You gotta be cruel to be kind

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For nearly a summer earlier in my 20s, I went out with a guy I met through my work. I was attracted to his sarcastic, dry sense of humor that mirrored mine, his light blue eyes  and his sandy blonde curls. Put simply, I was smitten.

It was maybe two months into the relationship when I could sense him pulling away. He didn’t text or call as much and I didn’t see him as often. At first I chalked it up to his hectic work schedule: summers were the busiest time for his job. But I think in my heart I knew what was really going on.

That didn’t stop me from pursuing him, from waiting around for his calls and texts.

One morning I sent him a text and he initially responded. Then he stopped communicating altogether. He stopped texting literally in the middle of the conversation. And, save for one work-related Facebook message months later, I never saw or heard from him again.

For a long time, I hated him for not having the courage to call and explain himself, for leaving me without any sense of closure.

Now that I’m (a whole three years) older and wiser, I still think what he did was cowardly, but I have more grace for him. Unless you’re a terrible person, dumping someone just sucks.

Especially when the person is perfectly nice and sweet and has few other faults besides not being compatible.

But there’s also a kindness to breaking up with a person, one that I hadn’t recognized until recently. It is a much kinder thing (in a dating relationship, at least)  to tell someone you’re not feeling it than to string them along for any period of time. It’s a kind thing to do for yourself, too. If you don’t stick up for what you want, no one else will do it for you.

There’s not much respect for that type of kindness. It’s easy to hate someone who can’t end a relationship gracefully, who chooses to stop responding to text messages rather than sitting down over a cup of coffee and saying how they feel.

Clearly, some ways of breaking up with someone are kinder than others. Sure, I would have much rather had a conversation. But I’ll tell you one thing, his silence sent a message. And while it may have broken my heart, I never had to wonder what he was trying to say.

And there’s something to be said for that.

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