When I dated back in the day, aside from not being interested in emotionally available men (cough), one of my struggles was ending relationships. Looking back, I wish I’d had a couple of handy break-up scripts.

As someone who baulked at conflict and criticism thanks to my people-pleasing habit, ‘rejecting’ people terrified me. Aside from fearing confrontation and looking ‘mean’, I also worried about whether they’d spontaneously combust into a prince as soon as I cut them loose. The result? Staying in situations long past their sell-by-date or avoiding the guy. Or hoping that they’d take the hint from my awkward behaviour.

I’m not alone in my [old] habit, and a particularly challenging area of breakups is ending relationships that aren’t, well, relationships. Think dates and brief interactions, or quite simply letting them know that you don’t reciprocate their interest.

Calling or even messaging someone can almost seem like an overreaction when all you’ve done is go on a date or few.

It can feel as if you’re giving the involvement more credence than it deserves or that you’re going to look ‘needy’ or ‘desperate’, making it oh-so-tempting to, well, disappear aka ghost.

Here’s the thing: Outside of those extreme circumstances where we need to disappear for our safety, there’s no need for disappearing/ghosting. It doesn’t help us grow, and it creates more problems than it alleviates.

Over the last fifteen years, I’ve helped many readers and clients to articulate their need and desire to express their lack of interest. I experienced a major shift in attitude when I acknowledged that I didn’t like being messed around or cut off. Funny how I’d always had a justification for my behaviour but felt affronted by theirs! I realised that I’d literally stooped to a new low when I spotted a guy whose numerous follow-up texts I’d ignored. He was standing on the opposite platform when my tube pulled in. We caught eyes and, I, um, panicked and crouched beneath the carriage window! Mortified by my behaviour, I vowed to do better.

By facing my fear and speaking up, I discovered that the sky didn’t fall down. I also came from a place of ownership – integrity, responsibility and maturity.

Ghosting isn’t necessary. With less than 20 words, we can let somebody know where they stand. The key to ending short involvements is to go easy on the detail and to come from a place of compassion and grace.

Yes, it is awkward, and yes, they might think that receiving the [brief] explanation is not warranted, but there will be others who even though they feel a little wounded in the immediacy, they’ll respect and appreciate knowing where they stand.

Here are six short scripts to help you on your way. Obviously, tweak to suit.

  1. I enjoyed spending time getting to know you last night/yesterday/when we went out, but I don’t feel a connection between us.
  2. Hi X. I had fun _______________ {e.g. at the cinema}, but I don’t see this going anywhere romantic. It was ____________ {e.g nice/lovely/great} to meet you, and take care.
  3. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you, but I’m feeling more of a friends connection between us, and obviously, we’re both looking for a relationship.
  4. I’ve enjoyed spending time with you over these last few days/dates/weeks, but after careful reflection, I don’t think that this is going to progress into a committed/long-term relationship. All the best.
  5. I’ve enjoyed getting to know you over these X dates, but I don’t think we’re a match.
  6. Hi X. Thank you for the date, but I don’t think that we should see each other again. When you __________________ {insert 1-2 line summary of what they did}, I felt really uncomfortable and I realised that we are not a match. All the best.

Some final tips:

  • It’s OK to send a text/email if that was the primary mode of contact.
  • If you stick to ‘connection’ or where things aren’t headed, it makes things clear without being too personal. Connection and shared direction are critical to a fledgeling relationship.
  • Brevity is best. Too much detail puts people on the defensive. Texts/emails are a breeding ground for misinterpretation. Also, if they request or even demand more info, you’ve used it all up on the first message! A good rule of thumb when considering the level of detail is to ask: Who is this really for? If it’s about your self-image, you’re likely to speak from an inauthentic place.
  • But sometimes a situation warrants feedback with a little detail. See script #6 which briefly communicates where things went awry.
  • You’re not hurting someone’s feelings by letting them know that you no longer want to date them. The alternative: forcing yourself to spend time with them, using them to pass the time, misleading them. These create a great deal more pain.
  • Remember that most people don’t expect every date or expression of interest to proceed. They do expect to be turned down.
  • Be the person you seek. You can’t receive what you don’t give. Overcoming ambiguity and fear of conflict by facing these situations raises your availability.

Want some more help with figuring out how to end relationships? Check out the How To Break Up Scripts + Guide which features lots of handy scripts and tips covering short involvements, long-distance relationships, casual relationships, incompatibility, when they don’t agree and affairs.

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