I’m 25(F) and I recently got out of a terrible relationship and moved back home in May. I also reconnected with a guy I went to high school with, though we never were friends back in school. He took me on one date and it was fine, but a little awkward. I’m afraid he’s just not my type, and also I’m not really ready to commit to anything serious again. He wants to take me out again, and I’m terrified that he’s into this more than I am. I’ve never had to turn down a guy, because I’ve only been in three serious relationships in my life so I’m new to the dating scene. What’s the easiest way to let a guy down easy without feeling like an asshole? I told him right away that I’ve been hurt and not sure what I’m looking for at the moment, though I’m not sure he understood.
First let me just say that I’m sorry that you had to deal with a terrible relationship in the first place. Those always suck and I hope you’re getting over it. Now on to your question(s).
When I get a question like this, I absolutely love it. There’s no malice here, and your concern for someone else is really admirable. Because of that, I just want to throw something out there for you. Some people take rejections well, while others take rejections poorly, even if you are as nice as possible. I hate to generalize, and I try to be as gender neutral as possible, but you’ll often find that when someone takes a rejection poorly, even when it isn’t a malicious rejection, it’s usually a straight man. Yes, yes, #NotAllMen, I know that and yes I know that some women take rejections just as poorly some men. I’ve just noticed that men tend to handle rejections a lot less gracefully than women. So, consider this a warning to you. I can teach you how to reject him in the nicest, kindest, most respectful way and it’s entirely possible that he’ll still try to make you feel like an asshole. You’re never, ever, an asshole for voicing your lack of interest in anyone. Remember that.
I couldn’t quite tell if you were implying that if he was maybe a little less aggressive for your taste or if you just want to be done with him, so let’s go with both. If it’s a rejection where you don’t want to see him anymore, make sure you do so in a way that is honest, tactful, but still direct. Avoid using clichés, and also avoid trying to be so polite that it’s not actually clear that you’re ending things. You need to find the right balance between being clear and honest and avoiding being brusque and rude. Here’s an example you can use, but feel free to come up with your own (I’ve heard that even my most polite rejections still kind of rude. What can I say, I’m a New Yorker) :
“I’m sorry, I like you but I’m just not ready to commit to anything serious right now. I don’t think we should date anymore”.
If he isn’t satisfied with that, you can elaborate further if you like, but don’t feel obligated to. You are treating him with respect, so he should treat your decision with respect. Rejections are not debates. If he doesn’t respect your decision, you can throw the tact out of the window and be brutally honest with him.
If you just want to slow things down a notch, you need to be a little less tactful, a little more blunt, and very honest. Tell him that you think things are moving too quickly, let him know that you like him, but you can’t date him if he wants things to become more serious or move at the pace things are going. You need to be very open about what you’re comfortable with and at what pace you are comfortable with things progressing. It’s entirely possible he won’t be okay with the pace you want to set, so be prepared to end things if you need to.
If you want more in-depth advice on how to reject someone you can read “Let’s Talk About Rejection“. It’s a piece I love to refer to when people ask me for tips on rejection and being rejected and it also links to some other pieces I’ve written on rejection and rejecting people. (If you haven’t noticed, I write A LOT and I’ve covered a lot of topics multiple times). What can I say, rejection is something every dater has to deal with eventually, so you might as well get as much advice on rejection and rejecting as you can.
Finally, I just want to end on one point: If he tries to make you feel like an asshole because you rejected him or told him you want to slow things down, he’s the asshole. Period.
Good Luck Out There.