We’ve gathered tips and examples on how to tell someone you’re not interested in a relationship, according to dating and relationship experts.
Here are their insights:
Table of Contents
- You need to have a plan of action
- Step 1: “I” (all about your intentions)
- Step 2: “S” (choosing a suitable setting)
- Step 3: “P” (approaching this conversation positively)
- Step 4: “E” (give an explicit example of what’s not working for you)
- Step 5: “A” (share how the thing that isn’t working adversely affects you)
- Step 6: “Q” (say what you require and answering questions)
- Example conversations on how to tell someone you’re not interested in a relationship
- You have to find your own truth first to share it with them in the best possible way
- “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, however, I don’t think we are right for each other”
- “Before this goes on any further, I have to tell you that I have met someone else.”
- Be honest but don’t be mean
- It’s advisable to have this conversation in a public place
Certified Family & Relationship Coach | Author, “ISPEAQ: How to Stand Up for Yourself and Have Difficult Conversations“
You need to have a plan of action
If you’re considering ending a relationship, you’re probably thinking about the big picture of your life:
“Is this who you’re supposed to be with?”
“Is your life the way you want it to be?”
If your answer to these questions is “no” or “maybe not,” you have a difficult conversation in your future – something that can take quite a lot of inner strength, along with clarity about what you DO want, the courage to speak up for yourself, and a plan of action.
Fortunately, there is a plan to help you get through this. It’s called ISPEAQ, and it will help you get some clarity, organize your thoughts, and prepare for having that challenging talk with your partner.
Below you’ll find a quick summary of the process and then some examples of how it could work in different break-up scenarios.
Step 1: “I” (all about your intentions)
To begin, what are your intentions for your life? Do you have a vision of what you want it to look like? Or is it more of a vague sense of dissatisfaction with the way things are now?
It helps to have an image of your better future in mind, whether that image is as clear as an HD movie or just a snapshot of what you want more or less of in your life.
This will be good not only for you but for your partner, who will undoubtedly want you to be specific about why you want to separate.
Then, set an intention for this conversation with your partner: how you want things to be during and immediately after you say what’s on your mind? Do you want a clean break then and there? Or is this step one of what will be a long process?
Another important “I” is to speak as much as possible from the “I” point of view; that is, to say things like, “I need this” and “I want more of that” and “I feel” rather than “You did this” or “You are so… (fill in the blank).”
You-speak usually puts the other person on the defensive, as you might know, if it’s ever been done to you. In this conversation, you want to speak up for yourself, so I-language will work just fine.
Step 2: “S” (choosing a suitable setting)
Ideally, choose a time and place where you are both calm, unrushed, and unlikely to be disturbed by things like phones and kids.
Step 3: “P” (approaching this conversation positively)
It might seem ironic to embark on a break-up conversation with positivity in mind, but it will help.
Related: How to Break up With Someone Nicely
First of all, being clear on your intentions for your better life will put you in a positive frame of mind. Second, thinking of the things you appreciate about this person (there have to be at least a couple, or you wouldn’t have been with them) will help you feel compassion toward them even at this difficult time.
It might help to remember that no one is all bad, and no relationship is all bad. (Unless there is abuse; that cancels out all the good, and you don’t even have to have a conversation about it. Just go.)
Being able to mention your partner’s positive qualities might help soften the impact of your reasons for leaving; it can remind them of all they have to offer the right person.
Step 4: “E” (give an explicit example of what’s not working for you)
As you thought about your intentions for your life, you would have gotten clarity on what is not working for you, and here is the place to share it.
In other words, you tell your partner how you feel when that thing happens. Does it make you feel like you can’t be yourself? Like you’re compromising your values? That things are unfair? Does it make you feel insecure?
Step 6: “Q” (say what you require and answering questions)
In this final step, you say what you need in your life or what you want from a relationship. This is really where the power of your intentions comes in.
Example conversations on how to tell someone you’re not interested in a relationship
Here are a couple of sample conversations to show you how it might all come together.
