Words by Persia Lawson
December 14th, 2017
As The Carpenter’s song goes, “Breaking up is hard to do.”
I’ll admit that I’ve been pretty terrible at it, all in all. Like many of us, I always favoured the ‘ghosting’ approach that’s so common these days. It goes something like this: Ignore/avoid all phone calls and messages from your respective lover (or be as passive aggressive and disinterested in them as possible when you’re together), hoping that they quickly get the hint so you don’t have to sit down and have a devilishly awkward conversation with them.
Hit and run, in other words. Of course, I was never naïve enough to consider this a kind or mature approach – and I was certainly beyond livid when a few of my own paramours dared to give me the same cruel treatment.
Considering that Britain has the highest divorce rate in the European Union (won’t be able to rely on that statistic for long!) the art of breaking up is probably something we should at least attempt to gain some mastery over. Because, for every divorce, there’s probably another thousand or so break-ups of other kinds each day – ranging from the termination of a casual fling to the painful parting of ways of a couple who lived together for a year only to discover that they were sadly too ill-suited for cohabitation, after all.
We back out of relationships in all manner of childish and cowardly ways: Cheating, sexting, long-term affairs, lying and straight-out vanishing into thin air, to name a few. Why are we so damn resistant to being honest and direct with the people we’re dating?
I’ve ‘broken up’ with around fifteen people in my life – most casual, a few more serious relationships. With each person, I failed to remember one vital piece of information: That this was a human being I was dealing with. An actual person with actual feelings and emotions, and likely a high capacity to know when they were being bull-shitted. Which is why I was so surprised – and inspired, actually, when I was ‘broken up’ with by a true gentleman of a fellow, one who somehow managed to make me feel respected, honoured and even good about myself in the process.
I met The Gentleman over by the gin and tonic bar at a friend’s wedding in the summer of 2014. He was a very charming and very intelligent film producer. After a bit of a clichéd snog on the dancefloor, he asked for my number. A couple of weeks later, we managed to sync our overflowing diaries and met for a casual drink.
I wouldn’t say it was fireworks exactly, but we definitely clicked. I liked him, and I was excited to see him again. He seemed to mirror my feelings, as he booked me in for a second date while we were still on the first (always a good sign).
The second date was what did it for me: The ice had broken by this point, and after a couple of cocktails The Gentleman grabbed and kissed me as I was stepping away from the bar, and for the rest of the evening we barely came up for air. It was one of those rare dates where you just couldn’t imagine it
could go any better. Hence why I was so excited for our third date – which he’d also planned while we were still on our second. This is it, I remember telling myself; this is my one.
Sounds a bit desperate and eager, I know, but I just reeeeally wanted it to be true. I was twenty-eight at this time, and the majority of my friends were
already living together, engaged or married to their partners. And, as much as I’m loathe to confess this, with my thirtieth birthday looming on the horizon and an increasing fear that I might be ‘left on the shelf forever’, I was feeling a considerable amount of pressure to get settled down as soon as possible.
Because everyone knows that after thirty, a woman’s value goes down and a man’s goes up when it comes to attracting a life partner. Cue massive eye roll, but these kinds of insidious, patriarchal bullshit messages are constantly being thrust upon us humans, and try as we might to ignore them, sometimes they succeed in getting the better of us. So, I was gonna make damn sure no one was leaving this baby in the corner!
Then, around a couple of weeks later – a few days before we were due to meet for our third date, I got an unexpected message from The Gentleman:
Hope life is good. 🙂
I thought I’d write you a message as I know we’re planning on seeing each other in a few days. Someone who I had a story with earlier this year has unexpectedly come back into my life in the past couple of weeks, and things have moved quite quickly with her… As a result, I think it probably wouldn’t
be fair for me to then still see you tomorrow. I know that’s a bit of a bummer, as we were having a really fun time but I hope you understand. Not an easy situation and I want to be honest with you given we got on so well, and also I guess before anyone gets hurt. I know etiquette might have dictated that telling you in person would be more the done thing but thought better to let you know sooner rather than wait. Sorry for such a serious message! I hope we’ll still see each other around, and would love to stay in touch. Hope all continues to go gloriously for you xx
Whilst part of me felt like I’d been punched in the gut (and it was obvious we were not likely to ‘stay in touch’ while he was dating someone else), I was really grateful for the way The Gentleman handled the situation.
It would have been hideous for both him and me to have him tell me this information in person when we were only two dates in, and therefore still only getting acquainted. I was grateful The Gentleman also didn’t bullshit me with “I’m just so busy at work right now” (which he was) or make up some other lame reason why we couldn’t meet – and keep on doing the same thing until I eventually got the hint.
He told me the one inconvenient truth that most men (and women, to be fair) are way too terrified to admit to the person they’re dating: There’s someone else. I’d put money on this being up there with one of the most common reasons as to why people really start ghosting or avoiding each other in relationships. It certainly was my main reason for doing so.
But, what if we could take a leaf out of The Gentleman’s book, and just be honest and direct when there’s someone else on the scene? It always comes out sooner or later, anyway – and it’s far less humiliating for the person being broken up with if they hear it from the horse’s mouth, rather than seeing it on a Facebook status or hearing it from a mutual friend at a party (I’ve been there – on both accounts; it SUCKS).
But, you know what the best part of this story is? Around the same time I went on those few dates with The Gentleman, totally coincidentally, my current boyfriend Joe happened to be working on one of The Gentleman’s films – which was exactly a year before Joe and I met randomly at a festival.
So, there are two morals that can be taken from this:
1) If you want to end it with someone you’re dating, don’t be a coward. Tell them the truth – the whole truth (and they might even write about you fondly in an article one day).
2) If someone does break up with/ghost you, don’t fret: the person who could really make you happy may be just around the corner.
Persia Lawson is an author, speaker and “one of the UK’s most successful love coaches” – according to The Saturday Times magazine. As maven46’s love and life columnist, we caught up with Persia for our ‘maven46 meets’ series which you can read here. Catch up on last month’s column, 5 Ways to Make the Most of Being Single at Christmas.
Want YOUR relationship or dating dilemma answered by Persia Lawson?
Head to persialawson.com and get in touch via the ‘Contact’ tab – can’t wait to hear from you!
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