#320: Dubious Breakup Methods

A couple of weeks ago I started dating this guy. One evening we were with another couple and he was doing whiskey shots with one of our friends. He seemed sober and I didn’t think anything of it, but he texted me later to apologize, which I thought was classy. That was our fourth time getting together and the first time we were intimate.

We had a date planned for tonight. Last night I was home alone and under the influence of an intoxicant. I told him I wasn’t really up for chatting but I was looking forward to tonight. Half an hour later he called again and dumped me.

I think it was hypocritical of him, and not doing me the courtesy of having a sober and preferably in-person conversation was immature and tacky. He thinks we weren’t serious enough for it to matter. Am I being unreasonable?

Last week, we all agreed that the text-message breakup of a serious long-term (they lived together!) relationship was in poor form. Because it was.

In the early stages of dating, only a couple of weeks in, I can get behind the e-breakup or the phone-breakup.

Rejection sucks. We tell ourselves the lie that it would suck less if the person had just handled it differently. So, I’m sorry that happened to you. It sucks. You absolutely did deserve a real conversation while both parties were sober and I understand why you’re pissed.

But if he’d sat you down in a velvet booth and explained it to you gently while looking deeply into your eyes, you’d still be just as dumped as you are right now. Once the sting of rejection relaxes a bit and you’ve had a chance to move on, maybe take what happened as a gift. He broke up with you in a crappy way that shows that he would have been a crappy partner for you in the long run. Get good and pissed off! It lessens the temptation to pine.

Wanting him to apologize for how he did things is understandable, but engaging with him further to get the apology isn’t going to bring back the good times. It’s just going to keep you engaged with a person who treated you badly.

I’m sorry. It sucks and it wasn’t your fault and you deserved better.

Jedi-buying you a Jedi drink,


31 thoughts on “#320: Dubious Breakup Methods

  1. Being broken up with does suck, and I’m sorry it happened. But it sounds like you’d been on four dates? In which case, I don’t think a phone call is rude. If he knew you were pretty drunk, then yeah, that’s a good reason to wait for another time. But otherwise? As the Captain says, an in-person break up wasn’t going to make you any less broken up, and four or five dates isn’t so long that I would think an in-person break up was necessary to be courteous.

    And honestly, doing this stuff in person can be pretty overrated — depending on the circumstances of your planned date, it might mean that he either had to immediately pull you out of whatever public place you’d arranged to meet in (restaurant, movie theater, etc.) to have the conversation right away, or he would have had to sit through a few hours of date knowing that he was about to break things off. Both are pretty awkward and unlikely to have made you feel better about the whole situation. I’d shake off the manner in which it happened, take a day or two to mourn with your preferred snack food and television show, and then forget all about this dude who turned out not to be your dude.

  2. If he dumped you because you were wasted, then I agree he was a hypocrite since he got wasted when you were together. And I suppose the way he did it was crappy, but you were only dating a few weeks. In this case, I’d advise you to thank him for showing you he’s a bullet best dodged.

    Otherwise, arguing with him that he broke up with you incorrectly is a bit like criticizing someone’s bad form when they throw a tomato at you. You’re distracting yourself with a smaller issue to avoid the bigger one (a breakup or smushed tomato on your clothes).

    1. I’m semi-revising my previous post.

      From what the LW said she told him she wasn’t up for chatting but she was looking forward to their next date. He called her a half hour later (after she told him she wasn’t up for talking on the phone) and broke up with her. That’s really fucking rude. “I’m not up for talking right now,” really does need to be respected. What the fuck? He couldn’t call her the next day? Or even email her? (Sorry, LW, but the “in person” thing after four weeks is a little much IMO).

      But, still. Yes, he did a really rude thing but I am not sure how holding him accountable for it changes anything or helps. Move on.

      1. You have a valid point, which makes me reconsider how I saw things. Which is good.

  3. Hmmm, this is going to suck to hear if you really liked this guy, but just because you slept with him, it doesn’t mean you were in an exclusive relationship. Four dates in, I think he actually handled this correctly – there was no breakup conversation to be had and he wasn’t “dumping” you, because you weren’t in a committed relationship. I think all he owed you was to let you know he’d had a change of heart and decided not to see you again. His reasons and phrasing may stink, but as we’ve discussed before on this site, the only reason you need to stop seeing someone is the fact that you want to stop seeing them.

    If I’d changed my mind about a guy after 4 dates and 1 sex session, honestly I would have broken the news via phone/email/text as well, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. Expecting an in-person conversation for that news is asking too much after such a short time spent together.

  4. You seem to assume he dumped you for being wasted when he called. For purposes of this post, I’ll assume you’re right.

    Maybe he is a hypocrite.

