A few years ago I interviewed several guys between the ages of 16 and 25 regarding dating relationships. When asked about a woman’s expression of interest, defining the relationship and breakups, they universally declared a desire for honesty. Not “letting down easy.” Not overt kindness.
Their desire for frankness correlates to the lack of clarity many women employ when ending a relationship (or just turning a guy down). Because we don’t want to hurt a guy’s feelings, we tend to be vague about our lack of interest—leaving glimpses of hope where there are none to be had. But if we are genuinely NOT interested in a guy who asks us out, it’s in our best interest (and his!) to tell him so.
And you don’t have to be mean to do this.
Here are four principles to guide this conversation so you both end up on the same page.
1. Be clear about your feelings.
Clarity, clarity, clarity. If you are not interested in a relationship and do not share his romantic feelings, that’s what you should say. Don’t act like you aren’t interested in ANY relationship when you’re really uninterested in a relationship with HIM. This kind of wordplay can lead to truly hurt feelings when, a few weeks after you turn him down, you’re dating another guy from youth group. Be clear about why you’re turning him down—perhaps not in detail, but at least in general.
This is especially important when turning someone down because you would be unequally yoked with them. You might think this sends the message “Christians think they are so much better.” But to the contrary, it tells a guy that you take your faith so seriously, you’re willing to sacrifice a dating relationship in order to keep Jesus first. When the sting of rejection wears off, your witness won’t be forgotten.
2. Don’t use ambiguous terms.
Again—be clear. If you’re uninterested in his offer, but you’d go out with another guy, don’t say, “I’m not looking for a relationship right now.” That would be a lie. A lie is not justified—even when it’s meant to save feelings. If you end up dating someone else after telling him you didn’t want a relationship, you’re just delaying the insult. Be honest.
Another problem with the “I’m not looking right now” answer is that it gives false hope. Guys often hear “right now” and assume if they wait long enough, you’ll come around. Gently and clearly articulate you are not interested in a relationship with him because:
- You don’t think your personalities work well together.
- You’re interested in someone else.
- You don’t think he’s strong enough in his faith.
- [Insert applicable reason]
3. Be kind but firm.
You can be firm in your answer without being cruel. Tone is important, so if possible, have the conversation in person or over the phone. You might have to meet up with him to do this. It’s SO hard, but it’s the respectable way to tell him.
4. Be careful about “staying friends.”
Sometimes it’s possible to stay friends with a guy who is interested in you, but if he’s still emotionally invested, that’s going to be difficult. Give him space to detach. Don’t attempt to hang out or cultivate a friendship when he still views you as a dating prospect. Yes, this means the friendship may be “ruined,” but that might be the reality for now—or forever. Eventually, opposite-sex relationships either move toward dating or gradually drift apart as the parties find partners.