#698: Semi-annual reminder that asking a person why they dumped you bears the risk that they might tell you.

Dear Captain Awkward,

Your blog has helped me get to a better place- I’ve had 3 years of therapy (long story short, angry father, clinically depressed mother, childhood sexual abuse and I also happen to be a trans dude). I’m finally where I want to be and with that comes the self esteem I’m slowly trying to develop. Relationships are difficult because while I know there are people out there for me, I sure as hell feel like a niche market.

I recently started a relationship with a guy I met through friends, but due to distance chatted mainly online. We had so much in common and I could talk to him about sex stuff that I’ve never told anyone, constantly chatting into the small hours in the morning. I’d already met him in person so I thought it would be fine, we’d tried sexy stuff and it went okay, all was good. It felt like a dream and that I’d finally found the one after several years of awkward relationships.

I went to his house recently and while I knew he was messier than me, it was particularly bad. I’d been ignoring it because I had no plans to move in with him, but then I remembered a Captain Awkward which said ‘DO NOT BE AFRAID TO BACK AWAY FROM THE HOARD‘. From that moment onwards the visit was a series of red flags, mostly indicating that despite being much older than me he was a massive man child, constantly in and out of an overdraft yet still buying shit online, clutter everywhere, nothing his fault, etc.

I made the most of the weekend, had a fun time because he is a nice guy, but I think I knew that despite our compatibility online, some things about him in person I wasn’t willing to live with. I talked with friends and they all agreed I should break things off which I did last night. I tried to do it as nicely as I could (avoiding telling him it’s because he lives in squalor, saying it just wasn’t working for me and stonewalling any of his but whhhhyyys).

Now it’s the morning and he’s messaged me asking for clearer reasons, asking if it’s something about my past that I need ‘working through’, all reasonable questions and ones I’d be asking if I were him. From his point of view I can see that it looks like I’ve done a 180 and I understand why he’s confused.

I know I did the right thing ending it, but did I do this the right way? How much honesty is too much- should I try to preserve his feelings or give some actual reasons?

Sincerely, It-isn’t-me-it’s-you.

Dear It Isn’t Me:

I’m so sorry, it’s so hard to like someone so much but realize you are incompatible in some fundamental way. If his place grosses you out I think you’re smart to take care of yourself around this and to end it before you’re more attached.

You absolutely don’t have to answer this guy’s request, if it makes you uncomfortable to do so, but fact that he’s trying to make this about your past or imply that your insecurities or issues are derailing this relationship somehow is rankling me on your behalf. So here is a script for answering him: “I didn’t give you a specific reason because I didn’t want to hurt your feelings even more, but since you ask, I’ll be frank: The dirty conditions in your living space are a dealbreaker for me, so I decided to end things before we got more serious.”

Past tense – you decided. He won’t like hearing this, but I don’t think you are being mean if you give it to him straight. hope you find someone great who is right for you. 





185 thoughts on “#698: Semi-annual reminder that asking a person why they dumped you bears the risk that they might tell you.

  1. You’d think he would have cleaned up, knowing you were coming over. This is a perfect example of how important the “little” things are.

    1. If it’s a hoarding situation, that’s not exactly something one can tidy up in an hour before someone comes over.

      1. I’ve seen awful, awful domestic messes that weren’t hoarding situations. I don’t think the letter made it totally clear which it was…but either is a totally valid dealbreaker.

        1. I once went with a friend to visit someone they knew, and while it did not appear to be a hoarding situation (there was plenty of room to move around, set things down, etc) it was a situation that had not seen a duster or a vacuum in about a decade. It also featured empty pizza boxes that had been left unmolested for so long they had their own thick coatings of dust and cat hair.

          We did not stay long due to neither of us being comfortable touching, sitting on, or setting anything belonging to us on any surface because we did not want to disturb the Dust And Cathair Layer or transfer it to us/our belongings.

        2. Yeah, anything that bothers the LW enough to be a dealbreaker is a totally valid dealbreaker :).

    2. Some people just don’t see that as a necessary thing, even if it’s an option. Those people are also generally not thoughtful or considerate people in other dimensions.

      I once went home with a guy, on a prearranged date, where we had mediocre sex on his sweaty, rumpled sheets; there were dirty dishes on the living room coffee table, etc. Afterwards he said, “I’m glad you don’t smoke. The last girl I had over left her lipsticked butts in the ashtray and my girlfriend got pissed.”

      “Once” is an important part of that first sentence. Ran, did not look back.

      1. “Some people just don’t see that as a necessary thing, even if it’s an option. Those people are also generally not thoughtful or considerate people in other dimensions.”

        Very much this. In fact, I would argue that the way people present their home to you initially is an indicator of how the relationship will look going forward. Case in point, the first time the last guy I went out with took me back to his place, I noticed how clean and nice his apartment was. I also noticed how he failed to do absolutely anything to make me feel welcome (offer me a drink, move his laptop so I could join him on the couch), apart from not objecting to my presence. At the time I tried to ignore it and tell myself I was expecting too much, but very quickly our relationship took on the very clear pattern of him being perfectly nice and clearly liking my presence in his life in some way, but never once even trying to consider my needs apart from how they impacted his, or make me feel welcome beyond not throwing me out. I ended up ending it for what I hope are obvious reasons, but I could have avoided the whole depressing thing if I had just listened to my gut that first day.

        1. Strangely, I had that once when I was checking out a place to rent a room in. While I was there, the people there made coffee for themselves, and nobody offered me a cup. It was at that moment that I knew to get the fuck out, it was never going to work.

        2. “never once even trying to consider my needs apart from how they impacted his, or make me feel welcome”

          My last relationship failed for the same reason, though he wasn’t quite as stark about it as your bloke. He did at least offer me a drink. 🙂 But it never occurred to him to buy some coffee for my breakfast (though he knew I need my morning coffee), or king-size blankets (though I’d told him he was a blanket hog), or just one small heater so I wasn’t chilled to the bone on winter nights (his tolerance of cold is an order of magnitude greater than mine, and his apartment must have been close to freezing some nights). Meanwhile I’d spent months doing everything I could think of to make his visits to my place enjoyable, even unto trekking across town every week to buy the yogurt that he liked and ate half the tub of at one go. There were other problems with our relationship but at the time that refusal to consider me and my wants/needs really rankled.

          Ah well. He’s with another woman now. Somehow I doubt yogurt plays any part in that relationship.

      2. @Rose Fox Your comment “those people are also generally not thoughtful or considerate people in other dimensions” is something that I as a messy person have to disagree with vehemently.

        I really hate it when people make habits of cleanliness a moral issue or even one of maturity in relationships–and now, as I see Rose Fox doing above, arguing that the “immorality” shown in their messiness transfers to all of their human relations. Habits of cleanliness are decidedly NOT about morality or “niceness” to other people. A person who doesn’t wash her dishes for a week after using them even if people are coming over is not morally corrupt or inhuman or immature in comparison to a person who washes her dishes immediately after using them. I wish people would stop acting like it is so. It is very hurtful to people like me (a “messy” person who is still NICE to others–sheesh I can’t believe I am arguing this).

        It is an issue of INCOMPATIBILITY. The LW doesn’t like the state of his place. Done. I don’t know the rest of his situation, but just because his place is messy does not make him immature or a man-child. My dad is 70 and his place is dirty and messy. My mom is 55 and so is hers. Mine (I’m 23) is really chronically messy. Granted, we don’t invite people over because we know about the shaming put on people who struggle with tidying and cleaning things up and would rather avoid that ordeal, but if we did we realize we would be unfairly lambasted as inconsiderate. But our messiness is not an attack on the people visiting our places.

        My messiness is a place of deep psychological ambivalence. Sometimes I feel ashamed and I think I need to really fucking change. Sometimes I feel indignant about the way messy people are shamed and I think people need to learn that levels of cleanliness are a matter of personal preference and may even reflect an internal state of chaos, rather than a lack of consideration for others. I didn’t grow up in a clean home. Sometimes I was ashamed and embarrassed. But now I am angry at how people treat “messy” people with such anger, judgment, self-righteousness, and disrespect. We deserve respect, understanding, and empathy as much as “clean” or “cleaner” people do.

        There are many reasons why a person might be messy, without a person being “messy AT” someone. I think clean/er people think that messiness is some kind of personal attack against them, or a demonstration of being a generally inconsiderate person, when in reality messiness is a personal preference/habit/issue/choice/problem/comfort.

        The LW does not want to be with this man because of some reactions he had to the state of his apartment and bank account. This is fine–the LW is allowed that choice to leave him. The state of his apartment is unattractive to the LW. They are incompatible. But to argue that he could be an inconsiderate person in other ways based only on his tidiness/cleanliness or lack thereof is extremely hurtful and unfair.

        LW, you did fine. I hope you get to a place where you feel less doubt about your decision.

        1. +1

          The impression I got from the letter was that the untidiness was just the first of many red flags pointing to this guy being inconsiderate, but I really wish people wouldn’t turn that around into, “Aha, yes! Untidiness is definitely symbolic of a selfish terrible person!” I mean, come on, we know better about how ableist that is. The kneejerk references to hoarding (as if all messiness is hoarding; as if hoarding is as simple and superficial a phenomenon as not always tidying up after yourself) is also simplistic and dismissive.

          Of course LW is justified in not going out with whoever she doesn’t want to go out with for whatever reason (and this guy’s “are you sure this isn’t about your issues?” come back was so effing sketchy), but can we not go *here* with this conversation?

          1. @ deyne

            Thank you, I completely misremembered the letter and thought I remembered the LW gendering himself differently. (I am also trans and know the pain of misgendering, accidental or otherwise, so I appreciate being called out on it.)

          2. Yes, it was more than messiness – LW said that was the first red flag. LW also mentioned “massive man child, constantly in and out of an overdraft yet still buying shit online, clutter everywhere, nothing his fault, etc.”

          1. Yeah, a nice example of non-apology. “I am sorry you are so sensitive that you got your feelings hurt.” Seriously. I am also on the messier side, and I want to change it because… actually it doesnt matter why, it is noones business. Other people of course get to decide whether they put up with my messy, chaotic and disogranized ways, but they dont get to judge me as a whole person based on this. I found it really offensive that in your comment, you linked the messines of that guy with him cheating on his gf and lying to you and other yucky stuff. Just… eff that, seriously.

        2. I agree. Im naturally messy and have more stuff than I have room for, without enough time or health to do the necessary sorting out. I suspect hubby was a bit shocked by the state of my flat when we met, so mostly we stayed at his when we were together, and I went home alone every other night.

          So when we bought a house, we went for space rather than immaculate standard of decor. It means we each have our own studies. When our stuff impinges too far on the communalspace, personal items get dumped in our respective spaces. This system has worked for 13 years so far.

          I say this, to say that some people can be messy, and it can be workable.

          But it’s also fine for the LW to be put off by it, too!