- He was unable (perhaps unwilling) to talk about the deep stuff
“Jackson, I need to talk to you. The first thing I want to say is how much I appreciate certain things about you, like your intelligence, your principles, your financial smarts, and how kind you are to your parents.
But increasingly, I’m just not feeling positive about us as a couple.
There are instances like Friday night at Barb and Jen’s when they made a lovely meal for us, and you didn’t talk during dinner, which was awkward for them and for me.
And then on Sunday, we had made fun plans, but you didn’t feel like doing them, so we didn’t. I know these are just examples, but for me, they represent a broader pattern, one in which I feel disconnected from you and that our plans are dependent on how you feel.
I care about you and respect you, but I feel like I want and need to move on. I think there is someone better suited for both of us out there somewhere. Don’t you?”
- He wants new adventures in his life
“Maria, come and sit with me; I have something I want to talk about.
This is difficult because we have been together for so long and I think you’re the kindest person I’ve ever met. But for the past few months, I’ve been imagining a different life for myself, and the vision has become so strong I feel like I must move toward it, even though it doesn’t include being in this relationship.
There isn’t one particular thing that I can point to, but I can explain it by saying I feel like I want to grow in ways that involve being bolder and more adventurous and taking some risks. It’s like my life is a comfortable outfit that has become too small.
Sometimes in my vision, I’m moving to the Andes and working with local farmers, and other times I get a pilot’s license and take people on excursions in the Yukon.
I’m not sure yet, but I want – need – to move in that direction.
I’m sorry because I know this will hurt you, but I beg you to try and understand and maybe even support me in this change. What do you think?”
- He cheated on me, and even though I love him and he wants to stay together, I just can’t do it anymore
“Jacob, I need to talk to you. You know how much I love you, and I appreciate that we’ve been able to give our relationship another chance since your affair.
It’s been three months, and I feel like I’ve given it, and you, as much positive effort as I possibly could. And yet, I just don’t feel like myself here anymore.
Part of me is still sad and hurt, I’ll admit, but more than that, I don’t feel like the strong, positive, and optimistic person I am deep down inside. I’m making a compromise that I don’t really want to be making.
I am a little intimidated by the prospect of life without you, but I’m more afraid of being less of myself in order to stay together.
I know that if we both put all our best intentions toward what’s right for the kids, we can make this a growth process for everybody. It will take time to go through all the steps, but I think we should get started.
We need to do this together as a team, even though it means us separating when it’s over. I believe we can do it successfully. What do you think?”
Dating Expert | Relationship Coach, Dating Zest
First of all, it is to be admired for the fact that you respect yourself to such a level. Let me explain.
You’re dating someone, let’s say, for a few months, but you’re not very into them even though they’re into you. The fact that you respect how you feel, respect how they’re feeling, and the fact that you are trying to find an appropriate way to tell them is to be admired. Kudos!
It means that you care enough about yourself and the person who’s giving you the affection which you’re not ‘able’ to give back. It means honesty. It is a beautiful thing to have.
There’s this thing we have in mind before we tell them or even before we decide to tell them we’re not interested. It doesn’t let us think straight, and it might just make us say the wrong words.
We’re talking about, “What if I hurt them?”
It is usually this thought that, in a way or another, prevents us from telling the truth we want to tell so bad. Or, it makes us not say the exact truth. Either way, it makes us do/say things that might hurt them more than it would if we just told them what it really is.
We end up saying things like:
- “We can be friends”
- “It’s not you, it’s me. I just [excuses that aren’t true]…”
- “I really like you, but I have to let you go…”
These will actually lead to them feeling worse than you think. You’ll leave them wondering what they have done wrong or what is the actual deal. This is because you didn’t give them a reason that’s complete; a reason that will remove their doubts on this.
Instead of asking, “What if I hurt them?” ask yourself this question, “What is it exactly that’s not working for me with this person?”
You have to first find your own truth in order to share it with them in the best possible way.
Once asking yourself this question, you might find answers like:
- “I’m not physically attracted to them.”
- “We have different values.”
- “I don’t feel the connection it takes for a relationship.”
- “We don’t share any same interests.”
