how to break it off with someone I'm not quite dating?
July 7, 2014 7:40 PM   Subscribe

I'm very inexperienced when it comes to romance so please bear with me. I can't tell if I've been somehow misleading or if this guy is just being clingy. I also don't know if I owe anyone an explanation. Details inside.

I met the first guy almost 2 months ago at a party. We had a nice night, went out for drinks, slept together. We had a lot of physical chemistry, but obviously I didn't know him well enough to know if we were compatible otherwise. I thought it would be a fun one-night stand and nothing more. Then he asked to cook me dinner a couple of days later. I was interested and went over. We had another nice night, this one a bit more romantic: we shared a bottle of wine over the dinner he'd made, cuddled, and watched a movie. He begged me to sleep over, offering me all the accommodations I tried to use as an excuse for not being able to stay (toothbrush/pajamas/etc). In the morning he woke up at 6 with me (usually he wakes up at 8) to make me coffee and walk me to the train, even giving me his umbrella at the station and continuing to his destination in the pouring rain.

While I deeply appreciated all his kindness, over the course of this second date I realized I wasn't that into him. I think he's a bit square, and not as ambitious as I'd like my partner to be. I didn't feel like he was passionate about anything. I never found myself daydreaming about him.

A few days later, he was leaving to visit his country of origin and insisted on seeing me on his way to the airport. I agreed, partly because I was relieved that he'd be out of town for a couple of weeks. We had a perfectly fine dinner, again no butterflies on my part, but I could sense that he was way more into me than I was into him. He messaged me almost every day while he was abroad, sending me pictures, asking about my days, etc.

During his time away I met another guy who totally swept me off my feet. He has all the kind, amazing qualities as the first guy except he DOES give me butterflies and I can't stop thinking about him. The new guy asked if I was dating anyone else, and I said no. Was that wrong? Am I dating the first guy? I feel like I was dishonest. Now I have this icky feeling. I don't know why I didn't say "I'm dating, but nothing serious." Is it immoral if I don't tell the new guy about the old one? Everything is going so perfectly and I don't want to create drama out of a small misstatement.

The first guy got back and immediately tried to make plans. I figured I'd just keep avoiding him until he got the hint. Then he told me he had brought me back a gift from his country. Now I feel obligated to at least see him in person and break things off that way, but what am I even breaking off? We never discussed exclusivity.

I made plans with the first guy for this week, because I don't know how to say no to people (a whole other problem of mine). As of now, the plans are dinner and a sleepover :( I am NOT comfortable having a sleepover with him while feeling so lovey-dovey with the new guy. The new guy and I have only kissed, but I already feel so connected to him and we have been having an amazing time together.

I either have to
a) cancel this date altogether (with what excuse!?)
b) end things in person (please tell me what to say)
c) go to dinner but make up an excuse for not being able to have a nightcap
d) end things via text (asshole move or saving him an awkward in-person convo?)

Please help me :(
posted by DayTripper to Human Relations (23 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You do need to tell the first guy that you want to end things with him. You didn't discuss exclusivity, but you have been going on dates and sleeping together. Personally, I'd do it in person (or over the phone if phone calls are one of the ways you've been communicating), but text would be okay too. If you are going to do it in person, do it at the beginning of dinner rather than the end. Actually, best would be to arrange to see him before the dinner date for coffee or something, and do it then. If you do it via text, do it sooner rather than later. It would be kind to offer to talk more if he wants to.

As for what to say, just tell him that you're not feeling the connection or excitement that you are looking for, and although you like him a lot, you don't want to continue the relationship in a romantic direction. No need to tell him about Guy #2.

I think you should tell Guy #2 the truth: "Hey, I think I misled you about something and I want to clear it up." And then tell him.
posted by aka burlap at 7:52 PM on July 7, 2014 [10 favorites]

Is it immoral if I don't tell the new guy about the old one?

Not at all immoral. A harmless white lie. If you haven't done more than kiss, it was pushy of him to even ask.

