Do You Ghost Or Tell The Truth?


Let’s say someone isn’t interested after you meet in real life. What’s the best way to communicate that without hurting feelings? I’ve gone dark because I wasn’t interested and I didn’t know how to tell her. I bought her lunch and we didn’t sleep together…but I knew there wouldn’t be another date. – howshoulditbe

As controversial as ghosting is, my advice is to just fade to black. If she emails you after the date to say thank you (and she should) and you’re not interested, simply reply and say, “Thanks it was great to meet you. Best of luck.” That puts a cap on the conversation. You do not owe the person anything else. You’ve fulfilled your duty as A Decent Human Being.

As I said in a comment on this post, if you’re not willing to take responsibility for someone’s feelings, then don’t encourage them. Some felt that the woman in this post added extra pressure by responding to the guy’s text asking if something had changed. “It shows too much investment,” one person said.  I countered with this:

I mean, okay, but don’t you think sending her a text saying she was great and that he couldn’t wait for the next date showed an inordinate level of investment, too? That text from him didn’t help if he was looking to avoidbuilding expectations. That kind of 180 degree turn is, at the very least, odd. You can’t expect someone not to be confused when you’re hot one day, cold the next. Situations like this will always get my hackles up. I’ve been where this woman has been and it sucks to have a guy build you up just to completely blow you off.

If someone asks or suggests another date and you’re not interested, say so. “I had a really nice time, but I didn’t feel the chemistry I needed to feel to pursue something more serious.” You don’t have to be specific. You can even lie!

Work got chaotic. An ex re-entered your life. You’re not over a break-up.  It doesn’t have to be specific, you just have to make it clear you’re not interested without hammering them over the head with it. No, don’t tell them you met someone else. Nobody needs to hear that, especially after what they perceived as a great date. And I’ll say this:  It’s rare that someone perceives a date to go exceptionally well when it didn’t. Nobody stays out on a marathon date that isn’t interested in either sex or a second date. If you’re not sure or on the fence about someone, stay aware of that. Don’t talk of the future, don’t make tentative plans, don’t be overly affectionate. It’s easy to get caught up, but if you know there’s the potential you might flake, be mindful of the signals you’re sending.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, it’s hard not to feel that flicker of hope when a date exceeds expectations, but keep yourself detached enough that you’re aware of the risk. It should be a given at this point that someone’s status can change overnight. Yes, it really does happen that fast. Someone can go on a date one night, think they’ve met a potential match, and then go out with someone else two nights later and feel the same thing if not more. Nothing is certain these days. It used to be that a second date was assumed when the first one went well. Not anymore. Now it’s a struggle for many to get that second date. Hell, it’s a challenge getting the first one these dates! Remind yourself of that as you’re floating home from a first date.

Now, if sex is involved: Molly, you in danger, girl. There are so many ways for that to go wrong: the sex might be bad; they might freak out and feel pressured; they might assume first date sex = casual. There’s a ton of grey area to wade through. Common sense would dictate that you not have sex with someone you don’t see a future with if you know they’ve caught feelings, or at the very least be clear about what you can offer to them. Both people need to assume the risk if they decide to sleep with someone before expectations have been discussed. In the case of the woman from the other post, the guy built up her expectations then didn’t want to take responsibility for it, hence why he ignored her follow-up text. That’s shitty. Ghosting is de rigeur now, so complaining how wrong it is will get you nowhere. Suck it up, Buttercup. However, if you know you said or did something to lead someone you slept with to believe there would be another date, and you know they’re won’t be, take your medicine and tell them. You don’t have to be explicit. In the case of that guy, he should have just said, “Hey, sorry. Thursday no longer works. Blah blah blah work/life excuse.” None of this, “I’ll get back to you” or “Let’s connect after the holidays.” Don’t do that to someone. Most people will know that’s a blow-off, but there are many people who will believe that promise.

You don’t have to be brutally honest, but you should be kind. Always. You never know when you’re going to be that person that breaks someone. Yeah, that’s heavy. I know, but it’s true. Digital dating is so bleak these days that a little bit of compassion can go a long way.


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12 Responses to “Do You Ghost Or Tell The Truth?”

  1. Coffeestop Says:

    I think most people understand that it was great meeting you good luck means nope. The problem is most people don’t do that. I have had men say they wanted a second date and not follow up, I assume they met somebody else or changed their mind. I hate to say this but you more or less have to assume in online dating that people are not super truthful. I am not saying everybody is an asshole but many, many, people do not know what they want and are not self aware people think they want “something” but not what that something is or they want a relationship as long as it is low effort. Since I realized I am not interested in being that convenience I have had a lot more time to explore fitness hobbies.

