Gay & Lesbian Services of Western New York

Ending a Relationship That Isn’t Working

A reader asks, I have been dating this person for about five months. At first things were great but the last couple months we seem to have drifted apart. I am not so sure we have that much in common but I don’t want to cause hurt feelings by breaking it off. Do you think I should wait and see if the relationship improves or maybe the other person will call it off? I’m just not sure what to do.

Your question reads something like, “Should I be the bad guy?”or, “Maybe if I wait long enough it will get better.” I am not aware of any relationship that really gets better spontaneously. It sounds like both you and the other person have passed the initial infatuation stage. Now neither of you are sure that this is a good fit, but neither of you want to be the one to end it.

I think that for most of us, in our heart of hearts, we really do know when a relationship is just not working, but for a variety of reasons we hold on. Sometimes we hang in there because we don’t want to hurt the other person. Sometimes it is because we fear being alone or being seen as not having a relationship. We have all heard the saying, “Something is better then nothing.” NO! NO! NO! Since when is wasting your time and someone else’s time a good thing? Since when is “not hurting” someone by not really being honest and straight forward and leading them on “a good thing”? People can be uncomfortable being alone, causing discomfort, upsetting someone or dealing with conflict. So we give ourselves reasons not to take action and, in this situation, even secretly hoping or trying to cause the other person to take the action and end the relationship. If you are in a relationship that is going nowhere, allowing it to slowly fade away isn’t good for either of you.

As we start dating and seeking a relationship, learning how to flirt and woo someone into our lives is a skill to be learned and practiced. We spend a good deal of time working on ourselves and our skills at attracting so that we can have a primary relationship. But learning how to let go, to move out of and on from a relationship that is not satisfying or right for us, is also a skill worth learning. I’ll bet we all know a couple that shouldn’t be together, but stays together out of habit or fear. You yourself may have been or be in such a relationship. Taking the initiative to end it is not a bad thing. Doing so and getting practice and skill at ending poor relationships will make it easier later on in life to take care of yourself and not get stuck in a bad, mismatched or dissatisfying relationship.

So how do you actually end a non-working relationship rather then letting it just sort of go away on its own?

One approach is to sit your partner down and state the obvious. “I notice that we seem to be finding less time for one another. As we have gotten to know one another we seem to have less in common then perhaps we originally hoped. I have been thinking that I would like to redefine our relationship as something other then dating; perhaps friends or maybe we might just move on. What do you think?”

If he/she says that he/she wants to continue to see if a spark can be rekindled (and you don’t) then say you have given that thought already and you think it best to part. This may seem selfish but in relationships you have to look out for yourself. If you are really not into your partner…well, letting him or her go has his/her best interest in mind as well. It really is better to be by yourself then in an unhappy relationship. Many people stay in dissatisfying relationships out of fear and lack of practice at leaving. You have to believe that there is a better relationship out there for you, that you deserve better and that it is OK to be alone until you find it. This holds true for the him/her that you are leaving to their own search as well. Do both yourselves the favor of moving on.

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