Remember, dating is a necessary evil. The longer relationships go the more faults and unmet expectations a man and a woman will inevitably find with each other. However, a man or a woman knows that they have found “the one” when he or she sees the mounting flaws and failures of the other person and makes a promise to love the other person anyway – no strings attached.

Obviously not every relationship makes it to that point.

Why not?

Well, perhaps a Seinfeld episode can illustrate:

In this particular episode, George’s girlfriend, Gwen, is breaking up with him. In an attempt to nicely explain why (but while clearly telling a lie), she says, “it’s not you, it’s me.” George picks up on her lack of truthfulness and, oddly-enough, agrees with her, claiming that the “routine” was his invention.

Even though Gwen uses the “it’s not you it’s me” routine as a way of politely telling George, “it’s not me, it’s you“,  the fact of the matter is that Gwen could choose to stay in the relationship with George. She simply doesn’t want to. Ironically, what she thought was a lie was actually the truth.

Any time a dating relationship ends it is an admission that one person is unwilling to love the other person the way they themselves want to be loved.

To be perfectly clear, Gwen, like any person in a dating relationship, is under no obligation to love George. She can break up with him any time for any reason. It’s no sin to not be romantically in love with someone. However, she ought not to say that the relationship is ending because of a fault or flaw in George. Instead, she should take responsibility for the relationship’s end because she is making the choice to not love him (romantically) when she clearly has the opportunity to do so.

That’s why break-up’s hurt so much. It’s another person basically saying to us, “You haven’t meet my expectations and I don’t think you ever will. You’re fired.”

And that’s also why dating is a necessary evil. It takes something (love) that should be a matter of promise and makes it a matter of performance. Anytime that happens within a romantic relationship it is bound to get messy.

So, since men and women will not choose to romantically love every person they get into a dating relationship with, break-up’s will happen. Regularly. Break-up’s don’t have to be as ugly, fault-finding, and deceitful as Gwen’s was, though. Therefore, here are some points to remember (in no particular order) before you sit down with someone to end a relationship:

  • Be complimentary.  As much as the person hasn’t met your expectations, they should not overshadow the enjoyable parts of the relationship. Make sure to specifically compliment the other person on what they did well throughout the relationship.
  • Be grateful.  In addition to compliments, the other person has taken just as big a risk as you did in entering a relationship with you. They have also given up time and money in pursuit of you. A genuine thank-you should also be given.
  • Be considerate. With very few exceptions, the break-up should happen in person and in private. Doing both demonstrates to the other person that even though you  are not interested in marrying him or her, you are still willing to do it in a loving way.
  • Be quick. As soon as you realize that you are no longer interested in pursuing the relationship further, you need to have the conversation. Do not draw out the relationship longer because you are trying to avoid the awkward conversation. And when the conversation happens, don’t talk about other things first and then finish by breaking up. It should be the only topic of conversation and it should not be drawn out into a lecture. It needs to be short and sweet.
  • Be sensitive. It’s important to communicate in a way that the other person will understand and appreciate. Although the news will still hurt, it’s important that the way the news is delivered doesn’t cause even more damage in the other person’s heart. Speak gently and with great care.
  • Be clear. Make sure you are not indicating to the other person that you simply want to ‘take a break’ or ‘need some time to think.’ Those do not effectively communicate that the relationship is permanently over. While being sensitive, you also need to be clear that you are no longer interested in seeing the relationship continue.
  • Be quiet. After the bad news has been delivered, don’t make it worse by trying to put a good spin on it in a feeble attempt to make the other person feel better. Understand that your words hurt the other person and respect their feelings by not being condescending and simply listen. People who try to smooth over a break-up are only concerned with their guilty conscience and are looking to make themselves feel better by “comforting” the other person. Don’t do it.

If you’re going to date, chances are you will break-up with or be broken-up with several times in your career. Although these conversations are necessarily awkward, they don’t have to be disrespectful. However, if you don’t want to break up and the idea of engagement is looming, you might want to read chapter 4.4.

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What other do’s and don’ts do you recommend for a respectful break-up?