    Maybe he worries about his own relationship with alcohol (hence his text of apology after the shot-doing night) and your condition that night made him think this was not a relationship he should pursue.

    Maybe he differentiates between drinking when out with friends on a weekend (which, remember, he still was chagrined enough about to text you an apology for) and getting intoxicated enough when home alone midweek,* for your condition to be a factor on the phone call. (Like if you sounded slurry/out of it, and as if your intoxication was the reason you weren’t in the mood to talk to him?)(You do seem to imply that it was conspicuous enough that he would have been aware of it, when you say he should have deferred the breakup because he knew were in no condition to hear it).

    Especially if he’s had family members or relationship partners where alcohol/substance abuse has caused problems, he might legitimately be cautious about getting involved with someone whose substance use is beyond social, or just plain find it a turn-off.

    I drink. I definitely have done shots in bars with friends when I was younger. But even if I was still that younger more partying me, I still think a guy being home alone, midweek,* and being too wasted to bother talking to me would have been a “hunh.” And if the relationship was in its early days as yours was, “hunh” might well have become “nah.” And I don’t think I’d have felt like the guy being wasted was a reason to defer telling him I didn’t want to go out with him the next night, after all (especially if we would have been meeting right after work and if I didn’t call right then there was a risk we would fail to connect in time and I’d wind up standing him up).

    In other words, it is possible your relationship with intoxicants DID cost you this potential relationship with someone you liked. If so, it may not be a reason to think he’s a jerk as much as a reason to re-evaluate your relationship with intoxicants. It may be perfectly fine and non-abusive — I’m not there, all I know is what you’ve written — or it may be something you should work on, lest it cost you more in the future.

    * (yes, I do know not everyone works M-F jobs, so midweek may have no meaning for the LW).

    1. I love your posts, alphakitty, and I like the suggestion that the dude has his own reasons for doing what he did, but this amount of advising the LW to second-guess her own behavior is straight out of Dear Prudence. It’s so judgmental of the LW’s having had something to drink “midweek.” Who knows when the hell her weekend starts? When I waited tables in college, my weekends were Mondays. I know you said that in your *PS, but seriously?

      Did the LW say “I can’t talk now, BECAUSE I GOT WASTED ALONE IN MY ROOM LIKE I DO SOMETIMES?” or “Hey, I don’t feel like chatting now, let’s catch up tomorrow?” Because you get to say you don’t feel like talking to someone, even someone you’re interested in dating, whenever you want to, for whatever reason.

      LW, please, go back to thinking the dude is a jerk. There’s no need to second guess all your behavior and wonder what’s wrong with you that SOME DUDE YOU SAW 4 TIMES isn’t that into you. If the guy is using your perceived incipient alcoholism as a reason to not date you, that’s one more reason to cross him off your list.

      Also, I advise borrowing from Bitches Gotta Eat here: Delete his number from your phone, so when he inevitably tries to booty-call you 3 weeks from now you can legitimately go “Who’s this?”

      1. Sometimes good, well-meaning and even generally like-minded people do disagree. I really, really didn’t mean to be judgmental — the P.S. wasn’t meant as a throw-away, and it wasn’t about “something to drink,” but that *she* thought it her intoxication was conspicuous enough it entitled her to special consideration that raised the issue. Certainly, we agree that she can say she doesn’t feel like talking for any reason or no reason.

      2. For the record, I absolutely share your loathing of the attitude (exemplified by Prudence) that if you were drunk you forfeited the right to expect basic courtesy and human decency and in fact were practically asking to be raped and then gaslighted about whether it even was rape.

        As long as you’re not driving or using your drunkenness as an excuse for your own crappy behavior, I have no problem with anyone getting drunk, including midweek (whenever that may fall).

        I just didn’t think having been drunk meant the guy lost the right to any opinion on the LWs drunkenness without being called hypocrite, either, and thought the LW seemed to need reassurance that her (?) intoxication could not have been a legitimate concern a little too much. When folks are hypersensitive to any criticism of their substance use, it often means they’re afraid it’s a problem… And that it may well be.

        1. Sorry to say you were like Prudence, and I’m glad you guys are there to pick up on stuff I’m not seeing.

          1. And maybe I could’ve said it better up front. Sometimes one gets it right right from the gate. Sometimes it takes a couple of tries.

    2. The thing about people who are hyper-sensitive about intoxicants… is that they’re hyper-sensitive. If, possibly, the LW’s imbibing scared this guy off, that doesn’t necessarily mean LW was overdoing it. It could just be like someone who really loves their PB&J getting dumped by someone with a peanut allergy.

