First, I want to apologise for the lack of updates. My day job gets overwhelming from mid-August to mid-October, and I didn’t have a lot of time for personal commitments.
Through Hinge I was fortunate to have a series of dates this summer with two men who were nice, friendly, attentive and with whom I had many interests in common, including books, being neither too neat nor too messy, and surprisingly, Disney Christmas tree ornaments. However, I came to the conclusion I didn’t want to pursue a relationship.
It was one of those situations where deep down I knew what I had to do, but I needed someone or something to validate my choice. A couple of times I have heard the advice to toss a coin, with heads representing one choice and tails representing the other, and if the result you get disappoints you, that is proof that the other one is what you truly want. But in this situation, what I actually did was spend a few hours scouring the Internet for articles confirming to me that it was OK to finish with these perfectly nice men.
And there weren’t many! Instead there were a large number saying to stick it out, give him a chance, because one day you’ll be middle-aged and single and regret it.
I was disappointed, so I had my answer. (And a coin toss would have been quicker)
But this is a difficult situation, so I decided to write one of the articles that I would have liked to read. I am going to talk through how I knew I wanted to finish, how I counteracted the arguments against finishing that came up in my mind and in articles, and how I did the finishing.
Disclaimer 1: This post has more of an advice tone than others. I don’t want to claim any special knowledge, it was just easier for me write to a ‘you’. I address myself in my head that way all the time. If you have different opinions or experiences, please share them in the comments!
Disclaimer 2: This is specifically about short-term dating. Ending a long-term relationship is not something I have experience with. (If you do and would like to write for the blog, please get in touch!)
How I knew I wanted to finish with them:
- The dates felt like effort, not free time.
- For example, I organised a date in the morning because I had the feeling I wanted to “get it over with”, like it was a board meeting or a jog.
- If a friend asked me about them, my immediate instinct was to say something negative or neutral rather than positive.
- I did not want them to progress our interactions romantically.
- This is a difficult one because everyone expresses affection and love in different ways, and some of us are uncomfortable with certain forms of affection even with the people we love most. But I realised I did not want words, gifts, or physical attention from them.
Looking back on this, the flags are rather large.
Arguments against finishing and how I counteracted them
- Physical attraction is shallow. You are one of those people who expects everyone they date to look like a model.
- I know I am not. I have been attracted to several men over the course of my life and while I thought they were lovely, they did not look like models.
- Physical attraction is real and it’s important. It is the difference between a date and spending time with a male friend.
- Even if you think your standards are high, the decision to change them can only be made by you.
- You said you wanted a man who had x personality trait/did x thing. Here is a man who does. Why aren’t you satisfied?
- My friend had a good response to this. Essentially, you don’t have to accept anyone who has a particular trait you want. Your desires are not something to trap you.
- You should keep trying with them. Attraction can build over time.
- It would be helpful if there was an easy point at which to say ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ to whether a person is romantically compatible with you, but I genuinely don’t think there can be; every first meeting with every individual person will be different. Internet dating is only one type of dating; a lot of people date people they’ve met through work or parties, and that’s a different situation as well.
- Personally, in my most recent attempts at online dating I have set a deadline of three dates to make a decision. While I don’t have alexithymia like some autistic people, I know it sometimes takes me some time to know how much I did or did not enjoy an experience, and so after three dates I feel I have had a chance to account for nerves and delayed emotional response.
- Good men are rare, there are so many abusive arseholes.
- One abusive arsehole is too many. ☹ Importantly, as I mentioned above, while I wasn’t attracted to these men I did enjoy their company and I felt safe with them. If I hadn’t, I would have acted differently.
- “He didn’t hurt me or frighten me” is a minimum standard. Even if you have had bad experiences and he seems like the last man on earth who acts like a decent human being, it is still the least he can do. He needs to make you happy.
- As a woman planning to have children, your priority should be, would he be a good father?
- In both cases I thought he probably would, in fact definitely would. But so would a lot of my male friends. Should I ask them to father my children? No. I am looking for someone for me, not just my children.
- You will never meet anyone else.
- Being single is better than being with the wrong person. I had to recite this to myself like a prayer at my childhood friend’s wedding recently but it’s still true.
- You will regret this when you are forty and alone.
- I struggled to find the right words for this but I have them now: I hate this.
- What if you are already over 40? Should you date anyone who pays you attention, even if you are not attracted to them? Why?
How I finished with them:
My personal view is that calling is the best way to do this. To finish with them in person, you have to pretend you want to see them for a positive reason. At least, I have not heard of anyone who invited someone out, letting them know them in advance they would finish with them. In-person is a bit frightening if you struggle to articulate your thoughts without notes, and you have to think about how you will end the interaction in a safe and comfortable way.
Conversely, texting is a bit impersonal. Of course, everyone texts differently; some people only use it for transactional messages (“Hi I’m running late” “I’m at the train station now”) while others find it easier than speaking aloud. However, many people see it as informal due to the lack of voice and body language, and so trying to have an emotional conversation over text may seem inappropriate. In my opinion phoning combines the personal touch of in-person conversations with the capacity to prepare and to easily move away from the situation that you get with texting.
All of that said, the first time I did this, it was over text. He had asked me how I thought things (as in our dating relationship) were going, and I took this as my opportunity to respond honestly.
I think the message has to come from you, but if you are looking for inspiration, this is what I said.
“Hi X. I had a nice time on [date], it was a pleasure to [do activity with you]. In terms of how things are progressing, I am sorry but my feeling is that I would like to be friends. I have enjoyed our three dates, but I did not feel I wanted to progress things romantically. I wish I felt differently, because I like you and I feel like we have similar values as well as interests, but for these same reasons, I feel it would be wrong to lie to you.”
When I finished with the next guy, I said something very similar over the phone. Both guys were very nice about it; they acknowledged things had been awkward and they understood that I wanted to be honest with them.
I’m proud of myself that I chose such nice men to go out with. I think they will each make another person very happy one day.
Some people do get hostile when they are rejected, and that’s where the ability to hang up and block comes in handy. Nonetheless, rejection is a normal part of the dating experience and most people understand that. Honesty and openness allow you and the person you date to move on to a situation where they will be happier.
If you have got to this point, thank you for reading! I would love to hear your views and experiences in the comments if you feel comfortable sharing them.
As always, the blog is open to contributors so please get in touch if you would like to share your thoughts!