This is the latest installment of The Oregonian/OregonLive’s advice column, “Why Tho?” by Lizzy Acker. Lizzy’s advice also appears in our weekly advice newsletter. Want to get it? Subscribe now.
I am a young-ish woman who has been using dating apps for a few years. It has mostly been a mixed bag, and as I get older the number of dates that make it “worth it” seems to have dwindled. It’s not that they’re all terrible, it’s just that the really good dates seem to be few and far between.
My question to you is, is it ever OK to ghost? I feel like if you’ve gone on one or two dates with someone and it’s clear that it’s not a good fit, the process of “breaking up” is kind of needlessly difficult, and you end up hurting someone’s feelings when in reality, there’s nothing wrong with them – you’re just not into them. I have also been ghosted and while I don’t like it, if it’s only been a couple of dates I understand.
Is it OK to just unmatch them when neither of us has invested much emotionally? Or am I the asshole?
Dear Spooky Dating,
The question of how to end things before they have even begun is one of the hardest parts of dating, I think. Women especially are trained so thoroughly to be polite and not hurt anyone’s feelings, it’s hard for us to just say to a person you’ve gone on a couple dates with, “You’re not for me.”
I really think that if you have a glimmer of connection on a first date, you should give it another date before you decide on a solid no. I met my husband after a fun first date where I was sure he would be a great boyfriend for someone else. It took the second date to realize he would be a great boyfriend for me. But that does mean you might have to “break up” with multiple people after just two dates.
This may be controversial, but I think if you’ve gone on only one or two dates there are situations where just ceasing to communicate (“ghosting”) is fine. Actually, it may not be that controversial. I put this question to Twitter and the majority of people answered that they thought it was OK to ghost someone either at any time or after fewer than three dates.
First, when is it OK to ghost? Any time you feel unsafe. You do not owe someone harassing you or creeping you out an explanation. If you feel unsafe, you can ghost after five dates or five years of marriage and you can even ghost in the middle of the date. Get up and leave, if that’s what your gut tells you to do.
Now, say your date was not scary but just wasn’t for you, when can you ghost? I think you need to answer a few questions.
Have you had sex or done other physically intimate things? Ghosting after sex, unless it was previously agreed that this was casual sex with no strings attached, is not OK. This requires at least an honest text saying, “no thank you,” if the other person wants to hang out again.
Did you make a plan to hang out again? If you said, specifically, that you would see each other again, it is not nice to ignore messages from the other person about making this happen.
Did a friend set you up? Don’t make that friend an enemy. Just be clear and say you don’t see this going any further.
Otherwise, in the case of one or two dates, not responding to a text is a fine way to go. I don’t think I could physically handle it – I have responding disease – and I think if you really want to be fair, it’s best to say, politely, “I don’t see this working out. Thank you!” But, when it comes to volume, I will allow that sometimes just letting it fade out is an easier option.
Have a burning question? Send me an email at email@example.com or tweet @lizzzyacker!
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