I’ve been online dating and made the decision to go out with my matches quickly after making contact. All the men I’ve met have been lovely, though none are really what I want. But because they’re so nice – and I want to be kind – I’ve seen them a few more times, even though I know I don’t want to date them long-term or sleep with them. It just seems so harsh to ditch them after one date. How can I tell them, without being too serious, that I’m not interested? I need a nice way out.
You’ve already given yourself a solution. It comes with your desire to be kind.
Put yourself in the position of those you’re dating. What would you prefer – someone thanking you for a date but making it clear you won’t be seeing each other again? Or someone seeing you several more times out of a sense of duty, while you’re under the impression this could be going somewhere?
If you liked them, then yes, it may be disappointing to know they’re not so keen on you. But at least you know it’s time to move on and either enjoy being single, or look for others to date. Alternatively, if you weren’t too sure about them then knowing neither of you ‘clicked’ means, again, you can just move on.
Although you’re trying to be nice at the moment, what you’re doing is certainly not making you feel good – and it’s also unfair to the people you are dating.
You’re right that this doesn’t need to appear serious, nor is this the same as an established relationship breaking up (for those seeking to end a long term relationship advice is here – while there’s further help here if you’ve just been dumped).
How do I end it?
As this is still very early days, email, text or phone are all appropriate ways of letting people know what’s going on. You can send a kind, short and specific message telling them what you feel – that you aren’t compatible or that this isn’t working for you. Also let them know you don’t wish to waste their time, and that you wish them well.
You may wish to prefix this by telling them you enjoyed the date or that you thought they were a nice person. This might suit some people, although it could also suggest uncertainty on your part, and leave them with unanswered questions – ‘if I’m so great, why isn’t she into me?’ or ‘maybe she’ll change her mind?’
If you’re feeling anxious about saying very clearly what you want to do, you may inadvertently create more stress by trying to soften the blow – doing ‘nice’ things like offering compliments, or getting drawn into conversations about your decision. Or even meeting up ‘as friends’ when it is clear they are hoping this is going to turn into something more.
That’s why a short, kind, but matter of fact answer is better. Leaving no suggestion you’re open to changing your mind and making it perfectly clear these are your choices you are quite happy to own without further debate.
While nobody likes rejection, knowing where you stand is better in the long run. In the early days of dating it’s sensible not to rush ahead, assume those you’re dating aren’t also dating others, and to make prompt decisions about who you want to see again.
So hopefully most people you are dating will accept your choice. And if they don’t – particularly if they keep trying to stay in touch after you’ve told them where they stand, or if they are unpleasant with you – then ensure you block them where you can on social media and have no further contact.
When to break the news
Say you’ve had a date, it was nice but not one you want to repeat. You could decide to let the person know soon after (perhaps the next day) that it was a pleasant afternoon/evening but you don’t want to repeat it. Or you might want to wait until they get in touch to suggest another date, when you can thank them but say this isn’t for you.
While it may be tempting to leave it to them to get in touch, this puts the onus on them to do so (and they may be waiting on you). Plus it takes away from a more assertive approach you want to aim for – which is being unashamedly straightforward about what you want.
What not to do
An alternative response to the one you’ve described (where you’re seeing people for more dates than you want to because you don’t want to seem mean), is just to disappear from their life altogether.
Known as ‘ghosting’ this is often done to avoid any awkward conversations. But it leaves the other person feeling uncertain and rejected. And rather than ending contact it can mean they keep trying to reach you – just to find out what’s happened and if they did anything wrong.
If you’ve told them right away there won’t be other dates, you don’t have to discuss it further. But you do need to tell them something.
Check how you’re doing dating
It’s great you’re enjoying online dating, but you may also want to slightly alter how you’re doing it. You’re avoiding a common mistake – where you spend a long time chatting online before actually getting around to meeting in person.
But by meeting so very quickly it could be you’re not using the facilities of online dating that might help you work out if you do have things in common. While moving to meet in person swiftly remains a good idea, having some conversations beforehand might also help you screen out people who you’re not gelling with.
We live in a culture that matches romance with persistence, and you may have been pressured by well-meaning friends or families to give these dates ‘another chance’. Being assertive and noting where you don’t want to see them again is a sensible response to this.
You may also want to think about other ways to meet – clubs, volunteering, getting your friends to introduce you to people they think you might like. That way you’ve got your online and offline options covered.
This past reply is more for those who’re finding they can’t get into relationships, but does contain helpful tips about how to maximise the chance of meeting someone you want to see more of.
However, if you’re meeting lots of people and you don’t like any of them, it might be worth thinking about why you are dismissing people very quickly.
Are they all really not right for you, or are you anxious about things getting more serious? Perhaps you are worried about being rejected or following negative experiences in the past?
You seem like a very caring person and perhaps you’ve also been raised to be a people pleaser, so stating very clearly what you want feels ‘rude’ to you. And traps you in situations where you’re not happy, but you’re trying to make others who you have no real connection with feel okay.
In most cases people in situations like yours can fix it very easily by learning how to assertively express themselves – gaining confidence as they realise nothing dreadful happens when they convey themselves clearly.
But if dating and relationships are an area of difficulty for you then life coaching, confidence or assertiveness courses, or therapy might be worth considering.
Or it might be you just need to keep on going as you are. Meeting lots of people who are lovely. Enjoying all your dates. Recognising when you don’t want to see someone again. Noting this is a normal part of the dating game. And being clear about that as quickly and clearly as you are able.
That sounds perfectly nice and kind to me – both to yourself, and to your potential dates.