The other day I found myself sitting alone in a café. It is one of my guilty pleasures—to sit with a good cup of coffee, a scone, all alone with myself to think, work, or just relax.
Inevitably though, I find my ears and eyes wandering away from my solitude and listening in on the conversations of those around me. My father calls it “eavesdropping” and says I should stop it. I call it “voyeurism” and feel quite confident in my habit.
This day there was a couple sitting next to me sharing an omelet and drinking mimosas. They were discussing jobs, and weekend plans, and gossiping about friends. By their banter I could tell they were quite intimate with each other. Still, I could not tell if they were a romantic couple, siblings, or just very close friends.
Then suddenly the conversation turned with that horrible phrase, “There is something I need to talk to you about…” It is a sentence none of us like to hear, as it is almost never good news.
“Oh, are we having ‘the talk?’” the man said.
“Well, I was going to text you, but I thought it could wait until we met up,” she said.
“Text me? Really? You were going to ‘text’ our break-up?” he said, in a tone one octave higher than his regular voice.
As their conversation evolved, it appeared that she was finding herself obsessed and jealous driven by his lack of commitment. She didn't know the status of their relationship, and therefore mistrusted his actions, and causing her to be a bit of a crazy girlfirend. She didn't like her own behavior, and wanted it to stop. But she didn't know how, other than to break up with him. And he, in return, was pulling back based on her obsessive and controlling behavior. Sex was good, boyfriend/girlfriend relations were not.
It was an uncomfortable conversation to be eavesdropping listening in on, and perhaps even more uncomfortable to be a party-to. The couple—probably in their 30’s, were mature and thoughtful in how they handled the break-up. They clearly had dealt with relationship issues like this in the past—jealousy, being on a “different page,” lack of communication, lack of attraction or attention or… are rarely things that can be worked out.
The couple decided they’d be “friends with benefits” and continue sleeping with each other, but have a NSA (no strings attached) relationship to avoid the obsessive and envious behavior brought on by “dating.”
This confrontational, in-person break-up got me thinking how rare this behavior has become. With email and texting and voicemail, we have become a society that can easily hide behind digital devices when dealing with confrontational issues we would like to avoid.
I was recently dating a girl who would text me 5 times a day. “Hi honey” was her greeting and we’d banter for 30 minutes or so, multiple times a day. Over time, the texting slowed. The greetings became “Hi” rather than “Hi honey” and I found myself texting her more than she was texting me.
Soon, days were going by without a peep from her. The silence clearly was indicating that the relationship was becoming drained of romance. It has been a month since I heard from her. The relationship had ended, without a “Dear John” letter, or an in-person break-up conversation.
It seems that a lack of conversation is the new way to break-up with someone. Instead of direct communication, we must look to signs—from the slowing of texting patterns, to a lack of “availability” on Saturday nights. The most direct form of rejection? An “un-friending” on Facebook, or no response to a VM, email or text.
The passive “non-response” break-up that is intended just to make fade away personally frustrates me. Frankly, I get a little crazy trying to figure out whether her lack of immediate text response is because she no longer wants to date, or it is because she’s in the middle of a business meeting. I’d prefer “the talk.”—in-person and face-to-face—“I’m just not that into you.” To know when the relationship is over.
I'd actually prefer the “There is something I need to talk to you about…” conversation, over guessing and silence.
Or at least a text.
Author Jack Reid is a relationship expert and author of the “Jack Knows” column on FIVE THôT.