Lies we tell ourselves. (Choose your own adventure.)

Lady statue rejecting man statue
Easy there, buddy.

In response to about 5 letters I have in the Captain Awkward Dot Com Mailbox:

If only (he, she…usually she) had rejected me more (directly, honestly, sooner, after giving me a chaaaaaaance, nicely, indirectly, softly, didn’t have to be so MEAN about it, no I mean a REAL chance, emphatically, gently, if I just knew WHY, didn’t have to lead me on that way, didn’t have to lie and say ‘not ready for a relationship’ and then get into a relationship with SOMEONE ELSE because of SHALLOWNESS, wouldn’t even go on a date with me, went on three dates with me and they were good dates, so why not tell me sooner, does it mean I’m ugly and doomed?) the rejection would have been (better, okay, easier to understand) and I wouldn’t be so (sad, angry, lonely, rejected) about it. I’m not mad about the rejection, really, I’m mad about how (he/she (usually she)) did it and if (he/she (usually she)) would just (talk to me, tell me what I did wrong, tell me what I could have done differently, give me another chance, be my friend, stop trying to be my friend) I would feel better.

It’s okay to be mad about a callous text or other horrible delivery method, but when you focus on the delivery method vs. what happened, it’s almost always a sign that some denial is happening.

Rejection is rejection. It sucks in love and in work. It will suck no matter how (softly, honestly, after giving you a chaaaaaance, preemptively before giving you a chaaaaaance) the person delivers it.

Please trust me on this. If someone rejects you, and they don’t want to talk about it (texting you is a good indicator of that) a cool answer is “That’s sad to hear, but I appreciate you telling me” and backing off. (Think of it as payback if it helps: They’re bracing for some kind of feelingsexplosion from you, right? What if you didn’t give it to them?) A perfectly normal reasonable answer is to express your feelings of regret and confusion and hopes in that vulnerable moment and then back off. You don’t have to be perfect and composed, you just have to believe the information you’re getting. The other person who is separate from you made a decision about what they wanted (not you). Whatever you hoped for, this is what is happening:  You are not with someone who doesn’t really want to be with you. It sucks, it hurts, it’s not your fault if you feel really upset, blindsided, rejected, lonely, etc., but your best bet about what to do is to accept the breakup. The sooner you do, the sooner you can start taking care of yourself and making choices that prioritize yourself.

Go hang out with your friends, lick your wounds in private, focus on other stuff, and live to seek another day. Your negative feelings are your feelings. You will learn to process them and comfort yourself, time will make it better if you let go of the illusion that there was a way that rejection sandwich could have been made tastier or that people who have rejected you owe you a self-improvement consult after-the-fact. Take that sense of entitlement you have about what the object of your affection owes you out to the back yard and shoot it like an infected zombie. Even if the person who rejected you did act like a big confusing jerk about it, the result will be the same:  You. Rejected. How much more energy are you going to pour into a lost cause? Be nice to yourself. Let the person go. If the person changes their mind, they’ll come find you, and you can decide what to do then.

If you have a truly awful rejection story (as either the rejector or the rejectee), the comments section is open for business. We will pat you on the head and say “That sucks, dude. Forget about (him/her/them).”

57 thoughts on “Lies we tell ourselves. (Choose your own adventure.)

  1. I wrote this letter to Captain Awkward, and she rejected me! If only she had answered my question directly, instead of lumping me in with all the other rejected persons, it would have been way easier to follow her advice. I mean, I’ve been reading this blog for so long and I think I deserved a chaaaaance to at least have her hear out my side of the story. She owes it to me as a loyal reader! At the very least, she could have been more gentle in her handling of rejection. I mean, did she have to be so blunt?

    Couldn’t resist. Seriously though, well said. Because the longer you blame the rejecting party, instead of shrugging your shoulders and moving on, the longer you continue to be rejected.

  2. I agree with this (and pretty much everything you say, ever, Captain). I have learned this the hard way in the past. But I think anyone out there who is reading this post, who is thinking about rejecting someone, should not take this post as carte blanche to carry out the rejection without putting some thought into how to deliver the message.

    It is obviously impossible to know if the way we deliver a message of rejection in any particular situation has made a difference, because we can’t go back in time and try it a different way. But it can’t be a bad thing to put thought and consideration into how we do it. I don’t by any means think you were suggesting otherwise, but, I thought it was worth mentioning.

