To curve someone is to respond to texts, but in a way that suggests you’d really rather end the conversation. The style of communication is key here: Curvers never initiate the conversation and their return texts are sporadic and unemotive. The replies come days later (“Sorry, just been so busy lately”), and a curver wouldn’t dream of reciprocating the question when they’re asked, “How was your day?”
Curvers’ disinterest speaks volumes, but the person who is texting them can’t seem to read between the lines. As a result, the lackluster string of texts continues ad infinitum.
While curving may sound innocent enough, it may be just as casually cruel as ghosting. Ghosters seemingly vanish off the face of the earth after making contact. Curvers text *just enough* to convince the other person that there’s a chance of hanging out IRL, when in reality, it’s never going to happen.
At their core, though, ghosters and curvers suffer from the same problem: They’re just not good at goodbyes.
“Things like ghosting and curving are problems today because people are getting worse and worse at rejection and conflict management,” said Aaron Anderson, a couples therapist in Denver.
“It’s hard to tell someone, ‘I’m just not interested in you, I wish you the best,’” he told HuffPost. “You feel like a jerk for telling them they’re not good enough and you feel awful for hurting their feelings, too.”
Chronic curvers also tend to have a “waiting for the next best thing” mentality when it comes to their love life. They keep others holding on just in case the next best thing never comes along.
Loretta Chao, a 35-year-old writer and editor from New York, has curved on occasion, but only when the person seems wholly ambivalent about her.
“Many people curve because they have no guarantee you’ll take rejection well, and if you don’t, they don’t want to be seen as a bad person.”
– Loretta Chao, a 35-year-old editor from New York City
“I’m a fan of direct communication, but it’s difficult in situations where guys I date don’t make their intentions clear,” she said. “I would happily tell someone I’m not interested if he simply asked me, but if he’s only going to imply interest, I’m only able to imply disinterest or keep it indirect over text.”
Plus, as Chao points out, you’re dealing with someone you only know slightly. You could be radically honest with them and say you’re just not that into them, but how will they take it?
“Many people curve because they have no guarantee you’ll take rejection well, and if you don’t, they don’t want to be seen as a bad person,” Chao said.
So what’s the best way to let someone down easy with minimal emotional fallout? Remind yourself that dragging them along isn’t doing them any favors, either.
“Have some heart and some courage and just say if you’re not interested and say why,” Anderson said. “There’s a lot of good you can do for them and for you to just be upfront about it.”
If you’re continually getting curved, learn to gauge the quality of the messages you’re receiving rather than the fact that you received a reply, said Marni Kinrys, a dating coach and professional “wing girl.”
“Men especially think, ‘Oh wow, she’s writing back. She must be interested,’” she said. “You have to understand that messages have their own sub-context and that a response doesn’t necessarily mean interest.”
If you’re still conflicted, put the text through the robot test: Read the texts as if they were written by an unemotional robot and ask yourself how it sounds.
“If the message reads seamlessly like a robot, meaning no emotion injected into her texted words, then sorry, you’re probably getting curved,” Kinrys said.