Second question: (a). Cancel and be blunt -- you're just not that into him. Or say you've met someone else if that's easier, but for god's sake don't get drawn into a conversation about it. You have no obligation to end it in person.
posted by neat graffitist at 7:54 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Just one more thought: this is a good opportunity to practice skills that will help you build your ability to say no to people. Skills like being able to kindly but directly tell people something they don't want to hear, being able to be honest about something you yourself feel a little uncomfortable about, etc. These are valuable things to be able to do and you should use this as a chance to practice!
posted by aka burlap at 7:55 PM on July 7, 2014 [12 favorites]

Look, the worst that will likely happen is that Guy 1 will be mad at you, because he's presumed an attachment that does not exist and he won't get what he wants. It's okay for him to be mad at you, you will not shrivel up and die.

I think text is pretty cold and a call would be best, even if you just have to wince through his displeasure. Tell him you don't want to see him anymore, tell him you've met someone else if you're comfortable saying so. Wish him well, which I'm sure is the truth.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:10 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Don't make up an excuses with the first guy or try to avoid him...but I think it's fine to break up via email or text. Just be honest and say you enjoyed meeting him, but you don't think there's a potential for a relationship and don't want to go out again. I don't think in-person conversations are necessary unless it's already a real and serious relationship. Don't tell the new guy unless he starts asking for details about the last person you saw. And since you slept with the last guy, go get an STD test before sleeping with the new one.
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:12 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I've been in a similar position recently. I would text or email the first guy and ask to talk on the phone, and when a good time to do so would be (example: "Do you have a few minutes to talk sometime today?"). Once on the phone, you say something along the lines of, "I don't think we should see each other anymore." He will probably ask why. Remember that no matter what you say, it will not make the other person feel okay about it, but that's not your job. Your job is to make *you* feel okay. I do this by being honest and keeping it simple. I've said, "I think you are great, but I'm not sure we're right for each other, and I think it is best if we don't go out anymore."
posted by singlesock at 8:18 PM on July 7, 2014 [3 favorites]

Directly break it off by email or a phone call. Tell him the truth — that you met someone else. You definitely don't have to do it in person. The fact that he has a gift for you is no reason to see him in person — I mean, do you want to get a gift out of this? I don't think so. He's so obviously really into you — the sooner you break this off and relieve him from wasting his time on you, the better.
posted by John Cohen at 8:21 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I don't think you need to tell Guy #2 about #1. It doesn't make sense to feel guilty for being pursued by another guy. Since you don't reciprocate Guy #1's feelings this early into your knowing one another, it's not really a relationship or even "dating" per se, you just went on a couple of dates. Dates are about finding that kind of thing out, not a symbol of commitment.

What would be bad at this point would be to continue talking to both guys. Just be firm with Guy #1 and clearly end that situation so that you can continue getting to know #2 without feeling confused about it. It seems common to me that beginnings of romantic relationships are hazy, it takes time to figure out chemistry, expectations, and commitment. I don't think your situation with Guy #1 is really relevant to your life since it didn't seem to mean much to you.

So, to answer your last question, cancel the date over the phone by just being straightforward and brief. I'd be sympathetic about it because it's too bad for him, but so it goes.
posted by poilkj at 8:29 PM on July 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If you don't want to date someone, stop going on dates with them.

You need to start turning down invitations. Or, you know, just tell the dude that you've met someone else. NBD.

Re whether you have any obligation to this guy you went on two dates with, the answer is no.

Whether you are bound to reveal the recent two dates you went on with another dude probably is complicated by what the specific norms of your particular community are. As an American 30-something who is dating in the context of a major US city, I would feel no concern about your one-night-stand-plus-two-dates at all. In a smaller town -- and especially if any of the players involved know each other personally -- the rules are very different.

