By Amy Alkon
The agony of delete
I just had the humiliating experience of being dumped via email. I'd been seeing the guy for three months. Just days before, we had a romantic date, and he kept saying things like "We're so good together" and was very lovey-dovey. In the email, he said he realized that we aren't compatible, because I'm too driven and career-focused and he needs a more traditional woman. Why did he never mention this before? How does a guy who was very affectionate for months suddenly take to the computer to send you a quick note that it's over? I'm so hurt and confused by how he handled this. — Devastated
Unfortunately, personal disasters like getting dumped get none of the funding and attention of natural disasters. There's no early warning system to make that annoying sound on your TV, and FEMA doesn't show up the day after with pallets of Kleenex and vodka.
Making matters worse, this guy didn't just dump you; he robo-dumped you. It's OK to take to the Internet to break up with your cable company or somebody you've gone out with a few times. But once you have a relationship with a person, you owe it to them to sit down with them and tell them it's over.
Being willing to put yourself in misery's way and break up face-to-face preserves the other person's dignity — their feeling that they have value. "Subj: we r thru," on the other hand, suggests that they don't matter; their feelings don't matter; all that matters is discarding them in the most expedient way. The pre-Internet equivalent would be breaking up via postcard — maybe "Scenic Lake Minnetonka: Wish You Were Here!" but with the "Here!" crossed out and replaced with "Beer!"
As for how a guy can be all snookieloviepoo one day and all, "Go away, career lady," the next, chances are, he fell in love — with the feeling of being in love. Early on, with all the sexytime hormones rushing, it's easy to forget to step back and do the "Hey, wonder whether we're compatible?" check. Eventually, the hormone high wears off, and incompatibilities get highlighted instead of blurred. It's normal to feel guilty for not noting them sooner. But it's a stew of guilt and bad character that has a guy taking the e-weenie way out — telling you it's over with a bonus link at the bottom informing you that there's never been a better time to enlarge your penis.
When life gives you a wedgie, you can mitigate the hurt by reframing it as a protective experience — one that keeps you from falling into a similar hole in the future. Maybe you can use this to be mindful of asking questions, early on, about the kind of lifestyle and temperament a guy's most comfortable with, which could help you spot the red flags instead of using them as bedsheets. Weeding out the wrong guys fast will keep you on track to finding the right one — the man who wants a woman who's breaking through the glass ceiling instead of just getting up on a stepstool and Windexing it.
I'm really into this beautiful, funny girl I've been dating for three weeks. I think she likes me, but my gut says she's pulling away a little. If this fizzles, I'll be heartbroken. She's leaving on a 10-day business trip to Europe in two days. Should I get her a gift or a card to let her know I'm really into her (and to not fall in love with any European dudes while she's away)? — Worried
What kind of gift were you thinking of giving her — the duct tape you'd use to strap her to a chair in your den?
When somebody you're interested in seems to be backing away, it's natural to want to chase them. It's also the most counterproductive thing you could do. Your best bet is to remain present but be minimal about it, like by texting her on the morning she leaves, "Hey, have a safe trip and a great time." While she's away, keep seriously busy, both to stay OK in the head and so, when you do see her, you won't come off like you spent 10 days in your bunk bed drawing sparkly hearts in a notebook with her name on the cover. Upon her return, wait at least a few days, and then ask her out. Give her the space to miss you and she just might do that.
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