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I'm just not that into you
December 12, 2011 1:58 PM   Subscribe

What are acceptable ways to essentially tell someone "I'm just not that into you" while minimizing the hurt factor? Caveat: you're in the middle of the first or second date.

So you're on a first date and you realize that you're just not feeling any chemistry. Maybe you're not physically attracted but would still like to be friends, maybe you are physically attracted but feel like this person might be a bad influence otherwise, maybe you like them in every way but they have a dealbreaker like smoking too much or wanting kids when you don't. Trouble is, the other person thinks you're great, and they're part of your social circle so you see each other at least once a week. You still need to finish the date, but you don't want to lead them on about any future dates.

What do you tell them, and when? Specifically, what exact words do you use? What is your script?

I've seen this thread. It seems like Miko's excellent advice is for breaking up after you've been seeing each other for a while and might be a bit overkill here. This is more like, what do you say when you're out on the first date, or maybe the second date, and you realize it's just not going to work out? Especially if this person has just paid for your dinner, and you weren't sure how you really felt until they kissed you and you just didn't feel much of anything. Also, please assume for this question that both of you are poly and looking, so variations on "There is someone else I'm interested in" or "My ex and I have been talking and might get back together" or "I don't have time for another relationship" are largely irrelevant.

(This is not about a situation currently in progress, I'm just asking for my own future reference.)
posted by danceswithlight to Human Relations (27 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
 
I usually end the date politely. Don't make definite plans. If they ask to hang out again, well, I tend to deflect. The next day or when they get in touch with me again I probably text/call/email and tell them I had a good time, but I just wasn't feeling the connection/ready for dating/whatever. Then I wish them the best and that's that.

I'd hope most people take this well. You're being honest, direct and not mean. Some people flip out because they don't handle rejection well even if they'd probably also flip out from the slow fade/non-response.

I've had to do this twice in the past few weeks 'cause I'm going on a lot of first dates, and I've learned to not waste my own or their time if I'm not interested. It went poorly once and much better the other time. I prefer it to what I used to do which was just drift away.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:03 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The polite poly excuse is "I'm going to focus my energy elsewhere right now, but I had a great time with you and look forward to being friends."

Not letting them pay is a good hint (and might be good practice in general if you find yourself feeling obligated or uncomfortable with them paying).
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:07 PM on December 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


Can you say, "I'm just not feeling any chemistry"? I find it easier to blame things on the mysterious and vague yet all-important idea of chemistry. It has nothing to do with whether someone else is nice enough or attractive enough or thin enough or smart enough. You just don't have chemistry.
For the record, I've said this, but only over email.

If you are friends, it will probably be a little weird for awhile. Time and space might be necessary to make sure everyone's on the same page and none of your friendliness will be taken as mixed signals by the other person.
posted by aabbbiee at 2:10 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'd avoid telling someone you want to be friends unless you actually want to be friends. That will lead to headaches of its own. You can be polite and let someone down easy without even white lies.

But I am a mid-20s guy looking for a LTR, not a poly lady so... different set of circumstances.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:10 PM on December 12, 2011


End the date without saying anything specific. If they call to make plans again, say "sorry, I just wasn't feeling a connection. I don't think we should hang out anymore". Don't tell them why, even if they ask. If you like them enough to be friends with them, say "I'd like to hang out as friends sometime if you're up for it".

I think doing it in the middle of a date is unnecessarily harsh.
posted by auto-correct at 2:13 PM on December 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


dances: I have been on a couple dates where at the end of whatever it was, I just told the person point blank exactly and straight to the point what you're suggesting. "I just wanted to let you know that I don't want to go any more dates. For whatever reason, I'm not feeling anything happening and I wanted to be clear about it. If you'd still like to be friends-only, that's ok, but if not, I understand." It sounds rather cold but I personally think it's fine and then the other person might be a bit hurt, but this way you are not sugar-coating anything.

OnTheLast: I personally do not like the 'slow fade', at all, if I can avoid it. That goes for the people who might also tell me the same thing I just said, but I don't seem to meet many folks who are that direct. On the other hand, I don't go on tons of dates, so my samples is rather small, all told.
posted by bitterkitten at 2:13 PM on December 12, 2011


"I'm going to focus my energy elsewhere right now, but I had a great time with you and look forward to being friends."

