In a dating world where ghosting seems to be the main way of telling a potential partner that you don't want to see them anymore, the idea of letting someone down easy might seem as old-school as picking up the phone and calling someone for a date. (The horror.) But if you've been dating someone new for a few weeks or months, and you're just not feeling it anymore, it's a good idea to be upfront and let them off the hook easily.
"I always tell people to proceed cautiously in the first couple of months in a relationship," says Rachel Sussman, LCSW, a New York-based relationship therapist. "That's when you're both still figuring out how you feel about one another, which can make for some volatile emotions." According to Sussman, taking things slowly at the beginning of a relationship will help you let a potential partner down easily if you decided you don't want to pursue things. "If you rush into things after a couple of dates, and then change your mind, it's going to cause a lot of confusion for the other person," she says. So while you may want to ride the feeling of excitement at the beginning of a relationship, it could cause major mixed feelings if you realise there isn't a future.
There's a formula for a "good" breakup — and it involves honest communication. "There's a fine line between letting someone down easily and stringing them along because you don't want to hurt them," says Andrea Bonior, PhD, a psychologist and author. "You may think that by not making plans with them, you're sending a partner a clear signal. But by not clearly saying that you want to stop seeing them, you're wasting their time." In fact, you're prolonging their rejection because they have no idea what's going on. That lack of clarity can lead to some pretty hurt feelings — something that should never be the goal at the end of the relationship.
The easiest way to tell a person you no longer want to see them is to be honest about your feelings, but only really communicating what's necessary. "There's no need to be cruel, of course," says Sussman. "But saying something like, 'You know, I think you're great, but I'm just not feeling a connection anymore,' you're making the situation about you and not them." Another option is by hinting that you don't see it going anywhere, without putting any blame on them with something like 'I think you're really great, but I just don't think we're that compatible, romantically.' Bonior echoes this point. "It's awkward, and it might cause discomfort in the short-term, but at least they don't have to go another two weeks of trying to set a date, only for you to continue blowing them off," she says. And, you're also not igniting any insecurities by saying something like 'I can't see you because I don't like the way you eat with your mouth open.'
The truth of all of this is that in order to let the other person down easily, you've got to swallow a little discomfort yourself. "It's uncomfortable telling a person that you're not interested in them," Bonior says. "So you've got to be a little selfless." If you're upfront and honest with your partner, you can walk away knowing that you spared some feelings and that you've maybe spared yourself the bad karma that comes with ghosting.