May 29, 2003
After 10 extremely passionate months together, Amanda decided to end our relationship. She thought it through very carefully and took the steps she felt were necessary to break things off. There was just one small step she overlooked -- telling me.
So here's how I found out: Coming home after work one night, I noticed that the clothes Amanda usually kept hanging in my closet were gone; just the empty hangers remained. The stuff she kept in the bathroom -- also gone. I was expecting her that night and she never appeared.
My phone message to her was not returned. No word from her for the next two days. Had she been kidnapped? Been in an accident? Spoken to one of my old girlfriends about me? I called her sister and left a message, but never heard back from her either.
Finally, after two days, there was a message from Amanda on my answering machine: "I'm out of town for a few days. I needed to get away to think about our relationship."
Which, as it turns out, is woman-speak for: "You'll see me naked again when Osama bin Laden becomes a rabbi."
I finally reached her by phone. What followed was a half-hour conversation, in which Amanda told me she was leaving because, basically, she wanted a different kind of guy.
"But you seemed so happy with the guy you had during our 10 extremely passionate months together," I reminded her. And I pointed out things she had said to me frequently; little things like, "I love you," "You're the man I've been waiting for all my life," and "This is the most incredible relationship I've ever had."
But none of that mattered now. Her mind was made up, her heart was closed down, the security systems were activated and that was the last time we communicated.
As psychiatrists are fond of saying, "And how did that make you feel?" Well, Dr. Melfi, I felt shocked, depressed, angry, abused, mislead, hurt and abandoned -- which, incidentally, were the actual names of the Seven Dwarves before Disney started fiddling with them.
But then I got to wondering why Amanda chose to dump me in such a cold fashion when what preceded it was 10 months of passion. And the only thing I could come up with was that Amanda chose to take the easy way out -- for her. She didn't want a confrontation, an argument or the pain of raw, exposed emotion; she simply left -- and left me holding the big, unopened Pandora's box of sudden loss.
But painful experiences are invariably learning experiences, and what I learned from Amanda's emotional cowardice is that there is an art, if you will, to breaking off a relationship. That is assuming, of course, that your intention is to behave like a human being, to honor the relationship and to be considerate and respectful of your partner's feelings. Think of it as a farewell gift to your partner. Or think of it simply as the right thing to do.
For the love of God, don't just suddenly vanish. Nor should you do it via phone, e-mail, letter or through a third-party intervention. All of those techniques are simply wimping out, hurtful and just plain wrong. You know it, I know it, Dr. Phil knows it.
The only way to end a relationship is face to face. Raise the issues. See if there's a chance to work them out or get help to do so. If not, tell him or her the honest reasons, and acknowledge all the good in the relationship. If you sense there's a mutual desire to stay friends, discuss that. If not, wish your partner happiness and good luck, give him or her a hug and leave.
Remember how kind and gentle, thoughtful and respectful you were going into the relationship? Well, your exit strategy should involve those identical qualities. But be forewarned -- if you don't use those qualities, I sincerely hope that the giant, angry Karma Monster tracks you down and torments you in the Extreme Punishment Room for all eternity. Oh, by the way, if you see Amanda there, give her my regards, won't you?
Mark Miller is a comedy writer who has written for TV, movies and many celebrities, been a humor columnist for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, contributed to numerous national publications and produced a weekly comedic relationships feature for America Online. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .