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Miss Manners: Honesty can be cruel in breakup

DEAR MISS MANNERS – I have heard that breaking a date for any reason other than absolute emergency is unacceptable, but I rather feel that under the circumstances, keeping the date would be inappropriate.

You see, I accepted the invitation two weeks before the date was scheduled to occur and have since come to the startling realization that I cannot continue seeing the boy in question. My initial reaction is to tell him immediately, as I feel anything less would be leading him on, yet I have a date scheduled with him for later in the week. Shall I let him take me to the theater, only to tell him afterward that I no longer wish to see him? Would that not be cruel and seeming to take advantage of the opportunity to see a free show?

Perhaps it would be easier if he had done something to seriously offend me that would warrant the breaking of a date, but the truth is, he is a singularly unique and wonderful individual and I could hope for no better companion. He is thoughtful, intelligent, respectful and kind.

It is through no fault of his own that I’ve found I do not want him (though I feel a wretched creature for it). The facts are simply these: I feel no passion for him. Not passion, as in lust, but passion, meaning I cannot wait to hear what he has to say, nor get back together with him. Often I find my eyes glazing over a bit when he talks (aren’t I perfectly horrid?) and I’ve noticed on occasion the same happens to him when I speak.

Another pressing question is this: How do I break things off with him? We’ve been going on dates for a couple of months and all the while, I felt something was off but could not put a finger on it. Now that I can, I know things must end. I feel I’ve led him on. I dislike that feeling greatly, and I wish to set things right the best I am able.

Please, Miss Manners, tell me, is there any way to break things off well? When he asks why, what can I say? “I feel no passion for you”? I feel that would be the height of cruelty, especially right after the theater.

GENTLE READER – Miss Manners cannot deny that hearts must sometimes be broken. Surely that is all the more reason that one should refrain from breaking other things – dates, china, wind – when one can.

A key question here is whether the gentleman has purchased theater tickets. It is bad enough to be rejected without immediately having to call around to find someone else to use the ticket. It sounds as if you have been seeing him long enough to endure one more evening, at the end of which you can say, “I enjoyed this very much, but I find that for various reasons, I’m going to be a lot less available now.”

Miss Manners is aware that there is a strong school of thought that believes in giving honest reasons for breaking up a romance. She is all the more grateful that you understand the cruelty of declaring someone unattractive, which is always what that comes down to. Attractiveness is, after all, a subjective quality, and someone else would be bound to find your reject attractive – if not for the hangdog look that would be left on his face from your honest assessment.