When you’re dating casually – whether you’ve been on one date, or five – it’s difficult to know what to do once you’ve made the decision that you don’t wish to pursue the other person further, romantically at least.
More common than not, under these circumstances, our tendency is to either disappear, go radio silent and hope the person gets the message, or to make up an excuse…often along the lines of:
Personally, I think both approaches suck and don’t do any favours to either party involved.
So, here are my Five Top Suggestions on how to handle these situations, noting that I’m not offering “break-up” advice. Once you’re in an established relationship, the rules of engagement might look slightly different. I’m referring to situations where a commitment and/or exclusivity have not yet been established.
Whether you’ve gone out on one date or three (or perhaps you haven’t even made it to the first date but have had some form of communication) it is always difficult to know how to proceed when you decide you no longer wish to pursue someone romantically.
Men get a bad rep for being “assholes” when they don’t call or text and seemingly “disappear”, however, women are just as guilty of doing the same. The difference is – most men don’t sit around talking about it with their buddies, so it doesn’t seem to be as a well-documented fact or problem.
In most cases, the Houdini act is one’s attempt at not hurting the other person’s feelings…there is rarely any malice behind it (although the women I’ve spoken with – and some men – allow their imaginations to think otherwise). Often, too, it has nothing to do with YOU and everything to do with THEM. Never profess to know what is going on in someone else’s life.
While I don’t believe in dating “rules”, per se, I do believe that communicating – something, is better than no communication at all.
I’m an old-fashioned kinda of gal (while simultaneously being a texting whore – so I’m a bit of a walking contradiction)…so I always prefer the phone for important conversations. That said, it really depends on how long you’ve been seeing this person and what the nature of your communication has been like – i.e. what precedents have already been set?
The general “rule” of thumb – bearing in mind that I don’t typically subscribe to rules – to be used as a guideline only, is as follows:
I always believe – whether in dating, or otherwise – that honesty is the best policy and that the worst truth is better than the best lie. How many times have you gone on a date with someone who you were interested in, never to hear back from them again? Even if it were to sting a little bit, wouldn’t you have preferred to know the reason why? What if that feedback could help you improve your dating success?
I always coach my clients to tell the truth. If you don’t want to see the person again because you found that the conversation was lacking – tell them that. It is all in the delivery. Not everyone will appreciate your candor or feedback, however, MANY will and those people will go on to become better, more informed and more successful daters. Think of it as contributing to the greater good of increasing the frequency and volume with which romantic connections are formed.
If we all keep running around sugar-coating and sparing feelings, nobody in the dating community learns anything – about themselves, the process or others’ perception and how impactful that can be – and we keep sending each other back into the dating pool thinking “well, it had nothing to do with me…obviously THEIR LOSS”…which isn’t always the case.
Please go to www.sittinginatree.com and read the blog called “Match Made On Palmerston Avenue”. It is meant to be a good example of how the smallest detail could send a potential love connection off the rails and how the benefit of perspective, insight and having an open mind (not to mention – an intermediary who is objective and, preferably, a professional in relationship matters) can salvage potentially lost/missed opportunities.
What to say: the truth.
How to say it: diplomatically.
That is the simplest approach.
Whatever you do though – please do not say: “I just didn’t feel any chemistry”.
While that might be true, it’s the biggest cop-out and doesn’t help anyone. Before you decide to stop seeing someone, get real with yourself. Figure out the actual reason. If you’re not physically attracted to them – while that certainly plays a role in a lack of chemistry – it’s more concrete and likely something the other person has felt toward someone else, so it’s something they can relate to while being less vague than “no chemistry”. If you felt the conversation was awkward…say so. If you were put-off by the fact that they were late, or cancelled twice, or whatever the case may be – say so. Whatever you say – in order to remain diplomatic, here are some general tips:
a) Use “I” rather than “you” whenever possible
b) Maintain their self-esteem. For example, instead of saying: I thought it was rude that you expected me to split the cheque with you and found you to be quite cheap, say: I’m sure that you have the ability to be generous but I was not prepared to share the bill and was caught off guard. In other words, try to avoid any character assassination and focus solely on the particular circumstances, rather than the person.
c) Share accountability where appropriate. So, instead of saying: You didn’t really talk that much and I felt like I had to keep the conversation going, say: I know first dates are often uncomfortable, and I was nervous too (if you were) so I found the conversation difficult to maintain and would’ve found it helpful if you had made more of an effort to initiate conversation.
d) Compliment them/say something positive (only if you can do so while being genuine). For example, in closing, say something like: I did enjoy our time together. I particularly liked the story you told me about __________, or the part of the evening where we ______________ and would definitely recommend you to a friend (if you would)…I just don’t believe that we’re a match, and that’s OK. That is the purpose of dating. I wish you well and thanks again for a lovely evening/day/few dates/etc.
a) No response. Which is fine. This can happen for a number of reasons and does not necessarily mean the recipient is rude or didn’t respect you enough to respond. It could simply be – and most often is – a case of not knowing how to respond, and that’s perfectly OK. You are going through this exercise as much for yourself as for them.
b) A simple “Thank you, I had a nice time too”…that is usually a good indication that the feeling was mutual and/or that the other person has the class and manners to follow your lead in ending on a positive note.
c) “Thank you, I had a nice time too and was feeling the same way”. Whether this is true or a save-face response, it’s still an acknowledgement of your response, which should help put some closure on the situation for both of you.
d) An expression of disappointment with a subtle plea for another chance. This is where people may surprise you, or where you may consider actually giving them another chance – depending on what they, how they have packaged their message, and their powers of persuasion. I have seen situations like these get turned around all the time…be open-minded, and ready to listen.
e) Anger. Where/if this is the response – remember that this is their issue and not yours – especially if you followed the tips on how to position you initial message with diplomacy, tact and sensitivity. In these cases, just be thankful that you dodged a bullet.
If none of this is part of your regular, or previous modus operandi (M.O.), and you decide to heed my advice, please let me know how it goes – either by sharing on our Sitting In A Tree Facebook fan page (https://www.facebook.com/sittinginatree) wall or by e-mailing me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org