No it’s not because they’re selfish. It’s a lot more complicated than that.
Divorced couples used to wait until the paperwork was finished before dating again, but divorced millennials don’t have time for that nonsense. My ex-wife and I were on dating sites immediately after separating, and in the two years since then, I’ve tried them all: Match, Bumble, Tinder, Hinge, and even a matchmaker. They all suck.
What’s more: millennials agree that all the dating services suck. In fact, we agree that the dating game sucks in general, and yet we can’t help but add to its suckiness. We complain about what others have done to us while doing exactly the same unto others, and we acknowledge our own hypocrisy but claim it’s just “part of the deal.”
I’ve had a woman walk out in the middle of a first date. I’ve had a woman say, “Let’s hang out again!” to my face and then block my number as soon as the date was over. I’ve had a girlfriend cancel a date at the last minute and then ignore me until I understood that meant it was over forever. I’ve had a woman kiss me passionately, tell me she saw a future with me, get in her car to drive home, and send me a break-up text as soon as she pulled into her driveway. I’ve been “ghosted” (when they suddenly ignore you without telling you why) and I’ve been “slow-faded” (when they keep making excuses why they can’t see you … and then ignore you, anyway).
It’s a very sudden change for someone who had to go to family court four times just to break up with his first girlfriend.
Why are millennials like this? I’ve heard all the clichés: we’re selfish, lazy, indecisive, always needing a new source of emotional stimulation, and worried we’ll miss out on the next best thing.
OK, but these explanations make us feel doomed to repeat those same selfish behaviors ad infinitum, continuing to hurt each other and to get hurt until we “settle.” The cynicism of it makes dating unbearable. So let’s stop being cynical, start finding some real reasons, and figure out how we can change:
It’s easier to change your mind about a “yes” than it is to change your mind about a “no.”
We’ve all experienced it: they look you in the eyes and say they like you, say they want to go out again, give you a kiss—but once you’re out of sight, they’re no longer interested. Were they lying? Maybe, but more likely, they were on the fence. They worried they would lose you for good if they said no, so they kept the momentum going just to buy some time as they thought it over.
It seems cruel, but in the moment, it seemed crueler to say they were on the fence. They knew you wanted a kiss and a “yes,” so they gave you what you wanted and felt good about their ability to make you happy in the moment.
Solution: stop trying to read the other person’s mind, and stop asking them “yes” or “no” questions about their feelings. It’s always easier to answer “yes” to those questions, but it doesn’t tell us the reality of how they’re feeling. It just causes us to assume things that aren’t true. Instead, tell them how you’re feeling, and ask them more generally how they are feeling. It doesn’t guarantee honesty, but it encourages it. It’s much harder to lie when answering an open-ended question than it is to offer an indecisive “yes.”
On the other side, be honest about your own feelings in the moment. You don’t need to know on the spot whether there’s potential for a relationship. You don’t even need to know on the spot whether you want to see them again. But if you’re having fun, say you’re having fun. If you have doubts, ask questions. Keep the communication going from the beginning. It’s a lot easier to “ghost” or “slow fade” if the communication wasn’t good in the first place.
We don’t want to be responsible for hurting anyone else … so we disappear.
When you reject someone, all you’re really saying is, “You’re not the person for me.” You aren’t saying you’re too good for them. You aren’t saying they aren’t loveable. You aren’t saying they deserve to be alone. Yet sometimes we assume, based on our own insecurities, that our rejection implies these things. I certainly felt that way when the woman walked out in the middle of our first date, and she had to text me later that night to reassure me that I was a great guy who’d be a catch for someone else, just not for her.
That was nice of her, but in the end, that wasn’t her responsibility. In a way, her willingness to nurture my self-confidence just made me feel worse about the fact that someone so kind didn’t see me as boyfriend material. You never know how someone is going to react to rejection, but no matter what, the way they react is on them. Just don’t lie or deceive them in order to get a “better” reaction, because if that blows up in your face, it’s on you.
I’ve been on the other side of that, too, and I didn’t always handle it well. There have been times when I haven’t felt any chemistry on a date, but I felt it would be too arrogant to declare that. So instead I forced myself to have fun and then received a confused text days later wondering why I hadn’t called to schedule a second date. I admire the woman who walked out on me. It seemed rude at the time, but it took guts, and since then I’ve learned that most people in the dating game don’t have those guts—myself included.
We’re just as bad at getting dumped as we are at dumping.
Let’s be honest: we’ve all experienced that person who took rejection way too personally. Maybe they said something that made you fear for their safety, or for your safety, or at the very least, they bombarded you with personal attacks until you had to block their number.
These people are terrifying, and they come out of nowhere. Someone might be totally civil until you reject them, and then a monster emerges. We’d all prefer to avoid that explosive scenario, so instead we ignore the person or give wishy-washy responses, hoping that it diffuses things. We treat anyone who wants to date us like a ticking time bomb, even though most of us are just fine at taking rejection; it’s dishonesty that we dislike.
This is where millennials truly fail. When rejected, we have a right to express hurt and disappointment, but we have no right to express rage or entitlement. We need to stop being afraid to hurt people, because coddling their feelings with dishonestly and false hope is just going to hurt them more. We also, however, need to stop making people afraid to hurt us, because when people feel like they can’t be honest about their feelings, they also just end up hurting us more.
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