    1. To build on what Stephanie said, if you’re the rejectOR, I vote for:

      -Sooner rather than later.
      -If you’re still making up your mind, say “I haven’t made up my mind yet, is that ok?”
      -Take the responsibility on yourself. “This isn’t working for me.” “I’m sorry, I just don’t feel that way about you.” “I really thought about it, and my answer is no.” Don’t try to come up with an objective reason, just own your own preferences and feelings and admit that it’s subjective. It’s harder for someone to argue with your feelings or read hope into situations if you put a genuine period on things.
      -Do it in a place that you can easily leave (vs. your house where you may have to end up asking a crying person to leave – the height of awkwardness).

      The big caveat is that if you feel unsafe with the person, if they are pestering you or pressuring you, if they badger you to change your mind or demand explanations that you don’t want to give, take your gloves off, get it done, and get out of there. “That’s my final decision, please stop asking me.” After you say no to someone, everything they say to change your mind is manipulation (even if it is well-intended), so hold onto the facts. The facts are that you don’t want to be there, having this conversation, or dating them.

      Their sad feelings are THEIR SAD FEELINGS. You don’t have to manage them beyond what you’re capable of or comfortable with. I feel like women get unfairly pressured to have to be nice all the time and let people down easy. Don’t get sucked in! You can try to let people down easy, but the important thing is that you let them down.

      My poster child for this is Daisy in Downton Abbey (If you haven’t seen S2 stop reading now).

      The way Daisy gets guilted into that relationship is so awful! Everyone makes William’s feelings more important than hers, and she feels trapped and like a giant fraud and likely will for a very, very long time.

    2. To Stephanie’s point about not being able to go back in time and try to reject someone in a different way, I would add DO NOT EVEN TRY TO DO THIS (reject someone in a different way that is, not time travel). My first boyfriend broke up with me, told me a couple of weeks later that he wanted to get back together, dated me again for a week or so, and then broke up with me again. He later told me that he wanted to get back together in order to “break up with me in a nicer way”.

      So to add to the Captain’s advice to those doing the rejecting, reject once and let that be the end of it. Don’t contact the rejectee later to try to explain yourself further or rehash the reasons for the rejection so they really, really understand why you did it. The rejectee doesn’t need to understand all your reasons. Like the Captain says, you are not responsible for managing their feelings. You do not need to convince them that you are a Nice Person with Good Intentions.

  3. Agreed entirely. I think my big issue is that I get entirely carried away with the idea of going out with girl X; what a cute couple we will make, what a lovely future we have together, how nice it will be to hold her in my arms! Then when she inevitably rejects me, I actually can’t comprehend the idea that she might just not like me; I convince myself it was a problem with wording, timings, logistics, and then just get more and more upset until I get over her. Good post.

    1. Yeah, what you’re losing here is the fantasy, not the actual person. The solution to this is to do the asking sooner, before you’re signing your names together and dotting the i with little hearts.

    2. When I was dating, it helped me a lot to lower the stakes. I tried not to think about anything further in the future than the next date.

      1. I love this! I think that dating would be a lot less fraught for all of us if we sort of rejected the “dating is the first step in a chain of events that leads to us being together forever and ever” idea. So much pressure!

        1. It lets you ask yourself questions like “Is this date fun right now?” and “Is this date more fun than if I spent the evening coming up with 19th Century New England Lady Author Superhero Fiction?” rather than “IS THIS THE ONE?”

  4. I feel like there’s a (less common, don’t get me wrong) flip side where sometimes the rejecter feels entitled to define the relationship unilaterally. To wit, like anyone, I’ve often gotten the “let’s just be friends” response when I ask a person I’ve been dating if they’d like to move things forward. And on some of those occasions I politely decline. If I feel I can’t get past my attraction to them and be genuine platonic friends, sometimes I decide it’s easier to just make a clean break.

    And in a couple isolated cases, the response I got from this was actually pretty hostile. The other person seemed to feel that, if I was willing to date them, I’m obligated to be willing to be just friends with them. Otherwise, they huff, I obviously just wanted to get in their pants. Maybe so, but I’m not going to stick around pretending to be their platonic friend while secretly hoping they’ll someday relent and let me in their pants.

    So I guess my point is, yeah, being rejected is painful, and sometimes the best way for me to deal with that pain is to just stop hanging out with the person who rejected me, and I don’t think that’s unreasonable. Of course, many times “let’s just be friends” is sort of a euphemism for “let’s not actually be friends,” but sometimes they actually mean it; but the fact that they mean it doesn’t mean the rejectee has to agree to those terms.

    1. Oh, absolutely. If you’re meant to be friends with an ex or with someone you wanted to date but didn’t, it will kind of happen naturally without too much effort from either person – overlapping interests, work, hobbies or social circles will just kind of naturally bring you into contact with them. You can always say “Sounds good, maybe” or “We don’t have to decide that right now” and extract yourself from the conversation. Once you’ve had some time and space you can figure out if you even want to be friends.

