As someone who spent a few years living with her great-grandmother as an adolescent, a great-grand who insisted on giving cooking lessons on the weekends (whether I liked it or not), I know that my age (46 in June) is totally showing when I say that it floors me, how many women 1) don't cook and 2) could care less. As a marriage life coach, you might think that it has to do with domestication, but actually, as a single woman, I don't get why a lot of women don't want to do it for themselves. Cooking saves money. Cooking allows you to customize your dishes to make them just like you want it. Cooking is healthier too. But between a lot of the ladies who I personally know, along with an article I read that said 63 percent of millennials don't know what a butter knife looks like, 60 percent don't know how to make salad dressing and 25 percent don't know how to make a birthday cake from a box—I just know that the spirit of my late great-grandmother would want me to do something.
Now, if you're someone who is like, "Whatever, Shellie. Postmates was designed with me in mind," hey, do you, girl. But if you hate to cook but it's mostly because you never really learned how and you're totally overwhelmed at the thought of figuring out where to start, here are 10 hacks that could, in time, bring you to conclusion that you like your own homemade meals more than you thought you ever would.
1. Invest in Some Solid Cooking Utensils
As someone who cooks, pretty much on a daily basis, I can tell you, straight up, that cooking is gonna suck for you if all you're working with is a frying pan, one cake pan and a mixing bowl. Yeah, you definitely need some utensils in your arsenal in order to make things easier for you. So, what should you have in your kitchen?
- A good set of knives
- A cutting board
- A set of measuring cups and spoons
- A variety of mixing bowls (different sizes)
- A non-stick skillet (and eventually an iron cast one too)
- Small and large saucepans
- A vegetable peeler
- A meat mallet
- A slow cooker
- A colander
- Some wire whisks (they also come in different sizes)
- A pizza pan
- A few baking sheets
- A glass casserole dish
- An electric mixer
- A blender
I already know that some of y'all read that and was like, "See, that's why I don't feel like cooking in the first place. Just look at that list." But no one is saying that you've got to get everything at the same time. Plus, a lot of these items are not very expensive at all; many, you can even cop at the grocery store. And again, I promise you, if you've got them in your possession, it will make cooking (almost) a breeze. (By the way, this list pretty much only scratches the surface. If you want to check out more things that a lot of regular cooks own, check out "Essentials List: 71 of the Best Kitchen Cookware, Utensils, Tools & More".)
2. Accept That Prepping Is Probably What Bothers You Most
I won't lie to you. When it comes time for me to make something, if anything makes me roll my eyes, it's the prepping part (well that and sometimes all of the clean-up that's required). In fact, if you are a recipe-reading kind of person (I'm not so much), you might notice that the prep time can take as long as the cooking time, if not longer. But again, if you've got the right cooking tools, that can take a lot of the stress out.
Some other things that can make prepping easier include—reading recipes in their entirety before you begin; not feeling like you've always got the peel the skin of fruits and veggies (squash, sweet potatoes and carrots are just some of the foods that taste great with the skin on, if you roast them); making sure your pans are hot rather than cold before putting your ingredients into them; cooking dried beans in mineral water (they'll cook faster that way if you do) and definitely cleaning up as you go.
Oh, and if chopping fruits and veggies is what you absolutely loathe the most, I've got a couple of DIY videos that can offer you a couple of tips and tricks. The fruit one is here; the veggie one is here. You can also gain some basic knife skills here.
3. Don’t Procrastinate
If all you do is lay around, saying to yourself that you hate cooking, not only is that going to program your mind to always have that mindset but you're not gonna get anything done. A way to avoid procrastinating is to schedule a window in your day when you're going to cook. For most (beginner's) meals, all you need is 60-90 minutes, tops. When you think about the money you're about to save (because cooking is cheaper than eating out), how much healthier the meal will be over restaurant dining, and the pride that you will feel for making it yourself, it will definitely be time well spent.
