“I had a really nice time meeting you tonight. You wanna hit up a show this weekend?
Maybe I should have started with a warning. That’s my bad. If you’re single and mingling on a dating app, you may have read all of that and it got too real. Take a breath. Take another. Now consider what a response could have been should you ever find yourself in a position as the potential ghost. I know, it’s really hard. You feel bad. You don’t want to hurt their feelings. Two things could happen: their feelings are hurt from being ignored or they think your phone fell into the toilet. Either way, the feeling still sucks because they are the only ones left in a conversation they think is a dialogue.
Dating is hard because it's a vulnerable act, but ghosting (or canceling) people does nothing to uplift humanity or connect to our sense of self.
Why does it hurt so much? A relationship of any type literally means being in relation to one another. Dating is hard because it’s a vulnerable act, but ghosting (or canceling) people does nothing to uplift humanity or connect to our sense of self. Imagine what would happen if we humanize the experience with a generosity of spirit, honest feedback, or assert our boundaries even while ending it with someone you’ve swiped right on/taken an interest in. We might be less discouraged to participate and we may even grow from each experience. Just because we can ghost someone, it doesn’t mean that we should.
When is ghosting okay?
I’d be remiss to leave out that not all of us are in a position of safety to communicate with someone we are dating. Sometimes, you just do not feel safe talking with or texting them. If you feel that talking or texting them would exacerbate your situation and compromise your physical and emotional safety in both the short and long term, then yes, ghost them. Your safety comes first. Ghost them and walk away.
But if you are avoiding the awkwardness or hurting their feelings, lean into that humanity and make it productive. Text them. You can do it and here’s why you should.
We know from pleasure-based consent education that things feel better when all parties are into it.
Rejection is healthy
Let’s consider the very early stages of dating, say one to five dates. Here’s a hot take: rejection is healthy. When you reject someone in a dating capacity (aka: assert your boundary) you end up in a place that you are actually comfortable with in the long run. What would that time feel like if you didn’t reject them because you felt obligated or guilted into staying? Not too pleasurable for you and at best, not maximal pleasure for the other person. We know from pleasure-based consent education that things feel better when all parties are into it.
Consider discomfort as a means to growing and learning. For some more than others, we are conditioned to please other people. Let’s unlearn that and adopt something more useful: please yourself. After all, the most important relationship you will ever have is the one you have with yourself so make sure you like yourself, by giving yourself pleasure! Don’t settle and when you’re confident in your convictions, the right people will find you. Love yourself more than your fear of someone else not being liked by you.
How to write a rejection
Consider the possibility of compassionately asserting your boundaries. Yes, it’s possible. For 0-2 dates, consider the following:
Hey + I’m not vibing + Thanks
Hey Dana, I’ve appreciated our conversation but didn’t feel a connection when we actually met. Take care.
Hey + Here’s what was great + I’m not vibing + Here’s what is nice about you + Thanks
Hey Stace, thanks for picking a good restaurant last night. I don’t feel enough of a connection to keep this going though. I wish you well with the upcoming projects and commend you for the admirable work you’re doing. Be well.
Open Face Compliment Sandwich:
Hey + Here’s what was great + I’m not vibing + Thanks
Tonight felt off from how we’ve chatted over text, Roman. I’m not sure if it was nerves but I was turned off by all of the sarcasm. I was hoping that I’d get a chance to get to know you better but it felt like you weren’t ready to show that side of you. Thanks for giving us a shot!
If something about the person isn’t in service of our well-being, we have the right to separate from that in the capacity we see fit.
You’re (usually) not rejecting someone as a human being altogether. You’re rejecting their behavior, value, or their role as specifically someone to date. It is possible to compartmentalize this. Maybe you don’t feel a romantic connection but you feel a sexual connection. Or maybe you don’t feel a romantic connection but you get friend vibes and would enjoy their platonic company. Maybe a part of their life is too contrary to how you live yours (location, job, you’re not ready, etc.). Or maybe there are some harder-hitting differences that are totally reasonable but aren’t aligned with your own values (sex, religions, drugs, politics). Recognizing our bodily agency is sex ed 101. We are also entitled to our preferences (and it’s important for us to interrogate them). If something about the person isn’t in service of our well-being, we have the right to separate from that in the capacity we see fit.
