The email exchange had taken place more than a year ago, but my friend was still nursing the wound. “She just dropped me,” he recalled of a conversation with an online dating match. “We were in the middle of this long back and forth, and I never heard back from her. What’s up with that?”
What “was up” could have been anything: She started seeing someone else. She went on a long trip, got sick or dealt with a family emergency and thought too much time had passed to pick up the conversation. Perhaps she just lost interest in dating – in you or anyone else.
The email or text fade is one of the most frustrating aspects of online dating. If you were chatting with someone you’d just met at a cocktail party, it would seem unthinkable to walk off in the middle of a discussion. Even if you didn’t want to talk to him or her any longer, you’d at least say “It was nice chatting with you. I’m going to see if my friend is here.” Or “I’m going to check out the snacks.” Or “I’m going to step outside to return a phone call.” Why? Because just leaving would be rude.
Yet in the world of online dating, we chalk up such rudeness as part of the experience. You know your match is chatting with several other people at the same time, so it’s fair game if your prospective sweetie becomes someone else’s catch while you’re getting to know him or her.
Don’t take it personally! It would be nice if matches offered you an explanation for going MIA or at least wished you well, but in reality they owe you nothing. In fact, some people think drawing attention to their decision to stop communicating is more rude than finishing up the conversation.
Here are some reasons I’ve heard for the communication dropkick:
–I don’t want to hurt him by letting him know I’ve met someone else.
–I might want to date her in the future and don’t want to burn this bridge.
–It just feels awkward.
–I’ve changed my mind and don’t want to go through the motions, if I’m really not interested.
Giving your match the benefit of the doubt can soften the blow of the blow-off. You can assume it was done out of kindness, instead of disrespect. It’s natural to feel disappointed or annoyed after you’ve invested so much time trying to get acquainted with someone. But it’s better to know you’re not a match now rather than spend more time going on an actual date that will go nowhere.
But what do you do if you’re on the other side?
Fading is the easy choice, but you’ll feel better about yourself – and elevate everyone’s standards of dating – if you’re honest and make the effort to respond.
The rule of thumb is to keep your reply simple and positive. You can start with:“I’ve really enjoyed communicating with you, but I wanted to write to let you know …”
1) If there’s someone else in the picture, you can write:
“I’ve started to date someone, and I want to be fair to everyone by seeing where it goes before continuing to communicate with other matches.”
2) If you want to keep the connection, you can add:
“I think you’re great and wish our timing had been better. I hope our paths cross again. Would you be open to staying in touch by exchanging emails (if you haven’t already) or connecting on Facebook?”
3) If you’ve lost interest, try this:
“I don’t think we’re a good match and want to be respectful of everyone’s time.”
That’s it! You don’t have to apologize. You don’t have to offer long explanations. You just have to sign off. “I wish you all the best in your search.”
The vast majority of recipients will appreciate the closure and the opportunity to stop wondering what happened to you and whether he or she did something to drive you away. (You’ll spare them unnecessary angst and self-doubt!) You’ll both have more clarity.
Yes, responding to everyone takes time and courage. But you’ll eventually get the hang of it. In the meantime, you’ll make online dating just a bit kinder for everyone.
How do you end communication with someone? Are you guilty of fading away?
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate, and Salon.