How should I break up with someone early on?
September 1, 2017 9:49 AM   Subscribe

What's an appropriate way to "break up" with someone after only a few dates, when you don't have a good/specific reason?

So you go on 2 or 3 dates with a person, and realise it's just not right.

It could be incompatible interests, conflicting values, or even the fact that you recently met someone else who you find yourself more interested in. Maybe it's just a hazy feeling that you wouldn't work well together. No one's done anything wrong, and there's no inciting incident. You just know it's not right.

What's an appropriate and reasonably kind way to go about ending things in this case?

I want to be honest, but am not sure that unbridled honesty is necessary or helpful, given how early it is and considering my "reasons" are based more on vague gut feelings that are hard to quantify.

I don't necessarily feel comfortable "ghosting" either. I've been ghosted before, and it's not particularly pleasant. It's harder, but I'd ultimately feel better being direct.

Is ending it via chat message reasonable (particularly if you haven't exchanged phone numbers yet)? At what point does it stop being reasonable?

FWIW, I'm a late-20s male in NYC, two dates in with the particular person I'm writing about (if it matters, we haven't done anything beyond kissing), although I've been in this situation before and have handled it in various ways that never felt quite right. Just trying to do the right thing :)

Thanks MeFites!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (29 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
"You're swell, but I'm just not feeling it or seeing much of a future for this."
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:54 AM on September 1, 2017 [12 favorites]

The classic Metafilter advice is Miko's breakup script
posted by advicepig at 9:58 AM on September 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I always feel he best response is a variation on "not feeling a spark". People know what that means, and it speaks to an intangible, very subjective thing that doesn't warrant further clarification. And after only a couple of dates, you really don't need to go into any more detail.

"I had a good time on our dates, but I'm just not feeling a spark. It was great meeting you. Good luck out there!"
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:59 AM on September 1, 2017 [53 favorites]

Is ending it via chat message reasonable

In this situation, it's absolutely reasonable.
posted by AndrewInDC at 9:59 AM on September 1, 2017 [10 favorites]

2 dates, all you've done is kiss, you haven't even exchanged phone numbers? You will be marked wacko creeper 4 lyf if you go the Miko-script route. Way inappropriate for this situation.

Just send a message, say "you're swell, but I'm just not feeling it or seeing much of a future for this," and wash your hands of it. Totally reasonable.
posted by phunniemee at 10:00 AM on September 1, 2017 [55 favorites]

Sidenote: I think Miko's breakup script is great, but is more meant for ending more serious relationships than just a handful of dates. I don't think it is really applicable here.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:01 AM on September 1, 2017 [15 favorites]

Miko's breakup script is a little much for after two dates. PuppetMcSockerson has it right. As a woman in your general dating pool in NY, it's what I would want to hear (and what I have also said with success in the past). If she comes at you afterward with questions of "omg what did I do, what went wrong, am I too ugly, am I too fat" etc, then you have my permission to ignore.
posted by greta simone at 10:02 AM on September 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

Someone I was dating for a couple of weeks ended it by SMS. I appreciated it. It was less hassle and awkwardness than meeting in person or a phone call would have been. Other people's milage varies though. Some people are still horrified at the thought of a non face to face breakup.
posted by roolya_boolya at 10:15 AM on September 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

If you haven't even exchanged phone numbers, it's fine to just send her a chat message saying that you like her as a person and she's attractive, but somehow you aren't feeling the connection required for this to be romantic.
She'll either not respond, respond with agreement or respond acidly.
Scenario 2 is best case. Ignore her in case of Scenario fact, it might be a sign that she isn't good at handling a non-malicious difference of opinion respectfully.
posted by norwegianleather at 10:37 AM on September 1, 2017

For what it's worth, you can't especially control how (and to what) others will react, so perhaps it's best to think of how you'd like to be 'broken up with' on the other end. What does seem to be involved in mutual closure is a kindness in your decisiveness.

For me, that would be something along the lines of, "Hey abc - I have a lot of positive sentiment towards you, and did very much enjoy our dates together - but I have come around to deciding that I don't wish to pursue this further because of some ambivalence that I am feeling. I hope that, in this case, you can accept me in my words and in my best wishes. Take care :) xyz"
posted by a good beginning at 11:03 AM on September 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

I also think you can just not contact him or her for a next date and if it ends there, you're done. If he or she contacts you, then use one of the "not feeling it" examples above. In my book, that's not ghosting, it's neither of you contacting the other.
posted by Pax at 11:06 AM on September 1, 2017 [5 favorites]

In the early stages, using your current default form of communication is best. Chat or text or whatever is fine.

