess if you have any ideas in this vein, stick 'em out there so I can answer. :)

I know people break up, or stop talking, or whatever. That part isn't as bothersome as not knowing why, or not getting the decency of an actual end.
posted by slyboots421 to Human Relations (25 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Some guys realize that the problem with the relationship may be with us, not you, but being guys, we'd rather disappear than admit it. Guys are kinda lame that way.
posted by Aquaman at 10:48 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Maybe it's because the relationships weren't 'official'? That may explain the lack of official endings.
posted by Dipsomaniac at 10:50 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

Yes, this seems simple. If you never establish that you are in an exclusive relationship, you can't end it.
posted by phrontist at 10:52 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

However, he showed up at my house once at 4 am flashing his brights in my window begging me to let him in

Translation: "Hey, baby, let's get naked together."

(I didn't)

What he understood that to mean: "I will not get naked with you. Not now, not ever."

We hung out after the brights incident, and everything was fine.

What he understood that to mean: "There's a chance she will rescind her previous edict against the getting-of-the-naked-together. I will investigate that opportunity."

now about two weeks later, he could be in a coma for all I know

Translation: "Apparently, we will not get naked together at a rate sufficient to me. Moving on to other get-naked opportunities..."

OK, flip answers aside ... what other have said, if it doesn't feel real, there's no need for a real break-up. Specifically, the times when I have done this to people in the past (yes, I'm one of those lame guys), it was because I felt the break-up process was going to be out of context with the relationship and the reason for its end.

In other words: "We're going to have a huge Conversation-with-capital-letters, with tears and goodbye hugs and all the trimmings ... for what? Because I didn't like the way she snorted when she laughs? That's just too much damn work."

Moreover, why break up? If it's that casual, it might pick up again. Why have The Conversation and destroy all possible chances, however remote? Yes, I realize that by not calling, I'm essentially doing the same thing (or worse), but I'm a guy. We're stupid that way.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 11:13 PM on June 13, 2008 [5 favorites]

Perhaps you seem like the type, and I mean this with all due respect and kindness, that would shatter into a million pieces if they had to (from their point of view) endure 'that' conversation. From their point of view it may be more efficient, and avoid any begging/pleading/recriminations that would totally ruin their days.

But really, I don't imagine how anyone can answer this question without knowing a) you b) them c) the details and context of the relationship.
posted by oxford blue at 11:14 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

I agree, I knew it would be hard to get any "it's you because x, y, z" answers without you guys really knowing me. However, I do need to throw this out there, as far as the getting naked stuff:
Not that I was pushing him, but I was definitely thinking more along the "let's get nekkid" lines than he was. That was not a factor in us hanging out which was a great disappointment to me. If I had let him in that night, he would have talked my ear off and I never would have gone back to sleep. That was more a matter of me needing sleep for work than anything else.

So that part seemed weird too. He said he didn't feel it was appropriate to sleep together unless he was in a couple (this was, of course, on his own volition, I never asked him about it. I also never asked about being in a relationship, he flipped out and brought it up on his own one night out of nowhere).

I am definitely not emotional, not a cryer, and if I've gotten close to shattering following a situation like this, it's never been in front of the person who "broke up" with me.

I guess I'm not too bent out of shape about this particular situation - I was never butterflies-in-my-stomach over this guy. It just pisses me off more than anything, like he doesn't think I deserve a "Hey, can't stand ya!" Human decency would be nice!

Anyway, thanks for your responses!
posted by slyboots421 at 11:33 PM on June 13, 2008

People are confrontation-avoiding assholes. People do what they can get away with. (For the record, whenever I dump a girl, I at the very least buy her dinner first.)

It's easier to rationalize just getting out of Dodge City if there's no "official relationship" to get out of. The guy who showed up at 4am was making a booty call. I've done it, I've had it done to me, it's about being drunk and horny, and saying "I probably won't get any, but maybe she's drunk and horny too, so what the fuck."

Now for the part you won't like. Stop reading here if you want:

Ok, you can stop reading.

Ok. Guys get out of relationships for several reasons:
1. They think they can do better, for whatever their purposes are.