          Im slightly concerned that, on being told why LW broke things off, the ex will insist they can change, so Id reiterate the Captain’s advice to make everything very clearly past tense. But that’s a different issue.

          1. Yes! I was just thinking this conversation reminded me of one not too far back, but couldn’t put my finger on it.

        3. I understand the LW, because it would be a deal breaker for me, but let me tell you something equally shitty: my aunt keeps her house SUPER clean and tidy, so much so she wont let you have a cookie, put a bootle on the table OR LAY A FORK IN THE TABLECLOTH. She’s the cleanest person I know, but I feel so unwelcome and uncomfortable when I visit, that I avoid it. Last time I did it was two years ago.
          I think it’s a matter of being clean enough so that you won’t fear you’ll catch something, and also flexible enough that you can feel welcome and at home and not like you’re runining somebody’s precious stuff.

        4. Some of the kindest, most patient, and most generous people I’ve ever known have lived in homes that looked like the ‘after’ footage on a tornado news report.

          Now, some people couldn’t bear to live with someone whose home looks like that, which is a perfectly sensible thing to realise about yourself. But it’s a bit of a leap of logic from messy to not a kind or thoughtful person…

          1. Thank you for this so much.

            I’ve recently been diagnosed with ADHD, and part of this is that I will literally not see or will tune out messes. Sometimes I mean to clean something up or put it away, but I get distracted or forget. I try to be better about it when I’m visiting someone, and rarely have people over to avoid the “eeesh” comments I often get.

            That doesn’t make me an inconsiderate person. It makes me a terrible roommate for anyone who doesn’t want to have to regularly remind another adult about cleaning schedules and what areas need the most attention.

            Sometimes inconsiderate, irresponsible people are messy (as seems to be the case for the LW), but the traits are not inherently mutually inclusive.

            More on topic, the LW absolutely did the right thing for himself and since the dumped guy won’t let the issue go, I think he’s definitely ok to say that the state of the apartment/finances/general atmosphere is not the kind that LW wants for a relationship and so he decided to move on.

          2. Aurora this is so me. I’ll be like “Okay, gonna do this thing, put clothes in hamper, and then go.” And I forget to do the thing, and the clothes hamper thing. I just forget, it’s not that I don’t WANT to do these things, but I’m like on my way to do them and I get distracted.

            Messiness is a thing that some people can’t live with and I get that.

            But it does NOT necessarily come along with being irresponsible and a person who doesn’t take responsibility for things. I handle all of the business of my home, and manage a department at work. I just often forget to do things like put my soda can in the garbage right away.

        5. I completely agree, and I’m glad you said something. I struggle to be neat, and usually fail. It’s not even that I don’t care – I want to be neater! – it’s just that it’s something I really struggle with. (I also have AD/HD, and that’s not irrelevant in my struggling to be neat, though obviously that’s not universal.) I do make an effort to clean up when I’m having people over, but I find it incredibly frustrating when I get treated like a morally defunct person for not being neat, especially since I actually try to be very considerate and thoughtful of others.

          It’s totally, 100% okay for the LW to feel like this is a dealbreaker – it’s just not a dealbreaker for moral reasons any more than “you’re really into clubbing and bars, but I’m more of a homebody” is a dealbreaker for moral reasons. They’re just different styles.

        6. Everything about this post is pure gold. Please take all my invisible upvotes. All of them.

          I do not feel the need to clean up the papers strewn around my coffee table when people come over. They know me. They know that being tidy is not a priority to me, but I sure as hell am not an inconsiderate asshole to them.

          Messiness in your own home is YOUR responsibility. Yes, your friends can say “can we hang out elsewhere,” but they have no right to judge you based on your own fucking house. If you go to their place and just trash up all the area? Yeah that’s poor. Clean your shit up at other people’s house. But at your house, it’s YOUR HOUSE, and if people come to YOUR HOUSE, they agree to play by YOUR RULES, and your rules can include not having to wash dishes immediately after use.

          We are not messy *at* anyone. And unless the place is covered in mold and filth, we are not immature children. So in reply to someone putting forth the idea that somehow cleanliness is a moral mandate, I will say that anyone who thinks this is being a judgmental asshole and my cleanliness in my own home is none of their damn business.

      3. “The last girl I had over left her lipsticked butts in the ashtray and my girlfriend got pissed.”

        …WTF would you say that??

        1. As far as I can tell, in that particular case, the answer is “Because this guy was a self-centered jerk who wanted to see how far he could push and still get me to come back for another round”.

        2. The mind boggles. Personally, I like it when people are that upfront about how awful they are. Saves time.

        3. To test whether the latest casual hook-up is okay not only with him having a girlfriend, but with being kept hidden? If the issue was actually stained butts in the ashtray, the solution is to just empty the ashtray after said guest leaves. (The guy probably thought he was being clever by not asking Angel whether she was okay being kept a secret and ignored if they happened to run into each other at the farmers’ market.)

      4. Wow. Messy people are not thoughtful? That’s kind of brutal.

        I don’t want to turn this on a referendum on messiness (and I could, I had that post all typed out), but I think this idea doesn’t serve the OP very well. It’s not judging him as a bad person to realize that he’s not a good partner for you, and equating the two keeps people in subpar relationships way too often.

        There are plenty of things about being in someone’s presence that can make them a bad fit for a relationship, even if you’re compatible intellectually and conversationally. “I like you a lot, but I’m just not feeling it” is a perfectly reasonable explanation for a breakup.

      5. I don’t think it’s necessarily the case that messy people are not thoughtful or considerate, but I do think that someone not feeling the need to tidy up when they’re having guests, especially guests one would generally want to impress (people you have just begun to date, members of your SO’s family, people you work with, whatever) says something about how they’re calibrated socially and/or their feelings about cleanliness/tidiness.

        That thing might be “No actually this IS clean for me,” or “I am unconcerned about this mess and do not realize it is offputting to other people,” or “I don’t care what you think about this mess (or anything else) anyway” (which is the one where you get all the non-thoughtful, inconsiderate people), but it does generally mean that they are probably not going to clean that shit up, so if your reaction to the mess is “holy shit please hand me a mask and direct me to the exit” you are probably going to have a bad time.

        1. There’s also, “I care about your feelings and if this is a dealbreaker we can totally not date or we can hang out somewhere that isn’t my apartment, but I am a messy person and if that bothers you it’s on you to not come over to my house again.” I’d like to be cleaner for my own purposes, and I’ve been doing much better lately, but so long as the mess isn’t actively hazardous, it’s not worth it to me to clean up just because someone else is going to judge me for it.

        2. And there’s also “I am paying you the respect of being honest with you about my life and the environment where I live it” and “I was more focused on being happy and ready to see you than I was on anxiety-and-shame-cleaning my house [possibly because I have trouble focus-shifting and get grumpy and distressed if interrupted in the middle of a task]”. There many things that not-tidying-up could potentially be saying. (Though I agree that what you see is generally what you get, a.k.a. not going to clean that shit up.)

      6. I’m not sure I would consider a messy apartment a sign of deliberate disrespect. People have lots of different definitions of clean, and what I consider a bit of untidiness other people would call a pigsty. We’re allowed to have dealbreakers in relationships, and incompatible standards of organization are of course valid, but I, for example, don’t feel the need to exert myself cleaning up before friends come over, aside from perhaps taking care of dirty dishes.

        Clearly this guy was just inconsiderate, but there are lots of reasons why people might find organizing difficult or not worth the time, that have nothing to do with their kindness or regard for others.

      7. I’m with moseyonby. Jumping from messy to not thoughtful is really a big jump. I’m sorry that guy was an asshole but it wasn’t because he had a dirty house.

    3. Maybe it didn’t even occur to him, because he doesn’t see any problem with the mess? Alternatively, maybe he does realise he’s messy but doesn’t see the point of making big changes in his life to impress a new partner?

      Don’t we often say that it’s better to be yourself, so you can find other people who are happy with that? If the LW is bothered enough by the house and finances to break off their relationship, than maybe better to know that earlier rather than later?

      1. One danger is the possibility that he doesn’t see the point in making big changes in his life because the whole point of getting a partner is getting somebody to clean up after him.

        1. It’s possible, I guess, but there’s nothing specific here that would make me assume that.

          A lot of people would really hate having someone ‘clean up’ their clutter. Not everyone enjoys living in a very neat space – it can feel cold and impersonal, like living in a hotel, or it can mess up their own preferred way of organizing their stuff. Others don’t really care one way or another, or do a bit but can compromise on a middle ground, or can agree to work to keep things neater if it’s important to someone else.

          But it doesn’t seem like that great an idea to put on a huge act to pretend to be totally different than you are just to impress someone. I mean it’s one thing if it’s something you were planning to do anyway and an impending date gives you that extra impetus, but if you’re perfectly happy with how your house is organized and have no plan to change it, then it seems similar to other ways of hiding your true self in hopes of attracting someone who likes the imaginary you better than the real you.

        2. I was thinking this- it’s not relevant to OP’s experiences because this is two men dating. But in hetero relationships, there’s personal preference + social norms and gendered attitudes about housekeeping. That mess is just… it’s a lot to deal with. The shitty thing with that is, for whatever reason, it’s pretty usual for a woman to be both socialized and personally inclined to care about clean more. If they are with partnered up with (and living with) a man who is both socialized and personally inclined to care less about clean, it can end up where the woman is both feeling unhappy, feeling judged, and feeling unsupported by her partner in dealing with household issues.

          So, to me, that frustration is… I dunno. I wouldn’t say it’s immaturity or inconsiderateness or morality. However, it is also more than personal preferences being different. I don’t think any person *has* to keep things to a particular standard of clean. But I think it’s a useful life skill (not a mandatory one, but useful) to know *how* to. Like balancing a bank account and filing your own taxes, if you’re capable of knowing how, it’s a good thing to learn, even if you don’t do it routinely.

          In the end, if on first date at that person’s house you find they aren’t into clean space like you are, you aren’t just faced with personal compatibility. You’re also faced with wondering if you want to go exploring what are, in fact, a whole lot of complicated factors.They SHOULD be just about two people figuring out if they like each other and are a good fit, but they’re not.

          This is why I generally act on the principle that the cleaner person in a house will end up doing the majority of the cleaning work, because people don’t change. But I also generally believe that if a clean and a less clean person live together, there’s a basic standard of clean that it’s okay to expect, and to expect everyone who is capable will just maintain because it’s what you do, because living in groups is hard.

          It’s super not fun when personal- really intimate, really personal- things like how clean do you keep your space are so baldly linked to dealing with patriarchy. But there you have it. In the kind of scenario I am thinking of, they are.

