I recently read an article about how to exit a relationship gracefully, hoping to see myself in its words. After all, I went through a pretty nasty divorce that dragged on for a year-and-a-half before the 11-year relationship was legally deemed over. And, following that, there were many online dating one-dinner or months-long relationship endings.
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I have had plenty of relationship experience, and, I thought, there had to be a fair amount tactful exits among them. But graceful goodbyes? Not so much. Instead of recalling moments of quietly closing the door behind me, I mostly remembered revolving, slamming and sneaking out of doors. Not pretty.
I've had my moments of being the adult in the situation, mustering up respectfulness, clarity and conciseness in cutting myself loose. Once, in a pub over a quiet lunch, I told a man I'd been dating for a few months that, sadly, in the weeks since we'd last seen each other, I'd realized I wasn't interested in pursuing this relationship. I told him a few things I liked about him, reassured him about some fun times we'd shares and then underlined that it was time for me to move on.
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I was really proud of myself in that moment ... until he started sobbing ... and sent his fish and chips back, telling the server he had completely lost his appetite. As graceful as I thought I was in that moment, he clearly did not see the situation in the same way. Years later, he got in touch to tell me how brutally I'd broken his heart. I was baffled, especially considering how calm and kind I thought I'd been.
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