How do I break things off with a girl I just met?
June 23, 2012 10:57 AM   Subscribe

Feeling guilty about breaking things off with a girl I just met. Sex is complicating this for me. Help?

31 y/o straight male here -

I am looking for the best way to break things off with a girl I recently met. We only had two dates. It sounds silly, but what's complicating the matter is we had sex on both dates.

Ultimately she doesn't appear to be a good long-term fit for me (for reasons unrelated to sex). I don't want to lead her on. I want to tell her I am not interested in seeing her anymore. However, I feel somewhat guilty about this — because of the sex.

I am thinking about sending her an email to tell her I think she's great, however I don't think we're a good long-term match.

My questions are as followed:

1) Is sending an email appropriate in this situation, considering it's only been two dates?

2) How can I convince myself to stop feeling guilty about ending this?

Thank you.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (50 answers total)
You should actually talk to her about this, unless you're on a different continent or in the hospital or something that would preclude seeing her in person.

As long as you handle this with tact and respect (which means DO IT IN PERSON), you have nothing to feel guilty about.
posted by Sara C. at 11:03 AM on June 23, 2012 [11 favorites]

In my opinion, e-mailing about something like this is never appropriate if there is any other way you can do it. If I were her, I'd be more annoyed about the e-mail than the sex (given that you were both, presumably, consenting adults. Incidentally, this is also the reason you don't need to feel guilty!)
posted by torisaur at 11:11 AM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

You sound like a nice guy. Meet with her in person. Tell her that you've had some time to reflect and you just don't feel like it's a good fit. Apologize for any hurt you've caused her (that seems to be the part that is complicating things for you) and say some nice things about her. And then say that a relationship is just not possible and that you wish you'd realized it sooner, as you didn't meant to hurt her. Make it clear that a relationship isn't possible.

And tell her at the beginning of the meeting.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 11:13 AM on June 23, 2012 [5 favorites]

One can end something via email if it's only been two dates, but you shouldn't in this situation because of the sex. But that's the only reason sex has complicated it; that doesn't mean you shouldn't end it, and you definitely shouldn't feel bad about doing so respectfully.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:16 AM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'd just add to the above advice that it would be nice to say something like "this has nothing to do with our sexual connection -- I really enjoyed that time with you -- but ultimately I don't see a relationship with you."
posted by chowflap at 11:17 AM on June 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

I would rather get the email myself. I'm going to cry, I don't want to do it in front of you.

If you meet her in person at least say something like "we need to talk, let's meet for coffee," so she has some idea of what's coming and doesn't show up ready for a fun date and excited to see you.
posted by bunderful at 11:18 AM on June 23, 2012 [30 favorites]

After two dates, I don't think it needs to be done in person unless it's extremely convenient. Over the phone is fine.
posted by namesarehard at 11:18 AM on June 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

I think a phone call would be fine. After two dates, I don't necessarily want the girl to schedule a third date just to dump me in that situation -- which would get my hopes up and put us in the position of her seeing my reaction.

Bigger picture, obviously, you had a couple of fun dates with some consenting sex between two adults. It's fine to realize it isn't going to work out and to end it. You don't need to feel guilty.
posted by J. Wilson at 11:24 AM on June 23, 2012 [17 favorites]

Be tactful but not too warm fuzzy (which means to me that an email would be okay). Being too considerate of her feelings can make her feel like you really do care and just have some commitment issues, or something like that. BTDT. Oy. If you really want it over, it is best to accept that she will be hurt and will think ill of you. Too bad, so sad.
posted by Michele in California at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2012

I've been in both sides of breaking up - both long-term relationships and short-term, more casual dating - and when you decide to end it, it's natural to feel guilty - whether you've slept with the person or not. However - I think it's a general rule that breaking up should never be done in writing. Either do it in-person or over the phone. Since she isn't your girlfriend, and you only went on two dates - over the phone is fine.

Breaking up is never easy - but people are resilient. She will be ok.
posted by angsolom at 11:36 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

What makes you think she's being led-on?
posted by rhizome at 11:40 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

If I were the girl in this situation, I'd appreciate a kind, thoughtful email or phone call breaking things off as opposed to getting together in a situation where I thought it was another date/sex and then telling me it's not working out for you. I don't think an in-person breakup is necessary after only two dates.
posted by wondermouse at 11:43 AM on June 23, 2012 [15 favorites]

I have a friend who was in the same situation. He got out of it by inviting her and one of his friends (that he thought she would get along with) out to lunch and then not showing up. She slept with the friend and he was off the hook.