          The above should be read with #notallmen #notallwomen #I’veKnownWomenWhoAreQuiteMessyToo #YMMV and the expectation of reasonable accommodation for disabilities of all applicable kinds. My sympathy goes out for people who AD/HD who want to be A Clean Person but just. cannot. do. it. I have AD/HD and had to put together a system that I could follow to keep my house clean like I like it to be. And I have to be *consistent* which is the really hard part. It’s not as much fun as other things could be, for sure, and I don’t fault folks for stuff like that. Well, I guess I don’t really “fault” them for just being inclined to personal messiness because whatever, life’s too short for that.

          But I get the frustration. I really do.

          Also everyone is welcome to put their forks on my tablecloths and leave their soda cans on the coffee table.

    4. Some people’s idea of clean & tidy is totally incompatible with other people’s idea of clean & tidy. There isn’t one Right Way to organise your living space, but if LW and this person have totally incompatible ideas on this front then that is often a huge dealbreaker in a relationship

      I’m an untidy kitten, I couldn’t stand to live with someone who is super-neat and no doubt they couldn’t stand to live with me either.

      1. Yes. I’m somewhere in the middle, and while I do find extreme mess stressful, I also don’t like longer visits with really super-neat people. An afternoon in a pristine environment is nice, but a week would drive me nuts.

    5. You’d think, right?

      I had to deal with something like that. Only in my case I was staying with a friend, who lived in this tiny one bedroom apartment. She had way too much stuff for it, and it was so dirty… I actually kept my shoes on the entire time I was in her house because the floors were sticky/slimy and absolutely disgusting. I would only take them off when I was about to go to bed.

      At some point we picked up some greek food that we brought back to her place and ate. I didn’t finish my entire container, but her fridge was overly full, so we just left the containers out. I thought she’d eventually take them to a trash can outside… nope. I spent another 5 days with her beyond that day, and the containers remained in the living room, with all the other stuff… the apartment smelled very strongly of garlic.

      It was so bad. And I was wondering how she thought it was acceptable to have me stay with her (for 10 days!) when her place was so dirty! I would have been embarrassed to host a friend over if my place was that dirty.

  2. Oy, this hit home. I’ recently reeling from dating angst: date went really well, we went back to his and hooked up a bit (which I NEVER do, and he tells me he hasn’t hooked up with anyone in over a year), I try to get ahold of him to clear up how weird I feel about the first-date hookup, he tells me a day that’s good to call him, I do, he doesn’t pick up his phone, hasn’t responded to the message I sent him online explaining things either (it’s been a week and a half). (he was weirdly spotty about online messages before we met up, too– said he’s “on and off” okc)

    Sorry if this doesn’t help you OP (I agree with the Captain for what it’s worth), but I just had to share because I’m sad. 😥

    1. I’m sorry, Vivienne, that sucks. I’m slowly starting to send and reply to okc messages, over a year after I got dumped, and I know something like this is going to happen to me and I will take it to heart and be sad. But I’ll try to remember this and remind myself that I’m not alone. So your story might not help the op, but it has helped me feel less scared about dating, so, thank you. And I’m sorry you’re dealing with this.

    2. That sucks, and I’m sorry, but it sounds like he’s blowing you off so obviously he’s not worth your time. Boo for feeling bad about it, but it’s always nice when people let you know they’re a jerkasaur.

  3. Yeah, that sucks, LW! I’d like to add my voice to the chorus of You Did Right. Living spaces, even ones you’re not planning on sharing, are important. And it sounds like even if he was the neatest of pleasantly neat people, there were enough other problems to let you go “Yeah, not closing my eyes and ignoring the feel of the carpets under my shoes for this one.”

    It sounds like you’ve already tried all the polite deflections like “In person we have some fundamental differences that would get in the way of a relationship, so I’d prefer to just break it off and be friends when we’ve had some time to adjust.” Him turning around and making this about you and your past is also a red flag, so you don’t have to be the polite one any more. And who knows? Maybe having a good thing walk out because of how he manages his space and his money might be enough to get him into therapy (or some other life-changing process.)

  4. I think you did the right thing there. If your instincts are saying ‘man-child’, you’re probably right. Once you’re whatever age he is, you’ll probably look back on the whole thing and realise that you dodged a bullet, and that whatever he did to set your instincts off is kind of weird for that age. You’re also probably not as niche a market as you think.

  5. You have done everything right. You were calm and mature and took the path that was likely to cause the fewest hurt feelings, although hurt feelings are inevitable. He’s going to have to work through his sadness by himself now.

    Captain’s right that it’s a little on the skeezy side that he tried to make this about your insecurities, and especially that he asked if it was something you had to “work through” – he’s just trying to keep his foot in the door, in a slightly gaslighty way. That flag is, if not quite red, a little bit on the pink side. That doesn’t even really matter, though, since the fact is that you don’t want to be with him, and he doesn’t get a vote.

    1. Absolutely. A unilateral decision to split because of a dealbreaker isn’t the beginning of an argument, or a request for a show of hands. It’s not a democracy. I’m sure the other Awkwardites could recount many tales of ignoring that little “This isn’t going to work” voice in the back of their heads in relationships that were simply not compatible, and learning that little voice is there for a reason. I know I could!

      1. I could too!

        There is one case, though, where I listened. I met this guy, and he was really nice, and he showed me his house, and his garden, and then I realized that in his entire house he had three books — and one of them is the book on home health care you get when you sign up for medical insurance.

        1. THREE BOOKS? Fair play, that’s an entirely reasonable line to draw 🙂

          1. I love to read, but I only keep two physical books in my house, plus an e-reader and library card. This is because I hate clutter. The way I see it, if I don’t have plans to re-read a book I’ve already read, then why let it sit around collecting dust? I’m bemused when people assume that the absence of an expensive personal book collection means I don’t read. It’s like doubting that someone’s a runner because they don’t have their own personal gym. Degree of conspicuous consumption =! degree of engagement in a hobby.

            Personally, I think the surest sign of someone who doesn’t read is a shelf full of pristine classics.

          2. First time commenter hopping into say that the “doesn’t like to read” argument is one I had… and then got rid of.

            I have constant fines at my library from the amount of books I have checked out, and my husband isn’t a reader AT ALL. He’s incredibly smart, but he had undiagnosed ADD and mild dyslexia for a long time that made reading terrible for him for many years, and he still hates it. But I can discuss books with him and introduce literary ideas, the same way he likes to educate me on some of his hobbies I don’t share. Plus there’s a ton of analysis of movies, television, video games.

            And I get to read aloud to him, which he loves!

            Basically, just because someone isn’t a reader doesn’t mean that they’re not intelligent, or that they don’t value lifelong learning. It’s a mistake I made and in hindsight, I’m glad he didn’t know about my attitude about readers vs. nonreaders. It would have come off as elitist and I wouldn’t blame him for being turned off by it.

          3. I’ve been in the multi-year process of hauling all of our books down to donate because we live in a teeny apartment and the books were taking up literally 2/3 of the space. We still have tons and tons and tons of ebooks, spouse is neck deep in fan fiction to read, but all the junk cluttering up my life was starting to make my crazy worse. My goal isn’t zero books, just to have them all packed away in a closet where I won’t literally trip over them anymore.

            I would hope someone would have the courtesy to ask if, or what, I read instead of assuming I don’t. I mean if it’s a deal breaker that I don’t own physical books, I’m not going to argue people out of it, but it’s really not a referendum on my worth as a person or even how much I read. The sight of more than two paperbacks on any flat surface of my own apartment makes me nervous is all.

          4. @ ConAffeto – I agree that it’s a problem when “doesn’t like to read” is equated with “not interesting”/”not intelligent,” but I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with having not reading be a dealbreaker. For me, a major part of how I interact with people is books; movies and tv shows just don’t do the same thing for me. I like to share books I like with people I care about, and I think I’d really struggle being with someone who wasn’t a reader.

          5. @ The Other Kat: I’m with you on the fact that one shouldn’t assume a house without books is a house without a reader. But a book collection doesn’t = expensive. I have a very extensive book collection, 90% of which came from Half Price Books. The whole thing together might get me $50…

            except, of course, for my shelf of pristine classics I keep because I like to have them. I have worn copies of those as well if I want to read them but not care if they get beat up. But if I only displayed those pristine versions (and depending on space issues, I’ve done that before), it wouldn’t mean that I didn’t read. I’m not sure if you were pointing out that you can judge a person by their book collection or your really do take that kind of a thing as a sign people don’t read, but if it’s the latter, I have to disagree with you.

        2. I get you.

          I’m concerned that this very reasonable compatibility assessment test is becoming obsolete, because e-readers. “Bro, do you even Kindle?” etc etc

          The one time I didn’t heed, “I don’t really like to read.”, oh, wow, did I ever regret it.

          1. I feel like even people who usually use e-readers are going to own a modest collection of books though. You can’t exactly sign a Kindle, and people do like their signed-by-the-author books.

          2. Sometimes the question is whether the person likes to reread. When my grandmother was about 80, was surprised to see she had only one short bookcase, half-full (say, a shelf and a half). I asked and she told me that those were the books were her to-be-read pile. After she read a book, she either returned it to the library, or gave it to a neighbor. Many of the books on that bookcase were things she had similarly been given after one of the other people in the loose book-sharing group had finished them.

          3. I definitely agree with wanting to date someone who has a similar interest in reading. However, I’m concerned that this physical presence of books test isn’t really accurate. I really love reading but I only took one or two favourite books when I went to university because books are heavy and I don’t like packing/unpacking. If someone saw my room, they might assume I don’t like reading until they asked me. Just, lots of different reasons.

          4. I have a lot of physical books due to my age and past, but I don’t read them anymore. Reading ebooks is so much easier for my eyes, and reading physical books runs a high risk of making me sicker (various health problems and vision problems). So, what I actually read is not physical. If I’d grown up this way, I would probably not own physical books. They’re just too inaccessible.

            I also was freaked out in childhood when I visited a friend’s house and noticed a massive absence of books. It turns out that they all read, it they just didn’t keep books. Very likely it’s a re-reading issue, which I understand. I don’t enjoy re-reading much most of the time, because if I enjoyed the book, my memory of it is usually too good to get much out of a reread, especially when I was younger. I like very long periods of time between rereads to dull my memory. I mostly had vast amounts of physical books out of family culture, habit, and mild hoarding tendencies due to concern that what if I have trouble finding this story again and want it again later? Plus I like the ability to share books with others. But absence of books isn’t necessarily an absence of reading. It does, however, make it a lot harder to browse somebody’s bookshelves and learn a bunch about them or to pass some time by picking up a book at their place.

          5. Angel: I have a much-signed kindle! Silver sharpies work great. It has the honour of being the first ever kindle to be signed by Eoin Colfer and Iain Banks, who both thought it was hilarious.

          6. I have HEAPS of books on my ereader but even the fact that I haven’t been able to afford a bookcase since I moved two years ago hasn’t stopped me buying physical books. Some are textbooks, a few were presents, but a lot of them I just bought for myself, often because they weren’t available in e-form (or were only available as mobis. I despise Amazon and proprietary file formats in general).

