Breaking It Off with a Prof

What do you do if you are sexually involved with a married prof? You want to break it off but he is getting kind of needy and you want to end it nicely.

In many ways, breaking off a relationship of any sort with a professor should be rather similar to ending any other relationship. While it can be difficult if the other person doesn’t want it to end, the best you can do is be straightforward with them and communicate honestly about no longer wanting the relationship to continue.

It helps to be confident and clear in what you want, especially if you feel that the other person doesn’t want the same thing and to remember that continuing a relationship because you feel bad isn’t fair to you or the other person. From there, all you can do is hope that the other person will handle the situation as maturely as possible and be prepared to distance yourself if not.

However, if you’re taking one of this professor’s courses this semester, it might be a little more complicated than that. Relationships in which there is a power imbalance of some sort between partners can often be more tricky territory to navigate. In fact, this is reflected in Canadian laws about consent. The legal age for consent to sexual activity is 16.

However, the age is raised to 18 when there is a significant age difference, a hierarchical relationship (like dating your boss or teacher), or another factor that suggests the possibility that one partner is being exploited. I mention this not to suggest that you’re being exploited, but because the same power dynamics from which the law seeks to protect minors can, and often do, still exist in relationships at any age.

Essentially, the situation becomes more complex anytime one partner depends on the other for something other than love and respect—like a pay cheque, grades or keeping a secret. Whether or not this thing is brought up explicitly, it can play a role as a sort of unconscious gambling chip, subtly influencing how you see yourself in the situation as well as what decisions you make, how you make them, and when. What’s important to recognize is that such factors can play a role in your decision-making even if they’re not actively being used against you.

Moreover, it can be rather difficult to discern when one of these factors is at play. I’ll also point out that the professor isn’t the only one with power here. While you’re getting grades and credits from them, they likewise probably depend on you to keep a secret for both their professional and marital stability.

I bring this up because, while I think most people are above using these things to intentionally manipulate, it’s nonetheless important to reflect on how they may be influencing your decisions. Sometimes it can help to actually bring these things up if they’re at all of concern to you since it can lead to an open discussion that provides clarity on where you both stand.

In returning to what to do if you want to break it off, in my opinion an honest conversation is always best. It helps to enter that conversation knowing what you would like the outcome to be, while also being sensitive of the fact that the other person might be hurt.

If you want it to end nicely, this would mean hearing them out and being kind, while staying true to where you’re at. When someone is being needy, it’s easy to imagine them being difficult if you try to break it off and that can keep you from expressing yourself directly for fear of hurting them or having them act out. However, the kindest approach is to be honest and treat the other person the way you would want to be treated.

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