How To Tell Someone You Don’t Love Them


People are not as fond of the truth as they like to believe. Honesty’s sharpened angles can damage even the hardest of hearts. The no nonsense delivery of the impending is a stark contrast to the great care usually taken to cushion the blow of a lie come undone. This particular truth is one that cannot be padded into softness. The hard and bitter reality of not loving someone who loves you is weighty and uncomfortable. If you’ve found yourself in this situation, no matter to what degree the severity, know that there are really only two options at your disposal. Choose with care.

The first option is to not tell them. Keep these feelings hidden and hope they go away. Option one, in most cases, may also be considered step one. In relationships such as these where one is leading the other carefully by fragile thread, the lie is an intrinsic motivator and thereby everyone’s first go to resource. Trust me, I’ve been there. And to be there is to desperately want to be there. You want it to work so badly that you attempt to feign this inimitable emotion. They want it to work so badly that they convince themselves the insincerity on your face is the glow of new love. Lies beget more lies.

So, why do we want it to work so badly? Well, everyone is different. The noble but misguided attempt to spare feelings is a popular reason. Others have been known to continue with this lie for the attention. Being wanted feels good. Some are willing to hold on for so long because they’re so scared they won’t be wanted anywhere else. Others believe that with time and effort they can grow to love this person back. This is not an altogether illogical reckoning. So often we are told that when faced with a difficulty we need to stick it out, try our best, and never give up. Rarely do we hear that it is okay to let go; that choosing not to try is not synonymous with failure.

If you choose not to tell this person you do not love that you do not love them you will either live miserably and inwardly, poisoning yourself with the toxicity of this decision, or, the relationship will end itself. If the latter, rest assured that it will end badly. For example, maybe you will viciously hiss the truth on an unsuspecting morning during a heated argument that innocently evolved from which of you left the cap off of the toothpaste.

Maybe your instinct to flee will rise up and manifest itself as an affair; you will try to find peace in escaping from someone whom you do not love into someone whom you are using as a distraction. Maybe it will come to the light. Maybe using someone’s body as your personal rabbit hole will make you feel better. It probably won’t. Maybe after months of pretending your daily blowouts are just healthy arguments, the two of you will go out one night. And cart with you the sickly relationship that neither of you will allow to pass away. Maybe you will have a drink. And then another. And another will turn into six as your lover disappears and you flirt, innocuously in your inebriated mind, with the unremarkable person beside you.

When you find them, silent and furious at the bar alone, refusing to speak to you, maybe you’ll storm outside. Think to yourself, “this is my out, this is reason enough to let go,” and smile at the same time you hear your name being called from behind you. It is a lit arrow that pierces your drunken lungs and fuels your liquid resolve. Maybe you turn around and breathe the truth at them like fire; it sprays sloppily from your mouth like sour vodka and venom at their feet. Maybe you will hiccup with relief and smug satisfaction while they stare blankly at all those sharp angles jutting from their chest. Maybe he strikes you. And the sound of it alone sends you hurtling back to sobriety, allowing you to actually feel the next blow ignite across your cheek like a match struck on concrete. A lovely galaxy of white will stain the darkening sky that is the vision from your left eye. Maybe as you feel the air screeching towards you, precursor to a third hit, you will scream loud enough for someone to hear you. Maybe I didn’t want it badly enough. The outcomes of option one are innumerable and their effects long lasting. Best to pass through it quickly if you must endure it at all.

What remains is option two. Sharp angles: the quick and painful route. It will never be easy. Here is how you do it: Quietly at breakfast after waking up exhausted with the weight of someone else’s insecurities. In a café at noon. Slide their key across the table and make no mention of the lover you will see when you leave; this grief alone will be plenty. Nervously on the sidewalk outside their apartment. They walk towards you with a look you have seen spread like wings across their face a dozen times a week. The look this broken person gives you before taking your face between their shaky hands and kissing you like an altar. A look I realized much too late is not quite love. Do not stick around for the fallout. Tell yourself like I told myself that you never needed it that badly.

Remember that this thing you have to say will hurt them. They will probably cry and likely beg. The words will carve a hollow in their head and reverberate down their spine; you will rattle inside them like loose change they will never reach. Parts of you the far reaches of your body will want to give in. Your fingers, eyes, elbows and lips will tingle with the urge to soothe because somewhere below the pretense there was a mutual agreement to selfishly need one another. Somewhere along the lines you bred attachment. But I want you to stand very still and listen for the whisper coming from the capitols of you. What does the blood say? And the stomach? Tell me what wisdom can you divine in the creaking of your bones. Do not be easily moved. The responsibility of carrying out option two, dear heart, is to no one but you.

It is inevitable that we will all enter into relationships that we will all enter into relationships that we probably should not. Our reasoning can be vast and ridiculous and significant and small. So when you discover that you are not in love and you don’t want to do this anymore, please ask yourself if the both of you deserve better. And if for whatever reason “no” or some other uncertainty dances on your lips, then allow me to tell you now that, yes, you both deserve better. You do not have to give your love to people who have not proven themselves worthy of it. Or to anyone you don’t want to give it to for that matter.

The offer of one’s adoration does not make you obligated to accept it. If you feel alone and unlovely try to remember that in no way does that make you alone or unlovely. It will get better. You are not the culmination of the “I love you’s” you’ve collected in your life. Nor are you the answer to someone’s misguided prayers for another soul to share or to steal from. You are your own. Love should not cripple you. And sometimes healing means offering those sharp angles to the one you do not love. TC Mark

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