If that doesn't work, call her or tell her in person. No one needs a breakup in writing that they have to read over and over again. No paper trail is kinder.
posted by myselfasme at 11:45 AM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

One general rule of thumb that will serve you well in your dating life is that if somebody is nice enough to get your rocks off, you should be considerate enough of them to give them the breakup speech in person. Even if you're callous enough not to care about her feelings, reputations have a way of travelling.
posted by wolfdreams01 at 11:46 AM on June 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

Obviously opinions vary on this. After two dates, I think phone is preferable to in person. I even think email is preferable to in person, but recognize I'm in the minority. (I just don't get why it's better to have the person go to through preparing for and anticipating a date.)

As for the sex thing, sex isn't a gift women give to men in exchange for commitment. Presumably, you're both consenting adults and she got something out of it too. There's nothing here for you to feel guilty about.
posted by Mavri at 12:03 PM on June 23, 2012 [16 favorites]

You sound like a good man (and not, most emphatically, a "nice guy"), so for your own sake (not the girl's necessarily), man up and learn to do the dirty work of adult relationships in person.

Follow the sensible scripts others have provided above: "Hey, I've enjoyed things between us, and the sex was great, but I'm not feeling this as a relationship. That's on me, not you, but I wanted you to know before things go further." Yeah, at that point it might suck for a moment (or not, depending on how she actually feels), but either way part of having healthy adult relationships comes with learning to do the "right" thing, so far as you understand it, and being there in the moment to experience what it feels like.

That is, sometimes doing the right thing will alienate, hurt, frustrate, anger, and such the people we care about, but learning in the moment to balance those very real reactions/feeling against the stronger sense of doing what's right (which, deep philosophical rabbit holes aside, in cases like this basically means not being completely selfish in one's priorities: even though you're enjoying the sex now, you've realized that you won't be able to offer her the kind of relationship going forward that you believe she deserves, etc.) - such awareness can only happen with practice, whether in low-stakes "non-relationship" relationships like this or the deeper, bigger-deal commitments that a good man like you will eventually experience. Practice makes perfect.
posted by 5Q7 at 12:19 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

I would hate to be asked out on a third 'date' only to discover it was to get dumped. For me, the phone would be the best way, here.
posted by feets at 12:25 PM on June 23, 2012 [10 favorites]

I got broken up with a casual but sexual relationship by e-mail and I definitely preferred it that way. I broke up a similar one by e-mail and offered to talk on the phone if he wanted, and he did, so we did. Both were fine (as fine as these things go). Making a whole other date to break up just seems mean. If your primary communication has been e-mail, I don't think you're an ass if you e-mail. Some people prefer to have time and space away to process.

As far as the guilt - it's not going to get any less, so break up now and feel guilty later, if you must.
posted by Salamandrous at 12:26 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Here's the problem. There is no way to do this without either leading her on, or alerting her and having a nasty conversation over the phone.

Personally, I prefer a thoughtful, well written out email correspondence. Don't just send one and then forget about it. Allow a back and forth if it's needed. Give her the closure she needs. Personally, if it's just incompatibility stuff, rather than A Thing What Is Wrong With Her, I would talk about specifics.

A guy decided that he had to do the in person thing with me, after a few dates. So he called and tried to arrange for us to meet up, but it was obvious on the phone that something was off. He also hadn't really prepared what he was going to say, and wound up saying some hilariously accidentally offensive stuff. "No chemistry", when what he meant was, "I don't think you're the one, but I was really attracted to you and enjoyed sexytimes." The second would have been honest and totally cool, but the first had me raging for a while.
posted by corb at 12:37 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

I think after two dates, an email is totally fine, regardless of sex. This is what dating is about. You meet people, and it works out or it doesn't work out; it is early enough in the relationship to say "It was great to meet you, but this isn't working out." Whatever you did on those first dates (walk in the park, sex, parcheesi) was mutually agreed upon, it is not like you were taking advantage or leading her to believe you were about to propose.

Email or phone call is fine. I know what the guilt feels like, but let it go. You are not a bad person for not wanting to see her anymore.
posted by retrofitted at 12:44 PM on June 23, 2012

Phone or email. If you asked me out on a third date to end things, I'd be super pissed.
posted by roger ackroyd at 12:49 PM on June 23, 2012 [4 favorites]

Two dates? I'd prefer to be broken up with over the phone or through email. In person is really just way too much after only two dates.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 12:53 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Don't feel guilty. Sometimes we figure out that we're not compatible with people after we sleep with them, and sometimes the people we like sleeping with aren't the people we want to be with long term. That's totally okay. I would meet her in person and let her know immediately that you've enjoyed spending time with her but have determined that you're looking for something else that's not there and don't want to waste time trying to force it. Then let her decide what to do from there -- and whatever you do, don't sleep with her again, no matter what.
posted by Hello Darling at 12:57 PM on June 23, 2012

After seeing answers all across the spectrum, I think I'm going to include this information in any dating profiles from here out..."In the event of a breakup, I'd prefer to be notified via ____."

