Want Out of a Relationship? Here’s What Therapists Say To Do Instead of Ghosting
So if we all hate being ghosted, why is it so common? According to Michelle Herzog, LMFT, CST, founder of The Center for Modern Relationships in Chicago, that’s because it’s easy, “especially if you've only had a few dates with someone and feel like you don't owe them anything.”
Oftentimes, adds Lexi Joondeph-Breidbart, LMSW, founder of the Lonely Hearts Club, ghosting comes from a place of fear. “Letting someone down can also feel like it would cause conflict, something that is uncomfortable for a lot of people.”
That said, both experts say ghosting is a clear no-no—unless there is a safety issue at stake. Otherwise, if you’re not into the person, you have to fess up and give you both closure. “Being honest allows you to move on since this person now knows not to continue reaching out and allows the other person to move on now that they know you are no longer interested,” says Joondeph-Breidbart.
To help alleviate the anxiety that comes with opening up to another person—which can lead to ghosting—Herzog recommends having “a few pre-written scripts saved on your phone that you can send” when you're no longer interested in pursuing a relationship with someone. We asked the pros to walk us through a few options based on six common dating scenarios to help ease the awkwardness—without taking the quick way out of the relationship.
What to say instead of ghosting in these 6 common dating situations
1. If the first date was a flop
What to say:"It was great meeting you, but I didn't feel enough of a connection to go on another date. I wish you all the best!"
Why it helps: Per Herzog, this respectful yet to-the-point text message is ideal for politely declining a second or third date. There’s genuinely no need to feel guilty if you’re not feeling it. Says Herzog, “It’s important to normalize that not every date you go on is going to be the best experience.”
2. If you’re just not ready for a relationship
What to say: "I've really enjoyed our time together, but I'm realizing that I'm not in a place to get into a relationship. I want to be honest with you as I respect your time. Hope you can understand."
Why it helps: Not ready for a relationship right now? Don't sweat it. Instead of feeling anxious about disappointing the other person, send them this therapist-approved text to let them know. You don’t owe the other person any specific explanation (after all, it’s none of their business) so feel free to keep the message short and sweet.
3. If you’re done with dating for a bit
What to say: “It's been really nice getting to know you, but I will be taking a break from dating at the moment. It's totally a me thing, just something I'm needing. I wish you the best!"
Why it helps: According to relationship coach Gaby Balsells, this is another excellent text to send if you need a break from the dating world. “This statement closes the loop of communication” while bringing the focus back to yourself. Moreover, think of this text as setting a healthy boundary by “ending the connection in a clear way” while also “being kind so the other person doesn't feel like it's a personal rejection.”
4. If you’re ready to move on from a fling
What to say: “I have enjoyed our time together, and you have been so much fun to hang out with. I wanted to be honest and let you know I don’t see this progressing further.”
Why it helps: If you’ve been casually dating someone for a few months (though not exclusively) and no longer want to continue seeing them, Joondeph-Breidbart advises sending this anti-ghost text. While you may enjoy the person, it’s possible you may “start to have other priorities.” So, with this in mind, a short-and-simple text message—like the one written above—can truly go a long way.
5. If you like the person…but just as a friend
What to say: “I've so enjoyed getting to know you. Because I respect you so much, I'd rather be honest. I'm not feeling a romantic connection. I really like you and would even be interested in being friends, but would never want to send the wrong signals, so please tell me if that is something you are interested in. If not, that's totally okay too.”
Why it helps: Balsells recommends sending this text message if you feel a purely platonic connection (read: no chemistry whatsoever). “This statement is helpful because it's honest,” she says, and “leaves an open invitation for a friendship, but only if the other person feels like that is something that would work for them.” The only caveat? You have to actually have to like them enough to want to cultivate a friendship.
6. If you’re going exclusive with someone else
What to say: "I just started seeing someone seriously and really want to see things through. I really hope you find what you're looking for and wish you the best.”
Why it helps: If you find someone you are truly interested in and want to end things with other dates, Balsells recommends sending something like this. “Sometimes,” she explains, “the kinder thing to do is to be clear.” You don’t need to feel bad about this. You deserve to choose how to spend your time and invest your energy—and other people are not entitled to your time just because you went on one or a few dates, says Balsells. While this text is empowering for you, it’s also a “clear and respectful way to end things” so that the other person can continue dating freely.
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