      Someone can direct you to the Friend Zone – it doesn’t mean you have to go and live there (or become it’s Mayor). The Friend Zone is a fraught and poisonous term, anyway, so if you’re using it to describe your situation, something is off-kilter. I have many close friendships with men where it is not romantic and it was NEVER romantic and it will never be romantic, and I have close friendships with men who I’ve dated, and I don’t think of it as being “in the Friend Zone.” It’s just, they’re my friends.

      1. I agree with all of this so hard.

        Friendship is a commitment you can choose to make. I feel like all this friendzone stuff is just a way to avoid responsibility from making those commitments one way or another — or from owning up how much you really dug another person

        1. From now on I will define The Friend Zone as “a state of plausible deniability where you pretend not to notice the giant boner/crush I am nursing for you, while I give you time to reconsider your cruel rejection of me.” That’s totally different from friendship, which is based on a pleasing mutual spark of enjoyment and shared interests.

          1. Can I just tell you how super helpful this thread is to me right now. I’m being slowly shuffled into a friend zone and I’m digging in my heels over it and this is why.

            And it also occurs to me, reading this, that the manner in which I’m being slowly shuffled is also out of order and needs to be called out.

            I love this blog.

  5. I think it all comes down to owning one’s own feelings (not putting responsibility for them on another person), having respect for others’ feelings as valid for them, and demanding respect for your own feelings as valid (regardless if they make “sense” or not). In other words, basic healthy relations with others.

    The degree that people don’t get this in their relations with friends/lovers/etc just shows how poorly our culture teaches us how to have healthy relationships in general. I feel this is basic “how to be a healthy, mature adult 101”, and it just boggles my mind how so many people in our society just don’t get it. (We truly are a society of infantilized adults).

    1. yes and yes!

      To add: One thing I really like about this blog and its Captain and its commenters is that everyone seems to understand how gendered “not putting responsibility for [your feelings] on another person” can be. Just look at the trope of the woman who just didn’t understaaaaaaaand that that guy loooooooooooved her and she should have been with him and if she hadn’t ignoooooored him maybe he wouldn’t have killed people (thank you, Art School Confidential, for reminding me why I am a feminist!).

      1. LadyGeeks can be just as bad about wishful thinking and only hearing what they want to hear. “He said he wanted to be friends…so that means…someday….if we have enough meaningful conversations about steampunk or whatever, he’ll see how much we have in common!”

        But BoyGeeks sometimes get the accessory package of a lifetime of invisible, unintentional, inherited misogyny that comes out as “Confusing bitches, why are they so confusing?” once the hopelessness of a pursuit dawns, because they are used to a) women going out of their way to soft-pedal things and smooth over social relations as much as possible b) living in the fantasy where she said yes and finding it a rude awakening when they finally get a clear “no.” This is why I quote 500 Days of Summer a lot, and was happy to see that the director and Joseph Gorden-Leavitt both saw the hero of that film as stunted and immature – Summer goes from “A bitch who probably won’t even talk to me” to “THE ONLY WOMAN IN THE WORLD” back to “the bitch who rejected me….by wanting…different things than I did and always telling me the truth about it.” The screewnwriter of the movie opens it with a dedication to someone that he calls a bitch! My 19-year-old male students agree that Summer is a bitch. They also think that Walt on Breaking Bad is justified in many things he does…because Skyler is “such a bitch.”

        I’m seeing a pattern here, are you? Can we maybe work together to replace “bitch” with “a person who wanted different things than I did”?

        1. And definitely stop using it to mean, “a woman who no longer wants to be in a relationship with me?” I’m looking at you, Judd Apatow.

  6. Captain, I wish you’d been around when I was 18 and desperately trying to find a “soft” way to dump a guy. Or later when I had a Level 3 Guilt-Tripping Ex to deal with. Great post, as always.

  7. You know what drives people to the Crazy Zone? Not getting an answer. Folks, if you don’t know, you can say that. But if you do know, and the answer is “No,” avoiding the question is not the same. Being rejected sucks, but it is better to have it done in a straightforward, thoughtful, honest way than to have months of uncertainty and being allowed to hope when there is none.

    And if she asks if you have a girlfriend or are involved with someone and you are, hey, that’s a valid reason and you should say it. Don’t leave it out and mention it months later in an offhand aside. This goes double if you’re in some kind of tormented on again/ off again thing as she really should have the choice as to whether to become embroiled in your soap opera or not.

