It was an overcast spring afternoon, with the brisk Minnesota winter lingering in the air. We were meeting at a Starbucks in Minneapolis because it was a convenient location for the conversation I knew we needed to have.
I was about to break up with my sort-of girlfriend.
She didn’t expect it, but I sensed it weeks before this day came. I planned to make it quick and painless, at least as painless as a flirty, not-quite-romance severance could be.
It would’ve been different if we were actually dating and using the terms “boyfriend” and “girlfriend,” but we hadn’t gotten there yet. And I was glad we hadn’t, because I was convinced we needed to end it.
The Overdue Conversation
I sat nervously camped in an overstuffed chair in the corner, waiting for her to arrive. She walked in the door a couple minutes later, and her gentle smile exuded a confidence I wished she didn’t have, not right now.
We greeted each other like we had many times over the past few months: welcoming, excitedly. I had made it a point to spend time with her each time I was in town. We were learning more about each other, and it was all going so well. Maybe too well.
We sat down on two green chairs in the corner, gripping our coffees to wick away the chilly remnants of Midwestern winter.
She still smiled. I tried to. She unwittingly walked into the ambush I had set for our relationship. I avoided eye contact as long as I could.
She asked how I was, and I took a gulp of hot, black coffee to buy myself some time.
Was I really about to give this up, to give up my chance with her?
She was great. She had aspirations. She was model-gorgeous. Literally—she modeled for fashion shows occasionally. She was driven to learn and grow and travel the world more than she had already.
But still, something was wrong.
“I think we need to stop seeing each other.”
Her smile faded slowly. “What? What do you mean?”
I knew it was going to be difficult. But I also knew I had to break her heart a little to prevent it from being totally crushed.
“I don’t think we’re best for each other. It’s not that you’re not great—I think you’re a really cool person, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, but—I’m sorry,” I mumbled all over.
She grasped for some evidence I couldn’t offer. “Why? I don’t understand. Is it something I did?”
“I hope you know I appreciate your friendship…but I don’t think we should go any further,” I tried to reason. “I don’t want to hurt you.”
“Then why are you stopping this? Doesn’t my opinion matter?” Her replies were heartfelt, but I knew there was no going back.
“I’m sorry. I’ll see you around.”
We hugged one last time before I quickly walked out the door. She stood dumbfounded by the surprise attack our relationship had just sustained.
I can’t blame her for being confused or angry. I was completely responsible for that pain and bewilderment, but I was okay with that.
When it came down to it, I didn’t think I had what it took to be her guy. I couldn’t see myself with her in the long run. Sure, it would’ve been easy and fun to keep going on dates and getting serious about each other. But something deep inside me simply said, ‘no.’
I had trusted my gut. And now a perfectly nice girl was probably crying in her car, on her way back to tell her roommates how terrible all men are and why they should never date any guys ever again.
I cared about her, too much to let things go any further. I wanted to prevent her from being wounded like I had been wounded in past relationships. If I could stop what undoubtedly would’ve become a full-fledged romance, I could protect her from future disappointment. Because I didn’t have the peace I knew needed to be present for a committed, long-term relationship to work.
A couple months after the dreadful non-break-up break-up, I moved to Oregon and started a new chapter in my life. It was in Oregon that I met the woman who became my wife.
I wish my former pre-ex-girlfriend all the best, and I sincerely hope she’s been able to see I did what I had to do for both our sakes.
I don’t regret breaking up with my pre-ex-girlfriend, because I think it saved the relationships we’d each have in the next stages of our lives.
A real romance deserves peace and stability for both involved, especially if it’s going to sustain any real conflict later on. Call it a gut feeling, or intuition, or God – whatever it is should not be ignored. Internal conflict cannot stay submerged forever. Authentic relationships must not hide inhibitions or keep dark secrets. Those kinds of explosive truths can sink romances in moments.
We’re all better off in the long run if we live up to the truth of who we are in our relationships. I don’t know how it should look or if pain can be averted, but I do know that a life learning to be sincere in relationships can leave a dead romance (or several) in its wake.