A few years ago, a really nice guy was interested in me. At the time, I was getting over someone else, so was oblivious until his attention became obvious with gifts and invitations to events. I knew this guy was kind and would probably make a great boyfriend, but, being in an emotionally unstable place because of the past relationship. my feelings were a jumbled mess. Did I like him in that way? Could I like him in that way? I didn’t know.
So I told him as much. I explained what I was going through, that I wasn’t in a place to discern emotions, and could we just be friends for now?
It turned out, we couldn’t.
For one thing, he wasn’t interested in just being friends. For another, in my distress I wanted someone to care about me so badly, and here was a guy offering to do so — so I’m sure I gave off mixed signals.
After we went on a sort-of date that we called “hanging out as friends,” I realized I had to end it, whatever “it” was. I was so stressed over the fact that I should like this guy — on paper, he was everything I wanted — but the feelings weren’t there. As soon as I made the decision to tell him a relationship wasn’t in the cards, not now or ever, I felt immense relief.
That’s a pretty good sign — if you feel relieved at the thought of not being with someone, you should probably end it (or don’t start it in the first place).
Since most of us know what it’s like to be on the receiving end of rejection, it’s weird being on the other side. But there are ways we can be wise, caring, and considerate, even in rejection.
You can still be friends, if you’re both good with it
Some people advocate not interacting at all with each other after a breakup because it hurts too much. Others advise not to give up a valuable friendship just because it didn’t work out. I don’t think there is necessarily a right answer; it’s up to what the individuals can handle. It’s likely you will both need space initially. I’ve often been good friends with a guy before becoming romantically interested, and when things don’t work out, I have been able to go back to that friendship (usually after a time of grieving). On the other hand, I also dated someone without being friends first, and we had little reason to keep in touch after breaking up.
Don’t try to help them through the separation
In the situation with the first guy I mentioned, I texted him the day after to ask how he was doing. I cared about him and felt bad about hurting his feelings, and checking up on him seemed like a kind act.
I received a reply about how awful he was doing and why wasn’t he good enough for me? What was wrong with him? My rejection had triggered some self-esteem issues that I was absolutely the wrong person to address. I tried to assure him that there was nothing wrong with him and he was a great guy, which prompted the response, “Well, why won’t you date me then?”
Yeah, this was the time for him to reach out to other friends for comfort, and for me to step back.
Stepping back from each other can be difficult, especially in a long-term relationship when you’ve become used to relying on each other emotionally. This is the person you always turn to for help, and suddenly maybe you shouldn’t anymore. It’s best not to reach out to someone you’ve rejected during this time, and if they try to dump their baggage on you anyway and start blaming you, apologize for hurting their feelings but try not to take it personally.
You may need time to grieve, too
They are a plethora of reasons to reject someone in dating, both initially and eventually, and not all of them are because the feelings aren’t there. Sometimes they are. Sometimes they’re even mutual, but things aren’t working out. Perhaps needs aren’t being met, distance is a barrier, there are religious or political differences you can’t get over, you want different things in life that keep you apart, or you’re not making each other a priority.
Whatever the reasons, it may not be an easy decision to make, and you may need time to grieve, too. That’s OK. Giving up the romantic potential in someone you care about is hard, even if it’s for the right reasons.
It’s hard to know how to be patient, kind, and protect others (1 Corinthians 13:4-8) when we are rejecting someone. In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as rejection. As it is, we deal with the repercussions as best we can with the understanding that we’re not emotionally responsible for another person, but we can still try to behave in ways we would want to be treated if the situation was reversed.