    1. I’m sorry to break this to you (because it sucks, and I’m sorry) but avoiding the question IS rejection. Someone who is avoiding the question of “Do you like me, yes/no?” is saying either “Eh…” or “Meh” or “No.” Not really something to build your life around.

      If you feel like someone is avoiding giving you solid answers to your reasonable questions like “Do you have a girlfriend?” or “Now that we’ve been dating a little while, are you happy with how things are going?” interpret everything EXTREMELY conservatively (i.e. read it as a NO until you get an enthusiastic YES).

      I’m definitely not excusing no doubt extremely jerky, confusing behavior (especially since it sounds like all this avoidance was delivered with a healthy dose of “But I will put it in you, yes?”). Fucking Darth Vader Boyfriends.

      1. Yes, this SO HARD. I’ve been interested in men before and when they didn’t show any interest and/or waffled, I moved on. Mainly it’s because I find waffling to be a big old turn off, but also rejection is my personal lady-boner killer. If they aren’t reciprocating interest (when I express my interest to them), I move on to greener pastures.

        And if I’m still really into them, I make myself scarce because hello, hanging around with someone who you’re into but doesn’t seem to be into you is just, well, awful.

  8. Oy. When I was 18, my first relationship (of 2.5 months) ended with an “I’m not ready for a relationship. No, it’s not you! I love you!” At the time, I realized he was trying to let me down easy, but I also knew that if I let that stand, my diseased and desperate brain would try to believe he was telling the truth. I asked him for the truth, he stuck by his story, and then let me convince him to leave open the possibility of getting back together.

    That went about as well as you’d think it did.

    But I learned. When my next boyfriend waffled over whether he really wanted to break up with me, I shut him down. Told him that if he remained indecisive for any amount of time, I’d make the decision for him. The breakup still hurt, because breakups do, but at least it didn’t make me insane.

    1. Ah, the person who needs to feel like the good guy and be liked, even when dumping you. Good times.

      1. Oh, I’m sure he actually wanted to BE the good guy and not hurt my feelings, but the execution left something to be desired. He also insisted that he wanted to stay friends. That we should meet every day for lunch, just like we always had! And I didn’t want to lose the friendship, so I agreed. Nobody told me about the take-a-break-before-transitioning-into-friendship rule until I’d long since figured it out for myself.

  9. The last time someone broke up with me, he did so in the worst of ways. I don’t really have a hard time letting go when someone tells me it isn’t working out – I don’t want to be with someone who doesn’t want to be with me. But I have a pretty funny breakup story from earlier this year, so I’ll share it. I was dating a guy for about a month. We seemed to be hitting it off really well, even though I knew I’d be leaving the state in a couple of months for graduate school. I thought it was for sure going to be an excellent summer fling, but probably wouldn’t go beyond that when I moved halfway across the country (mistake 1: expectation). Things were going along so well that my mother invited him to a family dinner. I didn’t really want him to come and meet my family, but passed the invite along anyway (mistake 2). He said he would love to meet my family and accepted the invitation.

    A couple of days prior I asked him again if he still wanted to come, hoping that maybe he would have the decency to change his mind or make up an excuse. He still wanted to come. At this point I jokingly said something about how there was ‘no backing out of the dinner plans now without being a total jerk. But no, really, you don’t have to come. I’m totally fine with flying this one solo.’ So he came and had dinner with me and my family, seemed to have a really great time getting to know everyone and was really good with my nephews (twins, about a year and a half at the time). At this point, I’m starting to not freak out as much about the fact that this guy is meeting my family for the first time because it seems to be going really well.

    Long story short, dinner went really well and my mom asked him if he’d like to take any food home with him. He said he would, and so he took a bit of ham and something else, I can’t remember. But I remember that the ham was really quite awesome. He calls me the next day and says that he’d really rather see me in person to do this (presumably to lick my tears), but it isn’t working out and things are moving too fast (what? I’m moving halfway across the country in like 3 months). I was upset and it hurt for a couple of days but I was really kind of ticked off that I could have had delicious ham to console myself. I seriously considered sending him an invoice for the ham, but ultimately decided to let it go.

    1. Somewhere in his internal relationship schedule, MEET FAMILY was like, 3 months before GET MARRIED. He choked. That sucks, I’m sorry!

    2. That totally sucks.

      Though the importance of ham to the story made me imagine the writer of this comment as the Pirate Captain in the Gideon Dafoe books – so that was awesome.

  10. My last breakup was out of the blue (to me) after enough time that, yeah, I felt I deserved to hear it in person, in actual words rather than mid-day, mid-week, while at work, over the phone, and basically hemming, hawing, and umm-ing until *I* had to ask, “So, you’re saying it’s over?” I’d have loved an explanation, but absolutely would have been (really upset but) satisfied with “I’m sorry. It’s over.” while I wasn’t at work. Timing is everything.