If they're after sex, they can get it better, or more likely easier, somewhere else. If they're after marriage/LTR, you're for whatever reasons not matching their specs (you have kids, you don't want kids, wrong religion, you make to much, you don't make enough, etc.) for that. If they're after someone they can show off to their friends, you're too something (thin, fat, ugly, intimidating, annoying, cloying, loud, quiet, dumb, smart, whatever).

2. You provide what they want, but at too high a cost (this is just reason 1 restated).

3. You're not providing what they want (this is just reason 2 restated, which is just reason 1 restated).

4. You're providing what they want, but also too much of what they don't want (this is just reason 3 restated, which is...).

Avoiding an "official breakup" is all about not hurting you by telling you your (perceived) short-comings, and not making himself look like a shallow prick by pointing them out.

Like I said, I'll buy the girl dinner, and explain it's just not working out, and maybe even talk around what's not working (especially if it's something that can be addressed), but I'm not going to be a prick and outline all the ways she doesn't measure up to my (unrealistic) ideals. That's just cruel.
posted by orthogonality at 11:42 PM on June 13, 2008 [9 favorites]

slyboots421 writes "He said he didn't feel it was appropriate to sleep together unless he was in a couple (this was, of course, on his own volition, I never asked him about it. I also never asked about being in a relationship, he flipped out and brought it up on his own one night out of nowhere)."

Oh. That means he wanted to sleep with you, and either a) wanted you to "talk him out of" the need to be in a relationship (you'd say: "Oh, I'm just such a slut, I love the dick, you can fuck me silly in eight different positions, and like a bonobo, that's just like shaking hands for me!") or b) he wanted you to say "Oh wow me, too, I want to be in a relationship with you too! Let's be boyfriend and girlfriend."

It's "a" if he's more sneaky than shy, and "b" if he's more shy than sneaky, and you're (according to his value-system) "hot".

But you didn't take the bait, whichever it was, so if it's "a", he figures there's no no-strings-attached sex in the offing, or if it's "b", he figures he made it obvious withiut coming out and saying it and embarrassing both of you, and you ignored his implied offer because you're not into him.
posted by orthogonality at 11:52 PM on June 13, 2008 [1 favorite]

1. It's easier not to; they don't know how to steel themselves for an awkward conversation; there's little selfish incentive for them to bother (later on, the "be decent" internal incentive kicks in for worthwhile ones).

You're in your early 20s, if I'm reading you right. So the guys you're dating are young/inexperienced and the relationships are very casual and not exclusive. People in their late teens/early 20s will sometimes quit *jobs* by just not showing up, because they just don't know how to handle the confrontation. Women and men can both be chicken, and try to avoid these awkward conversations. Think about it from his point of view -- it's a lot easier not to call and say "so, listen, I'm officially not into you", and just talk yourself into thinking it's mutually understood already. "Well, we were pretty obviously not going to get together. I guess I could call but what would be the point really?"

Plus, if he doesn't make it official, there's still the chance that he could try his luck elsewhere and then if it doesn't work out, come back and see if you're still interested.

2 -- Reading you wrong. If you're not esp emotional, and if you're pretty forthright about sex, they might be a bit intimidated or be thinking that you are more experienced/bohemian/etc, expecting to casually go from one guy to another without much complication or fanfare.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:08 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't know what this guy's problem is but you're a stone cold fox. So if you're ever in LA, please look me up!

As far as an answer from a guy in his mid-twenties... he's a chicken shit. Most guys I know will ignore a girl instead of confronting her, even the loud mouth's who will pick fights in bars. Emotions are a scary thing, especially for someone who hasn't really developed any.
posted by Derek at 12:56 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

nth'ing what others are saying:.... When given a choice, most human beings would avoid any kind of messy, emotional, awkward conversation if the other option is just "letting it fade away". Yeah, it sucks (for the dumpee).. and it doesnt help you in future relationships, but its human behavior.

The reality is... typical breakup conversations are rarely easy or fair. One person inevitably always feels "hurt".. and no matter what you say, or how you try to explain/justify your reasons for breaking it off--- the other person either 1.) wont believe you , 2.) will try to use the newly explained information to show how "they will change" if given a chance, or 3.) the conversation winds on much longer than it has to and doesnt do anyone any good.