      In which case, dude is still a bit of a jerk, and may the LW have much joy… in future relationships with other people. It doesn’t make anything better. But for me, when people pull that kind of “I’m not going to tell you WHY I’m treating you like a jerk”, I worry at it like a terrier over a bone. What if it was me? What if their hobby is wearing a unitard and beating up implausible criminals, and they needed to throw a supervillain off my scent lest I wind up in somebody’s refrigerator? I MUST KNOW. So having a plausible “why” story to tell myself helps me let it go.

      (Like, I can decide “I am really not up to being a superhero’s girlfriend. All downsides, like, bad hours and I might start wearing bathing suits to formal events and speaking in really bad dialogue. I am better off without this person.”)

  5. They went on four dates? This really requires an in person conversation? Nonsense. He’s done nothing wrong.

    1. I kind of have to agree with this. It sucks that he dumped her, and it’s completely understandable that she’s upset, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he did something wrong. Ending things by phone after four dates doesn’t seem unreasonable to me.

  6. This is a minor detail, but…what’s up with him apologizing for having been drunk? It just seems weird that he felt the need to apologize when his actual behavior wasn’t problematic (unless it was, and the LW left that out). Am I missing something?

    1. I will sometimes preemptively (or is it retrospectively?) apologise after being drunk when I am not sure if I behaved appropriately or not. I handle my booze fine, but If I wake up with ANY haziness in my memory at all I am prone to get a little anxiety about it and will probably shoot around a “hay guise, fun night! Pretty sure I recall yelling fervently about the Patriarchy at some stage, not sure why – sorry bout that! See y’all next week” email just to make myself feel better.

      For me it is a lack-of-confidence thing, not a I-regularly-behave-badly-when-drunk-and-always-need-to-apologise thing.

      (I almost always follow-up-email after having shots of any kind. How did I get home? Where are my pants? Why is there gangster rap still playing at full volume on the stereo? How did my shoe get up there into the light fitting? Oh god, I should email everybody…)

  7. You make reference to being under the influence of an “intoxicant” but you don’t identify what it was or how intoxicated you were. Were you sloppy drunk or had you just smoked a joint or done some meth, oxycontin or heroin ?

    A guy who apologized for doing some whiskey shots when you were out with friends, could be a guy who is a very occasional drinker who is really uncomfortable when social drinking crosses the line into drunkenness, and is also really not okay with drug use. Alphakitty made some good points in her reply. It may be that using/drinking while alone is a deal breaker for him — and/or it may be a trigger for previous negative relationships with girlfriends, family members, etc.

    It does sound like there was a sudden turn around in whatever seemed to be going on in the situation between you two. I don’t think a phone call is the most tactful way to break up with someone, but after only four dates I don’t think that this was really inconsiderate or inappropriate. Disappointing, sad and confusing, however.

    1. I thought this too. The way the LW described herself as intoxicated but did not specify alcohol made me go, ‘Hmm, I wonder…’ I have no moral standpoint on drug use, but I do have a lot of painful experience of how involvement with drugs can complicate an otherwise great relationship, so I would sympathise with that being a dealbreaker for someone. The seemingly redundant mention of the whiskey incident also makes me wonder if the LW is thinking, ‘I was okay with him doing whiskey shots so he should be okay with me doing [relevant drug] and he is a hypocritical douche for not agreeing’. If so, well, it really doesn’t work like that. He gets to be not okay with whatever he’s not okay with.

      These are pretty much tangents, however. His reasons are his reasons and it doesn’t have to mean that either a) he’s an asshole or b) the LW deserved it. I get the impression the LW is trying to make it A so she can feel sure it’s not B, maybe? But most likely neither is true. It just means he’s decided they’re not compatible, which sucks hard, and I’m sorry. But there’s nothing you can do about it. Go on more dates. Have fun. Forget the guy who already wasn’t right for you after just four dates. The compatible people are out there, go hunt them down!

    2. I picked up on that wording there, too.

      LW, I don’t know what specifically you were partaking of at the time, and it isn’t my business anyway, but people are allowed to have their deal breakers regarding substances. Anything stronger than cannabis is a hard line for my mum, while other people may draw the line at her cigarette chain-smoking. If you were under the influence of an intoxicant that your date didn’t feel comfortable with, he is allowed to think about that and decide whether or not he is interested in a relationship with a person who indulges in that particular drug.

      What he partakes in, and how much, is irrelevant in that regard. Now, if you disliked alcohol and didn’t want to be around someone who drank, it would be relevant. But only insofar as you would have been within your right to break up with him if you felt that way. He still gets to have his boundaries, too.

      Of course, it’s possible the break-up had nothing at all to do with your intoxication.

      Getting dumped by phone sucks, but this was a very early-stages relationship, and that is exactly the sort of time when break-ups are expected to be relatively easy.