    Mostly breakups just suck, Personally, I will tell you I’m not interested if we’ve been on at least three dates, and in person if we’ve been going out for more than two months because that’s how I wish the dating world worked. But I learned years ago that I can only act the way I wish the world worked, not expect it to behave that way.

    Breakups SUCK. Sounds like all those questions come out of the “bargaining” phase of grief.

  11. Fantastic post, as always.

    I wanted to add another reason to be cautions about asking for explanations during breakups and rejections. I find that some people ask for them, even knowing that hearing them will be painful, under the premise that more information is always better. Geeks, unsurprisingly, seem especially prone to this. However, the information you get in this case often won’t be particularly accurate. People tend to be pretty bad at understanding the reasons for their own emotions, particularly when the emotions are nebulous things like “attraction” or “love.” Pressing someone to spell out their reasons will likely get you their rationalizations instead. In the worst case scenario, they’ll focus on something relatively trivial that may or may not be a symptom of more general incompatibilities, which will lead to you become incredibly insecure about something that the next person you meet could find adorable.

  12. Yeah, I have no idea where I picked up all those rules about how you have to be nice to boys who like you otherwise you are a really bad person, but somehow I did. As a teenager I ended up hating every boy who showed interest in me, because I felt like just the fact that he liked me was putting me in a position where I was getting unreasonable demands. The command to be nice didn’t actually make me any nicer!

    It’s much better when you realise you have the right to say no, calmly and firmly, and expect that to be heard, and know that you have no obligations beyond that. Then you can be nice but also honest and if he doesn’t accept that, then at that point it’s his fault and you don’t have to be nice to him any more.

    1. I don’t know where you got them, but I got the be nice rules VERY explicitly.

      As a kid in sunday school there was always a boy or two with inappropriate boundaries, and when I would try to get them to leave me alone (in various appropriate or inappropriate methods-from using words too yelling to kicking in the unmentionables), my dad would tell me to be nicer.
      I don’t think that was completely gendered coming from my dad. He certainly followed similar rules. Fortunately my mom overheard and disagreed at least once.

      In high school another boy tried to mimic raping me by grabbing me from behind and sticking his leg between mine. I smacked him with my clarinet case. I was sent to talk to the campus police officer. He told me that I would not have to be around the boy any more but that although he approved, officially I was not allowed to defend myself. The boy was still in my class and continued to grab other girls like this.

      Then later in grad school, GRAD SCHOOL, a boy I knew from college came to visit on his way to “go to his friends wedding.” He had been slightly inappropriate in the past but I foolishly thought that we had gotten past that. Not so. I got sick of him, and went over to the dorm of another guy who I actually liked (and later married :)). Not only was the first guy upset, but another (male) grad student (not a friend of that guy) decided to corner me at a party and lecture me on how awful it was that this guy liked me and I wasn’t dating him.

      Really. I’m still bowled over by this last one. Apparently I do not have the right to choose which person to date. Someone likes me, we are in a relationship. Period.

      1. Ugh. I really don’t get that; the “BUT HE LIKES YOU! YOU SHOULD DATE HIM!” thing. It’s like “Yeah, he likes me, but I DON’T LIKE HIM.” It happened to me in highschool, but with a close guy friend. I knew for sure that we would never work out as a couple, but he still had a massive crush on me. All our other friends kept trying to convince me to ask him out on the basis of “But he follows you around like a sad kicked puppy! Don’t you feel sorry for him?” To this day, I still fail to see the appeal of dating a kick puppy.

        We’re now definitely just friends; he’s dating another mutual friend now who doesn’t mind having someone who’s easy to boss around. But every now and then, some misguided friend will call me and try to convince me that “she knows he doesn’t really like her, you should try to break them up”. Noooooooooooo thank you!

  13. My own horrible rejection story involves living in New York for a summer but getting involved long-distance with someone in Chicago. I had some job opportunities to stay in New York or a choice to come back and finish grad school. Boy (we’ll call him Darth) made a hard sell for coming back here and being together. Not that finishing grad school was a bad choice, or that I really wanted to work in TV news, but really I was moving back for those things PLUS a potentially awesome relationship.

    After a day of the “OMG, you’ll be here in x hours! Yaaaay!” texting, he picked me up at the airport, took me to dinner, took me to (CENSORED), and in the morning, he dumped me. With a story about how it was for my own good (and in hindsight, this was true).