I think on the question of decency, typically the dumper probably feels like letting the relationship fade away IS the more decent option (when compared to having a big long drawn out messy breakup conversation where you'll probably be forced to lay out a laundry list of the other persons faults.)

The problem with breakup-conversations is that (to have a good one) they have the same requirements as the actual relationship. (honesty, communication, trust, maturity, respect,etc) If your relationship is failing because some of these things are missing, how do you expect a breakup-conversation to go?... yeah, probably not worth the investment.

I understand the frustration that you feel. Having relationships "fade out" without knowing why, doesnt help you get better at them. I dont know if I have any advice for that. (There's no convenience store for life-experience.) Each time you have a relationship fail, you need to step back and realistically probe (within yourself) what you think you did right/wrong, and try to work on those things. Also keep in mind to not go overboard blaming yourself for the failure of a relationship. Good relationships take constructive effort on both sides. Its entirely possibly you can be doing everything right on your side, and the other person just isnt a good match for you. That doesnt make you a bad person... it just means it wasnt the right match. (or the right timing)

Hope that helps.
posted by jmnugent at 1:00 AM on June 14, 2008 [3 favorites]

From what you describe of the relationship it sounds too casual to bother with a breakup. I am a girl, but even if I were dating you I would assume I should just stop calling. Intensity and emotional intimacy create obligation. It sounds like he had a bit of emotional (or some other kind) of crisis and you blew him off. So, why shouldn't he blow you off? I think if you want people to treat you with "common human decency" you have to treat them like you give a shit, because what you describe, you don't seem to care.
posted by zia at 1:14 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I've had the opposite experience. The girls suddenly stop communication, and I'm the one who wants some closure and reason for it. I can never think of anything I could have done to explain it, except for being a nice guy and introverted and not wanting to make a move too early on, so maybe they thought I wasn't that interested. I got fed-up with dating and just resigned myself to bachelorhood.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 2:47 AM on June 14, 2008

Watch out for the ones who manipulate you into breaking up with them!

Took me a while to catch onto this sly little trick, but some passive-aggressive men who want to break up will either continue doing the things that are driving you nuts and up the ante, or start behaving like a real jerk until you're driven to the point that YOU break up with them and they can act like nothing is their fault.

The ol' manipulate you into breaking up with me trick. It has a high efficacy rate.
posted by Flying Squirrel at 3:07 AM on June 14, 2008 [2 favorites]

In these ten years of getting involved with the opposite sex, how long do each of these dalliances last? You said "Not only have I never had an official relationship", which suggests that each Proto-Relationship thing might just be short-term and not particularly fraught with emotion. In that kind of interaction, why would there be a breakup? What's being broken up?

And just to clarify, I'm not a crazyperson who calls and calls and calls and calls until I drive both of us batty.... I am definitely not emotional, not a cryer, and if I've gotten close to shattering following a situation like this, it's never been in front of the person who "broke up" with me.

You sound pretty self-sufficient; I imagine a lot of guys aren't having Breakup Conversations with you because they're thinking, "Whatevs, she's got her shit together without me, she's fine."
posted by Greg Nog at 6:29 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

Your question brought back (1) memories of the two girls I "just stopped calling" many years ago ('70s), and (2) feelings of regret that I treated them that way. There was absolutely nothing wrong with them and they deserved better, but I was immature. There are guys like that, unfortunately, but we're not all jerks.
posted by davcoo at 7:40 AM on June 14, 2008

Why don't you try insisting on a real relationship? You're old enough to try real grown-up dates. I started having much better luck, and finding much better guys, when I insisted that they ask me out on a real date, and I didn't sleep with them until it was established that there would be a third, or fourth, date, and that they call me/email me back reliably and seem to generally have their shit together. They won't take you seriously unless you insist that they take you seriously. And you learn much more quickly which ones aren't willing to take you seriously. If a guy likes you and is worth liking back, he won't be put off by you expecting to be taken on real dates (where he at least offers to pay for both of you, even if you insist on splitting) or expecting to get a return call/email/text.

