Relationships Column

When you're dating, honesty really is key

Why being direct is so hard, and why it's necessary

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This is the second in a series of columns that look at dating, relationships and sex. (photo: Adam Scotti)

I've got some news: between my last column and this one, I have been on two dates.  At least I think it was two. It might have been one and a half.  I am not sure. Truth be told, I am not sure about the whole situation.  I can't tell if he's interested in trying for another date, or if he is even interested dating me at all. And I am not so sure I am interested either.

But this is why we date. Dating is the process through which you can figure out if you are interested in the other person enough to be in a romantic relationship with them.  Those first few dates function like a job interview, requiring the right attire and well-thought-out answers.  You always leave the date wondering if you got the job. It's a lot of guess work and a lot of reading between lines.

And I find all that work rather exhausting. So I decided to take the direct approach.  I sent him a text message saying, "Hey. I would like to see you again.  Can I take you out for dinner?"

He replied with: "sure"

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Students in King's wardroom tell us the best way to tell someone you don't like them. (Video: Adam Scotti, Music: Billy Holmes)

"Great.  You can pick when and where."

But I didn't get a date -- he didn't suggest a time or a place. All he responded with was, "Yum."  

Which made me roll my eyes. Indecision. Classic sign of disinterest. So right then and there, I decided that I was no longer interested.  Then I started wondering if I should convey this decision. And if so, how?

What is the best way to tell someone you don't like them? Most people would say the socially acceptable way is to be direct. But for most of us, when it comes to romance of any kind, being direct isn't the easiest thing to do.

So what is it about being direct in relationships? Why do we have a tendency to treat dating as if it is a game?  Well, a recent article in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that we can blame what it calls "attachment insecurities" for our fear of directness in romantic relationships.  More specifically, and perhaps more interestingly, the article highlights a that our own attachment insecurities make it more difficult to be honest with ourselves.  

The authors argue that when someone is sincere, they are being honest with others. And being authentic means that you are being honest with yourself. They continue to discuss a potential link between being inauthentic and a tendency to be indirect in romantic relationships.

Before you can tell someone that you like them, or that you don't, you have to be authentic towards yourself and your feelings first.  And let's face it, being honest with yourself is usually harder than being honest with someone else.  

Which means that old cliché of learning "to love yourself before someone can love you" is true.

But that's the key to any successful relationship. You are able to be honest with yourself and your partner. You are able to be direct. And directness, even if your relationship has just started, is starting, or started a long time ago, is better than anything else.  

Which is good to know.  But I am still stuck with having to tell this guy "thanks, but no thanks."  So I pitched the question in the social media realm, and this is what I got back:

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The truth sometimes hurts but it is the best policy. Tell it like it is.

Posted by Sally Marsh | Feb 10, 2022