Dear Wendy: “How Can I Dump My Boyfriend Nicely?”

I have been in a long distance relationship for a year. While our relationship has been almost perfect on paper (he’s my best friend, we never fight, and we’re always on the same page), I’ve realized that he’s not the one for me. Since the beginning, I felt like something was missing. The spark just wasn’t there, but I kept trying because he loved me so much and I wasn’t yet sure what I wanted (he’s my first boyfriend and I’m only 18). Now, I know I have to break up with him, but I don’t know how to do so in a way that would hurt him the least and save our friendship. You see, he’s told me multiple times that he wants to spend the rest of his life with me, that I’m the most important person in his life, and that he would love nothing more than to marry me. Before he met me, he was depressed and suicidal at times. He says that he’s been happier than he’s ever been this past year. What do I do? Do I tell him the truth, that I just don’t love him enough? Or do I blame it on the circumstances, the long-distance, financial problems, parental control, etc? Do I drag it out slowly, or do I blindside him? More importantly, is he going to be okay? — The Dumper

Don’t drag it out slowly, and don’t beat around the bush. Your best bet is to be honest but gentle. Tell him that while you love him and want very much to be part of his life, you’ve realized that the best way for you to be there for him is as a friend and not a girlfriend. Chances are he’s going to try to convince/guilt you into not breaking up with him, but hold your ground. You wouldn’t be doing either of you a favor by staying with him. If he asks you — and I’m sure he will — why the change of heart, be honest with him: tell him you don’t feel romantic love for him, that the love you feel is of the best friend variety. While that may hurt him, it isn’t something he can argue against. It isn’t something he can try to provide a solution to, like various other circumstances you could blame the break-up on. Tell him that you understand if he needs a little time and space to process the news, but that you hope very much he won’t shut you out or stay away for long. In the end, the ball will be in his court — he may decide it’s too hard to be friends with you — but hopefully, in time, he’ll be happy to have you in his life in whatever way you’re available to him.

My boyfriend and I have been together around 1.5 years and I thought everything was going well. But the other night over dinner, he announced that he’s bored and he thinks we’re in a rut. His suggestions to fix this rut were that I need to try new things and make more of an effort to hang out with with his friends. He asked me what would make me happier in the relationship, and I said that I have an issue with how much he loves sports. Like most men, he loves to watch sports, but he also loves to play them, too. He plays every weekend — Saturdays and Sundays — for 2-3 (or more) hours right smack in the middle of the afternoon. This makes it rather hard to plan any fun weekend things, and since he paid to play in these leagues, I feel bad asking him to miss a game. And I was also told in firm terms when we started dating that he loves sports, so as a result, I tend to not bring this up… Anyway, I’m willing to work on trying new things, but when I asked him point blank if he wanted to be with me in the long run, he said “i don’t know.” So now I’m expected to work very hard to change something that’s fairly ingrained in my personality for someone who isn’t even sure if he actually wants to be with me? While I know that all relationships require work, I didn’t think this would be so one-sided, that the entire burden would rest with me… Should I stay, and hope that I can change enough to make him happy? Why should I work so hard to change for someone who clearly doesn’t seem willing to do the same for me? — Game Changer

Look, relationships are about compromise. You BOTH need to be willing to bend a little — you need to be more willing to try new things (and introduce new things to him to try) and he needs to give up a game now and then to spend some quality weekend time with YOU. What makes you so certain he isn’t willing to do that? He did, after all, ask what would make you happier. If you told him and he refused to make any changes, that’s one thing, but if you just assumed he wouldn’t be willing to skip a game now and then to hang out with you, that’s your fault for not being assertive.

If neither of you is willing to make some changes — or if just one of you does — it ain’t gonna work. That doesn’t mean either of you is bad or wrong, but perhaps you just aren’t the right match. I’d give it a few months of trying to work through things before chucking the relationship, though — the fact that he brought his concerns to your attention and actually asked what would make YOU happier is a pretty good sign he’s willing to compromise.