From U Magazine, May 2008
We’ve been rumbled – again. Word has seemingly leaked out on a subject that men conspiratorially assumed to be a trade secret. Tracing the source of the leak will be a tough job but my guess is it was some kind of honey trap – a drunken buffoon blabbing all to some girl’s cleavage in a club one night – and now all of womankind seems to know. So, I suppose there’s no point in pretending any longer – I admit it, men who believe their relationship has come to an end would rather come up with a devious way to get dumped themselves than to be the ones to do the breaking up. Whether they give their intended ex the silent treatment, start blatantly chatting up other women in every conceivable location, or lose all sense of personal hygiene, some men will try anything to get dumped to save themselves the grief of saying, “we need to talk”.
Now, before I try to explain why, I just want to make it clear I disagree fundamentally with this ‘strategy’; and not just because, like open heart surgery or flower arranging, it requires a skilled hand to pull off otherwise things just get horribly messy. It’s simply the most toe-curlingly, cringingly embarrassing thing to even think about attempting; such an idea can only seem plausible in the midst of a Jaeger Bomb haze. And, sadly for all concerned, men really are more likely to completely balls things up if they dare employ this plan.
A friend of mine told me recently that I should compile a book on things that men are crap at, a sort of user’s manual of potential relationship pitfalls. Before I could reply to his suggestion, his girlfriend cut in: “That’s impossible,” she said, “it’s the unfinishable book, you could write it until you fall off your stool with old age, you wouldn’t come close to all they do badly.” No, I told her, that was very unfair, we’re not that crap, we’re just a little under-rehearsed at certain things, and perhaps a smidgen tactless – but that’s why you become ‘a gentleman’ at a certain time of your life, because you’ve had your faults so drummed into you by the woman in your life that, by the time you’re in your late 50s, you’re a divorcee with plenty of time on your hands to be thoughtful, tactful and considerate. She took umbrage. Look, I continued, the vast majority of men’s faults come down to one thing: cowardice. That throat-seizing, heart-freezing terror of doing ‘the wrong thing’ which stops us from doing anything which, on paper, would seem absolutely right. “That’s just a wimp’s excuse,” she said, waving her hand dismissively.
Which is fair comment but, like it or not, cowardice is a huge reason why men attempt to pull off the ultimate, guilt-free break up.
It’s the guilt that’s a huge issue; if you know in your heart that it’s over for you but it clearly isn’t for her, breaking up is bound to really hurt her. You can do all you can to set the scene for breaking the news but watching her crumble and cry in front of you might completely sway you into some kind of guilty submission, resulting in you never being free of the relationship. Or, you could be responsible for her having an entire emotional breakdown; and men don’t ordinarily enjoy the feeling of responsibility for anything, never mind breaking a girl’s heart.
Experience plays a hand here, and not necessarily in a positive way. I’ve met women who, for perfectly good reasons, have a variety of hang-ups about men and relationships and have even, in some cases, been prescribed drugs for post relationship trauma; and I’ve lost count of the amount of times a so-called friend of theirs has confided, “you know, she’s never been the same since [bloke] broke up with her.”
Furthermore, there’s the (quite serious) issue of the notorious ‘bunny boiler’. Sometimes such women are impossible to spot until it comes to the end of the relationship – at which point she suddenly morphs from being the sweet, kind, loving girl you for some reason want to dump, into the most terrifyingly neurotic, unpredictable, clingy, snot-ridden, machete-wielding stalker you hoped never to meet outside of Xtra-vison’s bargain bucket.
With these things in mind, such a bloke thinks to himself, ‘why would I put this burden on myself to split up with her, break her heart, then spend the next few months feeling guilty about it? Why not simply let her think she’s doing the dirty work?’ And even then, that’s only if he’s applying any thought
The truth is, of course, that men are but amateurs when it comes to deviousness (women obviously being the professionals, but we’ll leave that for another day). Only the very cleverest could engineer a set of circumstances in which he moves seamlessly from being the beloved to the detested – and it’s all such an effort too. OK, the idea of acting single or being boisterous may have a flicker of appeal to the most dunderheaded but even then, feigning a personality transplant it’s not exactly a risk-free strategy.
The likely response from a girl who really likes you is to say, “Do we want to make this work, should we go for counselling, should we…” basically prolong the whole agony because this muppet here is just too much of a wimp to let her know, gently or otherwise, that it simply isn’t working for him anymore. Girls are so much sweeter than we are, they so often see the good in us rather than the unsavoury – our misbehaviour becomes a challenge and women relish challenges. I mean, why else would they spend Saturdays rearranging, redecorating, basically rebuilding the house from scratch?
But there are the cynical men who, although they may hold a mirror up to themselves on occasion, will say that the sure-fire way to get dumped by a woman is actually to be the perfect gentleman: be punctual, considerate, polite, buy her flowers, tell her you love her every day… odds on she’ll get bored within a fortnight and find herself the complete bastard she really wanted.
I’m not such a cynic. If the ‘get dumped’ strategy was universally successful for us men, sooner or later we’d meet our match – and if she’s the girl of our dreams, how much is that going to hurt when she suddenly morphs into something we don’t recognise? Employing ludicrous deviousness is hardly the way to earn respect and, unless you live in a particularly sprawling metropolis, this is how your future reputation will precede you. However much hurt a relationship split causes, and, no matter how painful it may be for both of you, telling her the truth and putting a full stop at the end of your relationship is the only solution. It’s so easy to get into a relationship, but the fact that it isn’t so easy to get out of one should make people think a little deeper about the whole issue to begin with.
But then, there’s a truth that transcends the gender divisions: people are strange, love just makes them stranger.