I agree that Miko's breakup script, though excellent for more established relationships, is a little much at this point. "I think you're great, but I'm not feeling a connection and I can't really explain why" is enough.

For the record, when I was single and looking, I was afraid that I was somehow fundamentally unlovable - I think it's a common feeling for people who are going through a dry spell. I think the "you are good but this is not the right match" message can be good to hear for anyone going through that.
posted by Metroid Baby at 11:21 AM on September 1, 2017 [12 favorites]

Nthing 'not feeling a spark,' and I often threw in something like, 'you're fun and I find you attractive, but my gut just says it's not it' to spare their self-esteem. People always seemed to appreciate.
posted by namesarehard at 11:42 AM on September 1, 2017 [6 favorites]

I had a girl who called me on the phone after a couple more dates than that who said "I'm sorry to do this, but I just don't think this is going to work out." I was a little speechless. She said she had a nice time with me. She avoided saying anything specific when I asked if I had done anything wrong, and circled back to "I just don't see us working out." It wasn't fun, but I can't really think of a better way she could have gone about it.

A few months later, I was in the opposite situation after having gone out 3 times with someone who I wasn't really feeling it for, and I called her and borrowed the same phrase, avoided being specific about anything negative, and was apologetic. And that was it, really.
posted by thenormshow at 11:44 AM on September 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I've gone with "you seem cool, this just isn't clicking for me" or variants thereof, delivered promptly, and gotten the same. I think they are more than fair and tend to bypass at least a big chunk of the really neurotic stuff from the other party. It's the ghosting or taking a very, very long time to say anything that sets people down wondering what's so deeply, deeply wrong with them that you don't want to actually even speak to them again. Past the teens and very early 20s, you're unlikely to be dating anybody who hasn't themselves at least once felt the same way, right? So people will tend to accept that explanation once it's provided. It's the absence of response that tends to be filled in by the imagination in awful ways.
posted by Sequence at 11:48 AM on September 1, 2017

"I'm not interested in going forward with this. Best of luck in your search."
posted by trinity8-director at 11:53 AM on September 1, 2017

I think PuppetMcSockerson has it right. Affirming that you had a good time / that they seem like a lovely person, but the spark or connection just isn't there. I'd feel kind of sad if someone phrased it as "I'm not interested in going forward with this." Sounds kind of business-y. That's just me though. I think a friendly, positive but direct message is the way to go.
posted by sucre at 12:03 PM on September 1, 2017 [11 favorites]

PuppetMcSockerson has it right. It has:

1. An explanation,
2. Appreciation for the time and effort spent, and
3. A positive end note of goodwill.

More than that, no-one really wants. Less than that, and there's cause for resentment (which may happen anyway, but you're absolved).
posted by Capt. Renault at 12:24 PM on September 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

I'd be crushed and horrified at "I'm not interested in going forward with this." I'd also think there was something significantly wrong with me for having not picked up earlier that you were a replicant.

A text or call with "hey you're great and so pretty, but I'm just not feeling like this is a fit so I gotta call things off" would be a kindness.

If you want to punish them for something awful they did, by all means use the "I'm not interested in going forward" line. And "best of luck in your search" is for job applicant rejections. I've written it hundreds of times.
posted by fingersandtoes at 1:31 PM on September 1, 2017 [21 favorites]

"I'm not feeling a spark" is honest and understandable, but for some people it still stings -- ("why don't you feel a spark, am I not spark-worthy?") So especially if the other person did seem to feeling it, I think it's kinder to pad that with a few complimentary caveats -- "you're attractive and fun and you seem like a great person, but I'm just not feeling it [or, we don't have enough in common, etc]" somehow softens that irrational insecurity response which is only human after rejection. And makes greta simone's questions less likely.

On edit: yes, what fingersandtoes said a minute earlier. :)
posted by flourpot at 1:32 PM on September 1, 2017 [3 favorites]

Having been on a receiving end after 3 dates : please no text. I am a human, and have feelings. At least a nice phone call lasting a minute. After a few dates, I also would not care about any feedback you gave me. So "you're a lovely person but I am just not feeling it" phonecall is sufficient. Text? Makes you into a coward. (BTW I am a woman in my early 40s, so that might colour how I see the world)
posted by Yavsy at 2:32 PM on September 1, 2017

And then there's other people who would actually prefer a text because being on the phone puts them in the awkward position of having to respond on the spot to rejection. I would lean towards using whatever your preferred method of communication has been up to this point. If you've mainly been texting, I don't think it's a huge faux pas to do it in this instance either. Make it polite, respectful and brief and you'll be fine.
posted by Jubey at 3:43 PM on September 1, 2017 [8 favorites]

They may not be feeling it either, so there's no point rejecting something that isn't explicitly on offer. You can wait til the next time they reach out to you, and then say something like,