4. "Cook Like Costco"
What the heck do I mean by "cook like Costco"? I've got people in my world who treat Costco like it's Six Flags or something. Of course, they like it so much because they can buy in bulk which makes things so much more convenient. Well, if you know that you hate to cook, why not "cook in bulk"? What I mean by that is, rather than torturing yourself by setting out to prepare homemade meals on a daily basis, instead, choose a day to knock out 3-4 dishes. For instance, right now, I've got some mac 'n cheese, some fajita meat and a casserole in my fridge. For the mac, all I need to do is heat up some veggies and maybe bake some chicken breasts (which is nothing). For the fajita meat, I just need to pull out my tortillas and add some diced tomatoes, black beans, lettuce and cheese. The casserole can basically stand on its own. Whatever I want to eat, I can just warm it up in the oven and I'm good to go. I don't have to think about cooking again—unless I want to—for another 3-4 days or so.
5. Start with Super Simple Recipes
Don't be out here feeling like you've got to be a four-star chef overnight. That is putting more stress on yourself than you need to. Shoot, just recently, I watched a video on how to make some butter swim biscuits. Not only did they only require seven ingredients, they were super easy to make too. So was the end result of a smothered cabbage (without pork) recipe video. Oh, and something else that was fun to make is "Popeyes Chicken Sandwich/Copycat Recipes". As far as finding recipes online, all you need to do is go to your favorite search engine and put "easy recipes" in the search field; you will find a ton. Or, you can do something that I think will be a lot more enjoyable for you. I'll get to that in the next point.
6. Watch a Monitor While You Do It
All of the recipes that I just referenced? They weren't written recipes; they were videos. When you are watching an expert breakdown how to prepare a particular dish, it can make following along so much easier (the time will go by faster too). YouTube is chocked full of video recipes (including ones by Black chefs and master cooks). All you need to do is position your laptop or smartphone next to you and "play and pause" as you go along.
7. Try a New Dish Each Week
There are a few people in my life who absolutely hate leftovers. As a marriage life coach (and journalist), I like to dig beneath the surface. Come to find out, some of them do because they were poor growing up and had to eat the same stuff over and over again. In response to that information, sometimes I will look for something new and/or exotic to make for them. It can make cooking even more fun and rewarding for the preparer as well as the one who is eating what's been made.
If one of the main reasons why you hate to cook is because you find it to be BORING, challenge yourself by deciding to take on a new kind of dish every week. If nothing else, it will encourage you to do something that you never have before. You might even be pleasantly surprised by the end results.
8. Entertain Yourself
Unless you just totally suck at multi-tasking, use your cooking time to binge-watch a television program or watch a movie. Or you can put on one of your favorite Spotify playlists. Or you can put your phone on speaker and catch-up with a friend or two. No one said that being a good cook means that you have to move around in silence or that you've got to bore yourself to tears. By entertaining yourself in the process, you won't even notice how much you're getting done. Before you know it, your meal will be ready.
9. Find Your “Incentive”
Your incentive for cooking more can kind of run the gamut. Maybe you want to save money. Maybe you want to eat healthier. Maybe you want to get your nosey auntie who brings up the fact that you can't cook at every family function off of your back. Maybe you want to impress your girlfriends. Or, maybe you want to surprise someone special in your life (because few things are more romantic than a candlelight dinner or indoor picnic at home). Whatever it is, by having an actual incentive, that can motivate and inspire you to cook; even if not daily, at least more often than you currently do.
10. Reward Yourself
Reward means "something given or received in return or recompense for service, merit, hardship, etc." and yeah, if you hate to cook, doing it can feel like a straight-up hardship; at least for a while. If you decide to push through and make some homemade dishes anyway, reward yourself for doing that.
Pick up your favorite bottle of wine. Get a dessert that you really like. Do something that will make you feel good about the decision that you made to DIY some dishes. Once you've got a month down of cooking some stuff, even if it's just one meal a week, I'm thinking that you'll start to have a more positive outlook on it. Hey, my great-grandma and your auntie will at least be happy. Baby steps, sis. Baby steps.
