Respectful retreats on the online dating scene
January 4, 2011 9:29 PM   Subscribe

Protips for an online dating/OkCupid n00b: being kind in making the decision to back-off after a string of a few messages raised some personal flags. Specifically and generally, what are my best options?

After beginning to heal significantly from a hurtful past relationship, I started to use OkCupid for the first time to try to get back into the groove of dating, to broaden my scope of dateable individuals, and to have some fun in trying to make better romantic decisions. Along the way, I was messaged by an individual whom I initially found rather attractive.

After exchanging some messages (though no phone chats or actual dates) over the course of about a month, however, I've found myself having second thoughts with regards to this initial attraction. While a few small things bothered me--conversations largely surrounding people he disliked & his light retaliation toward them, drug use--I was bothered by one thing in particular. Despite warning that I was going to be largely out of contact over the holidays due to heavy travel, I received two very anxious messages during the holiday that were both accusatory toward my motives and self-defacingly apologetic in tone. Reading the messages made me feel not only anxious but very guilty and bad. My first instinct was to vigorously reassure him that I in no way meant to send such signals and that he shouldn't be so hard on myself.

Last night, I realized something that had been in the hinterlands of my consciousness for awhile: these traits and dynamics are remarkably similar to those of my ex, with whom I had I somewhat co-dependent relationship that had a lot of accusations/self-defacing/reassuring cycles. And, when I realized that I was essentially chasing my ex down in this individual, my initial attraction collapsed into a nega-attraction singularity. I may be jumping the gun, but it now seems as though pursuing this person seems like a terrible idea. (Also, if things are getting this dramatic before we've even met... geez!)

While I'm immensely glad I had this insight, I feel as though exchanging a few messages certainly entitles this individual to some sort of "goodbye" rather than an ignore. What is proper etiquette in backing off from someone with whom you've had this sort of e-relationship? How do I frame this to be as kind as possible, especially since this individual seems to be particularly sensitive?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
No, you don't owe this person anything. Just disengage, I think that's much kinder than an actual brush-off.
posted by Lyn Never at 9:34 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

Speaking as someone who's used okcupid quite a bit, and had a long-term relationship come out of it:

It's entirely acceptable, accepted, and normal to simply cut off communication entirely. Just stop responding. You haven't met in real life yet, and yes, pursuing that person does seem like a pretty awful idea. Just stop talking to him.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:37 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

This fellow sounds needy, so even if you politely say 'Goodbye', you won't be rid of him. Although I haven't used OKCupid for years, I'm certain you could block communications with him on that site. If he happens to have your personal email address, spam-block him. Just cut him off. You should concern yourself with you, not someone you've never even seen who's sending signals that disturb you. Harsh, yeah, possibly, but it'd be better in my mind as a guy to be shut down instead of some gray area. Just sayin'. Good luck. MeMail if you like, but I don't think there's much to add.
posted by nj_subgenius at 9:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [3 favorites]

Yeah, you don't owe him ANYTHING. Block him and be done with it.
posted by buckaroo_benzai at 9:44 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Normally I suppose I'd have something different to say but if this person feels okay sending you emails which are accusatory in tone when you haven't even talked on the phone yet then they're coming off as kind of creepy and shitty about boundaries.

In other words, you owe him nothing. If you were breaking up with someone after having any kind of actual relationship in which they'd acted like a human being, then yeah you'd owe them an explanation. But this isn't that. At all.

So just disengage.

If he presses you for further communication, try this:

Dear [name of creepy guy],

I've enjoyed the time we've spent messaging each other and I truly hope you don't take this as a personal slight but, after some time spent thinking, I just don't think we're a good match. I apologize if this upsets you and I wish you the absolute best of luck in your search.


Then don't respond to whatever he sends in response to that, because my instinct tells me he's basically going to try to argue you into liking him or giving things another chance and that's just shit on a shingle for all involved.

And that's all! Very little mess and even less fuss.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:52 PM on January 4, 2011 [9 favorites]

I agree with everyone else - just stop responding. Even though it sounds like you wouldn't feel right just stopping communicating (and I empathize, it feels rude and is hard to do), I suspect it will be better for you and him in the long run.

Telling him you're not interested in further contact is not the end no matter how kindly you phrase it, unless you also block him. There is 100% likelihood that he will respond, and you will find yourself sucked into further communication with him as he requests clarification, pleads with you, or gets angry. Save yourself (and him) time and emotional energy, and either simply block him, or find a simple way to tell him you're no longer interested in communicating (such as, "Dear X, I'm no longer interested in communicating. Best Wishes, A") and then block him.

