General Dating Questions/breakup
Hi Dr Neder
I was just wondering whether there are warning signs in a dating situation that will lead to a breakup?
Does ignoring the person after a few dates classify as breaking up, or do you need to tell the person that things are not working out? (Out of respect.)
Also, if you do break it off with someone, would it be better to do it in person or over the phone/text?
If you feel that you have been jilted, are you entitled to find out from the other person what went wrong or do you pretend that nothing happened?
Yes, there are behaviors that indicate a breakup is coming but you're asking me about the very first set of impressions - not about specific sets of actions. Let me explain.
It would be great if we could know from the very first meeting (or two) that someone wasn't going to fall for us. Unfortunately, it's not that sort of world. Dating isn't like a light switch - either on or off. It's more like a balance scale. Some weight gets added to the "relationship" side of the scale and some gets added to the "move on" side of the scale over time.
Thus, your goal shouldn't be to predict the light switch at all. Instead, it should be to discover what features get added to which side of the scale and to increase those that lead you toward a relationship. Does that make sense?
Most people try to ignore someone else's scale and only look at their own. Then, they even go so far as to project their scales on someone else. They (in effect) say, "Since *I* could be in a relationship with this guy/girl they must feel the same way". Obviously, that isn't the case.
That's why you want to focus at least as much on THEIR scale as on your own - and fill it with reasons to move into a relationship with you. To do that you have to focus also on what they find of value and work to provide that value. If you don't do this you're equally likely to fill up the "move on" side of their scale which will lead to getting dumped.
As to ignoring someone after a few dates the answer is: it depends. There are many really, really dumb women for example that actually believe that by ignoring a guy she's interested in will actually cause him to chase her. There are best-selling books and even so-called "experts" right here on this site who claim the same things! It's incredibly dumb and in fact, doesn't work.
Look at this from your own perspective. Do *YOU* get more or less interested in someone who ignores you? What happens is you stop worrying about that other person's scale and start focusing on your own, right? You get worried about whether that person has lost interest in you because of YOUR OWN needs - not theirs.
I believe that someone who ignores someone else rather than being direct and up-front is callous, irresponsible and self-centered. The reason that person might do this is either because they don't know any better (thinking that being rude increases a person's interest) or they are too much of a coward to be open and honest up-front. When you date someone just as when you're in a relationship with them you have responsibilities to that person.
(There's also the situation where someone starts playing that dumb hard-to-get game and loses the other person but then goes on to blame THEM for not playing along. That's not what I'm talking about here however.)
So, it's far better to tell someone you're not interested in them rather than just going underground and ignoring them, but too many people are too self-centered for that.
As to whether to tell someone this in person, over the phone or via email or text; I think it's better to do so over the phone. Many think that doing so in person is a better choice, but in fact, you then have to deal with all sorts of complicated issues - usually in public - which just causes more damage to the situation. Breaking up (if it's really a breakup and not a no-match situation after a few dates) via email or text is pretty cold. The person was obviously "good enough" to meet in person and I think you owe them something more than the absolute least you can give.
Your last question deals with "closure".
Here's the reality: you almost never (if ever!) get closure. That's just the way it is. Even if someone calls you to tell you it's not going to work out, you're STILL not going to get closure. You'll want to ask, "So what did I say or do that caused you to not want to see me?"
But, think back to that scale I talked about originally. It's never just one or two things. You can't pin the ending of a relationship or even a few dates on a single problem. It's always a bunch of them. Nobody is obligated to do deep psychoanalysis with you over your dating issues. As an adult, it's YOUR job to learn those skills - and to bring them with you when you begin dating.
That's why looking for closure is just a way to prolong the pain. As I constantly say, you wouldn't cut a dog's tail off piece-by-piece would you? Of course not! You'd get it over with all in one step. That's the way relationships should end as well. Don't go looking for closure. Instead, focus on your own dating/sex/relationship skills and being able to bring value to someone else's scale.
It's a far better use of your time, energy and emotion.
Dr. Dennis W. Neder
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”