            I’d totally get if someone’s literature collection wasn’t immediately visible for eg accessibility reasons or something though – needing to be able to enlarge text, having an mp3 player full of audio books instead, etc, or yeah if they mostly read fanfic or something that isn’t published hardcopy. So I’d probably find that out first before I WTFed out.

        3. I went on a date with this guy and asked him what was the last book he read. He said, “Well, I read technical manuals for work.”

          Then later he picked an argument with me about whether Francis Bacon really wrote Shakespeare’s plays, when it was obvious he had no idea what he was talking about. I couldn’t get out of that evening fast enough.

          1. Sounds scintillating! A friend of mine once posted on facebook a video about how the moon landing was faked, with the added comment ‘interesting stuff, must find someone to discuss this with!’ Apparently he had no idea that it’s a well known conspiracy theory, well known to the point of cliche, not to mention having been debunked over and over again and only surviving because conspiracy theories never die. He’s single and goes on dates, so I could just imagine his dates having to listen to this ‘discussion’. I quickly informed him of the age and implications of this conspiracy theory and sure enough, the video disappeared from his wall a few hours later.

          2. I had that exact argument in college with a guy who a) knew less than nothing about either Shakespeaare or Bacon and b) was a general dumbass. What is up with that? It’s like some lower level of mansplaining where the man doesn’t even have anything to splain.

        4. In defense of the bookless: I read more than almost anyone I know, I LOVE to read, it’s my favorite thing in the world. But if you came to my house you’d only see maybe a dozen books total spread out through the house, because I never, never, never buy books. I only borrow them from the library, because they’re free! And I’m cheap. So, if you’re interested in someone and don’t see books in their house, maybe ask them about their favorites or what they’re reading now. 🙂

      2. And having heeded the little voice, remembering that it’s called a dealbreaker for a reason. I deeply regret wasting time and energy on some stressful FEELINGSDEBATE when I’d already agreed with my little voice that the deal was broken.

        So I do urge the LW on no account to engage even if he does decide to give reasons.

  6. Also: this has been a life experience. It has been a life experience with some negative aspects, and some positive ones. You will have other, better experiences and meet other, better people with whom you will have other, better relationships.

  7. You could have spent a long time agreeing that the things that make you nervous are a function of your issues, second-guessing every gut feeling you have and reading his dismissal of you as reasonable, (like I did for a long time, for similar csa-trans-mental-illness-bad-family-scared-of-intimacy-this-is-as-good-as-i’ll-get reasons), OR you could do what you did, which was immediately stand up for yourself and what you need. Good on you!

    You don’t have to explain anything to this guy, and I am also skeeved out by his attempts to blame your completely reasonable reaction on your “issues.” I feel like if you had stayed, you’d be cast as the “permanently broken” one. It was a very good decision to leave, imo.

    If you explain as the captain says, it might be more emotionally charged than you want to deal with, and he might start a debate about how he can change or you need to be patient/loosen up/whatever. So be prepared to be prodded emotionally for negotiations if you go that route.

    1. I don’t think saying “he blamed your completely reasonable reaction on your “issues” is accurate. From what I understand, the LW didn’t show his reaction to the living conditions or the other things, because he didn’t want to “ruin” their time together. This person may have no idea that the LW even had a negative reaction; people who live this way sometimes don’t understand that it’s a problem for others. Also, the LW says that they “made the most of the weekend”, which sounds more like ignoring the issues and having as good a time as possible. From this guy’s perspective, everything between them went great, so it’s not that unreasonable to think the reasons for the breakup have to do with the LW.

      1. It’s not that unreasonable to think the reasons for the breakup have to do with LW’s past, however, the problem isn’t that this guy thought that but that he actually said that to the LW, and in what a way! “asking if it’s something about my past that I need ‘working through’” sounds pretty patronising in my opinion, especially as it wasn’t even “Did something happen to upset you?” or “Did I remind you of something in the past?” but actually strongly suggesting LW work through his issues which are the only thing standing in their way.

        1. People who have told me that my problem with them has to do with some mental issue I must be having, have all turned out to be Darth Vaders. No exceptions.

          1. I can believe that. But it’s one thing when to attribute all relationship problems to the other person’s issues, and another to consider whether the sudden end of a relationship that doesn’t seem to be having any problems (which is the LW’s now-ex’s perspective) has to do with the other person, since, so far as you know, nothing changed at his end.

            It’s probably just this guy having a “wait. what just happened, what could have caused this” moment. Yes, it would be more gracious to phrase it as “can you tell me what caused this decision?” than “is something the matter with you?”, but I think it’s not helpfull to throw the “gaslighting” term around over something like this.

          2. I agree with MK. For something to qualify as ‘gaslighting,’ IMO it has to consist of a lot more than a question or two during a breakup.

    2. Yes, this risk of him wailing “but I can chaaaaaaaaaaaange, give me a chaaaaaaaaaaaance” is a BIG risk with opting to actually tell him the reasons.
      The gaslighting red-flags for me.

  8. You say, From his point of view I can see that it looks like I’ve done a 180 and I understand why he’s confused.

    If you want, you can acknowledge his feels there by putting it in a script: ‘I know it must seem to you like I’ve done a 180 on this. I love our chemistry as friends online, but after our most recent visit I realized that we are not as compatible as life partners / co-habitators / IRL lovers. I decided it would be better for me to end this now rather than later.’

    Or something. The Captain is far better at scripts.

    Sidenote: whyyyyyyy do people ask questions they don’t want to know the answer to? It’s a super awkward position to be in and LW, I feel for you.

    1. A lot of the time, people who say “why are you doing this?” are actually asking “how can I talk you out of this?” (or demanding “let me talk you out of this”). There may not be an answer to the question they mean, but from that angle, they’re asking something they would like an answer to: please give them the magic word, or magic wand, that will keep you in the relationship. They don’t want a true and inarguable answer like “I’m not happy” or “I’m not in love with you anymore,” they want instructions to buy flowers or get a different haircut (some might even be open to instructions to look for a different job), something they can either do or try to convince the other person it’s unreasonable to ask for.

      1. This is definitely a thing. I once had someone respond to my “I just realized I don’t care about this relationship anymore” (a harsh answer, which I only gave after way too much badgering for a reason for breaking up) with, “Yeah, I get that, but you haven’t told me WHY you don’t care about this relationship anymore.” Yeesh.

        I also used to know someone who wanted solid, water-tight reasons for every bad thing that happened in their life. It might have partly been to argue their way out of those situations, but they even wanted the reasons for things that were totally irreversible, like when they asked for an autopsy on their cat to find out why she died and whether they should have done something differently earlier in the cat’s life. I think it came from the idea that knowledge is power, and we can all learn from our mistakes. Unfortunately, even when we learn, we still don’t have control over everything that happens to us.

        1. Ugh, I’m sorry you had to deal with that badgering. I feel like, “Because you’re the sort of person who would ask that.” sums up sufficient reason right there.

        2. In my experience, I sometimes get the feeling that the other person just doesn’t want to let go and would drag us through a drawn-out, painful conversation so we’re still *technically* together for a little longer. It’s so sad to see so I usually opt for the quick ending i.e. “it’s not you, it’s me.”

      2. This just happened to me. I got out of a close friendship a year or so ago, and when multiple attempts at disengaging and drawing boundaries didn’t work, I asked for some space. Recently I got the “why” question again and tried to tell her that I felt she didn’t care for me, it was all about her. Harsh,but I’d given up on the friendship and was tired of the badgering. She was very defensive, blamed me for doing the same to her, and… well, just helped justify my decision all over again. She didn’t want an honest answer, she wanted an easy solution.

      3. This is so true. My ex-boyfriend spent months after I broke up with him Pointedly Doing Things that were all the things I’d ever expressed interest in him doing, that he’d always said “nah, not interested”. Which was fine! People are allowed to make their own choices! I didn’t break up with him because he didn’t learn to drive though, and it didn’t help watching him try to cycle through the magic actions to find the one that would make me fall back in love with him.

        (That’s also the breakup that I wish I could go back in time and take the Captain’s advice and enforce a strict six-months no-contact, because we “tried to stay friends” and managed to kill what friendship was left with FIRE, and severely tried the patience of other friends. We did get back to “can be in the same place politely”. Eventually.)

        1. Ergh. I had a boyfriend who, after we broke up, began doing the things I’d wanted us to do together. He didn’t do it because he was trying to win me back though. I guess it must have been some kind of power play.

    2. I like this script a lot. One worry I had with the Captain’s direct-answer script was that the guy could turn around and say, “Oh, is that all? I promise I will clean up from now on. I’ll even hire a maid!” or something like that. Keeping it to a more general “We just aren’t as compatible in-person as we are online” doesn’t give him anything to latch onto.

    3. I love your script!

      And I believe the answer to your question is twofold:

      1- people rarely want reasons, they want a jumping off point to logic you out of your decision

      2- people think poorly of themselves and are trying to make you affirm their sad opinion

      1. That second reason is pretty insightful!

        A lot of the time I doubt that people ask this question to be deliberately manipulative (like in reason 1), but because our brains just have a lot of trouble figuring out and understanding that the other person no longer feels how we do. Saying and hearing “I no longer feel about you the same way” are both hard things to do. I can see how someone who isn’t in a good headspace can easily take this to mean that they did something “wrong”/”bad” and that it’s their fault (reason 2).

        Feelings often aren’t that logical though, especially around breakups. There is no easy cause-and-effect, unfortunately.

  9. LW, you were great. You paid attention to your own feelings and you handled it all with maturity and grace.

    I’d say if you want to give reasons, the Captain’s script is good. Remember that if he takes it hard it isn’t your responsibility to make him feel better. You also might want to be prepared in case he cleans his place up and starts pestering you. “See! See? My place is clean now so there are no reasons why we can’t have a relationship!”

    1. Agreed. I’m not sure that it’s a good idea to mention the living conditions, simply that having met in person you realized the two of you were less compatible than you’d thought at first.

      1. I’d partially agree with this but this is because from the LW’s letter I think we can gather that it’s not JUST about the dirty living conditions. Sure, it’s a red flag the size of those ones you see at car dealerships but it seems like this is about a *series* of indicators that point to him being someone who is irresponsible and just very un-adult (dirty house, unmanaged spending, things in his life are everyone else’s fault).

        The dirty house you can fix in a day or a week depending on how bad it is. Irresponsibility and immaturity take way more time to work on, i.e. too much time for someone who just met you to wait around while you promise to work on yourself.

        My issue is this:

        Soft, nonspecific answers like “We’re just not compatible.” tend to just bring more demands for detail unless you cut off all conversation right then and there.

        Super-specific ones like “I just really don’t like the way you keep your house.” tend to bring lots of bargaining and immediate unconvincing changes that won’t last because the underlying problems are still there.

