Releasing back into the dating pool

poolDoesn’t this phrase sound benign? Refreshing even? Can you imagine a perfect-temperatured, clear, tranquil pool, inviting you to dip your toes or immerse yourself totally in the rejuvenating water? Do see yourself floating on the pristine pond as the gentle current rocks you into complete relaxation?

If only releasing someone — or being released — back into the dating pool was so calm. In fact, it is usually the opposite, full of stress, teeth gnashing, crying, yelling or drama. Often there are hurt feelings on one or both sides. Whether you are the releaser or the released, the relationship-liberating conversation typically entails tension, even if it is agreed upon by both.

It needn’t be this angst ridden. It can be mature, sane and calm, depending on how and when the discussion is broached. If the conversation is begun sensitively and kindheartedly, and in an appropriate place, there will be less difficulty.

broken dishesOf course, if the person you’re breaking up with has a bent for drama, anger and/or defensiveness, there will be yelling, name calling, perhaps even dish throwing. So make sure you do it in a public place where his behavior will be modified, or security can be fetched quickly. Also, make sure to meet him there so you have your own getaway car, I mean transportation. And changing the locks may be in order if he has a key to your place.

What are signs you should break up?

  • You’ve become increasingly disenchanted with him. You no longer think his jokes are hilarious, nor his idiosyncrasies charming. You used to think his eating salad with his fingers was cute. Now you think it’s gross.
  • His behaviors are more irritating than ingratiating. His machine-gun-like laugh used to be amusing. Now it’s immature. When he dismisses his forgetfulness with “I have a sieve for a brain” it used to sound sweetly self-deprecating. Now you notice you hear it every time he conveniently “forgets” to do something you’ve asked.
  • You let voice mail answer when he calls. You used to love his frequent calls. But now, the fifth call of the day to give a moment-by-moment report on what he’s done since you last talked — an hour ago — has gotten old.
  • You find you are disappointed or angry more than pleased with him. He doesn’t keep his word, forgets important events, doesn’t do anything to please you or show he cares.
  • He is argumentative, belittling, condescending, controlling, paranoid, angry, verbally abusive, self-obsessed and/or downright mean. Cut loose now and don’t accept him back, no matter how much he begs. Don’t.
  • You don’t want to introduce him to your friends or take him to the office party. You can’t imagine kissing him or making love to him one more time. Or still being with him in a month.
  • You hear yourself thinking, “We would really be better just as friends,” “This isn’t working,” or “We aren’t a match.”

These are all signs you should let him go. You’re not doing him any favors by sticking around when you’re really not into the relationship. And you’re preventing yourself from finding someone more compatible.

You justify staying because “I love him.” It takes more than love to keep coupledom working. You can love your dysfunctional uncle, your abrasive aunt, your alcoholic cousin. But would you choose someone with their behaviors as your mate, despite your love for them? I hope you answer no. You deserve someone who is functional, kind and sober. Love is not enough to stay in a relationship that isn’t working.

In management, there is sage advice on the best time to fire someone: The first time you think of it. Now I don’t believe you should fire someone on the spot when the thought crosses your mind. I believe you should talk to him/her about the problem and see if the behavior shifts into an acceptable range.

The same with a beau. You need to talk about it if something isn’t working for you — and the sooner the better. Don’t let it fester. If he can’t or won’t shift it and it’s very important to you, then unless you can decide it’s not important, he will never measure up. So don’t ignore it when you hear yourself thinking “I can’t imagine being with this guy long term,” “I’m just not attracted to him romantically anymore,” or “I’d never marry this man.”

Many years ago, I dated a man for over a year who I knew I’d never marry. We even lived together. I knew from his comments he expected we’d get married, although he never actually proposed. Finally, I had to tell him we weren’t going to get married. Much yelling, crying and door slamming ensued. While it wasn’t right for him to assume, it wasn’t right for me not to correct him when he’d make marriage comments. I led him on and it was not right. I swore I wouldn’t do that to anyone in the future, nor would I want it done to me.

So if releasing needs to happen, think how you can do it considerately and sensitively — and soon. Very soon. Then you can relax in the peace-of-mind pool.
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2 Comments on “Releasing back into the dating pool”

  1. Janet Says:

    DG, how do you compare these signs with divorce? To be honest with you, I think they applies to divorce as well. As I read your signs, I have a few of them currently with my husband. Yes we are in the process of getting a divorce. Believe it or not, it is very civilized and calm for the both of us, not angst ridden at all. Well I am the one who is asking for the divorce so needless to say, he is still in denial and bitter about it. But he is still being nice to me and to our daughter.


  2. Glad the breakup is amicable.

    Since I’ve only encountered one divorce, and really only one of the signs was present for me, I can’t really comment. But I think the signs of disenchantment and disappointment are the same for both. In a marriage, you forgive some irritants as you have made a commitment. In dating, it is easier to call it quits. Through counseling, some couples are able to turn around marriage problems. If one has invested a lot in a pre-marriage relationship, I’d encourage counseling before just breaking up.


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