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After being a regular contributor for about four years and being (eh hem) MIA in 2022, Shellie is back penning for the platform (did you miss her? LOL).
In some ways, nothing has changed and in others, everything has. For now, she'll just say that she's working on the 20th anniversary edition of her first book, she's in school to take life coaching to another level and she's putting together a platform that supports and encourages Black men because she loves them from head to toe.
Other than that, she still works with couples, she's still a doula, she's still not on social media and her email contact (firstname.lastname@example.org) still hasn't changed (neither has her request to contact her ONLY for personal reasons; pitch to the platform if you have story ideas).
Life is a funny thing but if you stay calm, moments can come full circle and this is one of them. No doubt about it.
Amber Riley Is In Her Element
Amber Riley has the type of laugh that sticks with you long after the raspy, rhythmic sounds have ceased. It punctuates her sentences sometimes, whether she’s giving a chuckle to denote the serious nature of something she just said or throwing her head back in rip-roarious laughter after a joke. She laughs as if she understands the fragility of each minute. She chooses laughter often with the understanding that future joy is not guaranteed.
Credit: Ally Green
The sound of her laughter is rivaled only by her singing voice, an emblem of the past and the future resilience of Black women stretched over a few octaves. On Fox’s Glee, her character Mercedes Jones was portrayed, perhaps unfairly, as the vocal duel to Rachel Berry (Lea Michele), offering rough, full-throated belts behind her co-star’s smooth, pristine vocals. Riley’s always been more than the singer who could deliver a finishing note, though.
Portraying Effie White, she displayed the dynamic emotions of a song such as “And I'm Telling You I'm Not Going” in Dreamgirls on London’s West End without buckling under the historic weight of her predecessors. With her instrument, John Mayer’s “Gravity” became a religious experience, a belted hymnal full of growls and churchy riffs. In her voice, Nicole Scherzinger once said she heard “the power of God.”
Credit: Ally Green
Riley’s voice has been a staple throughout pop culture for nearly 15 years now. Her tone has become so distinguishable that most viewers of Fox’s The Masked Singer recognized the multihyphenate even before it was revealed that she was Harp, the competition-winning, gold-masked figure with an actual harp strapped to her back.
Still, it wasn’t until recently that Riley began to feel like she’d found her voice. This sounds unbelievable. But she’s not referring to the one she uses on stage. She’s referencing the voice that speaks to who she is at her core. “Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind,” the 37-year-old says. “It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women. I got so comfortable in [doing so], and I really want other people, especially Black women, to get more comfortable in that space.”
“Therapy kind of gave me the training to speak my mind. It’s not something we’re taught, especially as Black women."
If you ask Riley’s manager, Myisha Brooks, she’ll tell you the foundation of who the multihyphenate is hasn’t changed much since she was a kid growing up in Compton. “She is who she is from when I met her back when she was singing in the front of the church to back when she landed major roles in film and TV,” Brooks says. Time has allowed Riley to grow more comfortable, giving fans a more intimate glimpse into her life, including her mental health journey and the ins and outs of show business.
The actress/singer has been in therapy since 2019, although she suffered from depression and anxiety way before that. In a recent interview with Jason Lee, she recalls having suicidal ideation as a kid. By the time she started seeing a psychologist and taking antidepressants in her thirties, her body had become jittery, a physical reminder of the trauma stacked high inside her. “I was shaking in [my therapist’s] office,” she tells xoNecole. “My fight or flight was on such a high level. I was constantly in survival mode. My heart was beating fast all the time. All I did was sweat.”
There wasn’t just childhood trauma to account for. After auditioning for American Idol and being turned away by producers, Riley began working for Ikea and nearly missed her Glee audition because her car broke down on the highway while en route. Thankfully, Riley had been cast to play Mercedes Jones. American Idol had temporarily convinced her she wasn’t cut out for the entertainment industry, but this was validation that she was right where she belonged. Glee launched in 2009 with the promise of becoming Riley’s big break.