    Believe me when I say that I did not go gently into that good night. I was the queen of “whyyyyyyyyyyyyy?” and “give me a chaaaaaaaaaaaaaaance” and “well, maybe if we just keep sleeping together?” and “sure, I’ll go to a party you’re giving for your child and I’ll meet all your friends and family and hang out with them…WHOA, THAT IS YOUR ACTUAL GIRLFRIEND WTF.”

    Not my best year, guys. Not. At. All.

    1. I got dumped once after coming home from six months abroad–she had picked me up at the airport at 2 am like the stellar girlfriend she was, stayed over my place that night, given me the little gifts she’d picked up in HER semester abroad, etc. It was very nice, and if something was wrong I didn’t notice because I’d been in Australia/New Zealand and the jet lag was insane. We went back to school, and pretty soon she dumped me–she did it very nicely, and very thoroughly. She gave me a reason I literally could not argue with, told me she cared about me but needed a few months space before we tried to be friends (I am also a lady; we did in fact play out the lesbian stereotype here), did it at my dorm where I had ready access to friends and a roommate who loved me and could support me, and so on–

      This all sounds fine, or as fine as possible, until you realize that the time elapsed between Lovely Airport Pickup and Thorough Dumping was less than a week, I had left a hot Australian summer for a very cold and snowy Ohio winter, was going through reverse culture shock, had noticed nothing out of the ordinary while abroad, and was still so jetlagged I was waking up at three in the morning on a regular basis.

      You had better believe I raged against the dying of that particular light. It was not a good winter and I did not handle that at all well. I was suuuuuper crazy about it. Past the initial Thoughtful Dumping, she was sort of a tool about it too–she’d ask me to hang out and things would seem okay, then ignore me for three weeks, so that I had no idea what the boundaries of the situation were, and constantly overstepped them because SHE KEPT MOVING THE LINES. She would do things like mention that she’d been starting to feel unsure about the relationship THE SUMMER BEFORE WE LEFT, oh my god, WHY DID SHE WAIT SO LONG. It sent the whole thing into a messy, messy spiral.

      …we’re friends now, three years later, and we kid about it these days, but at the time it was really exhausting and brutal.

  14. I’m about to be a rejectOR here; and I must say, this post has been very helpful for me. I’m not exactly good at expressing my thoughts in a kind way, I tend to be overly direct, to the point that people who don’t know me well think I’m being mean when I’m actually being too forward. However, I need to find a way to let this person down a lot more “nicely”. I was planning on saying something like “We’ve been in a casual long-distance relationship for a few months. From what I’ve seen, this will not work out. It is unfair of me to keep you in a relationship that will not go anywhere. Please do not try to pursue this as a romantic relationship any more.”

    Is this too mean? Too direct? I feel like I have to be direct to this person because ze is the type who gets carried away by fantasies and wishful thinking. Ze was/is thinking about changing majors and schools just to be closer to me, which doesn’t sound too bad IF you didn’t know I might be moving to a different country. I tried to talk zir out of it but I don’t think it worked, even when I said it would require zir to learn a new language, get used to a new culture, find a way to survive, etc.

    This also might be a touch of “Nice Girl Syndrome”, but I am genuinely concerned for this person’s well-being. Ze is currently medicated for depression (yeah, I should have left then, huh?) and has attempted suicide in the past. I know I’m not responsible for zir but I feel like it would be flippant of me to not at least be mildly concerned. My plan is to let zir rely on (common) friends for comfort if it comes down to this. Bad idea or good idea?

    Finally, when to do this. I can wait for another week to do this in person, or I can do it over the phone. The only reason I prefer to do it next week is because ze is currently in the middle of finals and I think I should at least be nice about that. I’ve had to take finals before under major mental duress and it did not reflect well on my grades. I don’t think doing it or not doing it in person would have a significant effect for better or worse on zir.

    1. I think you can be just as direct as you are being while softening the blow with the language you use.

      “Partner, as you’ve started to think about moving here, it’s made me realize that I am not as invested in this as I should be, and it’s time for me to end this as a romantic relationship.”

      (Then shut up and listen for a while – I give people a “But whyyyyyyy” and “Give me a chaaaaaaaance” pass when they’ve just heard the news, it’s not a time for careful reflection or self-editing)

      Then it’s time for variations on the “I know, I’m so sorry, it’s understandable that you would be surprised and hurt, but I’ve really thought it through and my decision is final” theme.

      Your speech as written: Excellent first draft! But makes a lot of assumptions about how your partner will handle the news which may be fair but might come across as patronizing, like, “thanks for dumping me and assuming I won’t be able to handle it and will somehow turn into your stalker.”