  8. Did dude text you later to apologize after having sex for the first time? That’s….vaguely troubling?

  9. I’m going to echo what everyone else has said:

    1. No, breaking up by phone that early is not a problem. Four dates is not enough to require an in-person breakup.

    2. Probably, because he apologized for not drinking very much, what he thinks is “drinking a lot” is much less than what you think is “drinking a lot”. So yeah, he probably did dump you for being “intoxicated” (euphemism for drunk? or something else?). This doesn’t mean necessarily that you DO drink too much in any sort of objective sense but just that you drink more than he feels comfortable with.

  10. Maybe he was going to break up with you the first time he called, and after thinking about what you said about looking forward to the following night, he realized that he should do it sooner rather than later as he wasn’t feeling it as much as you seemed to be. Maybe he thought that doing it at the date considering how much you were looking forward to it might make things worse than if he just did it sooner.

    It doesn’t matter though. It was four dates. Do what you need to do to get over it, and hopefully you’ll find someone else to go on some dates with!

    1. This was my read as well – that maybe his breaking things off with you had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that you were intoxicated when he first called, LW. Maybe he was going to do it the first time, initially decided not to bring it up because you said you didn’t want to chat, and then thought about it longer and decided (right or wrong?) to call you back and cancel the date rather than break things off during the date (for reasons others in the Awkward Army have spelled out pretty well).

      (Though the fact that he was *doing whiskey shots* that he thought he needed to apologize for and the LW thought didn’t even make him not *sober* does make me think there might be some very different relationships to intoxication here. May just be incompatible.)

      Best of luck moving on to awesomer, more compatible people, LW!

    2. This was exactly what I thought too. I agree with the Captain that it doesn’t pay to second guess his motives, and making up the details of what was going through his head is largely fruitless, but…I read it more as he was caught offguard with you being so upfront with “can’t talk now ,catchya tonight!” but then thought better of it and called back to say what he intended the first time.

  11. LW, I’m sorry that happened. It sucks to feel rejected. I also think you’re all picking a fight with the medium because you didn’t like the message though. I don’t think you’d be any less upset if he’d waited until the date to tell you, though.

    If I had already decided I wanted to stop seeing someone, and we had only seen each other a few times, I would probably feel like doing it sooner over the phone, rather than waiting for the date, would be the best thing. I mean, I can’t imagine how to dump someone during a date. You get to the restaurant/event/whatever and then you have a choice. Do you tell them right away, and then maybe you both leave and the trip was a big waste of time for everyone? Or do you wait until after dinner/the show/whatever and then tell them, which is super awkward for the dumper the whole time, plus makes the dumpee feel like they were being misled. Or do you kind of do it in the middle and then… what? Leave half your meal uneaten? Stick around and chat about how you just dumped them? I don’t see this working.

    I feel like a phone call dumping is the kindest option. Then you’re not wasting their time, they are at home so they can have their emotional response in private, and no one is being misled or having their time wasted on the now-cancelled date night.

    1. I agree with all of this, and at this stage, I would much rather be dumped by phone than go through a whole date first while the other person was just thinking about dumping me the whole time. Also, I probably don’t have much to say to someone in this situation whether I’m the dumper or the dumpee — early in dating, it’s not like there is anything to discuss for hours while both people cry, etc.

      1. Yeah, having once agreed to have a sober, deep conversation with someone I’d gone on three dates with, a really nice guy but we were incompatible – its better to do it by phone at that stage. I had nothing really to say but “I don’t think we should see each other again, We dont have anything in common” and the guy saying butttt whhhyyyyy and give me a channnccee and it was really not a good scene.

        At that stage, there isnt anything really to discuss. A few dates, one of you isn’t feeling it, it’s sad, but move on.

        Trying to analyse it is pointless. Maybe the unnamed intoxicant put him off. Maybe it didn’t. Doesn’t matter.

  12. I should have clarified, he was driving when he was doing the whiskey shots, which our friends had snuck into a coffeehouse, and I had to argue with him to get him to stop at a hookah bar and sober up a bit, I was home alone when I was smoking. That’s why I felt he was being hypocritical. I must have left that out of my email, and that sucks cuz it was a big point in why I was so angry and upset.

    Didn’t notice this had been posted, haven’t been online as much. But I just wanted a conversation for closure.

    As for my work schedule, I’m on SSDI and unless I have an appointment the next day I can do what I want with my evenings – 90% of the time, it’s websurfing and chatting with my online pals.

    1. That does explain a lot! Apologies for reading in between the lines things that were not really there — one of the challenges of advice columns is that one has so little to work with that one winds up filling in gaps based on one’s own experiences.

      1. And it seems I left out things I’d thought I’d put in, that was pretty central info. My fault for writing in haste! And he’s a Rennie and was pitching woo pretty hard, and talking plans months out, and it gave the impression that he had some level of Intentions.

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