When you find yourself falling for someone you’ve been dating and the feelings seem mutual, you typically get excited to share your emotions with your SO. You want them to know you care about them, you enjoy their company and ultimately hope they feel the same way. But what do you do when you realize you’re with someone you don’t see a future with? Or maybe you simply aren’t looking for a relationship with anyone at the time. It’s never easy to tell someone you’re not invested in the same way they are, so I’m here to share some advice on how to make that conversation a little easier.
Honesty goes a long way, especially when it comes to matters of the heart. Navigating your own feelings can be difficult, but it’s not fair to drag someone along your emotional roller coaster. Juliet Goulet, a graduating senior at Bishop’s University, agrees that honesty is important no matter what the situation is. “Trying to make excuses or lie your way out of the conversation won’t help anyone. You’ll get mixed up and messed around and probably end up feeling guilty in the end,” she says. Being honest with your partner also means you’re being honest with yourself, which is all around an emotionally healthy way to live.
Every partnership varies, which is why you should be upfront with your intentions once you figure them out. “It’s important to understand that single and taken aren’t binaries,” Juliet says. “There is so much in-between, and every situation is different. Just because you don’t want a relationship doesn’t mean that you don’t want something. The ‘I’m not looking for a relationship’ talk isn’t always necessarily a ‘let’s stop seeing each other’ talk.” You could truly enjoy your SO as a person and value your time together, but if the idea of being with them long-term just doesn’t seem to fit, you have to let them know. Who knows, maybe they’ll even be on the same page as you and you can continue to date without future expectations.
Help them understand your perspective
If things seem to be going wonderfully and both partners are into one another, it can be difficult to explain that you’re simply not interested in a relationship. Today, the casual dating/hookup culture is normalized, but that doesn’t always make letting someone down any easier. Megan Malaby, a recent graduate of Emmanuel College, shares how she handles these situations. “I always ask my partner to look at our relationship with me rationally and objectively,” she says. “In the situations I have been in, emotions are so high and we both feel especially impassioned and aren’t able to think clearly. Once we both analyze our current positions considering us as two random people rather than ‘us,’ it’s generally easier to make a clean break because we are able to identify the issues that are (generally) mutually felt.”
You can genuinely care about your partner even if you don’t want to advance the relationship, which may feel like a lie to them at the time. It’s not your responsibility to lay out every single thought going on in your mind, but giving them reasoning allows for some peace of mind. If you’ve ever been let down by an SO, you can understand why elaborating is a kind thing to do.
Define the relationship upfront
Most of us have been on both sides of heartbreak. Whether you’re the one getting your heart broken or letting someone else down, it’s never an enjoyable situation to part ways with someone you care about. If you’re entering a new partnership, however, and you already know you’re not in the long-term commitment state of mind, it’s smart to have this conversation fairly early on.
Chelsea Jackson, a junior at Iowa State University, describes herself as “not-the-relationship type.” “If I’m the one to bring up that I’m not looking for a relationship shortly after meeting someone, then usually the other person ends up nagging me with tons of questions about why I don’t like relationships or that I just haven’t met the right person yet,” she says. “All of these questions are super annoying, so I’ve found that after I’ve gotten to know the person a little bit, it becomes simpler for me to ease them into the reality that I’m not looking for a relationship and that it’s best to just keep things casual.” Sometimes having to explain yourself is frustrating, so rephrasing your thoughts can be beneficial. Relationships aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but being upfront can save some crushed hearts down the line.
Don’t be ashamed of your decision
Relationships take time, effort and constant commitment. Sometimes we aren’t ready for that big of a step in our lives, especially if we have a lot going on with ourselves. Chances are when you meet the right person, nothing will stop the two of you from being together. But until then, there’s nothing wrong with putting your needs first. “While you should be as honest as you can with your partner in terms of what you want, you don’t need to justify why you don’t want to be in a relationship,” Juliet says. “Sometimes it’s just a feeling or an attitude that you may have instead of any reason in specific and, while that could be hard for your partner to wrap their head around, it’s a personal choice that doesn’t need someone’s approval.”
Your heart knows what it wants; it’s just a matter of listening to it. When you have the conversation about not wanting a relationship, it leaves your partner with many questions. You can answer and explain as you please, but it’s important to keep your sanity in mind, too. No good can come from prolonging a partnership that clearly has two different expectations for the near future.
Dating can be tricky, messy and wonderful all at the same time. It’s okay to explore and get to know yourself in various ways through dates and partners. It’s expected at this age, honestly. Caring for another person means keeping their feelings in mind. If you aren’t looking for something serious but feel that they are, that’s a conversation you need to initiate. It’s never fun to feel like you’re letting somebody down, but in the long run it will save them more pain than they may be able to recognize right now. Be honest with yourself, and the rest will fall into place as it should.
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