We’re always hearing that we could be having better sex, a better orgasm, or a better relationship. But how often do we hear the nitty-gritty of how we can actually better understand our deepest desires and most embarrassing questions? Bustle has enlisted Vanessa Marin, a sex therapist, to help us out with the details. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions will remain anonymous. Please send your sex and relationship inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now, onto today’s topic: how to not ghost someone you've slept with.
Q: “I know that ghosting is a hot topic right now. I understand that it’s bad, and I hate it when I’m on the receiving end, but at the same time, it’s so hard for me to do anything differently in the moment. If we’ve just gone out on a date or two, I can usually be clear in saying I don’t want to go on another date. But if we've slept together, it’s so much more awkward. I don’t know what to say. How can I respectfully let someone know that I don’t want to sleep with them — or see them — again?”
A: Thanks for the question! It seems like more relationships end in ghosting these days than not! The appeal of ghosting is obvious — it’s so much easier to avoid an awkward conversation, and just slip away. But, as you seem to know from experience, it really sucks to have it done to you. Here are eight tips for the next time you’re tempted to ghost.
Remember Why You Shouldn’t Ghost In The First Place
Let’s talk about why ghosting should be avoided in the first place. It sounds like you’ve had crappy experiences of being on the receiving end of a ghosting, so you probably know how it feels. It’s confusing, frustrating, embarrassing, and hurtful. Without any response from the other person, you’re left to overanalyze every little thing you did. Did you say something stupid or embarrassing? Did you have your fly undone the whole night? When it comes to sex, that overanalyzing can be even more painful. You might worry that they weren’t attracted to you sexually, or that you were bad in bed.
The sad thing is that not ghosting someone takes such a minimal amount of time and effort. Literally seconds, and a few taps on your keyboard. If one small sentence from you can spare someone a substantial amount of pain, why would you ghost?
That said, I want to point out that sometimes it’s perfectly OK to ghost. It can even be the safest, healthiest response mechanism in some cases. If the other person didn’t show you basic respect and decency, they don’t deserve it in return. If the person did something that made you uncomfortable, like pressuring you to do more than you wanted to sexually, or “joking” about how obsessed they got with their ex, I’d advise you not to make any further contact.
Don't Make Assumptions Before You Ask
Sometimes people ghost because they worry they’re not on the same page with that person about what they’re each looking for. But in a lot of cases, that ends up being an incorrect assumption.
I’ll give you an example: one time one of my clients told me she ghosted a guy because she was only interested in a friends-with-benefits relationship, and she got the impression that the guy wanted a serious romantic relationship. She stopped responding to his texts, and he eventually gave up. They ended up running into each other a few months later, and she found out that he actually would have been happy to be just friends with benefits. By making assumptions about what he wanted, and not giving him the chance to speak up for himself, she missed out on an opportunity that she would have really enjoyed. So, if you’re interesting in continuing to have a certain kind of contact with the person, just be upfront about what you’re looking for. If it’s not a match, it’s no sweat off your back.
Speak Up Quickly
OK, so you’ve slept with a person, and realized that you definitely don’t want to have any further contact with them. I would advise that you come right out and let the other person know relatively quickly that you’re not interested. You don’t need to send a text the second you hop into a Lyft back to your place, but maybe wait until the next day.
I recommend acting quickly for a couple of reasons. First, it’s easier to push yourself into action right away. Being upfront with another person does take some courage. The more time goes by, the easier it is to keep putting it off, until you conveniently “forget” about it altogether. Second, you want to reach out to that person before they reach out to you. Their feelings will be hurt much more if they propose another date and you turn them down. If you message them first, that gives them the opportunity to save face and respond with something like, “yeah, I wasn’t feeling the spark either.”
Keep It Simple
A lot of people obsess over the exact right things to say to break it off with someone. The more you write and rewrite your message, the easier it will be to convince yourself not to send anything. Instead, just keep it simple. Try some of these lines:
- “I’m not interested in taking this any further.”
- “I had a good time, but I don’t think we’re a match.”
- “I think you’re great, but I don’t think the two of us are a good fit for each other.”
- “I didn’t want to ghost you. I enjoyed our time together, and I’d like to leave it at that.”
If you keep it short and simple, you’ll be more likely to send it. Plus, a simple message is easier to receive. The more you write, the more material the other person has to over-analyze.
What Not To Say
A lot of people turn to silly lines like, “it’s not you, it’s me” or “let’s just be friends” when breaking it off with someone. These lines are so overused that they don’t really mean anything anymore. Even if you are being genuine, the other person is just going to feel like you’re using a line on them. It’s understandable to want to spare someone’s feelings and tell them that they’re great. But that tends to be more painful for the recipient. They’re left thinking, “OK, so I’m great, just not great enough for her?”
If you’re turning someone down after having sex with them, I would also recommend avoiding any sort of mention of the sex itself. We’re all so self-conscious about our sexual performance as is. Don’t say anything like, “there wasn’t good chemistry between us” or “I wasn’t feeling it.” It doesn’t matter if it’s true or not. All that statements like that will do is hurt the other person’s feelings, make them feel self-conscious, and make them paranoid that they were bad in bed. The fact that you don’t want to sleep with them again is all they need to know.
The Bottom Line
Finally, it’s my duty as a sex therapist to point out that you rarely have great sex with someone straight out of the gate. I wasn’t sure from your question, but it sounds like you might be ghosting on people relatively quickly after having sex for the first time. The bottom line is that you get to decide who you want to have sex with and when you want to have sex with them. But I’d advise you to give it a few tries before deciding that there’s just not enough chemistry between the two of you.
Wishing you the best of luck!