Congrats on catching this early. It is really hard to not perpetuate relationship habits, and kudos to you for being aware of this and knowing that you need to disengage.
posted by arnicae at 10:00 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I would tell him you're not interested in further contact and block him. However, this sort of thing is why (although it may seem counterintuitive) to meet or phone sooner rather than later. It can take a long time of emails and messages to figure out stuff you might pick up on a lot faster if you talk on the phone or meet the person.
posted by elpea at 10:05 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

To expand on elpea, if they don't ask to meet up within a week or two than it's not worth it. You never can tell if there is something really worth pursuing over the phone or email, IMHO.
posted by jbenben at 10:24 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I've always just blocked the person if I started getting bad vibes.
A lot fo people kind of do that online. That's what makes it great for socially retarded people like myself that avoid confrontation.!

If you feel rude doing that, then just explain that you realize you're not ready to have any sort of relationships as of now and then block him (in case he doesn't take no for an answer).
posted by KogeLiz at 10:25 PM on January 4, 2011

If he presses you for further communication, try this:

FUCK NO. If he presses you further, you just click the block this person button.
posted by special-k at 10:52 PM on January 4, 2011 [7 favorites]

To expand on elpea, if they don't ask to meet up within a week or two than it's not worth it. You never can tell if there is something really worth pursuing over the phone or email, IMHO.

This. If there is enough attraction to sustain a handful of emails, then why not meet in real life and see if that chemistry holds. If it does, great! If not, then you find out before becoming invested and you can just move on to the next person.
posted by special-k at 10:55 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

I use OK Cupid. I have both cut off communication with no warning and had it done to me on the site. It's no big deal. I agree that you should "block" him too.
posted by serazin at 10:58 PM on January 4, 2011

"It was nice to talk to you but I don't think we are a good match. Good luck in your search".

No further communication/explanations needed.
posted by xm at 10:58 PM on January 4, 2011 [8 favorites]

Yeah, people bail on communication for all sorts of reasons, who knows what reasons, but a "We're not a match" sentence or two, immediately followed by blocking him strikes me as a basic courtesy that takes no time, costs you nothing.
posted by ambient2 at 11:06 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I agree that bailing with no explanation is normal and is often acceptable, but it is still rude. Bad dating karma. You don't owe him anything, but you might owe it to yourself to send a polite but firm kiss-off note. It always feels better to do the grown-up thing.
posted by gjc at 11:23 PM on January 4, 2011 [4 favorites]

Something remarkably similar happened to me when I first started using OkCupid. I just stopped all contact with the person and didn't say "oh it seems like we maybe kinda aren't a good match or I don't know" like the codependent, compulsively-nice, people-pleasing part of me wanted to (and we had been typing back and forth for a couple weeks or so, which I now realize was part of the big mistake of it anyway), and he sent me a few more messages (that essentially let me know for sure that I had made the right decision... having just exited an emotionally abusive relationship, I luckily was able to recognize the big flashing warning signs). He backed off, but if he hadn't, I'd simply have blocked him.

A lot of other people have said it above, but this is important enough to say again: having exchanged messages doesn't mean you owe a person anything. A person who makes you feel uncomfortable or bordering on threatened doesn't need to be dealt with any further than clicking "delete".
posted by so_gracefully at 11:25 PM on January 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

Ok, it's not even about being rude or not rude. Something important to consider is that you noticed that this person has the potential to create and perpetuate negative relational patterns in a way that's very similar to your ex, and your response to those patterns, historically, is to placate and try to fix, right? So is the impulse to want to send him this nice, polite, placating "we're just not a good match, I'm sorry" note part of that response pattern you're used to playing out? If it is, think about what a favor you're doing yourself by NOT engaging in it.
posted by so_gracefully at 11:33 PM on January 4, 2011

I agree that bailing with no explanation is normal and is often acceptable, but it is still rude. Bad dating karma. You don't owe him anything, but you might owe it to yourself to send a polite but firm kiss-off note. It always feels better to do the grown-up thing.

Agreed. You're not obligated to do anything, but a short note to let him know things are over, then blocking him are my advice. Going straight to radio silence can make him wonder if your computer died, or you died, or (random event X) is preventing you from talking to him, and he may try to track you down by other means if he knows enough about you, which could be super creepy/weird.

As a side note, "nega-attraction singularity" is awesome.
posted by Menthol at 11:39 PM on January 4, 2011 [2 favorites]

I guess I'm all alone here, but speaking as a guy, I consistently have people just stop responding to me and while it doesn't cause me any stress, I still strongly prefer people to just say, sorry not interested. obviously you have no actual obligation to do it, and almost no one does, but I think it's nicer to say goodbye.
posted by drethelin at 12:16 AM on January 5, 2011 [3 favorites]

Well, the problem with telling someone "I'm not interested", when the person in question has already proven controlling/threatening when you haven't even met them yet, is that their insecurity does not see "reasonable and polite", it sees a big, red flashing neon sign that says "I have decided that you are not worthy, reject". It does not matter that you don't actually mean that. It does not matter how kind and neutral your words are. Their own insecurity is the voice they listen to. The key here is: this guy accused her motives over the holidays, and when she'd told him she'd be out of contact due to heavy travel. That is some major boundary-crossing, controlling behavior there.

