What not to do when rejecting

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.

Important stuff:

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”.



Filed under Personal, Relationships

3 responses to “What not to do when rejecting

  1. Hear, hear! I wish all young women out there would take this to heart.

    Don’t give a guy your phone number if you don’t want him to ask you out, when he asks for it, only to not answer / return his calls. Better to tell him you only see him as a friend, nothing more, up front. Unless he’s a real asshole, he will appreciate your candour; believe me, I certainly do, far more than I appreciate getting the phone number of a girl who piques my interest, but who doesn’t actually reciprocate it, who then simply doesn’t answer the phone, or get back to me after I’ve left a message. Frankly, I find that simply rude, and far more annoying than an upfront, outright yet polite rejection. I never think well of anyone who does that; whereas I may continue to think well of someone who lets me down easy yet deliberately, decidedly.

    Oh, and for any out there who are overzealous ‘Rules’ gals, don’t think that simply not returning a guy’s answering machine message will make him chase you more, or some such B.S.; that it’s some fitness test he has to pass. He’ll just chalk it up to uninterest on your part; then you’ve screwed yourself over, if you really had actually wanted to hear from him again. Oops! Playing ‘hard to get’ can easily be misinterpreted as ‘impossible to get’, with good reason, since it is also the strategy of those who don’t have the courage to be upfront with a guy they’re not interested in, who simply choose to not return calls, or stand him up, at a previously-agreed-on meeting time and place (that is the worst; it’s uber-rude)…

    • Will, I agree. Hey, since I don’t update this blog much anymore, why don’t you find me over at orthogals.wordpress.com? I’m blogging with a couple of friends (including Brigid Strait from the satirical Orthodox blog you find funny), still on relationships and such.

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