In some ways, it was. The show introduced Riley to millions of fans and catapulted her into major Hollywood circles. But in other ways, it became a reminder of the types of roles Black women, especially those who are plus-sized, are relegated to. Behind the scenes, Riley says she fought for her character "to have a voice" but eventually realized her efforts were useless. "It finally got to a point where I was like, this is not my moment. I'm not who they're choosing, and this is just going to have to be a job for me for now," she says. "And, that's okay because it pays my bills, I still get to be on television, I'm doing more than any other Black plus-sized women that I'm seeing right now on screen."
The actress can recognize now that she was navigating issues associated with trauma and low self-esteem at the time. She now knows that she's long had anxiety and depression and can recognize the ways in which she was triggered by how the cult-like following of the show conflicted with her individual, isolated experiences behind the scenes. But she was in her early '20s back then. She didn't yet have the language or the tools to process how she was feeling.
Riley says she eventually sought out medical intervention. "When you're in Hollywood, and you go to a doctor, they give you pills," she says, sharing a part of her story that she'd never revealed publicly before now. "[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that's not fixing my problem. If anything, it's making it worse."
“[I was] on medication and developing a habit of medicating to numb, not understanding I was developing an addiction to something that’s not fixing my problem. If anything it’s making it worse.”
Credit: Ally Green
At one point, while in her dressing room on set, she rested her arm on a curling iron without realizing it. It wasn't until her makeup artist alerted her that she even realized her skin was burning. Once she noticed, she says she was "so zonked out on pills" that she barely reacted. Speaking today, she holds up her arm and motions towards a scar that remains from the incident. She sought help for her reliance on the pills, but it would still be years before she finally attended therapy.
This stress was only compounded by the trauma of growing up in poverty and the realities of being a "contract worker." "Imagine going from literally one week having to borrow a car to get to set to the next week being on a private jet to New York City," she says. After Glee ended, so did the rides on private planes. The fury of opportunities she expected to follow her appearance on the show failed to materialize. She wasn't even 30 yet, and she was already forced to consider if she'd hit her career peak.
. . .
We’re only four minutes into our Zoom call before Riley delivers her new adage to me. “My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway,” she says.
On this Thursday afternoon in April, the LA-based entertainer is seated inside her closet/dressing room wearing a cerulean blue tank top with matching shorts and eating hot wings. This current phase of healing hinges on balance. It’s about having discipline and consistency, but not at the risk of inflexibility. She was planning to head to the gym, for instance, but she’s still tired from the “exhausting” day before. Instead, she’s spent her day receiving a massage, eating some chicken wings, and planning to spend quality time with friends. “I’m not going to beat myself up for it. I’m not going to talk down to myself. I’m going to eat my chicken wings, and then tomorrow I’m [back] in the gym,” she says.
“My new mantra is ‘humility does not serve me.’ Humility does not serve Black women. The world works so hard to humble us anyway."
This is the balance with which she's been approaching much of her life these days. It's why she's worried less about whether or not people see her as someone who is humble. She'd rather be respected. "I think you should be a person that's easy to work with, but in the moments where I have to ruffle feathers and make waves, I'm not shying away from that anymore. You can do it in love, you don't have to be nasty about it, but I had to finally be comfortable with the fact that setting boundaries around my life – in whatever aspect, whether that's personal or business – people are not going to like it. Some people are not going to have nice things to say about you, and you gotta be okay with it," she says.
When Amber talks about the constant humbling of Black women in Hollywood, I think of the entertainers before her who have suffered from this. The brilliant, consistent, overqualified Black women who have spoken of having to fight for opportunities and fair pay. Aretha Franklin. Viola Davis. Tracee Ellis Ross. There's a long list of stars whose success hasn't mirrored their experiences behind the scenes.
Credit: Ally Green
If Black women outside of Hollywood are struggling to decrease the pay gap, so, too, are their wealthier, more famous peers.