    2. To clarify, “this will not work out” makes a stab at being an objective statement, whereas “This isn’t going to work for me” is subjective. A rejectee can try to argue with the first statement – “But it can work out if we just want it to and try! Here are the ways it could work out!” whereas the second is really impossible to argue with – you’ve made your decision, it’s not working for you, so it’s not working, and you’re owning your feelings when you communicate, and yes, they are totally subjective and unfair.

      Don’t get between a geek and a question of fairness, unless you have a lot of time.

      1. Thank you so much for the feedback! I understand what you are saying, and I think those are very good points. I will definitely go through with it soon; I’m not nervous about this at all, I’m actually looking forward to it. I thought it would make me a horrible person to look forward to rejecting someone but I realize it would make me a genuinely horrible person to string someone on and continue hurting their feelings by not caring.

        As for the assuming the partner’s reaction, I think I’m justified enough. I’ve been able to accurately predict this person’s reactions to a wide variety of incidents. It partially stemmed from being of a similar mindset in previous years, but it mostly comes out of zir being a rather predictable person. I don’t think ze will have the guts to be a stalker but there is a small and present probability from what I’ve discovered in zir’s past. At any rate, I am definitely the more able-bodied and level-headed if the situation gets nasty. Also, other people will definitely be on hand (not within earshot, but there) when rejection happens.

        1. Oh, predict the reaction! Just…you don’t have to let the person know that you’ve predicted their reactions unless it becomes necessary, right? I like letting people save face.

          Is there a way you can do it over the phone after finals but before you see each other? Nothing like getting all psyched up for a sexy visit that ain’t gonna happen, due to dumping. Give the person a chance to pull their shit together and save some face.

          1. Good point; that would be a nice thing that’s worth doing.

            Also, even though we’re both not sexually active (I’m the asexual who’s emailed you before, actually), I think that could be a potentially nicer way of doing it. It’s definitely possible to carry out the rejection after zir’s finals without meeting each other.

          2. Yeah, sorry I haven’t answered that – I keep coming up with “Keep being asexual and not worrying what other people think. When you get pressure from other people just say what you would say to anyone who is butting in to private business – “I’m really happy with my decision” “Here’s where you can research that if you have more questions, it’s making me uncomfortable to have to explain my private life to you” “Let’s change the subject.” “I’m not looking for advice or to serve as an example, thanks.”

            Sadly your parents are never going to be over-the-moon about it, and they may never fully understand – you can’t control that, but you can use all the stuff about getting out of difficult conversations on the site to retrain them onto other conversational tracks.”

            Is that what you were looking for? The further people are inside your Circle of Trust, the more details they get. Some people will never be inside the circle. Your parents aren’t necessarily in the circle now (if you had a sex life you wouldn’t be sharing details either, so “I like to stay private about that” works either way), but hopefully if you explained it to them once, very gently and fully, and then gently changed/deflected after that until they get the message. I don’t want you to feel like you need to be closeted about your asexuality in order to get along with people, but you can say “Yeah, it’s a real thing, look it up” when you need to. My parents want me to be a married, wealthy businesswoman who is giving them grandchildren who lives down the street from them, not a broke single filmmaker/freelance writer half the country away, and they projected a lot of confusion and disappointment on me for a long time, but I kept firm to “I’m happy, thanks for asking” or “I’m not always happy, but I’m happier than I would have been otherwise” and changed the subject A LOT until our relationship approached that of mutually respectful adults.

    3. It is unfair of me to keep you in a relationship that will not go anywhere.

      I agree with the Captain’s advice, but also suggest rephrasing or removing this line, because it leaves room for zir to say, “But I *want* to be in this relationship! I don’t think it’s unfair to me!” and argue with you.

      1. I could always mention it’s unfair to me to be in a relationship with someone I only like as a friend. It might be the only way to get across to someone hard-headed.

        I think an argument will be unavoidable, regardless of how cautious I am. However, I think the best thing I can do is to not be straight-up rude. I’m going to have to be “mean” no matter what; after all, I’m basically blowing up someone’s massive fantasy. Heck, I didn’t even know this person was already making “our future together plans” until word of it got to me from a friend! It got totally ridiculous and out of hand. I’m still hoping for logic to come through but…yeah people don’t tend do be logical in cases like this, do they?

        1. I like the ‘unfair to me’ approach, because they can’t argue with that (well, they can, but arguing with you about how *you* feel is less viable than arguing with you about how *they* feel, as they can’t argue that you’re not feeling what you’re feeling). Good luck with the rejection, and I hope that it goes smoothly.