If this guy had been reasonable, if there were a more minor reason for stopping contact with him (in other words, if there hadn't been major boundaries crossed), then yes, I'd agree a polite email to end things would be A-OK. But he has been neither reasonable nor respective of boundaries, quite the contrary.

Thus, another vote for "just let it drop, he's not worth any more drama".
posted by fraula at 12:38 AM on January 5, 2011 [4 favorites]

Personally, I think you should express what you said here in a few sentences and then say good bye. But, unless he's been abusive in his messaging, blocking seems bad form, which is too easily pursued online because people have no sense of how their behaviour affects others. Better to send an explanation that perhaps results in some self-reflection & changed behaviour than to have him remain clueless and behave the same way with others.

All that, again, assuming he hasn't been abusive (though the holiday-messages sound a little weird).
posted by vincentv at 2:28 AM on January 5, 2011 [2 favorites]

I disagree with everyone who says you should just stop responding to him. Yes, that's what a lot of people do when online dating, but it's rude. If you're worried about being polite and respectful, just write back:

It's been nice getting to know you by email. Unfortunately, I don't see any dates in our future.


Wondering what's going on until he eventually takes the fucking hint and figures it out (from your silence) is going to be a lot harder on him than just being told "no thanks."
posted by J. Wilson at 6:24 AM on January 5, 2011 [7 favorites]

I have to agree with vincentv and J. Wilson, even though this all only happened online, it is still a somewhat protracted interaction with a fellow human being who opened up to you, and just blocking them out of the blue is unnecessarily hurtful and rude. Perhaps it will do him good to know why you don't feel you are compatible, if you are up to explaining it briefly. I would send him that last message and then allow him to respond one final time and then block him.
posted by Dragonness at 7:21 AM on January 5, 2011

Interactions come and go on OKC. Don't feel obligated in any way to give him 'closure'. Nthing what others have said above me - a simple "I don't feel a connection" message is best, then block if necessary.

And don't stress over it :)
posted by tar0tgr1 at 7:28 AM on January 5, 2011

You have two choices with this guy:

1) Respectful & polite
2) Disengagement

These are mutually exclusive. As long as you maintain contact or reply, he'll keep looking for buttons to push & ways to draw things out. It may seem unkind but really cutting off contact is the kinder choice in context.
posted by scalefree at 8:17 AM on January 5, 2011

I have to pipe in with the people who say to disengage. You don't owe this person an explanation, especially if the interactions with him are already causing you to feel guilty and bad. The "send a short polite message" advice goes well for situations when it's really just a "I don't feel a connection" situation. This is not one of those - you have a connection, since this person is making you feel anxious, bad and guilty. Just stop responding and block him.

In the future, try to meet the person within three-four days of the initial exchange of emails. When I dated online, this rule really protected me from over-investing in guys who wrote huge emails, but weren't motivated to actually meet in person. Writing about yourself to a mystery person is easy and pleasant, but meeting in person is risky and nerve-wrecking. You need to sort out the people who are willing to take that risk for you, and be willing to take that risk yourself.
posted by Shusha at 8:39 AM on January 5, 2011

Find a nice .jpg of a rose, and then explain honestly in an email, and wish the person luck in this person's future, and say that this is the last communication you will send.

And then actually make it the last communication.
posted by Danf at 8:42 AM on January 5, 2011

OKCupid seems to have a norm of non-reciprocity in communication. If you don't want to talk to him anymore, cut it off and move on. You have no obligation to explain any of your decisions, and no one should get upset over non-response from OKCupid.

Seconding meeting the person within three-four days of initial contact.
posted by fuq at 8:53 AM on January 5, 2011

two very anxious messages during the holiday that were both accusatory toward my motives and self-defacingly apologetic in tone

The person you are interacting with sounds unstable. His emails are creepy and rude. I think ignoring him is the best option. You are under no obligation to be polite or respond. It reminds me of an online version of "Hi. Whatcha reading?"

Don't engage with people who set off your internal alarms. Sending him a "good-bye" message will most likely only result in him either insulting you for rejecting him or with him begging for your to explain the reasons why you no longer wish to have contact.

Bottom line - You owe him nothing.
posted by parakeetdog at 9:50 AM on January 5, 2011

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