Riley says there’s been progress in recent years, but only in small ways and for a limited group of people. “This business is exhausting. The goalpost is constantly moving, and sometimes it’s unfair,” she says. But, I have to say it’s the love that keeps you going.”
“There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman,” she continues. “We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
"There’s no way you can continue to be in this business and not love it, especially being a plus-sized Black woman. We’re still niche. We’re still not main characters.”
Last year, Riley starred alongside Raven Goodwin in the Lifetime thriller Single Black Female (a modern, diversified take on 1992’s Single White Female). It was more than a leading role for the actress, it also served as proof that someone who looks like her can front a successful project without it hinging on her identity. It showcased that the characters she portrays don’t “have to be about being a big girl. It can just be a regular story.”
Riley sees her work in music as an extension of her efforts to push past the rigid stereotypes in entertainment. Take her appearance on The Masked Singer, for instance. Riley said she decided to perform Mayer’s “Gravity” after being told she couldn’t sing it years earlier. “I wanted to do ‘Gravity’ on Glee. [I] was told no, because that’s not a song that Mercedes would do,” she says. “That was a full circle moment for me, doing that on that show and to hear what it is they had to say.”
As Scherzinger praised the “anointed” performance, a masked Riley began to cry, her chest heaving as she stood on stage, her eyes shielded from view. “You have to understand, I have really big names – casting directors, producers, show creators – that constantly tell me ‘I’m such a big fan. Your talent is unmatched.’ Hire me, then,” she says, reflecting on the moment.
Recently, she’s been in the studio working on original music, the follow-up to her independently-released debut EP, 2020’s Riley. The sequel to songs such as the anthemic “Big Girl Energy” and the reflective ballad “A Moment” on Riley, this new project hones in on the singer’s R&B roots with sensual grooves such as the tentatively titled “All Night.” “You said I wasn’t shit, turns out that I’m the shit. Then you called me a bitch, turns out that I’m that bitch. You said no one would want me, well you should call your homies,” she sings on the tentatively titled “Lately,” a cut about reflecting on a past relationship. From the forthcoming project, xoNecole received five potential tracks. Fans likely already know the strengths and contours of Riley’s vocals, but these new songs are her strongest, most confident offerings as an artist.
“I am so much more comfortable as a writer, and I know who I am as an artist now. I’m evolving as a human being, in general, so I’m way more vulnerable in my music. I’m way more willing to talk about whatever is on my mind. I don’t stop myself from saying what it is I want to say,” she says.
Credit: Ally Green
“Every era and alliteration of Amber, the baseline is ‘Big Girl Energy.’ That’s the name of her company,” her manager Brooks says, referencing the imprint through which Riley releases her music after getting out of a label deal several years ago. “It’s just what she stands for. She’s not just talking about size, it’s in all things. Whether it’s putting your big girl pants on and having to face a boardroom full of executives or sell yourself in front of a casting agent. It’s her trying to achieve the things she wants to do in life.”
Riley says she has big dreams beyond releasing this new music, too. She’d love to star in a rom-com with Winston Duke. She hasn't starred in a biopic yet, but she’d revel in the opportunity to portray Rosetta Tharpe on screen. She’s determined that her previous setbacks won’t stop her from dreaming big.
“I think one of my superpowers is resilience because, at the end of the day, I’m going to kick, scream, cry, cuss, be mad and disappointed, but I’m going to get up and risk having to deal with it all again. It’s worth it for the happy moments,” she says.
If Riley seems more comfortable and confident professionally, it’s because of the work she’s been doing in her personal life.
She’d previously spoken to xoNecole about becoming engaged to a man she discovered in a post on the site, but she called things off last year. For Valentine’s Day, she revealed her new boyfriend publicly. “I decided to post him on Valentine’s Day, partially because I was in the dog house. I got in trouble with him,” she says, half-joking before turning serious. “The breakup was never going to stop me from finding love. Or at least trying. I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness, and you enjoy it and work through it.”