You’re thinking about what isn’t working on the connection for both of you. Not just something that they’re doing that you don’t like.
Whatever your reason turns out to be, you will have to share it in the most honest way in order to remove their doubts and make it easier for them to move on.
If you feel like you have different values
If it has been months that you’ve been dating, it’d be nice to tell them face to face, or at least call them. If you don’t feel comfortable doing any of these, a text will work too.
You’ll have to refer to them with their name like, “Hi [name]…” before you send the texts below.
“It’s been quite a while since I’ve wanted to tell you this, but for some reason, I’ve been afraid to. We had a great time, and I’ve learned a lot from you. But, I’ve noticed that we don’t share the same values, and I find it a bit problematic to have a healthy relationship. I felt the need to be sincere with you because I respect and value you, the time you shared with me, and the effort you put into this. Thank you [name], and I’m sorry that I can’t keep seeing you.”
You might think this is brutally honest, but trust me, this is the way to go. You let them know exactly what you think, otherwise, you’ll hurt them more. This will make it easier for them to move on.
If you feel like you’re not physically attracted to them
“I finally took the courage to tell you the truth. I don’t want this to have a negative effect on you. I want to be honest and sincere with you. I don’t feel that physical attraction it takes to have a relationship. I appreciate you, your presence, and everything you shared with me. I am very thankful and very sorry.”
It is a bit short, but it is there. If you want to be friends with them, you can tell them. But do not say it just to make them feel better. It’ll end up being awkward and more complicated.
If you simply don’t feel the connection or chemistry
“I wanted to tell you this in the most honest and pure way possible, which is one of the reasons it took me so long to tell you. However, I don’t feel the chemistry for us to have a relationship. I don’t want to waste your time, because I know that the affection you give, you deserve to have it back. You deserve to be thought of and to receive just as much joy as you give. Thank you for absolutely everything. It’s been amazing to know you. I wish you joy and light in everything you do.”
This is a kind way to tell them. Remember: You have to feel it before you say it. If you’d like to be friends with them, you can let them know and ask them if it’d be fine with them.
“I’d never want to hurt you because I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. I value your presence, your time, and your effort. But, sharing the same interests is very important to me when it comes to building a relationship. Unfortunately, we don’t share the same interests, and I’m sorry to let you know that I can’t keep seeing you anymore. Thank you [name]. I wish you the absolute best!”
The reason why you should tell them that you’re grateful and appreciative towards them is because they’ve put effort and time into building something with you while you weren’t as sure like them.
It’s a good way to let them go and help them let you go.
General things to consider before you let them know you’re not interested:
- Don’t tell them you can be friends if you don’t feel like it. It will lead to you ignoring them, hurting their feelings, making them think there’s something wrong with them.
- Don’t tell them what they want to hear. Think of what would work for you if someone would ‘reject’ you.
- Accept that they’ll get hurt, but it eventually will pass. And it is better to let them know earlier before they get too deep.
- Know that the best things you can say are the ones you truly mean to say.
- You are amazing and brave for not deciding to just ghost them.
- Appreciate yourself too.
Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology | Relationship Expert, Datingpilot
“I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, however, I don’t think we are right for each other”
Telling someone you are not interested in a relationship can be easier said than done, especially if you started with a romantic interest and now there is none on your behalf, but the person is still romantically interested in you.
Nevertheless, telling them the truth is not only the right thing to do, but they will be much appreciative of your honesty than being led on to thinking their feelings are being reciprocated.
The truth is also a much better alternative than being ghosted.
Before you tell a person that you are not interested in a relationship, you have to decide whether you want to continue a friendship or you do not want anything to do with them.
You also have to consider how they feel about you; If they have strong feelings for you, it is probably best to cut all ties.
If you decide that you want to maintain a friendship with them, then you could say something like, “Getting to know you has been great, and I enjoy spending time with you. However, I would like to maintain a friendship with you and not be romantically involved.”
You can also say something like, “Before this goes on any further, I want to share how I feel about our relationship; I am not romantically interested, but I would like to maintain our friendship if that is ok with you?”
