Of course, when was the last time you were rejected and thought: Ah, that felt good? Still, from what I’ve seen in my own dating life and what I’ve heard in conversations with other singles and relationship experts, technology has made our breakups even worse.
With so much of life happening on the Internet — and about 23 percent of couples now meeting online — it’s inevitable that “I’m just not that into you” ends up in our inboxes, sandwiched between bills, notes from our bosses and e-cards from Mom. And it’s not unheard of for Facebook users to get news about their romances when the other person changes his or her status from “in a relationship” to “single” — without talking about it first.
A digital rejection can be efficient and effective: The dumper can control the message; the dumpee can’t interrupt or argue. No body language to misread, no tears to witness, no awkward hugs and no breakup sex. But we miss out on a lot when we outsource uncomfortable conversations to our e-mail accounts. In exchange for efficiency and emotional distance, we often give up a chance for real closure — and to show the other person that you care for them and respect the effort you put into the relationship. A face-to-face breakup vs. splitting up digitally is the difference between ending a romance with a namaste bow or using a karate chop.
So where should we put the dividing line between digital and real-time rejection? Online dating consultant Laurie Davis, founder of eFlirt Expert, tells her clients that after three dates, if they want to cut things off, they should call. Not surprisingly, a lot of them disagree. “In such a digital society,” Davis says, “our fallback is that we have any difficult conversation by e-mail or text.”
Or we avoid the conversation altogether, which can be even rougher than outright rejection. A 30-year-old D.C. lawyer who had been on a few dates with a woman who didn’t respond to his texts said that, instead of silence, he would have preferred a simple message turning him down.
“I’d rather have people tell me straight up why something isn’t working out,” he said. Otherwise, “my mind will go to the most negative place.”
Some digital breakups, though, can take you to a positive place. A 28-year-old D.C. nonprofit worker I recently spoke with received an “I’m just not feeling it” note that was so kind, she said, that she didn’t mind that the rejection was digital. A man she’d been out with three times complimented her for being “an amazing combination of fun, attractive and smart” but said that he felt “there’s something missing.” He ended by apologizing for delivering the news by e-mail but said that he wanted to express how he was feeling — and he’s better at doing that in writing. He also offered to discuss it more in person if she wanted.