Rejection is difficult. I think we can all agree on that. Recently, I found myself wondering if it's OK to ghost after a bad first date. The answer is complicated. Of course it's something you're allowed to do, as you don't owe anyone your time or care. However I was wondering what form of rejection would feel right for me. In the past, I have actually taken pride in being able to handle rejection. I even thought I was good at it until I was faced with a challenge: rejecting someone else.
What happened was this: Earlier this year, I started to go on a series of intensely "OK" first dates. They weren't horrible — I just didn't feel a spark, which actually made those dates harder to walk away from than my past nightmare-worthy ones. For me, dates where boundaries are crossed or people are rude have been hard to deal with, but I never for a second feel bad about not following up. Dates in which I had a fine time with a kind person became puzzles. I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. I started to feel exhausted with dating and found myself scheduling second and third dates I didn't actually want to go on. I kept thinking, "How do I turn someone down after a so-so date?"
When it came to these so-called, "so-so" dates, I usually found the person interesting. And we had a nice time talking over some food and a drink. It was just that I didn't feel that thing you feel when you've found someone really right for you. Eventually, I got burnt out on dating, I started canceling first dates without even going on them, and I even considered deleting my dating profiles. I was just too afraid that I would have to eventually reject someone.
Then it dawned on me. I realized who would have the best advice for me about rejecting someone: my future dates.
That’s right. I went on Tinder (and disclosed I was writing a piece about what to do after a first date that was just OK.) And, with their permission, I’ve shared four responses that confirm that many people struggle with the question of what to do when things just don’t have that spark.
So I started with a simple question.
And the responses were validating! Finally an affirmation that this is a hard thing to do from someone. "Letting things fade out" is something that a lot of people seemed to understand on Tinder, but the logistics are delicate.
"Letting things fade," as this person suggested, has so much ambiguity to it. I always get stressed when I continue talking with someone after a date I know I didn't connect with. So I continued asking the same question to more of my matches to see what others thought.
I really appreciated with the 'Second Date Method.'
Here was a response that guided me down a path I both knew and was surprised by. It was direct evidence that, even though rejecting someone sounded scary, ghosting was far more likely to damage someone's feelings. And my ultimate goal was not hurting people.
I appreciated the way this person suggested trying a second date to see if a connection could be found after all. It let me know I am not the only one that does this — even though I find it can be exhausting. But I still wanted to find a solution that wouldn't drain my energy so quickly.
Some say fading out is always better than ghosting.
Again, here is another resounding vote against ghosting. This person also feels like being direct about not being interested and ghosting are equally challenging. This person describes fading out well, and also mentions that it's hard to be straightforward because it feels too hurtful. Despite not wanting to be upfront, this person makes a great case against ghosting. It's clear that most people that have been ghosted know how much it stings, and they don't want to do it to someone else.
Still, though, I found myself wondering exactly how to fade out, and whether or not I would feel better if I simply said how I felt.
Not looking for anything serious (with you).
This was another helpful answer. This person explained that if things don't go well, both individuals decide not to follow up. They also mentioned something creative: If a date is not what they are looking for they simply say, "Sorry, I'm not looking for anything this serious." I respect that tactic and have definitely used it. Even if the key factor is that I am not looking for something serious with that specific person. Even though it's not entirely honest, I think it is a valid and safe way to communicate your unavailability for a partnership with someone.
I say this is a safe way because, unfortunately, sometimes people don't listen to a rejection when you communicate your honest feelings about not wanting to be with them. It's always important to remember you can reject someone because you don't owe anyone your time or romantic attention.
Consent is always critical, and that includes something as simple as walking away from someone because you're not interested. I appreciated this answer because I began to feel less alone in my fear of letting someone down more directly.
And finally, someone bold enough to tell it like it is.
And here we have it, folks.
Leave it to a Tinder match to answer what I have been wondering for basically all of 2018: how to let someone down in an honest, direct, respectful way, even if it might be a little bit of a hard pill to swallow. This person was brief and direct. When they aren't interested, they simply say, "Hey I had a good time, but I didn't feel a romantic connection, so I don't wanna lead you on." I think I knew it was that simple all along, but something about hearing how a potential match might word things made it click in my brain.
I think the important part here is to remind ourselves that a rejection is most frequently not about the person being rejected, but about the boundaries, consent, and desires of the person doing the rejecting. Establishing boundaries for yourself, and enforcing them, is an act of self-care and nothing you should feel guilty for doing. Even if it means a potential romantic interest will be let down. When it comes to consent it's imperative to listen when someone states what they want and respect what they have stated.
In the end, I really enjoyed everyone's responses to my questions and I was grateful that my Tinder matches even considered responding to such a straightforward question. And it definitely cleared the air. I found that I am not the only one that struggles with the idea of what to do when I am not feeling "all in," and I also realized that sometimes, rejecting my dates can be as simple as saying exactly how I feel. Being the barer of bad news doesn't make me a bad person. I am simply learning to how better care for myself.
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