    • Parenting Says:

      Its not a matter of dishonesty. Sometimes you go out with a person and you may have been interested during or right after the date but a few hours or days later, your interest petered out. Or you are kind of interested in the new person you just met and want to keep your options open but over the course of the next several days/weeks your interest may increase or decrease due to life events rather than anything expressly having to do with that person. Adding to all of this is the addictive/stimulating nature of the online apps themselves. Those apps arent built to help you find love and cancel your account, they are designed to make you come back again and again several times a day for a quick rush. They are pretty toxic as far as finding an actual relationship goes.

  2. Sarah Says:

    “You don’t have to be brutally honest, but you should be kind. Always. You never know when you’re going to be that person that breaks someone. Yeah, that’s heavy. I know, but it’s true. Digital dating is so bleak these days that a little bit of compassion can go a long way.”

    That’s a great note to end on. People should use those same principles when responding to an OP on this site. A few years ago I was going through an incredibly difficult time in several areas of my life. During that time, I was dating a guy who laid it on thick in the beginning and then without warning, just as I was getting feelings for him, he started treating me really bad and it hurt a lot. I posted a question about it on this site and I found your response to be another blow during a time I was reaching out for help. In fact, I think you called me a bitch in the headline—not something a real feminist would do by the way. (You should probably read feminist theory if you’re going to claim that you’re a gender issues expert/writer.)

    Anyway, you’re right, online dating is bleak and your response to the letter of a brokenhearted reader may that response “that breaks someone.”

    Thankfully all of those traumas I was going through at the time have resolved due to working on myself, surrounding myself with compassionate unselfish people, and prayer.

    I ditched online dating and I met a great person IRL at a friend’s party. He’s one of the kindest people I’ve ever met (and a really good kisser). So, I’m in a much better place now.

    Compassion for self and compassion for others can do so much in improving life for all of us.

  3. Beta Male Says:

    How ironic that fading is something that emerges as a nonconfrontational way not to hurt someone’s feeling is is a way to hurt someone’s feelings.

    At this point I expect to be faded on if someone is not interested in another date. The “no chemistry” text just brings on feelings of insecurity and makes me wonder what I did wrong. I would rather have no response to my inquiries than the ” no chemistry text.” That’s just me.

    • fuzzilla Says:

      Yup, I felt the same when I was online dating. I think most people accept that true chemistry is rare and so most dates are gonna fall into the, “Nice, but eh” category. Fade and people will get the hint. There’s no need to take it a step further and be like, “Absolutely do NOT contact me again.” I mean, maybe if the person was really shitty and abusive, sure, but a garden variety, “Nice but no sparks” date? Nah bro.

    • Parenting Says:

      I think its personal preference. I’d rather get a “no chemistry” text than anxiously check my phone for a reply that is not coming. I dont take “no chemistry” as an insult because I’ve met so many wonderful men who just werent a fit for me. Its not a negative just a reality of the finicky nature of attraction.

      • fuzzilla Says:

        I guess I just got used to lots of “meh” dates. They didn’t leave me feeling like garbage, but they didn’t leave me anxiously waiting to hear from them, either.

        • Parenting Says:

          I agree that most of the time it is a mutual “meh” and no one follows up. But once in a while theres some one sided attraction. Been on either side of that. I’d rather get a polite rejection than radio silence until i assume a day or two later that Im being ghosted. But Im like that about everything including job interviews. I’d rather hear “we picked someone else” than spend 2 weeks waiting for nothing.

  4. Betty Says:

    I agree; if it’s mutual radio silence, “ghosting” is fine and even preferable. But If one person is still interested, have the kindness and courage to tell them you are not. “I’m sorry but I’m not interested”. Why is that so hard for people?

    • Noquay Says:

      It’s a problem because often doing so still is not the end of it. Many folk, even after you’ve said thanks but no thanks, don’t get it. They want to know WHY! I assume few of us want to tell someone they don’t find them attractive, that they don’t look at all like their photos, that they obviously lied about weight/fitness levels or that their lives seem to be a disaster. Cruel. Really hard when you also live in a small town and am easily locatable. If you fade, they often become angry or frustrated with you and take the initiative to disappear on their own.

      • Betty Says:

        And if they persist, then by all means ghost. But initially give someone the benefit of the doubt that they are not insane. Some of us are decent people and appreciate the honesty. Don’t cater to the lowest common denominator. 99% of the time when I say I’m not interested, i get a “thanks for letting me know.” And as for the one percent creeps, their behavior only validates my decision not to see them again.

  5. Laura Says:

    I agree that if you’re aware that your level of interest doesn’t match the other person’s, there are ways to turn them down without being cruel.
    However, I’ll also say this: if you’re already decided to ghost someone, then go ahead and DO IT. Don’t play this infuriating game of hot and cold. Disengage completely. Don’t schedule dates you well know you’re going to end up cancelling. Don’t express interest you know you don’t have. Don’t claim to be busy and promise to get back at them when you clearly know you won’t. Just… don’t. Yes, people will get the message eventually, but they will have also lost time and energy for no reason at all.

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