For the record, in this situation, I'd go with a phone call. Getting dressed up to meet someone only to be told he wasn't interested would be even more depressing, but an email doesn't allow me to read tone or ask questions/make statements.
posted by kattyann at 1:17 PM on June 23, 2012 [6 favorites]

Not over email. On the phone is best.

The reason that these things are supposed to be done in person is so that you can have a long conversation face to face, and show that you are sincere, and are there to answer questions and to show that while you don't want to continue a romantic relationships, you respect them as a person and their feelings matter to you.

Honestly, after two dates, sex notwithstanding, there just aren't enough questions/conversation/outstanding messes to go through to warrant a face to face conversation about it. In fact it will probably be more frustrating, as others have pointed out, to make plans, expecting another date/more sex and instead to get broken up with.

That said, an email is probably too callous. This girl may wonder what exactly it is that led you to feel this way, or that she did something wrong, and having a conversation that allows her to really understand what you are saying here (I like you, I think you're attractive, but I don't see this working out long term) and really believe you will be more beneficial than just an email, which she might misread or be more hurt by.
posted by pazazygeek at 1:17 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

1) Is sending an email appropriate in this situation, considering it's only been two dates?

No - not if you've been intimate and she has reason to believe it was not a one-night stand scenario.

2) How can I convince myself to stop feeling guilty about ending this?

That depends on why you feel guilty. Someone above said that you seem like a nice guy, but I have no idea what they could possibly be basing that on. I'm not saying you're not a nice guy, but you haven't really given us much more into your personality than you dated a woman, slept with her twice, and now want to break it off over e-mail. Those actions seem kinda sleazy - what I would expect from a 20 year old frattish boy - absent other information.

So why do you feel guilty? If you told her - with actual words, not mere implications - on the first date, "hey, I'm really not into a long-term relationship, I'm just looking for some sex." and she had sex with you, then you can just repeat to yourself you were fully honest with her and you have no reason to feel guilty.

If on the other hand you told her you were really looking for someone to settle down with and you felt really connected to her and she's the one you want to be in it for the long-term, then you should feel incredibly guilty.

Arrange your level of guilt between these two extremes.

Unless it was the first scenario, where you were 100% upfront about just wanting sex, well I don't think you should ever stop feeling guilty about it - what you should do is use that guilt as a reminder to think more in-depth about how you enter future relations regarding honesty.

And AGAIN, I'm only saying this because you want advice on how to stop feeling guilty, but imo you haven't given enough info on whether you should or not.
posted by Lt. Bunny Wigglesworth at 1:17 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Add me to the list of ladies who would prefer not to discover date number 3 is actually a dumping. Regardless of sexy time.

Call or email. But do not do this via text message.
posted by bilabial at 1:20 PM on June 23, 2012

I am thinking about sending her an email to tell her I think she's great, however I don't think we're a good long-term match.

Yes, this - I'm voting for email too, even better than phone, so that she has time to read it over herself and not have to control her reactions in front of you, or on the phone to you. (At least that's what I'd prefer. It's only two dates, you barely know me, we don't have a relationship, we haven't had enough moments of being open and vulnerable to each other, I'd appreciate a bit of privacy and distance rather than being told this to my face.)

She may be embarassed, or disappointed, or sad, or angry or bitter, or feel like an idiot for deluding herself, or maybe hey she could even be relieved, depending on her attitue and on what she was expecting (is there anything that makes you think she expected more than you do? maybe she's thinking the same way you do).

Do stress the notion of "not a good long-term match". It's vague enough but expressive enough. Lack of compatibility is no one's doing, no one's fault, no one's choice really. You could be both amazing people and like and respect each other on top of feeling attracted, but have very different attitudes or approaches to life, a deeper "chemistry" than just sexual attraction, I don't know how to call it, that indefinable thing that you can indeed already feel or not feel after two dates, especially if you've already slept together. Hopefully she will understand that (if she doesn't already feel that way too, who knows!)

