There are times in life when we need a good exit strategy. That awkward too-intimate moment with a co-worker at the water cooler, the dinner party where a bickering couple takes center stage, or the painful interview where the person applying for a job at your company spelled “university” wrong on his résumé. But in this case, when I talk about having an exit strategy, I am referring to dating. Not ending a serious relationship, but disengaging from someone in the early stages—as you just begin to date or get to know one another.
The exit can be one of the toughest things to do, but not doing so is worse, and, if you know it’s going nowhere, tantamount to stringing someone along. Exiting gracefully is a dating skill you can learn and that, with practice, will be increasingly easy. You will realize that you are doing nothing wrong and everything right. For everyone involved.
Also realize that you can extricate yourself without being unkind or inconsiderate. Actually, having an exit strategy and using it effectively will maintain your highest integrity and, believe me, your honesty will be appreciated by the other person.
You know what you want and need in a relationship. You have identified your deal breakers. So, as soon as you recognize that the person you just met doesn’t meet your criteria, it’s time to disengage. You don’t want to waste your time and energy, or theirs, on something that doesn’t fit. Meaning: do not pass GO, do not collect $200.00… act now. And honestly, if you are dissatisfied with a dating relationship it is highly likely you are not the only one! It takes courage to tell your personal truth that will allow both of you to move on and find your ideal match.
Resist the urge to use the vanishing strategy. Simply disappearing from the face of the earth in order to avoid having a goodbye conversation is not an option – at least not for an adult with integrity and kindness. If you have ever been “dumped” or someone you were dating just quit calling, you know how hard that can be. There is a better way.
In person or on the phone (never by email or text), be direct and use words that describe your situation.
Here are some examples of what to say and why, as you exit:
- State your differences with “I” statements – not “you” statements, which often feel like accusations to the recipient. “I have enjoyed the time we have spent together and getting to know you. I am dating to find my ideal match and in some ways we are not a good fit.”
- Employ kindness (which you can do without making the other person think there is still hope). “Thank you for the opportunity to get to know you. You are very kind and I enjoy your company, but in some ways, this isn’t working very well for me and I am not going to be calling or seeing you again.”
- State the truth while being respectful. “I want to be honest with you and let you know how I feel about us.”
You may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the other person is a bit relieved. Chances are, he or she had the same feelings and is grateful that you had the courage to speak up first.
Something that many eager seekers lose sight of is that dating is a process. As such, it has a beginning, middle and end. We tend to think about the end (finding your ideal match) without remembering the beginning (meeting and getting to know many people) and the middle (dating for awhile). But for that happy ending, you will need to engage in the whole process. A vital part of that is evaluating, assessing and then deciding to keep seeing someone or not. If the answer is “not,” it is time to use your exit strategy.