Is the Relationship Ending? Then Just Be Honest.

Kerry Kerr McAvoy

To say nothing is hurtful

Photo by Tirachard Kumtanom/Pexels

Many of us think telling the truth is too painful. That it’s kinder to end a relationship with silence.

We don’t do anyone a favor by not being upfront. Saying nothing often is worse.

I met a guy last summer. It was his averageness that caught my attention. He was a younger man who had served time in the military. Everything about him screamed normal. A nice guy.

He liked my profile, so I took a closer look at his. We chatted briefly, and then he suggested we meet. A few days before our first introduction, he bowed out. Something had come up; he had to head out of town and didn’t know when he’d be back.

Since we hadn’t spent much time getting to know one another, I shrugged and moved on.

This was not my first experience with online dating. Right after the death of my first husband, I’d spent a year meeting guys. I must have sent hundreds of introduction letters and met forty to fifty men. Most were clear and immediate mismatches, but I did this on purpose. I wanted a wider dating experience since I had done little in my teens.

My first husband was my only serious relationship. It was a shock to be suddenly widowed in my early 50s. I was determined to date differently, which included meeting a bigger range of men.

A year later, I met my second husband, a con artist who broke my heart and trashed my trust.

Now I’m single again, this time relieved to be divorced and out of a toxic relationship.

But in that period, things have changed, but so has the field of guys. Men seem to be more fearful of commitment yet preoccupied with sex, and I’m less naïve and more guarded. One date told me he wondered how I felt about him since I rarely initiated text.

Six months later, the nice, average guy I’d met during the summer contacted me again. He said he’d remembered me. That he had kept thinking about me and had wished we’d had that first date.

A short week later, we met. To my surprise, he suggested dinner at an upscale steakhouse.

We hit it off right away. The conversation flowed with a good balance of give and take. As we wrapped up the evening, he looked over and asked, “Can I see you again?” Then he smiled shyly.

Our second date was even better. He took me to a small local theater for a show where we carefully socially distanced.

Since we’d arrived early, we wandered its museum and looked at the artifacts on display. One was a prop from the movie Big, which featured the actor, Tom Hanks. For a dollar, it offered to tell us our fortune. My dates smiled, pushed in a single bill, and waited for the machine to do its magic. A short minute later, it spat out a ticket that read, “You have found true love and will have a great future.”

My date laughed nervously. “I’ve been here before, but I’ve never seen it do this. Give a paper fortune, especially one like this.” He waved the stub, turned, and bent low to give a kiss. It was then that he realized both of us were wearing masks. We laughed instead.

Several hours later, he dropped me off at my place.

“Here’s the kiss you missed earlier.” I leaned forward to give him several pecks. His mouth tasted sweet. Soft and tender. We pulled back and smiled self-consciously.

Once he arrived home, he texted, “ Thank you for such a wonderful night. You are so amazing. Can’t wait to see you again!”

We planned our next date almost a week later. Each day we sent brief messages filled with excitement.

Two days before we were to see each other, he messaged, “I have a family emergency and have to go home. Not sure if I will be back soon.”

I responded that I was sad that I wouldn’t get to see him. Ten hours later, he replied with another brief text that ignored my earlier emotional one.

Today I discovered his dating profile had been disabled. And just like that, he’s gone.

I’ll probably never know why he canceled. Maybe there was a family emergency. But why cut off the relationship? Just because he was leaving the area doesn’t mean we can’t stay in touch. We could have video chatted or called. Maybe we could have used the distance to grow the emotional side of our relationship.

No, his last message has all the tells of an ending.

He didn’t quite ghost me, but close. There was no explanation, no wrap-up, or closure. I’m left with questions and no answers.

Something tells me he got scared. Maybe he liked me too much and worried he’d get hurt. Perhaps something about me gave him pause.

Leaving the relationship this way wasn’t kind. The lack of explanation tempts me with self-blame. Did I move too fast or share too much? Was he worried I’d want sex before he was ready? Did my writing career bother him?

I’ll never know. I‘m sure his change of mind wasn’t a rejection of me, but it’s hard not to take it that way.

Tonight was supposed to be our third date. Instead, I’ll be spending it home, alone and discouraged. I’m sure I’ll shed a tear or two.

I recently asked him always to be honest. To tell me the truth, no matter what. We like to think saying nothing is a kind way of handling differences, but it isn’t. Silence is another form of dishonesty.

By saying nothing, he left me with a lot of “what-ifs.” Now I’ll have to battle my insecurities as I work to put this experience behind me.

I won’t forget this lesson, though. The next time I think I’m doing someone a favor by saying nothing, I’ll remind myself how it feels to live with not knowing.

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Psychologist, Kerry Kerr McAvoy, Ph.D. writes about dating, healthy relationships, narcissism, and various other mental health-related issues. She is a mom to three grown sons. Loves to swim, snorkel, and read, and enjoys traveling. She lived in the Caribbean for two years. For her monthly letter or to listen to her podcast

Austin, TX

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