In any event, call Dude A up right now and tell him dinner is off. Gah.
posted by Sara C. at 8:37 PM on July 7, 2014 [13 favorites]

Best answer: Also, OMG honey you do not ever need an excuse to not go on a date with someone.
posted by Sara C. at 8:40 PM on July 7, 2014 [29 favorites]

Best answer: Let's use your statement to New Guy as an internal kick in the rear to end it with Old Guy.
If you want your statement to New Guy that you aren't dating anyone else to be true, then you should end it with Old Guy right now--then you won't be lying as you move forward.

And going forward, I urge you to realize that you didn't need the New Guy to be around for you to end it with Old Guy.
You can stop seeing anybody for any reason without being a bad person.
As long as you are honest with them as soon as possible--then you are being honorable and respectful of them and true to yourself.

Seriously, FOR ANY REASON, or NO Reason at All!
posted by calgirl at 8:47 PM on July 7, 2014 [4 favorites]

Personally, I'd call the Guy 1 and say you can't do dinner and you need to talk to him, preferable ASAP. Then just tell him he's a great guy, blah blah, but you're into someone else.

I don't like lying, but in this case, maybe you could say you had been seeing someone else and stopped when you met Guy 1, but then you started seeing old flame again. At least maybe then it sounds like it had been going on for a while and wasn't something Guy 1 could compete with, but also makes you not really a liar when you claimed you weren't seeing anyone else.

The longer you string this guy alone, the harder it will be. And you can't go on a date where you struggle to break the news to him because he's being nice or has a gift or whatever. If he goes on that date, it will be a total sucker punch where he is expecting a night out and sleepover. Set a new meeting before the date that is meant to be quick and if he tries to get you to open the gift first, tell him you can't accept it. Tell him you want to meet up and talk. Don't set an expectation that you're going to go out for a meal.
posted by AppleTurnover at 9:40 PM on July 7, 2014

Looking at this from the outside, I don't think you were dating the first guy - but what's really important is what you think - and it sounds like you don't think you were dating him. So you're all good. No need to tell Guy 2 about Guy 1, IMO.

Sounds like he's into you, like he's a perfectly nice guy and all that, but none of that means that you're obligated to date him or anything else. I'd suggest breaking it off with him as soon as possible - phone is fine. You don't need to tell him you met someone else, just that you don't want to take things further with him. And yeah, listen to what Sara C says about turning people down.
posted by Pink Frost at 9:41 PM on July 7, 2014

This is kind of a tough position to be in, regardless of experience level. There is no guaranteed perfect kiss-off for Suitor #1. Heck, there's no guarantee that Suitor #2 will prove to be a better choice. (I'm not trying to muddy the waters, here, but simply noting that butterflies/fantasy percentages don't actually predict outcomes.) I totally understand your icky feeling; decent people don't like being responsible for hurting other decent people (or any people, really). But you need to remember that you aren't "responsible" for his feelings, at least as things stand now.

(Academically, the argument that it's always okay to exit a relationship for any reason, after any period of time, is valid. Practically, I feel it's a bit murkier than that.)

It doesn't sound like you've done or said anything to lead Mr. #1 along. You are still within a reasonable "trying things out" window. So, at this point, you shouldn't agonize about that aspect of things. The key is to let him down now, immediately, so that you don't cross that line (another date, or accepting his gift would -- in my mind -- be crossing it). In fact, I'd argue that any delay in expressing your desire to end things would be sort of cruel; arranging a later face-to-face will be more confusing/agonizing than just saying it in an email. Have you ever had a boss imply at the beginning of a shift that you'll be fired at the end of that shift? Yeah. Sucks.

There are already good scripts in this thread, all variants of, "Hey, look. I think you have some great qualities [insert good qualities here], but I don't feel that we're a good match. [Never imply that you might be a better match later; e.g. avoid things like, "... at this time in my life."] I know you'll find someone who is a better fit, and I wish you all the best." keep it simple, and don't get bogged down in apologies or lengthy explanations. Don't encourage a follow up/explanatory phone call or meeting, but prepare to remain gently-yet-firmly on script should one occur. Or, alternately, prepare to feel a little weird if one doesn't.