Godo luck and oh yeah, nothing to feel guilty about! you sound considerate enough not to disappear without a word, and sex is a fun complication to share! if she is sad about you calling it off at least hopefully she'll have some good memories of the fun times.
posted by bitteschoen at 1:24 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

bah, typos, sorry - obviously it should have been "very different attitudes or approaches to life, a *lack of* a deeper "chemistry" than just sexual attraction".
posted by bitteschoen at 1:26 PM on June 23, 2012

Nthing email. It's two dates, not two months or two years.
posted by greta simone at 1:44 PM on June 23, 2012

An anecdote: My sister was seeing a guy and she met him at a restaurant for a date. After they ordered, he took her hands and told her that he didn't want to keep dating her. She got up and got her purse. He asked, "why are you leaving?" She answered, "If we're not dating any more, I don't need to stay."

The point is don't waste any more time. If it's only been two dates, break up over the phone. She might not be all that upset. Just because you both had sex doesn't mean that it meant any more to her than it did to you. Or it might have, but either way no one got dressed up, drove somewhere and sat down at a restaurant to deal with the break up.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:46 PM on June 23, 2012 [8 favorites]

Just because something is done in person, doesn't make it more personal and proper. People get way too hung up on the in person thing for situations that don't really need it (two dates does not qualify). IMO, it's more rude to waste someone's time (scheduling a meeting, getting dressed, driving in a car and wasting gas, most likely spending money on coffee or food) for something that can be handled properly over the phone.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 1:56 PM on June 23, 2012 [3 favorites]

Email is fine.

If you said something along the lines of, "Let's talk and meet for coffee", I'd know what's coming anyway and just be bummed in the time leading up to the coffee meeting.
posted by too bad you're not me at 1:56 PM on June 23, 2012

Email -- there's really nothing to discuss, right? Say exactly what you have to say and no more. In-person breakups are for serious relationships where there's a lot of stuff to unpack; here you're just trying to make a clean break and make sure she knows why you're not calling her anymore.
posted by modernserf at 1:59 PM on June 23, 2012

Email! For the love of god, email.
posted by désoeuvrée at 3:04 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

There is no obligation to do it in person. Email or phone would probably be the most painless thing for everyone concerned. I have never understood the zeal with which some people insist that breakups must be done in person.
posted by John Cohen at 3:09 PM on June 23, 2012

In such situations where nobody is at fault, grown-ups communicate in ways that allow the other person to reply and/or ask questions; an email is impersonal and hit-and-run (and no, texting is not acceptable either). As doing so in person would, indeed, turn a date into a dumping, the telephone is likely the most appropriate venue. Call, ask if it's convenient for her to talk, explain how you feel and ask if she has any questions. She may be upset or not...for all you know, she'll be relieved. But no texting and no emailing. You don't owe her a relationship just because you had sex, but you do owe her good manners, because you're both adults.
posted by The Wrong Kind of Cheese at 3:14 PM on June 23, 2012

Email! For the love of god, email.

Yes. A nice email, not one abrupt sentence. (And I don't understand the reply above; she can respond to the email if she chooses.) In person or by phone (which, ugh, is almost worse somehow, all that awkward empty space and pausing) is like forcing her to have a reaction right away, and the "right" reaction too. It's just mean, even though you don't intent it that way.

Another thing - you seem to think that because she slept with you on the first two dates that means she has real serious relationship-type feelings for you. Maybe she's told you that she does, in which case, fine. But without that info I would guess it probably means the opposite, if anything. If she thought of you as a potential long term serious relationship from the start, she would probably have been much more likely to wait a little while and get to know you better first. At least among women I know, sex on the first date is either "one night stand" or "hmm, let's be really casual for a while and just see what happens." H(er)MMV, obviously.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 3:39 PM on June 23, 2012 [2 favorites]

You're actually in a better situation than you could be here, considering you've slept with her twice. In other words, she knows the sex probably wasn't terrible because you were willing to do it again, and she knows it wasn't a surprise one-night stand. There, two worries out of the way.

But anyway. I'd email, just because getting a third date is a little bit of a milestone, and having that turn out to be a nope would cause more trouble than it'd avoid. (OH MY GOD there is nothing more excruciating than sitting next to your suddenly-ex at a bar listening to him give the dumping spiel, in public, WITH DETAILS. And then wondering whether you're free to go, like you've been detained by a cop or something. THE WORST.)