Credit: Ally Green
"I don’t owe anybody a happily ever after. People break up. It happens. When it was good, it was good. When it was bad, it was terrible, hunny. I had to get the fuck up out of there. You find happiness and you enjoy it and work through it.”
With her ex, Riley was pretty outspoken about her relationship, even appearing in content for Netflix with him. This time around is different. She’s not hiding her boyfriend of eight months, but she’s more protective of him, especially because he’s a father and isn’t interested in becoming a public figure.
She’s traveling more, too. It’s a deliberate effort on her part to enjoy her money and reject the trauma she’s developed after experiencing poverty in her childhood. “I live in constant fear of being broke. I don’t think you ever don’t remember that trauma or move past that. Now I travel and I’m like, listen, if it goes, it goes. I’m not saying [to] be reckless, but I deserve to enjoy my hard work.”
After everything she’s been through, she certainly deserves to finally let loose a bit. “I have to have a life to live,” she says. “I’ve got to have a life worth fighting for.”
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Text This Before You Ghost Them, Sis.
We’ve all been there at least once (or a few times) along our dating journey. Maybe you’ve had a date or two with a potential suitor, but the spark just wasn’t there. Perhaps you convinced yourself that just “one more” date would help you overlook a non-negotiable ick. At this point in the dating cycle, you’ve probably reached the point where you must decide to either communicate “why” things won’t be moving forward or simply ghost them.
What Is Ghosting?
“Ghosting” refers to the act of suddenly and unexpectedly cutting off all communication with someone you've been dating or talking to without any explanation or further contact. It typically occurs in the early stages of dating but can also happen after a few dates or even in more established relationships.
The act of ghosting has become quite a common practice in our modern dating culture and can manifest in a number of different ways. From days of ignored text messages and phone calls out of the blue to not showing up for pre-arranged plans and sometimes disappearing from someone's life without any notice or explanation.
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The Problem With Ghosting
Being ghosted may seem like a harmless act of “self-choosing,” but the person on the receiving end of your decision can be left feeling confused, rejected, and even abandoned, wondering what happened and where they went wrong.
And we get it, what explanation do you owe someone for leaving after a few cocktails and a $100 date? While that may seem like the perfect opportunity to cut and run, taking an alternative approach to fizzle out a fling is a great time to practice clear and effective communication that can pay off in the long run.
While there is a time and a place for ghosting (and even blocking) if your boundaries have been crossed or safety has been threatened, if we’re looking to live out our best healed, secure-girl summer, there are ways to date freely without leaving others with damage of their own to recover from.
Being honest and upfront about your feelings while being respectful of the other person's time is the best way to leave a situationship or fling with both parties emotionally unscathed. So if you’re looking for ways to break things off with care and consideration, we’ve provided five text scripts to send instead of ghosting somebody’s son:
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5 Texts To Send Instead of Ghosting Them
1. If you want to take the honest but gentle approach:
"Hey [Name], I've really enjoyed getting to know you, but I've been doing some thinking, and I don't see this going any further. I wanted to be upfront and honest with you rather than leaving you wondering. I wish you all the best."
2. If you want to express gratitude before saying goodbye:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to reach out and say thank you for the time we spent together. You're an amazing person, but I think we're better off as friends. I hope you understand and that we can still maintain a positive connection."
3. If you want to leave a note of appreciation:
"Hi [Name], I wanted to let you know that I've had a great time with you, but I don't think we're compatible for a romantic relationship. I appreciate the moments we shared, and I hope we can both find what we're looking for."
4. If a face-to-face convo is needed:
"Hey [Name], I've been doing some thinking, and I believe it's important for us to have an open conversation about where we stand. Can we find some time to talk about our relationship and how we both feel? I think it's important to address things honestly."
5. If you want to keep things cute and concise:
"Hey [Name], I've realized that we're not on the same page, and it's best if we part ways. Take care."
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