It's never fun to reject someone. But it's less fun to wait too long, and then feel obligated or trapped. And who knows; maybe he's not as on-board as he seems. I know I've gone through motions with people I'm not that into, just because my personality/cultural training seemed to dictate it. This could actually come as a relief to him.
posted by credible hulk at 9:54 PM on July 7, 2014

Call Guy 1 up and arrange to meet him ASAP, somewhere neutral. If he makes any "uh-oh, that sounds serious" remarks just ignore them, don't let yourself get drawn into it.
When you see him, stick to these talking points: "You are a great guy, and you have treated me very kindly, but I'm just not happy with you." Then keep repeating variants on the theme. You can add on "and I've met someone else" but that leaves you open to drama of the "what's he got that I haven't" sort.

Under no circumstances allow yourself to be drawn into a discussion of what he could have done differently or what qualities he lacks, not only because that's cruel but because it opens the door to argument. You "don't know how to say no to people", so much so that you've been roped into dinner and a sleepover with someone you're trying to get out of seeing, so you really must avoid circumstances where you can be talked around or persuaded. Don't bring it up and if he brings it up say "there's nothing you could have done differently" and go back to the main talking points: "It's not working for me." "I'm not happy." "You've been very kind to me but I don't want this relationship." "I'm just not happy, it's not about you."

Ordinarily, I think Miko's breakup script is great, but there's too much potential there for points of argument. You need to get this said and get out.
posted by gingerest at 11:42 PM on July 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: because I don't know how to say no to people (a whole other problem of mine)

This isn't an other problem, this *is* the problem. Given your inability to say no and how easily persuaded you are to do things you don't want to I'd say don't go and see guy #1 in person at all, because at this rate you'll end up married to him. Even a phone call may be too dangerous, in which case a txt is totally fine. But regardless, you need to tell him straight up that you don't want to see him any more then done. You can say you're just not feeling it but even that might open the door to more excuses or arguments and you don't need those at all.

You actually have been kind of leading him on. You don't want to see him any more and instead you arranged a sleep over with him, of course he's going to get the wrong idea. But the only way to fix the situation is to be straight forward with him now then let him move on. So no excuses, no explanations, no waiting around to hear how upset he is or listen to him talk you out of it, break it off say goodbye kindly and hang up. If he gets upset then that's his issue to deal with. Yeah it kind of sucks but you can't spend your whole life doing what other people want to make them happy, it's literally impossible.

And next time you don't want to sleep with someone just say "no thanks, I'm going home" then leave. Not in a mean or acrimonious way, just matter of fact and mildly friendly. Excuses just open you up to arguments and persuasion and they're really not necessary. Work on this whole saying no thing, it's going to make your life a whole lot easier and healthier when you're able to draw reasonable boundaries around your life.
posted by shelleycat at 11:47 PM on July 7, 2014 [15 favorites]

Yes, call the first guy and tell him you're not interested in seeing him for dinner. Thank him for the gift (but do not see him to accept it) but tell him it just won't be possible to meet. You don't have to tell him you met someone else -- because that's not really why, is it? Cancel the dinner because you don't want to have dinner with him. That's enough of a reason, no excuse needed.

I can't stress this enough -- do not meet up with him, don't have dinner, don't answer his phone calls after you have this conversation. There will probably be some whiny calls but just ignore it -- it's not evil or wrong to do what you want.
posted by mibo at 3:55 AM on July 8, 2014 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Oh darling. You are struggling with something I have struggled with mightily! Saying "no" to someone is just awful. It feels like kicking a puppy that is eager to play. I understand.

You need to take care of yourself and your needs here. For a moment, let's disregard the second man. You are not interested in the first guy - no butterflies. You're just not that into him. That is ok! Call him up and say, directly, "John, I think you are very sweet, but I am not interested in you romantically. I wish you the best of luck." If calling sounds too hard, you can text him. It's not ideal, and I think you can make the phone call, but you know yourself best. I would not recommend seeing him - that is too much pressure. You're learning to say no and that's like jumping into a shark tank! Next time you're in a similar situation you can do it in person. This situation - you've seen him three times, and he is pretty pushy - doesn't call for it to be done in person.