        Getting straight to the core of everything and saying something like “I’m not comfortable starting a relationship with someone who displays this many signs of irresponsibility. This would definitely become difficult to live with later so I’m heading it off now.”, can feel like straight-up character assassination or being needlessly judgmental even though it’s probably the most truthful answer.

        In a nutshell: Choose your weapon. All of them make ouchies.

        1. Those are good points. How about something like, “When we met in person, I realized the relationship just doesn’t work for me. I’m not feeling it anymore.” This seems to be true, and leaves out the, “because I lost a lot of respect for you and now consider you too irresponsible for my tastes.” part, which is hard. It will probably come across as not physically attracted to you, which will obviously hurt (and be false in this case), but likely hurt less than “not attracted to your personality”. I think the letter writer can choose whatever he prefers, but it doesn’t sound like he wants to hurt him more than necessary. I think if I were in this situation, my goal would be something simple, that shuts down the discussion, and causes the minimum pain necessary, while being honest. I wouldn’t be willing to lie and blame my own issues though, since while it’s gentle, it feels like a loss of dignity to me. I’m trying to think of which responses I’d be most okay with from the other end of this, and it’s hard to say.

          1. The soft nondescript thing has been done already and to elaborate on that with *more* soft nondescript-ness, isn’t likely to make a difference IMO. He won’t go away, get a clue or feel better. Fortunately, the LW could stop here and do nothing else, and be totally right to do so.

            However, if the LW *wants* to volunteer to give this guy a clue, and/or set this guy straight in that NO this is NOT about LW’s unresolved issues, Thanks much, then that’s up to him. (And God, I hope SOMEONE eventually gives this guy a clue, like Mr. Life for example.)

            The best thing for this guys *feelings* (and to avoid further FEELINGSPROJECTILES) though, would be to just cut it off here, I think. Any additions to what’s been done already with the exception of “Yes, I’ll take you back!” probably has no hope of making this guy feel any less bad. Plus the “butt whyyy’s” and the needling attempts to invalidate this breakup on the basis of LW’s issues are a pretty strong indicator of what this guy is REALLY looking for. Sure the guy is likely feeling hurt but I think clueless indignation is a bigger factor in what he’s trying to pull now.

          2. I once spent an hour on the phone repeating variations on the phrase “I’m just not feeling it.” while the dumped party demanded and wheedled for my reasons. When he realized that was all he was getting, he gave up.

            It’s gaslight-proof if you commit to it.

            After two awful dates with a not awful man in awful circumstances that were not his fault exactly, but the kind of things adults learn how to avoid after a while, there was zero interest.
            He was worth making sure the first date wasn’t a fluke, and after a few years maturity was probably an awesome partner to someone else.

          3. “I’m trying to think of which responses I’d be most okay with from the other end of this, and it’s hard to say.”

            Probably because you wouldn’t be pulling the “but whhyyyyyy???” game in the first place.

          4. I disagree with the “not physically attracted” statement because it can be bloody obvious when you do mesh with physical chemistry and it sounds like the weekend of fun gave those signals. I think LW does need to comment on the living situation, or whatever, but any follow up or offer to change needs to be met with “It is not up for discussion, but I wish you luck for the future” or similar.

          5. Also, from what LW said, they had already met in person. It seems to have been seeing this guy’s place, in addition to a number of other red flags, that made it clear to LW that they were not compatible.

            I think a lot of the advice given, both by CA and in the comments, is really spot on.

            I personally have dealt with similar situations in one of two ways: either commit to the “I realized that we are not compatible, and I am not interested. I’ve decided to end things.” and repeat yourself until the other person finally realizes that that’s all they’re getting, and present it as a fait accompli, OR to use a similar script to the one CA has provided for situations with probing, rude questions, i.e. “I was being vague because you are a nice person and I don’t want to say something that might hurt you, but since you are refusing to accept my (perfectly valid) answer, this is why I’ve ended things.” Again, still in the past tense, and maybe this is a little harsh, but if someone is both refusing to listen to you and, in this case, is also sketchily telling you it’s probably because of *your* issues, maybe it’s called for.

  10. People seem to have the advice covered, so from one niche market to another, this is just your gentle reminder that those who like you are gonna like you a LOT, and have been looking for you for awhile.

    You have had very particular experiences which have polished and will polish you to a deep, rich, rare and beautiful glow.

    You will be valued and loved and appreciated by people you can also value, love, and appreciate, and all will be well.

    1. As someone who married a niche market, I concur.
      Spouse was like a neatly wrapped box with infinite awesome inside it at the office holiday gift swap. Unexpected, beautiful.

      “Esprit, I’m trading for your Gingerbread bath bombs.”
      *opens box* “Oh my!”
      “Now Esprit, you can keep this one, or trade for Kenya’s Gardenia body spray.”
      *stares raptly into box* “I’ll keep… this… is good.”

    2. I’m thinking about writing a calligraphy of “deep, rich, rare and beautiful glow” for a friend who is experiencing some similar anxieties. Thanks, Marna, for the poetry of your words.

      1. That fills me with happiness. Drop by the journal linked in my name and show me a picture of the letters, if you can and feel comfortable doing so?

  11. “I think we’re in different places in life than I originally thought,” is a much nicer way to deal with things — because you specifically brought up overdrafts, man-child thinking, et cetera, than “I think the gray thing in the green bowl was moving towards semi-sentience, and I don’t want to be anywhere near there when that happens, nor do I want it to remember my scent.”

    Ignore/block if he keeps bugging you, and good on you for taking chances, listening to your feelings, and acting on them. Those are major milestones, LW, and you succeeded in doing things in healthy ways. It does suck, the whole situation sucks, but you did it the right way and this Awkward Army Private salutes you.

    1. I think this a great way to put it, well said. Way better than my suggestion!

        1. Sorry, I just lost it there for a second. Capitan, you and the Awkward Army and my soul-sister brought me back to being a real person over the last few years. So for the other Awkwardeers and yourself to validate what I said makes me feel…it’s like I made it. I really made it. The Blue Fairy has kissed me.

          Now, all the Jedi hugs to the LW, and I’ll hush.

    2. Yes and also squalor is a potentially solvable problem – if you say it’s the state of his house he may well say he’ll improve that (odds are good that despite his intentions it wouldn’t improve long term but you never know, it might). And then you’re left with the fact that it’s not just the mess, it’s the whole “man child” vibe, the financial habits, the offloading of blame… So I would say don’t actually list the specifics if you don’t want to get into a long and uncomfortable discussion about how he will fix those specifics and why isn’t that enough for you…

      Because I feel like if you wanted to hang around and work on any of these specific issues and see if he was maybe interested in changing one of these things you would have done so. Instead you’ve identified a whole package that doesn’t work for you, and probably don’t want to get into a whole post breakup debrief/negotiation about it. TL:DR I like Badger’s script a lot because it’s a reason without being too much negotiable detail.

      1. I agree. LW, if you want to give this dude a reason, you certainly can, and the Captain’s and badger’s scripts are both good- some people really don’t register hygiene/cleanliness stuff, for sure, and maybe he doesn’t understand the impression he’s making. But the ‘nothing’s ever his fault’ line suggests that whatever you say, no matter how kindly and gently it is put, he’s going to be butthurt.

        But you don’t have to feel guilty at all about the fact that this guy isn’t cool enough for you (cool in the sense of being, like, self-aware about faults and good at adulting stuff like taking responsibility for one’s actions). And if he keeps coming back with more questions or complaints, you are totally within your rights to tell him that you are the boss of your own feelings and wants, and that is going to have to be reason enough. Btw, I know several cool trans people in my area and many of them have found lovely partners. I wish the same for you!

        1. I feel like his “Is this about your issues?” response to the breakup just highlights his lack of responsibility. It couldn’t possibly be about him (or a lack of compatibility that happens sometimes), the LW must be flawed not to want to be with him. Ew.

          LW, you are handling this like a pro.

    3. I have used this exact wording when I went back to someone’s place and the miasma of filth that hung over it could have poisoned Tokyo. it was not questioned.

    4. “I think the gray thing in the green bowl was moving towards semi-sentience, and I don’t want to be anywhere near there when that happens, nor do I want it to remember my scent.” did make me laugh like hell though.

  12. The Captain’s previous statement that “people don’t have to be awful or evil for you to leave them” is relevant here as well. There really is no answer that will make him feel better. Framing it as a decision about what feels right for you is a very kind thing to do!

    Very random bonus advice: “bears the risk”. Bears are always a risk. Watch out for bears (especially with online dating, you just never know).

    1. Bears are so misunderstood. 😦

      (I have a select group of friends who joke about being bears after a psychologist told me that depression in humans may be linked to hibernation. Uh… that abstract is really jargon-dense, so maybe just trust me on that. Also, pandas are super cute.)

  13. Here’s one way to think about it: If you told him it was the state of his apartment, and if he promised to clean it up, and then he did clean it to pleasant non-hoarding conditions, would that make a difference? Would you say to yourself “okay, now I’m interested again?” If you were more specific and also mentioned the overdraft, and he somehow turned that around, would you take up the relationship? If he started taking responsibility in an adult way and stopped being that man-child, what then?

    My point is that it makes sense to mention a dealbreaker if:
    The person actually is capable of changing, and
    If the person changed it, you’d be interested again.

    But if you were to say something about the whole man-child thing, it would only make him feel bad, and worse, he’d feel frustrated. He’d make weak efforts to make you think he’d changed something, and you’d be more stuck than you are. If the only difference was a minor housekeeping/messy thing, then I would say something because couples argue about who does the laundry all the time and come to reasonable compromises in which one puts up with a lot of junk in the basement and the other puts up with doing the dishes.

    1. The only time I can think of that this actually worked this way for me was when the problem was her putting off treatment for her mental illness (she genuinely wanted to see someone about it, but it was robbing her of her ability to motivate herself).

      The only reason that worked was because it was also something she wanted to change. And because I wasn’t asking her to change something unchangeable about herself (like if I’d said “I want you to stop being mentally ill”), I only wanted her to pursue treatment so that she could better manage something about herself (because they way things were, she was leaning on me hard and wanting me to fulfill the counselor/life coach/nurse role).

      We did end up breaking up, but only because she moved to another country and we weren’t “primary” partners.

      Most of the time, not only will it be something they can’t change, it’ll be something they don’t want to change. It may even be something they like about themselves. Even messiness can be one of those things. I’d hate if someone changed something like that just to stay with me, especially when there’s bound to be other people out there who appreciate those things.

      1. +1 to this. I actually don’t dislike being disorganized (it’s taken a lot of work to come to this point, since cleanliness and moral worth are often conflated). I can’t cohabit with a person who isn’t down with at least some clutter and a relaxed approach to mopping.

        1. That’s kind of what made me think about it. My current partner is messy and uninterested in being tidy. I like to vaccum once a week.

          We get along fantastically well… when we don’t live together. So we don’t.

