Don’t be a coward about it. Don’t send him a text message when you’re already out the door and safely down the street, when you don’t have to see him if he cries or begs you to stay. Sit him down, just the two of you — in your car if you have to, fogged up from inside by your nervous breathing — and tell him. Tell him you have to go.
It’s not him. Not really, anyway. You have always sensed that this would be a time in your life when you shouldn’t be tied down, shouldn’t have anyone else to please or whose expectations you should meet. When you were a little girl, you used to say that you would be married by this age, but when you actually came near it you realized just how young it was. You couldn’t be married at this age.
Especially not to him.
Maybe you read too many books, watched too many movies, and got too clear a picture of the kind of man you would want to love you. And that man was not like him. He is indifferent to so many things, doesn’t care for his life or his friends or his apartment (or you) in the way you imagine a man should. He doesn’t think ahead, doesn’t surprise, doesn’t wake you up with a text message saying he loves you or make you dinner (even if he burns the chicken again). You planned his birthday party for nearly two months before the actual day, and he forgot to get you a present.
You should leave him tonight because you keep talking about your resolutions, about all the things you want to do next year to make yourself a better person, but when you picture that better person, she is always alone. She is off living some great adventure that she could never do when tied down to his very narrow horizons. With him, you feel that you can plan out your entire future, and never really enjoy it. You are too young to be settling for anything, especially someone who makes you feel like you’re giving up on so much.
Find a nice way to tell him, and stay on topic. Plan it out if you have to. Write a dialogue, and practice it in the shower. Don’t let yourself get distracted by the familiar way he smells or the feeling of his hand on your cheek again, in the same place it always goes. Don’t meet him in the eyes if you can’t do it without crying. You don’t owe him another night.
Tell the little girl still inside of you, the one who imagined you would be married at this age — the one who still tells you, every now and again, that you should settle down just to be with someone — that you have so much living left to do. Take her on a trip, take her to a new job interview, take her out to dinner with friends where you talk about everything but your relationships. Tell her that it will be okay.
And do it without him.