And practice saying "no" more often. Pay attention to your feelings and do what feels good. Don't go on dates because you don't want to let the other person down. If you learn to say "no" in everyday situations, saying it in bigger ones won't be as hard.

Best of luck to you.

Oh, and the second guy? You weren't dating the first guy: you went on a few dates with him. There's a difference. No need to get into it with him. If I was Guy 2, I wouldn't think anything of it that you told me you weren't seeing anyone else if you were getting texts from a pushy guy that you went on three dates with. Don't worry.
posted by sockermom at 5:24 AM on July 8, 2014 [5 favorites]

The good news is that you know the difference between what you want and what you don't want. This is fantastic information.

Now you have to practice honoring your desires and preferences.

Saying no when we mean no is a form of self-love. Show yourself some kindness by breaking things off cleanly with Guy #1. For the record? You were dating. You weren't exclusive but you slept together and saw each other several times in a romantic or sexual context. You let him think you wanted to see him when you didn't. You did not communicate your true preferences to him, which is another way of saying you led him on.

I would simply call and tell him: "Hi, this isn't easy to say, but I wanted to tell you that I met someone else. I'm no longer interested in dating you."

Be direct, honest and leave no room for negotiation.

With the new guy, tell him you need to talk. Explain this miscommunication and explain: "I was seeing someone else but it wasn't serious." Down the road, you should consider being more up front with other details (eg that you slept together). In the meantime, get tested for STDs. And then get tested again in 3 months.
posted by Gray Skies at 5:29 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

You're not dating that guy (so you didn't lie), but you ought to tell him you don't want to date him. You can do it by phone. Hell, you can do it by text in my book. But he wants to date you and thinks you feel the same, and it would be cruel to just ignore him until he gets the hint (especially if you only ignore him sometimes and then give him attention other times as you are trying to do).
posted by J. Wilson at 6:21 AM on July 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

As to Old Guy, you should dump him with a succinct text.

"[Old Guy], I'm not ready for a relationship right now. Nice meeting you, and good luck"

Do not even think of meeting up with him. Do not tell him you have met someone else. You do not owe him that information; it would be cruel to him in any event; and it might set him off on an unpredictable course. Do not pick up his calls or respond to other attempts to re-establish contact. If he's still bugging you after a particular cutoff date - say three weeks - threaten to call the police, and then do call the police.

As to New Guy, again, you do not owe him any obligation to tell him about whatever happened before you two met, and in practice it would be best for both of you if you didn't tell him.

Do not feel "icky" about this. You weren't dating Old Guy when you met New Guy. You're only dating when you're actually on a date. So at the time you met New Guy, you weren't dating Old Guy.

I would also recommend in general that you take a step back from the social pressure to reciprocate everything that's thrown your way. Just because Old Guy brought you a gift does not obligate you to accept it. And just because New Guy is your love interest right now doesn't mean you have to reveal every detail of your past love life.

Take care
posted by Pechorin at 7:01 AM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have to agree with shelleycat. You have been leading him on and you need to learn how to tell people how you feel. Good or bad. It always sucks when telling someone the truth involves hurting their feelings, but that is part of being a mature adult.

You don't necessarily have to tell the first guy about the new guy, in fact, that would be downright cruel if you did. But the right thing to do is to be honest with the first guy and tell him that you don't want to see him anymore and wish him well. Don't just blow him off. Treat him the way you would want to be treated if the shoe were on the other foot. Ask me how I know.

Proceed as you wish with the new guy.
posted by strelitzia at 9:39 AM on July 8, 2014

I'd call guy #1 and say, "George, I really enjoyed meeting you but I'm not really feeling it with you. Rather than waste your time and mine, we should forego getting together on Wednesday."

That's really all that needs to be said.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 11:01 AM on July 8, 2014 [2 favorites]

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