          1. I love my boyfriend dearly, and my meta as well. They do have their life under control, but, their house tends to be cluttered(art and other projects, as well as lots of things put down rather than away). So, I am happier in my own house, and only visiting theirs. My house isn’t perfect by any means either, but, it’s my mess….if that makes sense? If I want a clear space for thinking or any reason at all, I am only moving my stuff. There’s no one to resent for leaving clutter that I don’t feel that I can clean up or move.

  14. If you might cross paths again at events, parties, or what-have-you and wish to maintain cordial relations, or if you just want to soften the blow, here’s a modified version of the script:

    “The living space conditions were a dealbreaker for me, so I decided to end it before we got more serious. I realize I’m probably being too picky, and that may make it harder for me to find someone, but I’ll just have to deal with it. Wish me luck!”

    The “probably…” part can be a white lie, and softens the rejection by assuming about half of the responsibility for the breakup onto your end, whether it’s true or not, and may buy you a better post-mortem opinion of you and less hurt on his side, if that’s important to you.

  15. I also think, if you don’t want to give reasons at all but want to push back against the idea that you must be breaking up with him because of your emotional issues/troubled past (which, ew), you could just say something like ” I am comfortable with the decision I made and I don’t need your help with it. Please stop pestering me about it now.”

    1. Oooh, good call on that.

      And this also highlights another argument against mentioning living conditions as a breakup reason – they may have been the first red flag, but not only were there others (financial issues, blaming-everyone-else issues), but the fact that this person would stoop to insinuating (basically) “whyyy would you call it off – do you think it may be because you’re broken?” is an additional super-red-flag. One that would remain even if he cleaned up his space to a spit shine and paid off all his bills. And as others have mentioned before, mentioning the messiness as a reason only gives him an in to start bargaining.

      My personal hunch is that your “be clear, but give no reasons” approach is just perfect, with possibly Jake’s “and f*ck you for trying to make this about my past” script added as needed.

  16. Are you literally me? except replace the manchild’s hoarding with the manchild’s mother, and your wise, rapid retreat with a six-month increasingly abusive relationship. I am so vicariously joyful that you had the sense to back away right here. If he’s anything like the guy I was dating, explanation just becomes cannon-fodder: sometimes, it’s most peaceful to just break things off and stay vague.

  17. Back before I met Mr. Blue, I was doing the dating site thing, and I went out on a couple of dates. (I met my husband through said site, so it can totally happen!) There was one guy who seemed fantastic on paper. He was easy to talk to, we liked the same shows, we IM’d constantly and never got tired of talking to each other, he seemed great! And then…we went out to dinner. And he spent the entire two hours or so talking about how he really wanted to get the fraternity he’d been in back in college back up and running, even though it had been closed down. That’s ALL he talked about, and I’m not sure he asked a single question about me, and it was a first date. I was bored to tears.

    So, I think your instincts are serving you very well here. It’s better to end things early and move on to greener pastures. The right person isn’t going to throw up a ton of red flags, or really, any at all.

  18. You did the right thing. Financially iressponsible man-child who is also a hoarder is not a good person to date. I’ve been in a romantic relationship with the first 2/3 of that, and my mother and one of my best friends are both hoarders. It’s bad. I know my friend has lost out on dating and FWB arrangements because they brought people back to their house and those people then rightly bailed on them. I almost ended up homeless because my mother couldn’t part with meter-high stacks of old magazines and clothes she hasn’t worn in 35 years and thus couldn’t let me move back into her house temporarily when a living situation I was in became intolerable. Run away. It’s a big world out there and you can find someone who you’re compatible with and who doesn’t have a fridge full of rotting food they can’t throw away.

    1. For me it’s the defensiveness/nothing is my fault bit which is the killer. I started dating a messy, financially-borked hoarder who lived with his mother, and some substantial time later we’re married, living in a lovely and only slightly untidy house, and he’s got himself a degree, a great job and now a promotion. It has always been clear what a lovely person he is, and that can make all the difference.

      1. Damn. That reads all wrong. I’m sure plenty of people with hoarding tendencies are also lovely. It’s whether you’ve got the self-awareness and motivation to overcome these things that’s vital, and as you rightly point out, other people can’t solve it simply by sticking around. Sometimes giving a relationship with a troubled person a chance can be worth it for both people, but you’ve got to make a judgement quite fast on whether they can see their situation clearly and want to get sorted out.

        1. You also have to want to and still be able to respect them and treat them fairly. The letter writer seems to have lost respect for the guy. That’s totally fine and legitimate. We all decide which traits matter to us, and these are completely reasonable deal-breakers in a relationship. But he’s not going to magically stop feeling like the guy he dated is a man-child, and that’s no basis for a relationship. Basically, you can make it work with somebody who has problems that might be fixable, but those problems have to not be deal-breakers for you, you need to respect them as they are when you found them, and you have to be okay with the idea that they might not change. Going into a relationship with the idea, “Well, I’ll like/love him in the future when he improves” is pretty disastrous. So, the letter writer is clearly doing the right thing breaking up. Somebody else might see the same guy and go, “Yeah, these are the sorts of human flaws I’m okay with having in a mate, and maybe we can both also grow and mature together”. Sometimes these sorts of issues can even make for a good fit if, for example, he’s happy to have someone else manage his finances for him, and a potential future partner likes being in control of the finances. Sometimes both parties in a relationship are happy to have a particular responsibility handed over to one person. But the letter writer is clearly not a good fit in this case.

          But I do agree that a tendency to blame your partner as your go-to assumption for a relationship problem is going to be a problem for the vast majority of people, and can be a far bigger problem than messiness or troublesome finances.

          1. Yes. The problem isn’t the messiness or financial problems themselves, IMO, it’s the fact that they are enough of a problem _for the LW_ that he has lost respect for the other guy. And lost the desire to have a relationship with him.

            Humans have all kinds of problems and flaws – most don’t make someone incapable of being a good partner for someone somewhere… But it’s not a good idea to pretend not to mind something if you really, really do.

  19. I was just roommates with someone very similar to the person you describe (hoarding, blameless, awful with money), LW, and it was bad. Really bad. I haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaate confrontation to the point that it makes me feel physically ill in even small doses, so I took a hard line on very little. The couple of things that he Really Wanted and I didn’t immediately give in to, though? He would flip out, start with trying to bully me into whatever it was by insisting I was a bad person if I said no, and then move into wheedling. I learned pretty quickly with this guy that nothing I said would make any lasting difference in his actions or inaction, and any apology I got for him being a jerk was pretty worthless.

    So my point is that you know you did the right thing by breaking it off. If you want to give him actual reasons for why because it would make you feel better to do so, absolutely do the thing that works for you. It seems that there is a solid chance, though, that giving reasons could end up with this person getting his feathers all ruffled at you. And if you’re cool with that, again, go you. I do like the Captain’s suggested script, which I would promptly follow by a very thorough blocking/filtering. I don’t think there’s a way to answer politely, though, and also get a reasonable response. Either way, the story he tells himself will likely be about you and not him – which is no good and badness and not at all actually reflective of you.

  20. Dear LW, it can be hard being a “niche market”, but I promise that you will be so glad you prioritized being yourself over mass appeal. I have done the mass appeal thing, which involved muffling my own voice and my own thoughts a whole lot more than was safe or good for me. Now I’m very glad to be an outspoken niche market, and being true to myself has made it possible to build marvelous strong honest relationships. You will find the right people for unique glorious you. And if it takes a while, still better to spend that time searching (and hanging out with friends and exploring careers/hobbies and enjoying your own excellent company) than to spend it in a relationship with someone who doesn’t know or appreciate the real you.

    he was a massive man child, constantly in and out of an overdraft yet still buying shit online, clutter everywhere

    Oh man, that was me for a long time. It was bad, and my romantic relationships during that time varied from the merely unsatisfying to the actively disastrous. I sympathize a lot with that guy, and I also think you’re absolutely right to back off and look for someone who’s more together.

  21. Hey, LW.

    I just want to let you know that you deserve to be happy and have every right to be happy. You deserve to have someone who make your heart flutter. You deserve to adore someone’s very name (Thank you, Emperor Julian, for that charming turn of phrase).

    Our toxic society probably spends a lot of time telling you that because you are trans/ a victim of sexual abuse/ whatever that you are in some way “damaged goods”, and no-one will want you, and if anyone shows the slightest scrap of interest you’d better stick with them. These kinds of words, uttered again and again, even by well meaning people, and coming from almost all media representations might feel so ubiquitous that you begin to think they’re true. But, LW, they’re not!

    You are a person. You are a whole, complete, wonderful person. You are a person, and you never have to settle for a manchild, or someone who’ll casually blame relationship problems on your past, or, frankly, anyone who doesn’t make you blissfully happy.

    Love and Jedi Hugs 🙂

    1. Hey there, I hope this doesn’t read as criticism because it’s absolutely not, but… do you really think what you’re talking about exists? For everyone? Possibly?

      Like… “You deserve to have someone who makes your heart flutter. You deserve to adore someone’s very name…. (someone who) makes you blissfully happy.”

      It just seems so far outside of my experience of dating or love that people get to have that. I have friends who seem very happy in their relationships, but I’ve just. Never had anything that wasn’t some degree of messed-up, or sad, or full of compromise.

      So yeah. I’m NOT saying I think you’re wrong or that the LW DOESN’T deserve wonderful things, I absolutely do. I just feel a disconnect between hearing such lovely things about relationships and my own experience of them. I’d love to hear some hopeful comments, if there are commenters who once found those sorts of statements strange or upsetting because it was so far from their experiences and then things in Relationship-Land got heaps better.


      1. I can understand your doubts but from what people on here say, they can. I do believe it is possible to meet someone who feels right enough, for a relationship that develops free of red flags. Maybe you have experienced friendships where everything fell into place easily? I’m sure relationships like that ARE possible. (Hope dies last!)

      2. The thing is, a relationship can sad and full of compromise and blissfully happy at the same time. You can be sad that your partner is sad about something in their life, and be incredibly happy and grateful that you are there to share that sorrow and keep them from having to bear it alone. You can make compromises that you and your partner are both happy to make, because they let you keep each other in your lives.

      3. I think when we say “You deserve an amazing relationship”, it’s said with the understanding that deserving something isn’t a 100% guarantee that you’ll get it. But you’re way more likely to if you realize that you deserve it and won’t settle for anything less. I date a lot less now that I won’t settle for nonsense, but at least I know I’m not missing out on the great things I deserve because I’m busy with a loser. My life overall is way better for it, and I still have hope that I’ll meet someone great eventually!

      4. *jedi hugs* if you want them.