"Hi Person,
I really enjoyed our dates, especially our convo about bees- you're fun, smart, and super-cute.
[A] I met another person I feel chemistry with, so
[B] I feel we have some differing values that might not be a good long-term match, so
[C] whatever.
I don't feel we're compatible for more dating, but I'm sure we'll cross paths again, and I look forward to that day.
Thank you again for a fun time- I think you're awesome.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 7:11 PM on September 1, 2017

I am very anti-ghosting, and I think there's a lot of good scripts above. I'll just add this, although, admittedly, it's kind of way-overthinking the situation but here it is: I think it's kinder to deliver a message like this early in the day. People are fresher, not tired and therefore less likely to have a super emotional reaction, and it's a kindness in that you're not dumping them at nine o'clock at night and leaving them to toss and turn all night trying to figure out what went wrong. Earlier in the day means they can keep themselves busy and not dwell, can probably find a friend to have lunch with or drinks after work to process a bit and bolster their self-esteem.
posted by vignettist at 9:15 PM on September 1, 2017 [4 favorites]

oh god, if only you hadn't kissed her, that puts you in a grey area. If you had less than three dates AND didn't sleep with her AND don't have her number, just withdraw and say nothing. but unfortunately I think you are just barely past the zone of softly and silently vanishing away, which is always best except for when it won't do.

unless...unless you have been the one initiating contact every time, and in that case you can just stop contacting. but if she asks you out again, you must politely decline instead of ignoring and hiding. but for the love of god don't explain, don't tell her about her qualities, don't say anything except you really enjoyed the dates but you don't think it's quite right. be as vague, as polite, and as brief as you know how. do not say how great she is and DO NOT say what is wrong with her, or even the situation. for the love of god. just say Nope, wrap it in gauze, veil it in fog, and deliver. and if she wants more explaining, THEN you can ghost her.

also it's not breaking up if you haven't slept with her or asked her to be your girlfriend or whatever awful thing people say to each other nowadays. that makes it more awkward but less momentous. whatever you do don't treat it like a serious sit-down conversation if you don't even know if she wants you to become her boyfriend yet.
posted by queenofbithynia at 9:25 PM on September 1, 2017

I think you do explain IF it's not a "you're ugly and I can't stand it anymore" type of thing -- in other words, nobody's at fault (or you are, and your ego can admit it). A lot depends on the general tenor of your last meeting. If it went fairly well and you suddenly withdraw with zero explanation the other person will find this strange.

If they're well adjusted they'll just get on with their lives, but if not it can lead to a more awkward exchange (particularly if you ever run into them again). If you give a reason, even if it's not 100% true but absolves all parties of fault ("just not clicking" or "met someone else") that's IMO better than simply terminating things with no indication as to why.
posted by axiom at 9:12 PM on September 2, 2017 [1 favorite]

I would want you to be upfront and own your decision to not continue to see me. I had a guy go on another date with me and just act as weird as possible. We'd previously had three dates, two ending with kissing, lots of fun, then the fourth was completely awful and I was so blindsided I didn't know what to say. I had to text him after and say "I guess that was it?" And THEN he says "I'm not right for you" (I was outraged at the faux concern for what was right for me! He obviously didn't want to date me, but couldn't be honest). So just text her and say you're not really feeling a spark and don't want to go out again, although you had a great time. Don't patronise her with platitudes about how awesome she is, like my feeble chap did. Just be honest and kind and straightforward.
posted by tinwhiskers at 4:22 AM on September 3, 2017

If they're well adjusted they'll just get on with their lives, but if not it can lead to a more awkward exchange (particularly if you ever run into them again)

This is often the question I ask myself when trying to figure out the most ethical course of action: "If I do X, how will that be if I run into them again in the future?" For myself, I generally find that making some sort of clean break is generally best.
posted by lazuli at 6:46 AM on September 3, 2017

I definitely do not think two dates necessitates a break-up.

IME, usually this early on, it's not assumed you'll be seeing the person again after two dates, unless you specifically made plans.

If you have made plans, then you need to break them, obviously, and I think something short and sweet along the lines of Puppet McSockerson's script is fine. It's also fine if she messages you to make plans.

If you haven't made plans and she doesn't contact you then I just ... wouldn't. It's really not ghosting after two dates, and if she doesn't contact you and there are no plans, a message is not necessary. Actually, I would personally be annoyed and feel like it was presumptuous if I got a message like that, unprompted. Though maybe that's just me.

Either way, a message through whatever system you've been using is fine. Two dates and a kiss, you don't need to be formal about this.
posted by lunasol at 11:40 PM on September 4, 2017

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