When exactly do you say this? As you're getting ready to go home? Wait until they ask? In other words, how do you bring it up?
posted by danceswithlight at 2:13 PM on December 12, 2011


Yeah, the "look forward to being friends" bit is because you'll see each other once a week anyway. Then you're busy if they want to hang out one-on-one.

If you won't see them again anyway and don't want to be friends, then don't say that bit, and don't worry so much about hurt feelings. They're a risk of the whole dating thing.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:13 PM on December 12, 2011


Oh sorry, cross-posted!

I would probably send them an email if it was just one date.

I doubt I'd say it in person on the date. I think it puts them on the spot to be mature and pleasant about it, and if they're really disappointed that's a lot to ask.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:17 PM on December 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


I think doing it in the middle of a date is unnecessarily harsh.

I could be wrong, but I was assuming the OP is asking this because she has had experiences where she was asked point-blank during or at the end of the date. I have. It's damn awkward and I've never been sure how to handle it. Though I guess the uncomfortable look on my face usually gets the point across :P
posted by bunderful at 2:18 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I did have someone say at the end of a date that "This is so disappointing because you're very attractive and interesting, but it doesn't really seem that we have chemistry, does it?" That's a pretty good approach.
posted by bunderful at 2:20 PM on December 12, 2011 [29 favorites]


I doubt I'd say it in person on the date. I think it puts them on the spot to be mature and pleasant about it, and if they're really disappointed that's a lot to ask.

Yeah, it isn't cowardly.. you are letting them save face by not doing it in person, in public, on the spot. They will be at least mildly upset no matter what unless they didn't like you at all, but then they'd never have gotten back in touch with you.

If they ask to hang out, say you'll check your schedule or something smoother than that. I've never had anyone force me to make future plans right then and there.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 2:22 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just wrap up the date and save the "thanks but no thanks" until they get back in touch about Date #2. "I'm sorry, I enjoyed my time with you but the spark of attraction I need just isn't there" is fine. If they ask you during date #1, just fob them off - "Oh hey, call me tomorrow, I barely made it to this date with my crazy schedule!" Then deliver the "I'm sorry but..." thing by phone or text or email or however the communication comes in.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:23 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I agree with other people that you should not do this in the middle of the date. You can cut a date short if you're really having a bad time, but even then you should be diplomatic about it rather than straight up rejecting them and leaving. So here is what I would do:

At the end of the date, say that it was nice date and you had a good time, etc. unless it was really terrible. Do not say that you will call/text/whatever to set up another date. If they ask you point blank about wanting to go on a second date, try to say something vague along the lines of not knowing whether you will be able to or not. If you want to avoid feeling like you are lying when you say that, then look at this as time for you to "sleep on it" and figure out if your feelings about them change. Then, assuming your feelings do not change, do not contact them to go on another date. If they follow up, then give a short, non-accusatory explanation that you don't think that continuing to date them will work out. Do not say anything negative about them. You don't have to go into a lot of detail, so if you are not considering dating them because you find them unattractive or because they smoke to much, you can frame that as something like "I had a good time on the date, but I don't feel that we're 100% compatible for each other".
posted by burnmp3s at 2:35 PM on December 12, 2011


I've never had anyone force me to make future plans right then and there.

You're lucky. I have.

Yeah, just be polite/evasive unless they force the issue. If they do, remember that they're the ones forcing the awkward conversation, not you, that you were willing to be the polite one and wait until later to save them face. (For me, anyway, knowing that someone else is doing the initiating takes a great weight off my shoulders.)

As for the actual conversation, the uncomfortable look as bunderful says is the way to start, following by something brief, like what the young rope-rider said (Focusing my energy elsewhere.) I wouldn't fob them off in any way--why continue to get their hopes up for any length of time?
posted by Melismata at 2:36 PM on December 12, 2011


Something along the lines of, "I don't want to waste your time."
posted by StickyCarpet at 2:55 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


If they do, remember that they're the ones forcing the awkward conversation, not you, that you were willing to be the polite one and wait until later to save them face.

