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When dumped, lying might be easy, but better ways exist

By Kristi L. Gustafson
Albany Times Union
Published November 30, 2005

A few weeks after I broke up with a boyfriend, I ran into one of his friends at the mall. He made some reference to Sam (not his real name) "leaving me" and expressed his condolences.

Sometime later, I was talking with one of Sam's girl friends. She, too, referenced the split, saying I shouldn't be too hurt about Sam "breaking up with me," since we never seemed right for each other, anyway.

Apparently, Sam was being less than truthful.

Sure, relationships end every day, and usually there's a dumper and a dumpee. Yet most people on the receiving end of the rejection don't want it announced via the jumbo screen.

"It's hard to admit that you have been dumped," says Karen Sherman, a Long Island-based psychologist and author of "Marriage Magic! Find It, Keep It, Make It Last." "It's more than face-saving to the other person -- it means admitting to yourself that you have been rejected and having to feel the pain that indicates something is wrong with you."

As as result, most of the time the dumpee -- like Sam -- lies about what really happened, says John Seeley, a Newport Beach, Calif.-based life coach and author of "Get Unstuck! The Simple Guide to Restart Your Life."

Be it an avoidance tactic or a matter of pride or denial, rejected men often lie more than women in the same situation.

"Women get more support from their girlfriends, so they're less afraid to tell the truth," Seeley says. Most men, he says, are afraid to look at their emotions and therefore don't want to admit the rejection or that they're bothered by it. Lying, in turn, saves face.

No matter how confident someone is, though, feeling unwanted, unworthy and not "the best" in the eyes of the one you may have loved hurts -- a lot -- and that, too, can lead to the lies. Sure, there's a good chance you'll be caught. Sometimes, though, the secret's safe.

In both instances with Sam's friends, I resisted setting them straight. Don't think for one second it didn't take every ounce of self-restraint not to scream, "Whoa, you've got it all wrong," but, after a quick mental debate, I realized he (obviously) cared what his friends thought. I, on the other hand, did not.

"When you are breaking up with them and hurting their feelings, let them save face with their friends," says Kimberlee Brandt, director of the Capital Region branch of It's Just Lunch. "It's doing no harm, and it's not hurting anyone else."

So I didn't sell Sam out; that doesn't mean somewhere along the way (today, maybe?) his friends won't learn the truth. In fact, say experts, he would have been better off being honest in the first place.

"If you think being dumped is bad, it's really more embarrassing when you have to make up for the lie," Seeley says.

While admitting someone doesn't want you anymore is certainly not pleasant, there are effective ways to handle the "what happened," besides "it didn't work out" or "we weren't right for each other."

I'M NOT TALKING

Whether it's a co-worker, family member, friend or acquaintance, someone is bound to ask "what happened" when a relationship ends. April Masini, dating columnist with AskApril.com provides some tips on what to say when you don't want to talk about it:

* Say you're not ready to talk about it yet. It allows you to set up a boundary to protect your feelings.

* You decide who you do and do not want to discuss the break up with. Just because someone asks, doesn't mean you have to tell them. If you don't want to tell someone at all, say, "I'm not discussing it, but I appreciate your interest."

* If you want to give an explanation without getting into details, say, "It didn't work out." Then walk away. If you don't walk, the person inquiring will ask more questions.

* If you do want to talk, but not at that particular moment, you can say, "I'd love to have lunch next week and talk about it with you then." If they keep prying, just say, "Let's talk at lunch next week."

Mahalene Louis, author of "The Weight Is In Your Lies ... Not On Your Thighs," suggests saying something like: "He is the one who told me it was over, and even though at first I felt devastated, now I am so grateful he did. Of course, I would have loved for this to work, wouldn't everybody? Yet I also knew somewhere in me that something was off, that he was not the guy. So, hey, he spoke first and freed me early on from staying in something that would never have worked in the first place."

That way, you're taking blame, being the bigger person and openly saying yes, you were dumped, yes, you were upset, but it happens to everyone and you, like them, will get over it.

To this day, I hear Sam's friends and family think he crushed me, left me crying in the corner, sad and alone. I, on the other hand, will continue to play along.

Kristi Gustafson can be reached at 454-5494 or by e-mail at kgustafson@timesunion.com.