        Not every relationship is blissful and content, and not everyone feels butterflies around their partner, that’s very true. I know someone who had to learn that the initial fire of attraction was not actually love, and losing that initial fire or having that feeling change did not mean that love wasn’t there.
        A relationship can be a good thing, a healthy thing without scorching desire, or butterflies, or drawing little hearts around someone’s name. Partnerships and relationships can be good things without sex, if it works for the people involved.
        It has to work for the people involved in the relationship, and that’s it.
        Some people aren’t happy people, but, they have relationships that work for them.
        It just has to work for the people in the relationship.

        I took some time off after my husband died to really think about what I wanted. I didn’t look for a partner or a relationship, I just thought about what EXACTLY I wanted in my life. I also got to the point where I was content being by myself. If I never found a partner was that ok with me? I reached a yes. For ME this was important. Any person I brought into my life was then measured against this baseline. Was I happier with them in my life or solo?

        Have I always had wonderful relationships? No. Some of them were broken, or sad, or messed up. I have good relationships now, but, even if everything ended(blah. I don’t want to actually think about that) I’d still be going back to my baseline. Just me. I don’t have to be in a relationship just to have a relationship. I’m lucky in that I hit a couple of cultural adulthood milestones like living on my own, and was married, so I am not getting internal or external pressure on those fronts. I do have to push back on the people who try to shoehorn me into the cat lady stereotype, but, I can push back now.

        Support is good. It is available from friends, though, in addition to partners. The whole package isn’t always available, or even what someone wants. Broken, sad, messed up relationships, though, don’t tend to add much value to anyone’s life. I think you deserve better than that.

      5. I’m happily married, much to my surprise.

        Before I met my partner, I had one semi-serious relationship [with Darth Vader, which put me off relationships even further], and while I occasionally looked wistfully at happily partnered friends, I wasn’t expecting to find myself head over heels in love with someone who gets me. We both brought a fair amount of baggage (me, literally); but we went into that with eyes open and we’re both working hard and earnestly at solving problems and developing better habits. (Together, we are people who Do Dishes, and not just grudgingly and at the last minute.)

        What we both have is a strong desire to make things right for the other person. That means a lot of asking ‘does this work for you’ and ‘how do you envision x’; it means that we don’t go ahead with something that one of us finds uncomfortable, even if the other thinks it’s NBD and perfectly normal, and, and, and.

        I regularly thank my lucky stars that I didn’t settle for a so-so relationship with someone who likes me ok. (Anything beyond that – someone who merely tolerates you, someone who is abusive… no relationship is *definitely* better than that. However great the good parts might feel in the moment.) I have no idea *how* to find such a relationship; this one found me; but they exist. And now that I’m here, my eyes and ears a little bit more open to other people who seem to have that vibe of purring with contentment in each other’s company; I used to know a couple of people in relationships like that, but I’m not sure I spotted the little signs before.

        I sometimes feel a little… something akin to survivor’s guilt, I suppose: I’ve found something that I didn’t think existed (much less for someone with the hangups and ingrained habits that I had, and still have). I just wish everyone could share this feeling of knowing they are so thoroughly accepted by the people in their lives.

  22. I have to congratulate you for the way you handled this. It can be hard to let go of what seemed like a good dating prospect at first, especially when you feel like you’re in a dating ‘niche market’. But you were able to immediately recognize the incompatibility and act accordingly. I don’t think you should give the guy any more answers at this point. To me it’s a red flag that he wants to sort of blame you by asking if this is about “issues you need to work through”. Even if you yourself believe you have issues to work through, it’s really very impolite for him to make a statement like that. Maybe shoot him an email and say you do not want to get into this any further & bye, but to my mind it’s also fine to not respond at all. You really don’t owe him anything more than what you already did – letting him know you won’t pursue this any further.

  23. Hah… I don’t have anything to say about the LW’s particular situation, but the title strikes a chord with me right now. I was sort of on the receiving end of that a few days ago – well, rejected rather than dumped, but anyway. The rejection was a while ago, and said rejecter and I have remained friends; the other day we were talking, and I didn’t even *ask* as such, but it came up in conversation and the (apparently) real reason was revealed.

    It was… not what I was expecting. It wasn’t actually a bad thing – I mean, they originally said “I don’t have time for a relationship right now”; I’m enough of a CA reader that if someone says “I don’t have time for a relationship right now” I hear it as “I’m just not attracted to you”. Turns out it wasn’t that, and the deal breaker wasn’t “your house is messy” (it isn’t, anyway) or “you smell” or anything like that, either. So yeah, I am actually glad I know the truth, but it is also going to take me a while to process. Be careful what you wish for, definitely.

  24. As one other option – if he’s insisting on making this all about you and your “broken” nature, then take the lead he’s offering and run with it at high speed.

    (Imagine the below read out in a highly over-dramatic voice – the sort usually accompanied by hands clasped to the chest, or the back of a palm to the forehead).

    Yes, you are broken, too broken to provide this wonderful person with the amount of care, attention, nurturing, support, attention, love, attention and narcissistic supply he’s demanding. Your issues stand in the way – he’s too much for you to handle, and you must, with the deepest amount of regret, let him go, to hopefully find the person who can truly become his pillar of strength. You wish him well in all his future endeavours, and your only regret at this piece of bravery is your own sheer inability to supply his needs.

    (Okay, back to my usual dry, cynical style again. Could someone point me to a mop so I can get all the spilled pathos off the floor there?)

    If that kind of thing fails to get him retreating at a respectable fraction of light speed, feel free to be as blunt as you like about how your life is too short to be his prop and pillar, and that being a thing of beauty and a boy forever isn’t usually a viable life plan.

    (Sorry, I have something of an allergic reaction to the term “man-child”. Brings me out in prickles).

  25. The “nothing his fault” part? To me, that is the number one red flag in any person. Everything else is, to an extent, possible to fix or ignore, but that attitude means you will never have an adult, responsible relationship where each person takes responsibility for their own needs and respects the other.

    I think a simple statement “It looked good, but RL I’m just not feeling it” is enough. If you’re not feeling it, you’re not feeling it. There is nothing there to argue with.

    1. “Nothing is his fault” reminds me of Daniel from Cucumber, and look how well that turned out…

      Ahem. Not to worry LW or anything, just agreeing that it’s a bad sign.

    2. Yes, the inability to accept responsibility is a huge problem, and it’s evident in his asking, “Is this about your issues?” in terms of the breakup.

  26. Well, maybe I had to many negative experiences with entitled Guys Who Never Could Have Been The Reason Why It Wouldn’t Work So It Has to Be The Terrible Damaged Other Person (= me^^), but the “is it because of your own problems?” makes me a bit angry on the OP’S behalf. Of course, it depends on the context etc, but to me it sounds like the OP probably dodged a bullet.^^

  27. Dear LW:
    1) you handled breaking up (or not continuing) very kindly and nicely
    2) his “is it something you have to work through” is kind of gross. (And gaslighting)
    3) it doesn’t matter if he’s untidy or hoarding, he has shown that his hygiene and self care are low enough that dating him would be ludicrously parental

    If you think it will make him go away and stop bothering you, or if you want to, tell him that his squalor (and the childishness it implies) are deal breakers.

    I probably wouldn’t, but that’s because many people perceive describing a rationale for doing something as offering arguments for them to counter. Which is tedious.

    Meanwhile, you done good. Yay you!

  28. Yeah, this dude went from a generally confused dumpee to possible manipulator in 0.6 seconds. Asking about “issues from your past.” You know what else is a past issue? He is.

    1. My guess is that the sudden & unexpected rejection made the guy feel insecure. He’s likely wondering what he may have done wrong and basically asking LW to confirm that “it wasn’t me, it was you, right?”. Doesn’t justify it at all, of course. Just an interpretation of what motivated him to write that email.

  29. One of my friends’ ex-boyfriends who happens to be pagan decided that since she broke up him in October around Samhain, then his being dumped was obviously just a failure on my friend’s part to “shed her fall energies properly”.

    Some people will go to some odd lengths to not take responsibility for their part of a breakup.

    1. That’s hilarious.

      “This is not my fault! No way could it be my fault!”

    2. Oh, I’ve met this kind of person. One of the reasons I don’t hang out with other Pagans anymore is this kind of person. No, it’s not the woo-woo, it’s the you-you. (One of the reasons, there were many many reasons.)

  30. Also, is it just me or does it seem like people who break out the BUTT WHYS usually don’t even *believe* that there could be a valid reason for someone to break up with them?

    1. I think the temptation to ask, “But why?” happens when you felt everything was great, and so you can’t conceive of what went wrong, so yes. I don’t have any breakups where I can’t easily think of the reasons for it, but if I had what I thought was a good relationship just suddenly end, I think I can see the temptation to ask. If this had happened to me when I was younger, I probably would not have been mature enough to refrain from asking. But I can see how trying to argue about it is also fueled out of a lack of empathy, because I think it happens when everything was great *for you*, and so you can’t accept that it wasn’t great for your partner.

      1. That’s what got me thinking too. The times I’ve been broken up with when my partner wasn’t direct about reasons, I still had a pretty good idea what it was actually about.

        I think you hit it on the head with the empathy thing though. It makes sense now. Plus I think it goes for both the “How DARE you dump me? I’m perfect!!” types and the ones who mean well but have trouble recognizing their partner’s emotional signs that the end is near.

      2. Oddly enough every relationship I had before the last one eleven years ago we both decided to end it at the same time, a couple of times to the point of text messages/emails crossing paths. (Said formats being acceptable in the circumstances.) The last one involved me skipping the country for safety reasons and there were definitely a lot of BUT WHYS on his part.

  31. Yikes, this hit close to home. I really thought (and still sometimes wonder if) a very close friend I have a lot of chemistry with could have been the one, but the state of his living conditions when I first saw them and general sense of personal hygiene made me take a serious U-turn on the whole thing. I also didn’t quite have the gumption to be explicit about the reasons I didn’t want to take it further for fear of seriously hurting his feelings, and I still feel bad about it.

    But I am still very good friends with him, so hopefully the situation turns out happy for the LW, too!

  32. Yeah, I think because he immediately tried to make it somehow a failing on your part that you were breaking up with him, it’s veeeerrrrrry tempting to be like, “Actually, it’s because you’re a pathetic man-child with a filthy home” but that invites a lot more opportunity for arguing and gaslighting, so I like keeping it neutral “I realized we’re in different places in our lives and that makes us incompatible” but I wholeheartedly endorse adding the “and FUCK YOU for trying to make it about my personal issues.” Then hang up and revel in the glory of how awesome you are!

  33. Obviously it is in no way your responsibility to tell this guy the truth about why you are breaking up with him if you don’t want to. We are broken up now, because that’s what I want, is a complete sentence. But if you care for him at some level and think it would be safe for you to do so, it can be a wonderful gift to tell him the truth in a gentle but real way. I’ve told this story here before, but someone who broke up with me many years ago told me the unvarnished truth about why, and that was the catalyst for me to embark on a course of self-knowledge and self-improvement that totally changed my life for the better and made me the person I am now.

