Picture the following scene: You’re snug at home on a cold, stormy night, nestled in your partner’s arms in front of a cozy fire (it helps if you have a fireplace, but let’s skip that detail for now). Just when you start thinking that things couldn’t possibly get any better, a sudden flash of lightning illuminates something so horrifying, so off-putting in its implications, that you leap up off the couch, heart racing, and point at it with ashen, trembling hand. “That picture of your ex!” you shriek. “You told me you threw it out!” You exit the house with an ear-piercing scream, wondering what you ever saw in your soon-to-be-former beloved.
Too dramatic, you say? Such things could never happen? Well, let us share some dreadful moments when nice, regular people — not unlike yourself — realized in one swift and horrifying moment that their relationship was destined to fail. Learn from these stories when it’s time to walk away from a very, very bad thing…
A hair-raising experience
“We were both in the bathroom and I was curling my hair, and the guy I was seeing at the time told me that my hair should be curlier. He went on to tell me about how his ex-wife was a hairdresser and she always had nice curls in her hair and how beautiful she was. After that, I was never really that interested in talking to him anymore.” - Kristal*
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A low down, dirty shame
“I told my girlfriend that I thought it felt like there was sand in her bed. She stuck her hand under the covers, felt around, and protested, ‘That’s not sand! It’s just regular old dirt.’ That’s when I knew our hygiene standards were just too far apart to ever make our relationship work!” - Rob*
The creature from above the sink
Here’s one from my own traumatic past. Years ago, my then-girlfriend and I made dinner in my apartment. As we were washing the dishes, a small, adorable mouse popped out of a nearby cabinet and scampered into the sink (maybe he wanted to take a bath?). I wanted to scoop him up and relocate him gently out of the house and into the yard, but before I could broach this idea, she lunged for the tap and drowned the poor thing. Not the kind of move that gives you a warm feeling all over… needless to say, we broke up.
A fool and his honey are soon parted
“After about two months of dating, we went out with some of my friends. Things were going fine until my friend Sara made some passing comment about campaign finance reform, and my boyfriend started rambling about free speech and the apathy of the common man. People tried to change the subject, but he wouldn’t shut up... until I finally told him to. I then told him he was being childish and needed some social skills. After getting home later that night, I suddenly remembered what I wanted out of life, and simply could not visualize it happening with him. I broke up with him a week later.”
Reply hazy, ask again
“In the beginning, I was psyched about dating my girlfriend. She was bright and funny and enjoyed many of the same activities I did, but then I found out she was seriously into psychics and astrology — and I mean seriously. I successfully ignored it until she emerged from the bathroom one day, claiming she was channeling emotions from her blow dryer. (She was a highly educated woman, and she wasn’t insane, mind you; she just had this mystical side I couldn’t quite handle.) But that made it almost impossible for me to relate to her on any kind of higher level. I entertained asking her blow dryer for advice, but that seemed dumb. The closest I could get was asking my Magic 8 Ball, which offended her. I realized it was never going to work, so I broke up with her then.”
Just call him Dr. Discount...
“One year I met a physician at a Christmas party, and I ended up dating him for a few months. On our first date, he took me to a Japanese restaurant using a two-for-one coupon. Not the classiest move, but not the worst I’ve seen, I suppose. Then, he asked me out for dinner again a few weeks later, and he took me to the same place… apparently because he had another coupon. For a while, we managed to enjoy each other’s company — as long as we didn’t go to any restaurants. Then, on our final dinner date — which I probably shouldn’t have gone on, but hey, he made me laugh — he conveniently forgot his wallet in his sports car. I’d had enough shenanigans by then, and told him so when he dropped me off that night.”
A different kind of basket case
“On our way to a picnic, we had to stop so my girlfriend of two years could buy a new outfit (out of my pocket, of course, because the one she took an hour to pick out on her own wasn’t good enough). That was the first ‘picnic incident’ — but the second one was even sadder. We’d spontaneously decided to go on another picnic, so we stopped by a deli at a grocery store near a nice lake area. When the clerk weighed each of our salads, hers weighed more. She stormed out after saying that I made her look like a pig because I wasn’t eating as much as she was. Kinda nuts, huh?”
Under not-so-secret surveillance
“I was dating this woman who I really liked for close to a year, and I really hoped things would work out between us. She watched my dog for me and brought in my mail while I was out of town, and when I returned, I noticed that one of my video tapes — one of those tapes, obviously, because seriously, who even uses those anymore? — was missing. I wasn’t concerned about her finding it; I just wanted to clarify that she should have asked me before she took it. When I confronted her, she denied everything, but when I was over at her house a week later, I pressed the eject button on her VCR, and out came my tape! I felt so weird about the lie combined with my discovery that I ended up dumping her via email.”
I know what you did last night
“Our dates were fabulous, our conversation was comfortable and the chemistry was incredible. I was really excited about the coming weeks, thinking my guy was going to want to discuss our becoming exclusive. You can imagine my surprise when, the day after a totally amazing night out with him, I saw that my guy had completely updated his online dating profile with new pictures! I guess the feeling wasn’t exactly mutual, and that was my heads-up moment.” - Alexis*
Failed acquisitions and mergers
“My boyfriend and I had been seeing each other exclusively for about two years when he took me to a nice restaurant to ‘tell me something important,’ which I for sure thought was going to be a marriage proposal. Imagine my horror, then, when he then admitted to being the person who was leading the hostile takeover of my family’s business! When I asked him how he could hide something like that from me, he told me that he felt ‘remorseless,’ because he knew that making this kind of move would ‘secure our financial future together.’ I was so stunned by his confession that I dumped him on the spot, actually.”
* All names have been stripped of identifying traits to protect contributors’ privacy.
Bob Strauss is a freelance writer and children’s book author who lives in New York City. He’s also written the Dinosaur guide on About.com, the online information network owned by the New York Times.