February 26th, 2010 by Nina Atwood
Dear Nina: I have been in an on and off relationship for a year and a half and I know it’s not what I want. I’ve started to go out with someone new (only a couple of dates) and I know I need to tell my boyfriend, who in the past has been possessive and jealous. What do I say, and how do I handle his questions? – Carolyn
Carolyn: There is no easy way to tell someone that you are moving on, yet it’s not fair to take those steps while keeping the other person in the dark. So, I acknowledge you, first of all, for your honesty and integrity, and secondly, for doing what’s right, especially when it’s difficult.
Start with the plain truth, expressed compassionately but without soft-soaping it. “We’ve been seeing each other off and on for a long time and we both know it’s not working. I’ve come to the point that I’m interested in going out with other men and I think it’s only fair to tell you that now.”
If he reacts, try to just listen compassionately and acknowledge his feelings. “I know this is uncomfortable for you.” Look for opportunities to express your own. “I’m disappointed, too, that things didn’t work out between us. I care very much for you and I wish you well.”
If he asks if you’ve already started seeing someone, tell the truth. “Yes, I’ve met someone and gone out a couple of times, and I’m interested in getting to know other people as well. I’m not intimate with anyone else at this point, but I wanted to tell you the direction I’m headed rather than making those steps first and telling you later.”
With someone who’s prone to jealousy, the details will only hurt and provoke a greater reaction, even if he asks for them. “It’s not important when we went out and what we did, only that we weren’t intimate and that I wouldn’t do that without getting things very clear with you first.” If he continues to ask intrusive questions, set the boundaries of this and future talks. “I’m not going to answer those kinds of questions. That does nothing to forward this conversation or help us to deal with each other. I’m interested in telling you the truth so that you can make your own choices. My goal is for us to treat each other with dignity and respect in this and all other things between us.”
If the two of you decide to continue seeing each other, know that this will be increasingly difficult as time goes on. If you don’t break up as a result of this conversation, odds are you will very soon, if the other relationship continues. Better to face it now than later when things will get more emotional for all parties concerned.
“The truth will set you free” is never more apt than when it concerns romantic relationships. Keep telling your truth and listening for his and it will quickly be clear what is best and appropriate (though not necessarily easy) for you both.