It’s Over . . . Now How Do I Tell Him?: Ask Harry & Louise

Our husband-and-wife team weighs in on whether there’s an honorable way to end a short relationship.

Dear Harry and Louise:

After four fun-filled and often passionate months with Tre, I realized, quite suddenly, that it was all the time I wanted to spend with him. There was no fault, blame, complaints, discord, bad behavior, or body odor . . . just the realization that we were not a match for all time. I knew this would be pretty shocking news to him, given our relative bliss and lots of time spent together in said four months. He lives 90 minutes from me and planned to come to my house for the weekend when I felt I had to tell him. I dreaded delivering my declaration and tried to do it in the most gentle and honest way possible. I did not want to say it over the phone, e-mail, or mailed letter—it was too big for that. So he came as planned for the weekend, and we went out for a very nice Friday evening (that did not end in any passion). When he sensed something was up with me when I took him his coffee the next morning, I told him as best I could of my realization. I was very clear and left no room for negotiation, which fortunately he did not try to engage in.

After he left, I received the expected barrage of texts and e-mails wondering what the hell happened. He also thought I was completely wrong in how, when, and where I broke up with him (though he offered no suggestion of an alternative). To reiterate, that day—like the four months we had together—was gentle and respectful between us.

So, how does one most honorably end a short, albeit intense (and very copacetic) relationship? I hope I never have to do it again, but just in case . . .

Not the Bad Guy

• • •


You’ve already answered your own question with the adjectives clear, gentle and respectful. The list of horribly wrong, misguided ways to end a relationship is endless, such as the “wait and see” tactic, the “I have no one else on the horizon, so why not” trail, or the “barrage him with insults to make myself feel better” technique.

You realized you could no longer contribute to the relationship, you spoke clearly, and you left him with no residual criticism. There is no better way.

See Also:

What is Ask Harry & Louise?

He is suffering from the huge psychological blow hurled at him through your rejection. You will not be the one to help him heal (that will take time, the kindness of friends, and perhaps even the love of a new gal), but you can make sure you are not adding toxins to his already weakened psyche. Refrain from casting any bad light on his personality or character or physical appearance. No one deserves to have poisonous words resonating in his ears as he tries to regain his strength after a knock-down.

Be kind but clear.

• • •


Are you ruthless or heartless?

I started wondering when I reread the line about the “expected barrage of e-mails and texts” after you broke things off. Do you have a stash of entreaties from men begging you to reconsider? How many hearts have you broken to be at the point where you “expect” the whines of the wasted?

You spent four months with this man. They were filled with fun and passion. He seemed to have fallen for you, as most men might have after four months of fun and passion (as in, sex). Yet you blithely gave him the ax “quite suddenly” because that was “all the time” you wanted to spend with him. I would ask whether you gave him—or yourself—enough time to get beyond the fun and passion part. Most relationships start with the froth of infatuation, and with care and understanding, they can develop into something deeper and more longstanding.

Seems to me you may have taken the “honorable” path by dusting the dude quickly, but are you letting yourself off the hook by being too chicken to risk anything beyond the short term?

• • •


Lyle Lovett and the letter writer explain it clearly: She’s already made up her mind. She doesn’t want to spend time convincing herself that she feels something she doesn’t, nor does she want to lead him further down an unpromising romantic path.


The beau is the winner in the end; at least he could give himself over to love, and after he mourns this loss, I hope he will be able to love again.