These examples make it clear that you have no romantic interest, but you do want to maintain a friendship.
If you have no desire in keeping a friendship, then you can say something like, ”I’ve enjoyed spending time with you, but I don’t see us together,” or you can say, “I’ve enjoyed getting to know you, however, I don’t think we are right for each other.”
These types of statements demonstrate that you do not want a relationship, nor do they open the door to the possibility of a friendship. If you have feelings for someone else, then you have to be honest about that too, especially if you have built a friendship or have gotten close.
“Before this goes on any further, I have to tell you that I have met someone else.”
The last thing you want is for them to find out that you lied about being with someone else a different way, leaving them feeling more hurt and betrayed if they have feelings for you.
You can tell them something like, “I appreciate you, and therefore, I must be honest and tell you that I have feelings for someone else”, or you can say, “Before this goes on any further, I have to tell you that I have met someone else.”
If you have become close to this person and you know they have feelings for you, saying these types of statements may be hard. However, they will appreciate your honesty and they can begin to move on and find someone else.
Editor-In-Chief, Women’s Health Interactive
Be honest but don’t be mean
That sounds like such simple advice, but honesty is everything. I think most people can generally tell when a person is being truthful about something, so if you’re letting someone know that you don’t want a relationship with them, don’t lie about the reason why.
You don’t necessarily need to overcomplicate the situation by piling on the excuses, either — if you’re not ready for a relationship or you’re not feeling a vibe with this person, just be upfront about it.
After all, everyone deserves to be in a relationship where the romantic feelings for one another are entirely mutual.
That said, while I firmly believe that honesty is the best policy, frame it as kindly as you can. Taking an empathetic approach to life is always a good idea to begin with — put yourself in the person’s shoes for a moment and consider the nicest way to deliver the news.
How would YOU want to be told? What would YOU want to hear?
I approach this the same way I approach constructive feedback on anything — using the sandwich method.
- Start with a compliment (what you do like about the person)
- Share the negative information (you don’t want a relationship, and why)
- Finish on a positive note at the end (this person deserves someone special who can return their feelings 100%, maybe another compliment, and/or it’s nice to have met you)
It softens the blow, as it were, but it enables you to be honest about how you feel while letting the other person down gently.
Wednesday Lee Friday
Relationship expert, Women’s Health Interactive
It’s advisable to have this conversation in a public place
As someone who has worked with domestic violence survivors and stalking survivors, I primarily see this as a safety issue.
Of course, we all want to let the other person down without hurting their feelings. We may want to impart helpful advice or to let the soon-to-be-rejected party know that your disinterest in a relationship isn’t a personal slam on them.
Kindness is one reason to do this. Safety is another. Telling someone that you’re not ready for a relationship, especially after they’ve announced their intentions, can be uncomfortable, emotionally draining, and yes—dangerous.
It’s advisable to have this conversation in a public place and to arrive and leave using your own transportation. Tell a friend or two where you’re going and who you’ll be with. Ask one or more people to check on your later.
Even people who seem chill and sweet can become enraged when they feel embarrassed, mocked, or disappointed. They may try to guilt, cajole, even threaten you into changing your mind.
Protecting yourself is more important than protecting anyone else’s feelings.
After talking to someone for some time and going out on a few dates, you may end up realizing that that person is not the one for you.
Telling someone you are not interested in them can be stressful, especially when you do not want to hurt that person’s feelings. And that is why a lot of people choose to just disappear and stop talking to someone. But, this is actually a more painful kind of rejection as you leave someone confused and wondering.
There are a lot of better ways to tell someone that you are not interested. As a relationship expert, here are a few tips on how to tell someone you are not interested:
- Be honest. That person deserves to know what went wrong, so be honest about your reasons for not being interested.
- Tell them that you prefer to stay friends. You may not want to be in a relationship with someone, but you may want to stay as friends with that person. But, you have to keep in mind that that person may find it uncomfortable if you remain friends, so respect whatever that person’s decision will be.
- Get professional counseling from a licensed therapist.
- Individual and couples counseling. Anytime, anywhere.