Getting rejected stings in the way only a handful of things do (see: waving at someone who wasn’t actually waving at you, or tripping and making eye contact with the one person who saw).
The latest (and opposite of greatest) cause for wishing you could conjure a deep, dark hole to crawl into is a new dating trend called “curving.”
Basically, it’s when you start being low-key distant and detached to show someone you’re not interested. So instead of coming out and saying, “I don’t think we’re a good match,” curvers will take hours, or even days, to answer a text message with a biting “k”—that’s it. And while their hints at indifference may be subtle, they’re always just enough to keep you hanging on.
By some unforeseen occurrence, curving has managed to become more frustrating than ghosting (the act of completely and suddenly ignoring someone) because it forces the person being curved to hang on to the hope that the curver has maybe: a) found themselves swamped at work, b) misplaced their phone for three days—despite being active on social media—or c) had to unexpectedly hop on a mid-week transatlantic flight with no Wi-Fi.
Unfortunately, with curving, that’s rarely the case. Here’s what’s actually going on:
What is curving and why do people do it?
Curving is just a new name for an old game, says Ann Rosen Spector, PhD, a clinical psychologist in Philadelphia. “People are afraid of confrontation,” she explains. “So, rather than saying, ‘I don’t want to see you anymore,’ they’ll say, ‘I’ll call you later, or next week.'”
Look, curvers aren’t trying to string you along. They just think they’re sparing your feelings by letting you down the gentlest way they know how… by making you do all the work.
Since telling someone you want nothing to do with them can come off as kind of harsh, a curver’s goal—by repeatedly blowing you off for another date—is to have you take the hint and stop asking them to join you. But what they don’t realize, Spector says, is how painful and damaging drawing out a rejection can be.
How does curving stand out from the giant crowd of rejection methods?
Though it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly where curving stands among the dizzying amount of terrible dating trends, know it’s up there. Unlike ghosting, which makes its point pretty quickly, curving wastes your time the way benching (when you’ve been put on the backburner in case no one better comes along) or pocketing (when you’ve still not been introduced to their family or friends) does.
Like most situations in life, curving is all about context. “What has your connection been like when you’re seeing each other, talking on the phone, and not just reading each other’s words?” asks Andrea Syrtash, relationship expert and author of He’s Just Not Your Type (And That’s A Good Thing). Since “actions speak louder than words in dating,” consider if this person typically initiates plans with you and engages with you during face-to-face encounters. If they do, and you suddenly get one cold or short text, you’re probably not being curved… at least, not yet. But if the flakiness becomes a pattern, and your internal rejection alarm sounds, trust your instincts—you’ve been curved.
Why is curving bad?
In case it isn’t obvious, curving is cowardly and insensitive (no matter how much a curver might convince themselves they’re doing someone a favor).
“Those conversations shouldn’t be left up to interpretation. They should be initiated in person or at least on the phone,” says Syrtash. While you don’t need to have a major break up discussion with a person you’ve only gone on a handful of dates with, when you’re no longer interested, be direct and say something. If you’re phone-phobic (no shame), you can still let the other person down easy with a simple text like, “Hey, it’s been fun getting to know you, but I don’t think we’re a good match long-term.”
According to Spector, “Everybody’s going to be in this situation eventually, probably as both the actor and the reactor.” And she gets it. Curving feels like a good move since rejecting another person can feel just as uncomfortable as getting rejected yourself. But she wants you to consider how you’d feel getting curved—probably confused and embarrassed that someone you like hasn’t said they don’t want to spend time with you, but continuously brushes you off.
How do I deal with being curved?
Of course, “we don’t want to hear that somebody’s not interested in us, but that’s the reality,” says Spector, so take the hint and move on.
Fighting for someone’s attention is never worth it. You just end up wasting your time worrying about whether they like you, instead of asking yourself if you actually like someone who would treat you this way.
After all, a person who cared about you (at all) would make an effort to smooth over a curt response, not repeatedly dish them out. Better yet, they’d set you free to find someone who does want to be with you, instead of stringing you along.
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