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How I Ended Things with a Stage-Five Clinger Without Saying Sorry Once

The name in this story has been changed to protect the individual’s privacy.

“Do you want to get sushi?” It was a simple question, and yet, I couldn’t answer it.

My decision to accept or decline this dinner invitation held more weight than desired. On one hand, a sushi date would mean, well, sushi—and after spending a chunk of my savings on furniture and plants, a potentially free spicy tuna roll sounded enticing. But as they say, there’s no such thing as a free lunch, and did I really want to go beyond the spicy tuna roll? Let’s start back at the beginning.

It was a sweaty fall night when we met on a packed rooftop on the west side of New York City. I made the cross-country move and after my first month sporting callused hands thanks to all the furniture assembling, I needed to let my hair down and explore the nightlife of my new city. It was your typical bar meet-cute—Ian stood some ways off with his friend, and we exchanged some shy eye contact. Once he mustered up the courage to make the first move, I remember thinking, He’s cute. I agreed to a date.

And it was exciting. It felt as though everything was finally happening for me after two years of being on pause (aka wearing sweatpants 24/7 and bingeing every Netflix show available). But while we were making small talk at a hidden bar in Lower East Side, Ian blurted out the first thing that set off alarm bells.

“My mom is upset that you aren’t Jewish.”

He then proceeded to list off what almost every person in his family had to say about my religious background. I want to be clear—religion wasn’t the uncomfortable subject in this scenario—it’s how he unabashedly blurt this out before we really knew each other. (See: first date.) On top of that, his entire family knew about me? (See: first date, again.) After an internal back-and-forth about this strange oversharing, I settled on brushing it off. It was our first date after all, right?

But things continued to stay a hair on the intense side for me. When my past relationship history (or shall I say, lack of one) was brought up, I was startled to have it met with an enthusiastic, “Me too!” rather than the usual, “Why haven’t you been in a serious relationship, yet?” And while you would think I would appreciate this shared experience and acceptance, those feelings were overshadowed by something else. Because it was in the moment, looking back at his glistening eyes, that it dawned on me that Ian was seeing all the possibilities of firsts we could have together. First relationship. First love. First meet-the-parents moment.

While he could clearly see an “us” after only one initial meet at the bar and this first date over drinks, for some reason, I couldn’t visualize the same result regardless of how much I tried. And, between sips of the Fitzgerald I was nursing, tried I did. After our date, Ian walked me home and said goodbye. We shared a quick goodnight kiss at the door, and a part of me was hoping that sparks would fly to prove to myself that my gut-feeling was wrong, but I felt nothing. And it made me mad with myself. Why couldn’t I get there with him? Ian was the good guy I’ve always wanted. Kind, funny and charming in a slightly goofy way. But I was missing that pull. The chemistry wasn’t there, and with every push he continued to make during those next few weeks to secure another date, I felt myself slipping away. My heart wasn’t in it.

I began to text him less and less as he continued to text me more and more, wondering if he would take the hint, but Ian persisted. My pathetic excuse texts of, “So sorry, I’m horrible at texting,” (which isn’t a lie, per say, as texting isn’t my strong suit) that I’d send days later were taken as charming. In fact, Ian took my wishy-washy presentation as a challenge—not only did he text me a lot, but I began to run into him in my neighborhood on nights out. The city is a small place, yes, but this was beginning to seem a little more than just coincidence—especially because our run-ins were eerily close to my apartment.

As the weeks passed and these texts and run-ins continued, my friends started to crack a few Joe Goldberg and Dan Humphrey jokes here and there. I began to realize that I was playing a very dangerous game. Not because I thought I was in any form of danger, no. I knew Ian was harmless. He was only ever eager to be in a relationship. I was playing a dangerous game toying with his feelings by not being honest. And if I wanted to hopefully one day be in a healthy, loving relationship, then would I get there by being a coward with someone I wasn’t even going on multiple dates with? No.

I somehow ended up on this weird road where I found myself stuck in a relationship with someone I had only gone on one date with. “Do you want to get sushi?” Yes. I always want sushi, but I don’t want the strings that come attached. I needed to end this. While my cowardice wanted to run and hide and leave him on read—because ghosting was the easy way out—I knew that if I was in his shoes, I’d want to recognize my unrequited love ASAP. The right way to go about this was to end it as soon as possible, and not over a long, awkward dinner.

“Hi. I don’t know if I see this going any further and the last thing that I want to do is lead you on in any way, so I don’t think it’d be smart to go to dinner with you…there’s a certain chemistry that is missing on my end and it would be rude to you to try and continue when I know that it has to come naturally.”

Send.

Yeah…I Dear John-ed him. It wasn’t my bravest move, but it was honest and he took it surprisingly well. My proudest moment? Gone were the “I don’t have time for a relationship right now,” and the “I’m so so sorry,” vindications—a feat for a serial apologizer. If I desired a meaningful relationship, then I had to address the anxiety I felt with them. And if my heart wasn’t in it, there was nothing to apologize for. For the first time in my life, I understood that if I wanted to do this whole dating thing the right way, I’d have to put my heart on the line and toss aside the child’s play. Sushi for one to-go, please.

Mindless Swiping Is Out. Intuitive Dating Is In.