Dear Christine, The girl I've been dating for six months just broke up with me. But even worse than being dumped is the way she let me know it was over: she sent me an email. The subject line was "hi" and then she basically wrote that she enjoyed the time we spent together, but things just did not feel "right." I want to call and ask her why she's calling it quits but I'm so peeved about breaking up with me over email that I can't stomach a conversation. What do I do? Do I call her or email her back? - Dear John Email Recipient, 27, Chicago
Dear John Email Recipient,
Ouch. Getting dumped is hard enough, but discovering you're a dumpee via your inbox is pretty cold. Hopefully you are already beginning to see that any woman who takes the chicken way out of a break-up conversation is not the kind of woman you could have a quality relationship with - no matter how hot she may be. And if you think about it, there were probably some red flags before this incident. It sounds like she could use some coaching on her interpersonal skills, but you're not the one who should do it.
Your next move depends on how much this email break-up is going to bug you. If you feel like you can let it go without obsessing over it too much or holding a grudge (because that is just a colossal waste of energy), reply with a very brief yet non passive-aggressive response. Something like: "I understand. I enjoyed getting to know you. Take care." Be politely vague - believe me, vagueness drives women crazy. If she is not gutsy enough to have a grown-up conversation with you about why a six month relationship does not feel "right," then do not even give her the dignity of a long response. Also, there is no need to point out to her that sending you an email is childish and wimpy - believe me, she already knows. Take the high road rather than point out her pettiness.
As I am writing this I realize I am making a big assumption - that you have been a nice guy and dated her with integrity. If you have acted in any jerky or insensitive ways like not calling when you say you will, not being honest about who else you are dating, making rude comments, staring at or flirting with other women repeatedly when you are out, or engaging in any other eternal bachelor behavior, then you got off easy with an email.
Or maybe you haven't been a total jerk, but you've been a bit lax in returning her calls, busy at work, etc. If she hasn't been able to see you in person or get you on the phone, she might have felt this was her only way to express what she has needed to express and actually get your attention. Be willing to own your end of this situation and determine if you have set-up distancing road blocks to your communication. Look to yourself and begin altering behavior before your next relationship ends up ending over email too.
That said, if you have been a prince and don't feel like you can let this insensitive emailer off the hook without speaking, then get it over with sooner than later. Call immediately and simply state that you just wanted to complete the relationship with an actual conversation. If you feel like you absolutely must get one comment in about the email, then say something along the lines of, "I would have preferred it if you would not have ended our relationship via email - it felt a little cold. But, hey, I understand your decision and I wish you the best." Be brief, be a gentleman, and be sure not to waste too much energy on the conversation.
And if you're still pisssed when you hang up, then write her a letter expressing your feelings that you NEVER mail. Get it all out; tell her everything you'd love to be able to say to her face - the good and the bad. Use this writing exercise as a therapeutic way to complete this relationship and put the email break-up behind you.
Don't take this too personally - thanks to the internet, many of us have gotten lazy in the interpersonal communication and etiquette department. We can use technology to avoid uncomfortable face to face interactions or phone calls. All of us are becoming far too reliant on our gadgets and starved for real human connection. To anyone reading who has been afflicted by or is an afflicter of cowardly cyber communication, take a stand for human connection! Say "no" to being asked out over text messages and instead of "poking" a friend you haven't talked to in a year, pick up the phone. And for Pete's sake, if you ever have to deliver bad news to someone, don't type it.