There’s nothing worse than chatting with someone, taking a liking to them, and then realizing after three or four dates that they’re not the one. While you can get a good idea of what someone’s like during that first and second date, oftentimes their true colors come out when they’re a little more comfortable with you. They’re likely figuring the hard part is over with, and all of a sudden, red flags appear.
It’s awkward to have this revelation when you’ve already invested so much time in someone. There’s a good chance you probably told your friends about them, and maybe they’ve even met a few. But the truth of the matter is, you should stop dating someone you lose interest in as soon as possible—it’s never easy to break things off, but the longer you wait, the more time both of you are wasting.
Here are a few tips about how to tell someone you’re not interested when you’re already a couple dates in:
Think about why you’re not interested.
Your method of breaking things off should center around why he or she isn’t the person for you. Were you a little too eager to connect with someone after a few months of being single? If you made the wrong call to keep the dates going when you were a little bored and less than excited about the person, you should be respectful but let them know you’re no longer interested. However, if your date legitimately scared you for some reason—like, by sending 90 texts in a night saying they think they’re in love, or it they started showing up at your apartment uninvited at a weird hours since they missed you so much—it’s acceptable to ghost.
If it’s a nice person, be polite.
You know they’re going to fall in love and live happily ever after with someone—just not you. Sometimes you keep dating someone hoping that eventually, there’ll be a spark. Since you can’t force chemistry, it’s a reasonable excuse that won’t make them feel too bad about the misconnection. Say something like, “I really wish I was feeling it, but I’m just not—you’re such a cool person though, and I’ve had fun hanging out.”
Send a text if you’re bad with words.
Breaking up with someone in person is a lot more respectful than doing it through text message—but if you’ve only gone out a couple of times, it’s not the worst method. With text, you have time to craft the best way to end things. Something like, “Hey, it was great getting to meet you, but I don’t think it’s going to work out,” is much better than avoiding the topic altogether based on nerves. Prepare for their response to have some questions, especially if their feelings for you were strong. Just remember that he or she can’t, and shouldn’t, talk you out of your decision.
Let them know you might not be in the same place as them.
A lot of early breakups happen because one of you was looking for a hookup while the other was looking for a long-term relationship. They’re talking marriage and you don’t even know what you want to eat for lunch that day. You might not mentally be in the same place as the other person. It’s possible that you thought you were looking for something long-term, but by date four realized you’re just not ready—and that’s totally okay. Let them know you had fun with them, but think things have run their course.
Treat them with respect.
Again—unless the person you’ve been dating has scared or intimidated you in any way, they deserve a little bit of respect. That’s why it’s best to end things and not just avoid them for the next three months, hoping they get the hint. Think about if the roles were reversed. Telling someone you’re no longer interested might always sting, but it’s a part of life—so, how would you want your date to break the news to you?
You might want to keep in mind that the world’s a small place—you might end up running into this person again at some point. Burning a bridge, or piling on the 15 things you hated about them after delivering the news, isn’t the best way to handle things.
Make sure to sandwich the rejection with compliments.
This is the best way for anyone to get bad news, whether it’s a bad date or a poor performance at work. Obviously they had some endearing qualities that didn’t turn you off on date one, so let them know that. If they talked a lot and didn’t really let you get a word in, you can tell them that you, “loved learning more about them, but don’t think there’s a strong connection,” before wishing them well. If you namedrop a specific, funny moment that happened during one of your dates, it’ll prove you were in the moment and didn’t just use them for a couple discounted meals.
Don’t try to push for friendship just yet.
It’s always possible that it’ll happen, but unless they’re also not feeling you on a romantic level, it could be seen more as a line than a sincere wish. Also avoid saying, “you’re like a brother (or sister) to me,” since that’s a little weird—especially if things got physical at any point. Just like romantic relationships, friendship takes a lot of work. You’ll be able to tell if that’s something they’re on board with after delivering the bad news.
Will it be awkward? Of course. Nobody likes to be broken up with, and nobody loves delivering the news that it’s over. But it’s the best thing to do if you’ve invested more than a couple hours into the person. It’s not the first or last time they’ll have some sort of rejection in their life. But by being kind, and considering their feelings and their position, at least they won’t be afraid to give the dating game another try in the future.