A DG reader sent this question:
Any ideas on how to gently let a good man go? I had several dates with a kind, intelligent, respectful man. We had much in common but by the third date it occurred to me that what we had was friendship, not a romantic attraction. He had different feelings that I was unaware of. I decided it was best to let go rather than lead him to believe I was interested in developing a relationship. I feel badly about this and if it should happen again, any tips?
This is always a difficult question for anyone who dates with sensitivity and caring for the feelings of the other person. Here are a few ideas I’ve found effective when I’ve delivered this communication, and I’m sure other readers will share their ideas.
- If you’ve only had a few dates, as you have with this gentleman, you can have this conversation on the phone or even in email. I’ve often sent an email after a first or even second encounter when I realized the guy wasn’t a match. I’ve said something like, “You are an intelligent, interesting, fun guy. However, I didn’t feel the spark I know I need to explore a romantic relationship. But I’d like to have you in my network of friends. Would that be OK with you?” Most often the response is “Sure.” Occasionally I’ve received, “I have enough friends,” which is fine, too.
- If you’ve seen each other more than a few times, work to talk to him in person, assuming you live within a comfortable distance. If you are dating long distance, then have a live phone conversation, don’t leave it on voice mail. And never do it via email or worse, text or IM. And if you live a distance apart, don’t wait until he visits to tell him, as he will have gone to considerable trouble and expense to see you expecting to be pursuing you romantically. If you want to deliver the message in person, you should travel to him.
- When you are with him, don’t do anything physically that would make him think you feel differently. So don’t initiate hand holding, lingering hugs, or passionate kisses. If he tries to kiss you passionately, break it off quickly and turn your cheek.
- Arrange a meeting like coffee or a drink, not dinner. If the expectation is a longer outing, you will be worried about when and how to deliver the “let’s be friends” statement and will be on edge. A shorter encounter also allows him to leave quickly if he is upset at your decision.
- Think carefully how you want to express yourself. Avoid the clichéd “It’s not you, it’s me.” Some people think telling him what a great guy he is will only confuse him when you tell him you want to be friends, as he may think, “If I’m so great, why doesn’t she want more?”
- When I’ve delivered the “let’s be friends” talk, I didn’t say, “I’m not sexually attracted to you,” but instead said, “While I have grown fond of you, I realize that fondness is as a friend, not a sweetheart.” If he responds as one man did, “Well, good relationships always start with friendships,” escalate your language to be even clearer. “I am not The One for you, so it would be unfair to continue as if we are going to be romantic.” If he insists that he does indeed think you are The One for him, you have to be blunt, as he’s not getting the gentler wording. “As good of a guy as you are, I’m clear you aren’t The One for me. But you have many qualities I enjoy, which is why I’m wondering if we could be friends.” Or “I just don’t think we are a match. But I’d love to stay connected as friends, if that would work for you.”
- How blunt you have to be will depend on how quickly he gets the message. If he is insistent that you are a good match, you will have to be more explicit, while still trying to be sensitive to his feelings. If he continues to not get it, you may have to just say, “I’m not romantically attracted to you, but I would love to stay your friend, if that is comfortable for you.” One man said, “No, if you can’t be my sweetheart it is too hard to have you in my life knowing I can’t have you.”
What advice do you have on how to deliver the “let’s be friends” talk? What’s worked for you? Or not worked when you’ve been on the receiving end?
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