Having “the talk” is about as fun as having your nose hairs plucked with a dull pair of needle-nosed pliers. It’s not for the faint of heart. You open yourself up to some uncomfortable moments with someone you don’t know well. You may hear unpleasant things like, “Your cologne smells like cat urine” or “I’m secretly attracted to your best friend” in return.
No one is an expert at it right off the bat. On my first attempt, I accused my date of being soulless, which I cited as the reason we shouldn’t go on a third date. I didn’t know him, he was obviously offended and I claimed the title of The Date From Hell. In truth, I wasn’t attracted to him. I didn’t want to see him again and I didn’t want to dodge his phone calls. I thought I would put the whole thing to rest quickly by ripping off the band aid. Needless to say, this was not my finest hour.
Enter Sam (names have been changed to protect the innocent). Our first date was set, but I was having buyer’s remorse. There was no chemistry. After much consultation with my patient friend Andrew, I screwed up the courage to call and deliver the truth. This time, I managed to tell it straight: I didn’t feel a lot of chemistry and so I didn’t feel right about getting together. Phew. There was no ugly scene. He was gracious, I was gracious, and it was done. No hiding from him in the aisles of Kroger.
I didn’t always choose a straight approach. I had a history as a classic avoider. Nobody likes to deliver a surprise blow to the ego. Everyone’s worried about hurting feelings. My turning point came after I had my heart broken. We’d dated for approximately nine months and never once had a conversation about our relationship. I was blindsided and wanted to avoid a repeat performance, so I decided I needed to learn some communication skills. I didn’t have the energy for game playing anymore.
My desire for honesty didn’t make up for my complete lack of skill. I muddled through with the help of my man pal who became my sideline coach. When you’re in the thick of it, telling the truth without hurting feelings seems impossible, and it’s good to have reinforcements.
These days, I recommend an approach coined by Susan Campbell, author of Truth in Dating: Finding Love by Getting Real, which supports what I learned. Talk about your concern for their feelings and your desire to tell the truth along with the lack of chemistry. Conveying that you care is key for making the truth a little easier to swallow.
Some of the sweetest “endings” come from taking responsibility for your part in the drama. “I know I said yes to our date. I wasn’t aware enough in the moment to tell you the truth because all I could think about was not hurting your feelings. I’ve stepped back and realize I owe it to you to be straight and tell you I don’t feel chemistry.” Honesty like this is endearing. Maybe you’ll salvage the relationship enough to have a pleasant conversation during a chance encounter in the Christian’s Pizza line. After all, Charlottesville is a very small town.
Marya Choby is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Dating Coach in Charlottesville (www.maryachoby.com) who helps singles navigate the world of dating and find love.