Or you were being selfish by prolonging the amount of time they spend thinking the date went well, just so you can avoid a slightly awkward conversation. Seriously, the sooner you can tell them, the better it will be for both of you. They won't be making plans and trying to come up with an awesome second date. You won't be wondering when they're going to call and hoping it doesn't happen at a really bad moment. I would do it either at the end of the date or when they start making plans/hinting at a second date ("we should do this again"), whichever comes first. "We should hang out again--but only as friends, I'm sorry, I'm just not feeling the chemistry." (Unless, of course, you don't want to hang out with them as friends, either.)
posted by anaelith at 3:16 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Loads of good advice above, but wanted to specifically second the "pay your own way" part - this is crucial to not feeling beholden or stirring up weird dynamics.
posted by batmonkey at 3:44 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think "There is someone else I'm interested in" is a perfectly acceptable answer, poly or not, if you actually are: just because you have or want multiple people in your life doesn't mean you have to take all comers. Otherwise, you can just say you're not interested - why lie if you don't have to? I think you can be honest at any point and it be fine. When they start making future plans, you say you're not interested in pursuing anything further romantically... even if it's the middle of the date. If it's someone you want to stay friends with, you say so. And of course, you should not expect them to pay.

I guess I'm partially puzzled by the "if you let them pay and the kiss was bad" scenario but perhaps it's because I wouldn't let someone pay for me or return a kiss with someone I was ambivalent about, but I think in that scenario you can still say, "thanks for the great time, I'm not really feeling the romantic chemistry but..." and etc.

Maybe it's just me, but the brief sting of frank honesty fades a lot quicker than the slow burn of polite prevarication.
posted by sm1tten at 4:09 PM on December 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


The straightforward approach previous commenters have advocated for here is admirable, but if that's not your style you could try "you remind me so much of my brother."
posted by milk white peacock at 4:20 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


the brief sting of frank honesty fades a lot quicker than the slow burn of polite prevarication.

Seconding this. If you weren't going to see them again without plans of doing so, you could just "pocket veto" the relationship and not return their text and let them get the point, but this situation seems like you'll have to address it at some point.

You give a couple of different scenarios, so the script for each won't be exactly the same, but the general idea should be something like "You're a great guy, but I'm not feeling a lot of chemistry between us, and you deserve someone who appreciates you." Though the actual words don't really matter.

The only second date turndown that has ever made me feel better is the deflection, i.e. "You're not right for me but my friend so-and-so thinks you're cute," though that has the potential to get into its own weirdness.
posted by modernserf at 4:25 PM on December 12, 2011


It helps to not let them pay.

Don't say it in the middle of the date. Don't let them kiss you if you already know you're not feeling it.

Do say it if they ask to see you again, and say it at that time. If you want to see them again as friends only and they don't ask for another date, text or call after the date -- either that night or the next day.
posted by J. Wilson at 4:32 PM on December 12, 2011


From what I've experienced, one alright ending was the open "I like you, but I don't really see this going anywhere" when wrapping up the night and feeling out future plans. Another (less-nice) one was the careful avoidance of making plans/not being encouraging at the end of the night, and then again a "I like you but I don't see this going anywhere" text/conversation if contacted again.

It's not acceptable to conclude with "there's someone else I'm interested in" though, because that says you were wasting the other person's time from the get-go and you shouldn't have even bothered. Totally a dick move.
posted by lizbunny at 6:29 PM on December 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I find insisting on splitting the bill gets the message across.
posted by provoliminal at 8:06 PM on December 12, 2011


I find insisting on splitting the bill gets the message across.

I've had ladies insist on splitting the bill which is fine. Sometimes we dated for quite awhile!
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 10:30 PM on December 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


One thing I'd keep in mind is that it's impossible to tell whether any one individual would prefer the band-aid rip or the fade out. Some people would rather save face and not hear rejection out loud and just deal with the vagueness, others would rather just hear "thanks, but no thanks" and move on with no doubts. Thing is, because you can't predict , just do what seems kindest in that particular situation, based on the particulars of the situation (personality of the person, how into you they seem, etc).

Personally, I think the closest to a best "rule" is be kind but do not commit to or even hint at a next date, but only be explicit if they contact you again.
posted by Pax at 7:01 AM on December 13, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify, I would not wait until they contacted me about a second date. In the case of a friend or acquaintance, I would clarify the situation ASAP before they told a lot of mutual friends that it went really well or that you're dating, which could be quite embarrassing for them.

Proactive, friendly, and positive communication goes a long way towards reducing hurt feelings.

Again, this is not what I would recommend for someone off the street--but for someone you see quite often anyway it's important that they know where they stand.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:10 AM on December 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


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