This is not going to work out, Miles. When we matched, I was under the impression that you were based in Dallas. Phoenix would make this a long-distance relationship and therefore, not one that I can be in. I appreciate the exchanges we’ve had and will end them with this text goodbye.
It’s not you, it actually is me.
Hey Cain, thank you for your trust in me to share your family history. While I admire your vulnerability and the journey you’re on to heal, it triggered parts of my own past that I have not yet healed from. I should have said something at the moment but I didn’t want to interrupt your own processing. I realized after our first date last night that I have to honor my own boundaries so cannot pursue this with you further. Take good care of yourself.
Hey Maureen, I need to part ways. I like you and I feel like I made that clear in the month we’ve been seeing each other. However, I keep getting mixed messages from you which make me think you don’t actually want anything serious right now, at least not with me. I need to look out for my heart before I get hurt. Maybe I’ll see you at the next race but I’m going to take a break from the running club for a few weeks.
Now, what if the person has jerk tendencies (they’re a truth bender, bread-crumber, or non-communicator, etc.)? It’s an opportunity to hold them accountable so that it doesn’t become a habit with the next person they drag. Maybe it’s a version of this: Hey + I have an issue with this thing you did/do + as a result, I’m not interested in continuing this + Take care.
Hey Tim, I’m not going to lie–I was pretty thrown off when you told me at dinner that you are actually 50. Age isn’t everything to me but honesty is and I wish you felt more comfortable disclosing that in the 2 weeks we had been talking. I understand your reasoning but don’t think I’ll be able to get over the deception. I wish you well and hope you’ll feel confident just being yourself out there.
Bread-crumber or Non-Communicator
Hi Guillermo, I’m no longer interested in staying in touch. Your daily good morning texts made me believe that you were open to having a second video date or chatting beyond the salutations. However, the lack of follow-up to either despite these continued greetings is getting frustrating for me. Good morning and goodbye.
...the most boundary-setting people may actually be the most compassionate people.
Truth benders and bread-crumbers are annoying. The people who cross the line though are jerk royalty. There are certainly behaviors that warrant rejecting someone and their entirety. They violated your boundaries. If you feel safe to do so, you can hold them accountable. It’s possible that they didn’t recognize their offense. It’s more possible that no one has ever told them. It’s also very possible that someone has, they disregarded it, and they did it again because they’re a piece of trash.
How’d you get my address?! Damn Uber history
I was honest and kind with you about my lack of interest in pursuing us forward. Today’s delivered package upset me greatly so let me be clear: do not contact me again.
So, this isn’t a work call…
Hi Beckett, I misunderstood your initial ask to connect. It’s in both of our best interests that we limit our correspondence to only items regarding the project. So unless Friday’s newly scheduled meeting is about that, I’ll take that event off the calendar and we can follow up on project-related topics when it’s helpful for you. CC’ing my colleague, Patrick, to support.
Welcome to my TED Talk, you’re trash
I want to be clear that our first date on Friday was our last date, Jace. I was not looking for a hookup and yet you repeatedly ignored my cues. So, in the off chance that no one has ever taught you this, I will gladly take the time now to prevent any future dates from experiencing what I went through: When someone removes your hands from their pants, pushes you off their body, or says the literal words “no” or “stop,” it means they don’t want you to touch them. You’re welcome.
Instead of a bye, send a good.bye
Why is it so difficult for so many of us to assert our boundaries? Because it’s a common human tension to cater to another person’s right to comfort at the cost of our own. Instead, think of it through the lens of the play, The Journey of a Brown Girl, “My boundaries are not meant to offend you, they are meant to honor me.” And consider that the most boundary-setting people may actually be the most compassionate people.