Just hanging out/casual relationships/whatever are fine if that's what you're looking for, but it sounds like you aren't. This isn't about rules for dating or anything like that, just that you need to establish the kind of relationship you are looking for right away so the guys can either be on board or not. Then if they stop calling after two or three dates, it's no surprise- there was no relationship to break up! But if they are taking you seriously enough to get many more dates in, or even to the point where you are past dates, then not getting a real break-up would be very bizarre.
posted by ohio at 8:43 AM on June 14, 2008

Mostly because it's easier for people (men and women are equally culpable) to ignore someone than have an uncomfortable conversation...
posted by gjc at 9:23 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

echoing what some others have suggested, maybe you've never had an official breakup because you've never had an official relationship.
posted by aielen at 9:49 AM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

it's just something you're going to have to get used to because i don't think it ever stops happening. like everyone here has been saying, people—and guys in dating situations in particular—would rather avoid than confront. you'll also just have to get used to the idea that, almost every time you will never know why.

i also agree that the fact that none of these relationships were actually ever "official relationships" is another big factor why you're getting the disappearing act. do you actually want a relationship with someone? you seem to sound fine with just "hanging" out with a guy and it could be something you're giving off to guys, which might be why none of your relationships have progressed to actual, well, relationships. once you decide that a relationship is something you want, you should make clear at some point to the guys you date that you want things to move forward.
posted by violetk at 11:21 AM on June 14, 2008

Thank you all so much for your responses! They were all very helpful.

I did want to address what zia said, as far as me acting like I didn't give a shit about his emotional crisis... I don't know where I mentioned any sort of crisis he was having, but I did give a shit about him.

When we first met we went out on real dates and had a good time, and it progressed into hanging out more low-key, which was absolutely fine by me. We talked A LOT and got very close, so I guess that's why I'm confused too. I felt totally great about us confiding in each other and thought it was mutual.

So, I guess this is just another experience to learn, but not know what I'm learning yet, from. :)

Thank you all very much!
posted by slyboots421 at 1:12 PM on June 14, 2008

I'd suggest, if you need closure, go get it. It's not wrong to write him an email, give him a call, or arrange a meeting to close the book on a relationship. If he is too immature to initiate this, you can. Of course, the person who initiate a break up is suppose to do this; but, regardless of whether he think he doesn't owe you one, or just too chicken to give you one, if you need it, ask for it.

A while ago, I called up an ex and asked her to give me an evaluation of the ex-relationship. It turns out to be a very informative conversation. Of course, I have to reach a calm, non-needy place before I made the call; but I'd recommend this to anyone. Relationships are costly, and it's only fair one should extract the most out of it, even if things didn't work out. Without feedbacks, how the hell do I suppose to learn to better myself? I wish I did this with all my past relationships.
posted by curiousZ at 1:45 PM on June 14, 2008 [1 favorite]

I Am Not Your Ex-Boyfriend but, there are two reasons a guy might do this. The first is he just doesn't have the balls to tell you straight up; the second is that he doesn't respect you enough to even make the effort. I am afraid I cannot diagnose whether this latter scenario is a reflection of the kinds of guys you're dating, or the kind of person you are, but since you're a MeFite you automatically get the benefit of the doubt so I'll assume you're totally awesome and have just been through a string of assholes and cowards.

Also, that term "string of assholes" makes me feel kinda queasy. I'm picturing a Froot Loop necklace sort of affair.
posted by turgid dahlia at 6:22 PM on June 14, 2008

I've dated many a man who, when he came to having to choose between treating me decently and doing what was easiest, most convenient and comfortable for him, chose the latter. Try to forget all about them and just keep looking for someone who behaves well even when it would be easier not to.
posted by orange swan at 4:38 PM on June 15, 2008 [3 favorites]

A few facts I've determined during my single life... and it was far more than 10 years.

1. People will do things that you will never be able to figure out, so don't waste your time trying.

2. When it's right, it's easy.

3. All my past relationships were failures, until this one.

I will tell my daughter all of these things when she's old enough to need this type of advice. All people avoid confrontation some of the time, not just men. Think of it as hiring a person for a job, or renting someone an apartment If someone isn't the person you're looking for, you don't call them and tell them why, you just don't call... unless, of course, you told them you would.

All that said, It sucks doesn't it? Find a good girl friend and have a bitch session.
posted by vermontlife at 6:24 PM on June 15, 2008 [2 favorites]

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