While searching for articles on unrequited love, I came across this old NYT piece that was sympathetic to the rejecter’s side.
Despite the eventual heartbreak that is the destiny of the unrequited lover, by and large the incidents revealed that there was often more unhappiness on the part of the person pursued than on the pursuer. The unrequited lovers spoke of hope and passion before the final disillusionment; those who spurned them told of an initial flattery that soon gave way to bewilderment, guilt and anger at an intrusive, relentless pursuer.
Yep. I’m sure I’m not feeling the emotional upset that my pursuer is feeling, but I am definitely Annoyed.
I have tried to come to some conclusion about what I could have done to stop this situation from happening, and the fact of the matter is, there’s not much I could have done without having been unnecessarily cruel. For example, in the past when he said something like, “I get flustered when I’m around you”, what should have I done? Said, “well, the feeling’s not mutual?” I’m sure I just smiled stupidly and vaguely demurred. Or, even worse, I suppose I could have tried to preempt with “I’m worried that you’re falling for me and I should let you know that I don’t feel the same” How horrible for the both of us!
If he had done something out of line I could have been upfront that I felt uncomfortable, but his M.O. was mostly to be complimentary, and I think “thank you” is typically the only appropriate response (btw for any guys reading, being complimentary without occasional gentle teasing here and there is boring. “Nice” guys never believe me when I tell them this and try to argue, so you won’t listen anyway, but at least I tried).
Anyway, at least I have finally figured out how to let men down. If they are part of my social circle, I can say, “I only think of you as a friend”. If they are not I can say, “I just don’t feel a spark”. I don’t think anything else is needed for the Rejection Arsenal.
The inability to tell an undesired suitor that there is no hope is very common, Dr. Baumeister found. “The rejecter usually feels guilty and doesn’t know how to say ‘No’ without hurting the pursuer,” he said. “So the most common tactic is to lie low, continue to be nice, and wait, hoping the infatuation will fade. It’s like a conspiracy of silence, where one person doesn’t want to openly speak rejecting words and the other doesn’t want to hear it.”
That strategy, however, feeds the fantasies of romance of the would-be lover, and so inadvertently encourages pursuit. “People send mixed messages, saying to the unwanted lover something like, ‘You’re a nice person, and I’d like to be your friend, but I don’t want to get into a relationship just now,’ ” said Dr. Baumeister. “Even when telling the would-be lover the bad news, the rejecters often sugarcoat the rejection with conciliatory words.”
The would-be lover sometimes seizes on the positive side of the message, remaining hopeful. Moreover, for most people it is clearer how one goes about wooing someone than how to spurn someone gracefully.
So, if you don’t want your pursuer to try again in the future, being wishy-washy is not the way to go. Just say, “I only think of you as a friend/I don’t feel a spark”.