Email is fine. Calling is fine. Hell, if you've been communicating only via text until now, texting is fine. (n.b. I am younger and this might be a generational thing.)
posted by dekathelon at 4:34 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

Phone call or email. Not in person.
posted by empath at 5:20 PM on June 23, 2012

I would think emailing might be better than calling, then you would put her less on the spot since she doesn't have to respond immediately (or at all). Agreeing with the many upthread who say it's unnecessary (and potentially worse) to do it in person.
posted by mlle valentine at 5:37 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

I like the script Chaussette and the Pussy Cats suggests, but disagree that you should meet in person. I vote for a phone call and usng Chausette's script:

Tell her that you've had some time to reflect and you just don't feel like it's a good fit. Apologize for any hurt you've caused her (that seems to be the part that is complicating things for you) and say some nice things about her. And then say that a relationship is just not possible and that you wish you'd realized it sooner, as you didn't meant to hurt her. Make it clear that a relationship isn't possible.

I'm strongly against this being an e-mail. If I got this kind of message in an e-mail I would feel disrespected. YMMV.
posted by OsoMeaty at 8:56 PM on June 23, 2012

Maybe an e-mail, but only if you offer to talk on the phone about it if the person wants to.
posted by OsoMeaty at 9:00 PM on June 23, 2012

Phone call, so you can answer any questions she has then and there and both move on with your lives. Email has the possibility of getting into an asynchronous back-and-forth that you probably don't want. One phone call, clean break, done.

Oh, and don't feel guilty. I'd feel much, much worse if I knew a guy continued to see me just so he didn't have to feel guilty. Yuck.
posted by desjardins at 9:42 PM on June 23, 2012

Joking aside, I'd say it matters what kind of sex. You know the kind that is incongruously intimate for the short amount of time knowing the other person? If it was that kind, or if you think it was for her, then let that be a guide.
posted by skbw at 10:07 PM on June 23, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is an incredibly personal thing, and everyone's preferences will vary. Even if we all told you to do the exact same thing & that's what you did, if it isn't her personal preference, then she'll have a more adverse reaction than you would hope. Not that anyone has suggested you do this, but texting or simply just disappearing without an explanation are the two worst things you could do. Steer clears of those and you've made your best effort. Also, clearly you're giving this some thought, so regardless of her final feelings, you're not an ass. To end things in person with someone after two dates seems unnecessary (and a lot of people put a special emphasis on the third date, so it could be a huge letdown). Email or phone are your best bets, I would say. Personally, I'd prefer a brief but kind email. I want the space to react my own way without it being witnessed or having to worry about how my reaction seems to the other person. If this was a long-term relationship, my answer would be totally different (i.e. in person, no other option).

Keep in mind that unless she's been asking to meet up again or said things to indicate otherwise, she may also not think it's the best fit or could think of this as just a casual thing. Your decision could be met with a "que sera" shrug. After all, you *both* decided to have sex on your first two dates, so while it seems to add a certain amount of gravitas, I think it's a red herring. You had two dates. As long as you give her the courtesy of explicitly ending things in a kind way, you're good.
posted by katemcd at 12:04 AM on June 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Egads who are these people telling you to do it in person? After only two dates!? NOT IN PERSON. Imagine a chalkboard covered in those words. That's how strongly I feel about this. After only two dates, sex or no, the third date is the big one, the one that indicates you'd like to see where things go. It's just cruel to make someone get all ready for a third date, thinking this means that's where this is going, only to break up with them!

Email or phone. I'd prefer email, but as you can see, answers are all over the board. Just don't make the girl get all ready for a date only to dump her. Wtf, people?
posted by JuliaIglesias at 5:45 AM on June 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

People who are really against email in this situation are probably just old and striving for some false sense of propriety that was relevant in 1987. Send a nice, well thought out email. Two paragraphs, max.
posted by the foreground at 8:26 PM on June 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

As someone who was once in this situation (as the woman who got dumped) I have good news for you: she'll get over it. But she'll get over it faster if you call her. Email is too harsh.

Be honest, be kind, and don't get defensive. She may think you're a jerk in the short term, but in the long term she'll come to the same conclusion you did: that you were a decent guy, just not a good match.

She may be feeling the same way as you, of course, and then she'll appreciate the call.
posted by Pearl67 at 9:34 PM on June 24, 2012

This is an incredibly personal thing, and everyone's preferences will vary...texting or simply just disappearing without an explanation are the two worst things you could do.

I think your point about it being individual really does extend to disappearing, though. I definitely know people who would rather just not get another call.

We can't know how into you she is or what the dynamic of calling/emailing has been, but I've definitely seen situations where where the "wait and see if he calls and if he does, deal with it then" approach has seemed to work just fine.
posted by Pax at 8:56 AM on June 25, 2012

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