    4. I’ll say that it seems like a good idea to wait until after finals. My college boyfriend did that for me and I really appreciated it. (Granted, I was pretty easy to break up with/let down, but it did make things all the easier to have one less thing to worry about at the time.)

      For the rest, I shall defer to the captain.

  15. Reading this is good timing for me. I’m currently being rejected and really need to not pursue it any further. I am overseas to meet up with my distance boyfriend after 4 months apart and meet his family etc. In the lead up to me arriving he was so happy and excited. I was so excited too – I told my workmates, sports buddies, family, friends etc. At the airport her whistled and yelled in front of lots of people to get my attention to wave at me while I was going through customs. However, I’ve been here for a week and a half and he hasn’t come to see me for 5 days now. Yeah, I’m being rejected and it totally sucks. His family are being lovely and keep inviting me to events and family gatherings, but that’s just awkward because he is avoiding me and seeing them makes me want to cry. I have a really strong ‘WHYYYYYYYYYYYY?’ inside me and want to ask him what happened between me arriving at the airport and a few days later when he stopped contacting/visiting me. I tried to go and see him to see what the problem was but his family said he’d gone out drinking with his friends for the weekend. I’ve got a week left here, so I’m gonna take a short trip to another city, cry when I need to, not spend time with his family (even though they’re really lovely), go for walks, call my friends, meet new people and listen to sad music. It really sucks. And going back home having all of the lovely people in my life who care about me asking me how it went is going to add another level of not-awesome.

    1. Oh my god, that SUCKS. Once plane travel is involved, he owes you a face-to-face explanation of what’s up. You’re smart not to hold out for it, though.

    2. Wow. WOW.

      Wow. You are being one billion percent an adult about this, and I hope you have a blast in the other city, but as the captain says above: plane travel = face-to-face. He is being a child.

      And his family being so nice! ARG! I just want to be the embodiment of your revenge and slap him with a rotting fish.

      1. Thank you, that’s all kinds of comforting. I’ve spent a fair bit of time sighing and being weepy, but have been doing other things like swimming, going for walks and journaling. It really sucks and I am really angry at him. I think he is being a total coward and would like an explanation of what happened. I really want to talk to him, but even that probably won’t make me feel better about this. I don’t think talking to him will happen so I’m just going to focus on feeling better/doing fun things and having a not-shit week. Also, I get to explore a new place, so that’s kinda cool – would be much better without the massive dose of rejection though. I really just need to physically get away from him, his family and their invites until I go back home.

        AND you know what else, it’s also my birthday in a few days. In planning this trip he suggested I celebrate it with him and his family. In dealing with the rejection I had actually forgotten about that until I looked at the calendar today. This really sucks. When I get back home and see my family I’m sure I will have a massive cry and not be as adult about it.

        Thank you for letting me type about it here. It’s nice to get it off my chest and have people sympathise. I’m sure in a few years this will be a great story…but right now, not so much.

          1. Oh, thank you. Actually, this is a massive heart break, I’m hoping it doesn’t ever get much worse than this in life. He lied about pretty much everything. In the three months we were apart, he picked up a drug habit, started dealing, doing robberies, got heavily involved in a gang, started fights with other gangs, got back with an old girlfriend because he found out they had a child together and a bunch of other smaller things…but they were the main things he didn’t tell me. (And I’m a total geek, so all of these naughty things shocked me to no end!) He didn’t mention any of this when we were talking; he let me go overseas and visit him thinking we were going to make a plan to move to the same country together! I found out because one of his friends took pity on my pathetic state and told me everything my boyfriend hadn’t been telling me. Earlier that night the boyfriend had called me to apologise for working so much (he’d lost his job by then so that was another lie) while I had come to visit and that he would come in visit me in 3 days time, because he was a bit busy at the moment (the first time I had heard from him in over a week), to talk about ‘just you and me baby’. It sucked and I feel like an idiot. I spent money I didn’t really have and changed my ticket to the next flight home. I didn’t see him or tell him that I was leaving. I just went.

            It’s two months later and he tried to contact me this week, just seeing what I was doing. No apology or recognition of anything that went down. It sent me into a terrible spin, but he’s a total jerk and I just need to focus on my awesomeness. I have been doing this since I got back home and it’s a process. To be awesome I have started a dance class, taken on a bunch of new work projects, restarted my studies and exercised heaps as a distraction. Also, my friends and I laugh a lot because I’ve found a really effective self care strategy in eating gourmet German sausages. If I feel a bit sad, I cook one up and eat it. It’s so fatty and delicious and it warms my whole body. I am sure in time and sausage-time, this will all feel much better, but right now it sucks.

            And…that’s my story. Thanks for reading.

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