Maybe it’s the glaring fact that you have nothing in common. Maybe it comes down to a difference in beliefs or a lack of chemistry. Maybe you can’t quite put your finger on it, but you merely lost interest. Whatever the reasoning, when you’ve gone on a FaceTime date or three with someone and you’re just not feeling it, you’ve got a difficult task ahead of you. Figuring out how to stop talking to someone you’re virtually dating is a little more complicated, not only because you haven’t defined anything yet (let alone met them in person), but because you can’t exactly use your tried-and-true excuse (“I’m sooo busy right now!”) during quarantine. As they say, honesty is the best policy — and according to dating coach Jess McCann, there is a way to be clear with your date while also being compassionate. In fact, she came up with a foolproof formula you can use in these situations.
When you’re breaking things off with someone new, it’s always tempting to come up with an excuse in the interest of protecting their feelings. The thing is, though, those excuses may give your date false hope that they’ll have a chance down the road — once your life slows down, or you’re feeling better, or whatever reason you gave is no longer valid. In that way, excuses can actually cause more hurt in the long run.
Case in point: one of my besties had been on several awesome dates with a guy when he ended things because he simply "wasn't looking for anything serious right now" and could "sense that she wanted more than he could offer." She was disappointed since she felt like they were really hitting it off, but she definitely didn't take it personally. Weeks later, when that same guy changed his relationship status and posted a couple's pic with a sappy caption, she felt betrayed and hurt. It turned out, the whole "it's not you, it's me" speech had been a sham.
For this reason, McCann — author of Cursed? Why you still don’t have the relationship you want and the 5 cures that can transform your love life — advises telling the person outright why you aren't feeling the connection. While doing so, however, she says it’s crucial to be cautious about your delivery. It’s fine to do this over video chat, but if you’ve only had one or two virtual dates, McCann says it’s totally OK to break things off over text. Ultimately, it's all about finding what feels most comfortable to you as well as appropriate given the amount of time you’ve spent talking to this person.
According to McCann, the key to letting someone down gently is to start by building them up with positives about your interactions with them. Perhaps they made you LOL a lot, or they were a great listener when you vented about your day, or they came up with some genius virtual date ideas. Once you’ve given them a compliment, break the news that you don’t think this connection is going anywhere. Finally, be sure to build them back up again so you can end the convo on a high note.
Here’s an example, per McCann:
"Alex, I've enjoyed our FaceTime dates. You have such a dry sense of humor and I really like that about you. I feel like a friendship is building between us more than anything romantic, though. I don't want to waste your time if you’re interested in being more than friends. I do like talking with you because you're so kind and funny, so if you are feeling the same way about being friends, that’s great — but if not, I understand.”
See — that wasn’t so bad, was it? With this particular script, you can be super direct about your feelings while also giving your date a little confidence boost. Since a breakup can be quite an ego blow, it’s nice to point out what you do like about them rather than focusing only on what you don’t like.
Now, more than ever, it’s oh so important to be mindful of how powerful your words can be. Rejection is always painful, but in quarantine, many people are feeling even more emotionally vulnerable than usual. Not only are many people feeling the pangs of loneliness (which often makes losing a date more devastating), but they also may feel out of touch with their support system.
“Rejection stings a little more in [quarantine] for several reasons,” says McCann. “Firstly, our options are limited, so when someone rejects you, you can unconsciously think that your date prefers to be with nobody over you. Secondly, [quarantine] can lead you to spend too much time alone with your thoughts — and those thoughts can quickly focus on what’s wrong with you or your situation.”
Having all this free time to think isn’t a great thing when you’re dealing with rejection, because it’s easy to begin repeatedly ruminating over what you said or did wrong. This is exactly why it’s best to be as direct as possible. Ghosting your date may leave them obsessing over why things didn’t work out, and giving them an invalid excuse can be the equivalent of stringing them along. So, consider the current circumstances a blessing: They may force you to own up to your truth, and better yet, witness firsthand that sharing your truth doesn’t have to be so painful — for either party — after all.
Dating coach Jess McCann