Dear Alma, My orchestra partner wants more

Dear Alma, My orchestra partner wants more

Daily Comfort Zone

norman lebrecht

August 18, 2023

From our weekend agony aunt:

Dear Alma,

My college girlfriend and I were lucky enough to land jobs a couple of years ago in the same orchestra. We are both young, the relationship is fine, and she wants to move in together. Although there isn’t anything exactly wrong with our relationship, I want to still see what else life has to offer, and don’t know how to gently break it off with her. Neither of us has ever dated anyone else. We see each other every day, and are in the same group of friends. 

Looking for more

Dear Looking for more,

Ending a long relationship is never easy. There will be pain (on both sides), and hurt feelings, but with some thoughtful planning, you can find a respectful and clear way to transition out of this important part of your lives. It’s not going to be a walk in the park, but there are ways to avoid the awkward, yucky and chaotic nature of a big change such as this.

Firstly, take some time to take stock of the situation. Make a simple pro and con list; maybe there is a lot of good in it, and some things which make you unhappy could be modified. An abrupt breakup can be quite jolting – not only for her, but for yourself. Ease these points into conversations now, so your partner can get a sense that not all is well.

Remember that you are in a working relationship with this person, as well as a group of friends. Walk slowly into it to avoid shock and trauma that will seep into your work environment. Don’t talk about it at orchestra, and avoid, if at all possible, speaking about it with mutual friends. Call a family member or friend who isn’t in your orchestra to talk to. Things can get nasty at work, quickly. Tread carefully.

Think about what you will say, and practice a couple of variants. Be kind, use “I” sentences, remain neutral and non-confrontational. Say things like “I feel too young to be making a long-term commitment” and not “You always steal my metronome and your intonation is atrocious!”

Where do you want this talk to happen? A public place can be embarrassing for you both, although if you are at all concerned that your partner could get violent, public might be a better choice than private. Be ready to listen. You can’t control how they will feel; be supportive, patient, and yet firm. Don’t insinuate that changes could be made which would allow the relationship to continue. That’s manipulative and will reflect badly on you. Remember all of the goodness that the two of you shared, and focus on that, while remaining secure in your decision.

Be firm but kind. Avoid answering detailed questions about the reasons. You don’t want to start making lists, which will inevitably go on a painful rerun pattern in their minds. Return to “I” sentences and your fundamental reason, whatever that is (I am too young to be tied down, I want to experience more of life….).

And lastly, breaking up is a normal, healthy part of life. It’s painful, but liberating, and it’s important for both of you to be in a healthy, happy situation, be that together or alone.


  • Margaret says:

    Good advice for anyone needing to break up, especially in a work environment. Thanks, Alma

  • John Dalkas says:

    Many wise and caring words here.

  • Observer says:

    This is a website devoted to classical music, right? Just askin’…

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    He could also mention something about feminism and women have more choices than just ‘moving in together’. Couldn’t he?

  • V says:

    Life has plenty to offer, and almost none of it comes through variety of partners

  • Prima Diva says:

    Give yourself a little more time. Draw this out a bit. Say something like, you want to be engaged first before moving in together. Because you are young and this might be your only chance to have that great ‘music love’ of your life. College sweethearts. In the same orchestra. Where do you find that? If you don’t get married, then by 30 everybody else in music will be all booed up and you will have to wait for music divorces to come around. Unless you don’t mind marrying someone outside of music. Your choice. Many have mixed matches. But I would say we all earnestly want someone in music if possible. because music people understand each other and understand the lifestyle.