  34. Not knowing the details of what he said, my thought was that he may have picked on ‘issues from your past’ because that would make it something he perceived as fixable. I.e., he might have imagined that if the LW said it was indeed ‘issues from his past’, the partner could possibly offer reassurance that he was happy to be supportive and patient or do whatever was needed.

    I.e., it could have been an attempt to convince LW not to break up, rather than blaming per se. Which is I guess still not an ideal way of reacting to someone breaking up with you, but to me casts him in a somewhat more sympathetic light.

  35. Please keep in mind that telling someone, “I broke things off because of xyz”, even when they ask, there’s a very high chance that their first reaction will be, “I can fix that! I’ll do it for you! I’ll do it for loooove!”

    Don’t give into temptation. They are still the same person you decided you weren’t compatible with. They might even legitimately make an effort to change, for a while. But we’re all creatures of habit and we all know how hard it is to make permanent lifestyle changes (ever tried to diet?)

    If the person in question makes the change and sticks with it for a very long while, great! In the future, then, when enough time has elapsed to show the change is pretty permanent, you might have a second go at a relationship with them. But right now? “Sorry, that’s kind of you, but I’ve already made my decision.” Because right now they are still the same person who is incompatible with you. Maybe you’ll happen to meet again in 5 years and they’ll have gone and made the change anyway because some careful reflection and thought made them decide they wanted to do it anyway, even if you weren’t there. Maybe the romance will reignite and it will be wonderful. But right now they haven’t actually changed, much less permanently, and the best thing for incompatible people to do is to call it a day instead of ultimately waste each others’ time.

    1. Absolutely. And it’s also vastly less likely that someone will actually achieve lasting personal change when they are doing it in the context of a love relationship and with the goal of preserving that relationship. Being in a relationship under those circumstances serves as a powerful distraction from attending to one’s own internal world in a genuine way, which is a prerequisite for lasting change that comes from within.

  36. To the OP; as a fellow trans dude, power bump, and also, whilst it’s okay to “feel like a niche market” (and definitely under-represented in the successful romance / great sex / wonderful partner category of all media ever) doesn’t mean that you have to ‘settle’ or ignore your gut. Lots of people in the dating/sex/relationship ocean have some ~complicated~ attached.

  37. Hi LW! I went home with a dude once and his place was a freaking disaster and I wasn’t assertive enough even to myself about what I expected from other people. To make a long story short, Reader, I married him, and he didn’t improve–if anything, once I was around to pick up after him, he got worse.

    You did the right thing!! I wish I had.

  38. Contrary to The Captain I don’t cringe that much at his reference to your past. If you two were close online and talking about it a lot, it’s a logical question and it sounds a lot like “please tell me it isn’t me but you.” It’s a request to be relieved of the responsibility, and it’s your choice, LW, if you give him that or not. I see a few other options for LW to answer this. One of course is stonewalling and keeping it at “It’s really nothing specific, I just didn’t think we would do as well in real life as we did online.” The other is simply lying and saying “Yes, it’s something I have to work through, sorry about that, but you can’t help there.” It stops the discussion, relieves him, and what do you care what he thinks about your issues. The last and a little more friendly option for me would be “Actually, when meeting you online, I think I couldn’t very well live in your living conditions, or arrange myself with the way you lead your life. We are a lot more different than I thought we would be from chatting online. And a long-term relationship should have a potential to live with the other, don’t you think?” The danger I see in either my softer words or the Captain’s harder ones is that it’s almost certainly leading to the “but I can chaaaaange” promise and you’d have to find a script to answer that too.

    1. I meant “when meeting you in real life”, not “online”. Typo. Sorry.

      1. I’ve got to admit with the issue stuff, if this has been a conversation LW has been having with him and he’s been offering support then it’s a reasonable question if only to check in – like he’s wondering if he gave support it’d help or fi LW needs time away to come back later it’d help. This is giving him the benefit o the doubt of course and I he’s using it in a ‘but whhyyyyyy?!’ whine not motivated by genuine concern ad respect then feel free to discard that reading completely and raise up the big red flag. At the end of the day LW knows his relationship dynamic best and the captain scripts do work really well in covering both genuinely hurt and confused supportive dude’ and ‘gaslighting arsehole dude’ options

        1. I think in most cases when a reasonably decent person is dumped, they would wonder a) whhyyy meeee? and b) is it them and maybe I just need to check in and see if they are ok. And I think for most people at a time like that it is really hard to differentiate between both feelings and how much is just an excuse to still have contact. In the end it’s at the other person’s discretion to react or not, and if so, how. Just as you said. My own heart knows best.

        2. I’m not sure that that the dumped dude’s hypothetical motivations should really have much weight, though? I mean, I know the LW is reacting to his guy’s questions as reasonable in context instead of as the reddest flag of them all, so cool, presumably the inquiry isn’t massively out-of-bounds within their relationship. But it doesn’t matter whether a hurt, confused person could mean well and logically ask that question and not provoke an immediate alignment shift/cross over to the Dark Side. Standing alone, it’s still not a cool or respectful question. Guessing about specific reasons is not respecting the LW’s decision not to talk about Reasons for the break-up, and guessing that it’s because of “issues” that LW needs to “work through” really, truly is casting LW as broken (with a strong implication that Dumped Guy is volunteering to be his Mr. Fix-it). Dumped Guy might not mean to do that, and he might have done it in a way that isn’t a problem for the LW or is a very small part of a much larger picture, and it doesn’t mean he’s evil. It’s still what he did.

          If the dude wants to know whether giving more/different support would help, then he could say, “Is there anything I can still do that would make a difference to your decision?” or “Is there anything you want to talk about?” (But usually, when one has been been broken-up-with, it seems like a good bet to assume that if the breaker-up had wanted more/different support instead of to Not Be Together Anymore, they would have said something about that. Since instead they have broken up, their ex is probably not the support they were looking for right now.) If dude wants to know for his own feelings’ sake and also wants to be supportive, then he could say, “Wow, I’m really taken aback by how sudden this is, is there any chance you’d be comfortable filling me in a little on what led up to your decision? I really didn’t see this coming.” In short, there are tons of questions he could logically ask that are Not That One.

          It’s worth remembering that gaslighting can come in the costume of concern, propped up by the language of “respect”. I think that’s why the Awkward Army is giving that particular question so much side-eye. F’rinstance, somehow whenever I tried to address a problem with my Friendly Neighborhood Gaslighter, I wound up being “helped” with my “issues” [that were preventing me from letting Friendly Neighborhood Gasligher run roughshod over me]. She was good at being Logical and Concerned. When I eventually refused to analyze issues with this person anymore (thanks, Awkward Army!), she finally broke out the whine and the tantrums and gave the game away. But in the beginning, I thought she was genuinely motivated by concern and respect. It was just a coincidence, or maybe even a sign that she was right, when I kept winding up in tears and trying to make myself smaller. Focusing on her motives instead of on her results was a trap.

          That said, I agree that LW knows the relationship dynamics the best!

          1. Aye absoluy Aphid,, you make a good point. The awkward army has LWs back, so expecting the worse deffo cant hurt if it covers all bases. LW will know whether the question gives him the heebie jeebies or not and can act accordingly, and the fundamental answer that you dont have to respond at all no matter how nice or bad theqestion is is sound.

          2. ‘Focusing on her motives instead of on her results was a trap.’

            Yes, SO MUCH THIS. Thank you. Also, YAY to you for taking a stand with Gaslighter.

            Sometimes (often), you just need to cut through all the ‘But I’m only doing this because excuuuuuuuses/supposed deficiencies in your actions making it All Your Fault anyway’, and focus on the ‘This is a thing you are doing which I require you to change. Yes, I realise you think you’re fully justified in doing it, but it is still something that I need you to change.’

        3. What jumped out at me when I reread the post, though, was the quote ‘working through’. He asked the LW if it was something from his past that he needed *working through*. That’s not ‘Do you need more help? Is there anything here I can support you with?’ It’s ‘Is this something that you can fix so that I can still get this relationship I want?’

  39. If nothing else, this comment thread has motivated me to take out some trash/recycling and put fresh sheets on the bed. So, I guess, there’s that? #TheDishesCanWait

    1. I totally don’t have one less box of random stuff than I did before reading this post, nope.

  40. As someone who has done a lot of casual dating the past two years-ish and has met a lot of people I’m not interested in seeing again, I can tell you that every time someone has asked me why I’m not interested in dating them and I’ve told them it has completely blown up in my face. Every. Single. Time.

    I’ve realized that people who push for answers really don’t care what the answers are, they just want a toehold to try to argue you out of your position. The last person I dated I broke up with for the following reasons:

    1. Was still way too involved with his ex girlfriend in an uncomfortable-making way
    2. Was 80K in debt for a degree he never finished
    3. Thought keeping 2 credit cards maxed out was a good idea, because his mother had access to the accounts and would sometimes try to use them. Taking her off the accounts didn’t seem to occur to him.
    4. Was perpetually broke/in debt and would have been homeless if he wasn’t living off the kindness of friends
    5. Thought that having his paychecks mailed to his mother, who was a hoarder and would inevitably lose them and whose house was a 1 hour drive from his apartment was a good idea, even though his work was about 4 miles from his apartment. Yeah, I didn’t get it either.
    6. Had a very drama-filled relationship with said hoarder mother.
    7. Seemed to think that four months of dating = I pay for everything when he’s broke, because we’re a paaaaaaaaaaaartnership
    8. Thought that blowing up and threatening to leave every time he was unhappy was an okay way to Relationship.
    9. Had terribly messed up, rotten teeth (sorry, this is a dealbreaker for me)
    10. Was a premature ejaculator (see above)
    11. Got incredibly jealous when I saw male friends, even though ex from point 1. was periodically sleeping in his bed when she visited
    12. Refused to accept that I needed alone time and got pissy and pouty when I didn’t want to hang out every night

    When I broke up with him, I told him that we were fundamentally incompatible in some ways that I didn’t see a way to resolve. Personally, I thought that was a much kinder way of breaking it off with someone than handing them the list above. He pulled the but whhhhhhhhhhhhhyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy several times until I finally stopped speaking to him (also, I’d just like to say, someone insisting you stay in touch/be friends when you are breaking up with them is also a bad sign, and yet another example of them not accepting that you have the right to decide who you have in your life).

  41. I’ve definitely had the “oh shit, this wasn’t what I anticipated” realization when meeting some aspect of an online relationship in person. Maybe they look different; maybe they sound annoying when you hear their voice; maybe their day to day habits don’t work with you; this is a hazard of online dating. LW, this dude should know that, and if he doesn’t, it’s not your responsibility to stay with him. If he demands to know why you broke up…I say tell him. Because he’s asking for it. Not only will this teach him that sometimes closure hurts and he might not always want to beg for answers, it will also tell him some things that, *if he wants to*, he can change.

Comments are closed.