Ask Sarah – Kind Rejection?

Dear Sarah,
As I am thinking more about dating in the future (my divorce is finalized in April) the thought of having to tell guys I’m not interested in them terrifies me. I know you have done it while maintaining friendships. How do you do that? What if a friend asks you out but you already know you’re not a good match? How do you turn him down without damaging the friendship? What if the reason isn’t an easy one like a difference of faith, but instead an attraction one? OR what if you discover a man is a terrible kisser? How to you get out of that with the least pain?
I think I need a template with fill in the blank options. Help a girl out!


Dear Spare-the-Feelings,

Be honest and be quick.  This is the best advice I can give you and I know it works because I’ve seen it in action!
Let’s start with the basics… NO one wants to be rejected.  It blows.
No matter how you slice it, rejection hurts.  BUT… it hurts LESS if it’s done with integrity and thoughtfulness.  Recently a guy used these words with me, “I wasn’t sure how to tell you, but like all things I realized it was best to be honest but gentle.”  So perfect.
Imagine if you were dating a guy and it was, say, date #4 and you could magically read his mind and you found out he wasn’t attracted to you  – at all.  Wouldn’t you feel stupid?  Wouldn’t you feel like you were wasting your time AND like he was a jerk for continuing to see you despite not being into you?  Ugh…that would suck.  So – if the situation is reversed, do the kind thing and let him go before it gets to date #4.
But, HOW?
In our postmodern society, we’ve been let off the hook of having to do things the hard way, oftentimes by technology.  Luckily, this includes the world of dating.  If things haven’t gotten serious yet, I say you can do this by e-mail, text or FB message.  Yes, I’m being serious.  And here’s why – it spares both people.  It gives the receiver of the bad news TIME to process things without having to respond right away (which also increases your chances of him agreeing to friendship), and it gives YOU the freedom to say what you really mean without having to hem and haw out of nervousness.
Mark – I’ve had such a fun time hanging out with you.  But, to be honest, the more I think about us, the more I just don’t think we’re a good match, romantically.”
If you LIKE him and want to keep being friends, you tag on:
But, I really enjoy spending time with you.  Seriously – you’re great!  And if you’d be up for it, I’d really like to try to be friends.  What do you think?”
If you DON’T want to be friends, you end it with:
I wish you the best of luck as you keep searching.”
Now, if he writes back and continues the dialogue, you just stick to your guns and keep being honest.
I know what you’re thinking… worst case scenario stuff… what if he asks me WHY… and the reason really is something superficial or embarrassing?  Well then, you e-mail “ask Sarah.”  Hahaha… no, …there are ways to get out of this.  Here are a few routes:
  1. Uber-honesty.  If he asks why and it’s something, like you said, other than faith or life goals, etc. that most people can understand, you can answer, “Oh, Mark… If you REALLY want to know, I’ll be honest with you.  But, I’d rather just keep it at ‘we’re not a good match.'”  If he insists, you tell him.  Yup… if someone asks and asks again, then he WANTS to know!  So, you tell him.  “As much as I hate to say it, I just don’t think the chemistry is there.  I don’t find myself as attracted to you physically as I’d hoped.”
    Ouch.  I know.  But, guess what – the thought was already running through his head anyway, and at least this way he doesn’t think he acted like a jerk… you know?
  2. Pleading the 5th.  Just SAY that you don’t want to SAY!  Something like, “I don’t want to get into the ins and outs of it all.  Just trust me that it’s not going to work.  I’m sorry.”
  3. Political talk.  Use ambiguous terms and circle around the truth, gently.  “I don’t know that I can put my finger on it.  It’s just that…I’m looking for that certain ‘something’ – that spark – and I wasn’t sensing it.  I’m sorry I can’t be more specific.”
To answer your question, specifically, about the bad kisser… you can scoot around it by talking about having different “styles of communication or intimacy.”  I’ve actually said this to one guy who pressed.  I texted back, “I just think we’re different…even in our smooching styles.”  He was so gracious in his response.  Many people are…I’ve been pleasantly surprised to find.
Now, to the issue of remaining friends.  I think, as grown-ups, this is very possible.  I have several guy friends now who I dated briefly and are now sweet but platonic friends.  When I began this post with the advice to be honest and quick, the “quick” was in reference to the initial dating.  If you’re dating someone who you KNOW isn’t a good match – end it sooner rather than later if you want to keep him as a friend.  The longer you dabble in dating intimacy, the more tricky it becomes to backpedal to no-smoochy-land.  But, it’s possible.
The way to do is to just SAY WHAT YOU MEAN.  Don’t speak in flowery language, just – out with it!
Hey – I’m so sorry, but I just don’t think we’re a good romantic match.  But, I think you’re SO cool that I really do want to keep being friends, if you’d be up for that!?”
Then, if he is, you have to do something as platonic as possible the first couple of times coming out of the ‘break-up.’  Group stuff is best.  If you don’t have mutual friends, go somewhere crowded and playful – a hopping pool hall, bowling alley, outdoor plaza (in Houston, CityCentre on a Friday night would be perfect).  Talk, play, laugh and enjoy each other without putting yourself in an ambiguous or confusing environment (at your house, a quiet restaurant, a dark movie theater, etc.).
And honestly – having a sense of humor about the ‘not working out’ thing is so helpful.  When “Raul” and I decided we weren’t right for each other, we were talking it out at a restaurant.  When the waitress came, I said, “excuse me, we’re TRYING to break UP here!”  and winked/smiled.  Later when she asked if there was anything she could bring us, I replied, “Maybe an eligible bachelor or bachelorette?”  hahaha.  Raul laughed, she laughed and it took some of the potential pressure/awkwardness of the moment off.
I have another friend who I dated, but because of differences of faith, we didn’t work as a romantic match.  The other day, we were hanging out and he was introducing me to another friend who asked how we met.  He said, “online dating!”  She looked puzzled and said…”but you’re not still dating?” to which he replied, “No….it didn’t work out…she (me) had another man she loved more.  Jesus.”  🙂
Lightening the mood with humor is EVERYTHING.
Every situation is a little different, but there are some things that remain – no one likes being rejected, but everyone would rather be let go quickly than held onto longer than you’re genuinely interested. So – take a deep breath and go for it.  I bet you’ll be glad you did.
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