Tuesday, October 9, 2018

No explanations needed

Note: Although this is written from a male-hetero perspective, it is written specifically to address the toxic masculinity that all too often gets expressed violently when a woman rejects a man's advances. However, the philosophy applies to all genders and orientations.

Maybe this is the first move, maybe you have gone on a few dates, maybe you've been dating for a few months. This article probably does not apply to longer-term relationships, but the philosophy is still sound.

Ultimately, she decides that this relationship is not the right fit for her. That you are not the right fit for her. She is kind, but firm in this declaration. It stings, it hurts, it's insulting, it's a mess of emotions for you to deal with.

DO NOT ask her to tell you what's wrong with you. DO NOT ask her to explain why you're not good enough.

Honestly in this moment, you don't actually want to know. If she does tell you what's wrong with you, the final result will not change and your self-esteem will take a beating for no good reason. But really, you're asking her this question because you think she made the wrong decision and you want to explain how she got this so, so wrong.

The reality is that she doesn't need your explanation. She has a mind of her own, she has  lifetime of hard lessons learned. Assume she is the expert in what she needs right now, even if you disagree.

If you really want to find out how to be better, ask the people who truly love you and have your best interests at heart. Don't ask someone who barely knows you or doesn't appreciate you.

If she has decided that this connection isn't right for her, you should safely assume that she knows what she is doing. It's likely you are not her first lover; there may have been a few bad break-ups or a few abusive relationships in her past. Even if you think she might not know what she wants, she definitely knows what she DOESN'T want. She knows her limitations, she knows what shit up with she will no longer put, and she has a better idea of where she wants her life to go.

You can assume all of this in that horrible moment she is telling you that you're not the right fit for her, not now and likely not ever.

In the end, the best thing you can do is listen. Really listen. Apologize if you can if you did anything hurtful, and if possible and if applicable, promise that you will work on being better just for your own edification. Accept her decision with humility, being kind and calm, and make your exit with grace and style (see below), even if that is not how you are really feeling.

If you are angry, don't express it through rage, threats, or violence. Your rage will not change her mind, and if anything, it will cement her decision. Find a way to burn off that rage that leads to positive change, either for yourself or for others or both.

I'm going to assume that this was not an easy decision for her to make and it pains her to have to deliver this news. You can honor that process by not making it worse with rage and abusive tactics.

But even if it was easy for her to tell you, or if she takes some perverse pleasure in hurting you, the advice still applies. Take the high road, accept her decision with grace and style. Don't give her the satisfaction of your pain. Expressing your anger will only hurt you in the long run, so don't indulge in it.

Although I'm not one for shifting blame, but one of the reasons why we get this wrong (and statistically, it's men who get it violently, horribly wrong), is that our culture and media are constantly telling us that No really means Try Harder Until She Gives In. For more on that idea, I refer you to the brilliant Pop Culture Detective video on Stalking for Love.

TL:DR: If you get rejected, assume that she is right in her decision, and accept the rejection with grace, kindness, and style.

About the Graceful Exit

You've been rejected, either by a new love interest or an established one. She's just given you the news and you're feeling a rush of emotions. To be able to take the high road out of this situation, here's what the Graceful Exit can look like. 

Thank you for being honest with me. I know this must have been difficult for you to say to me, but I really appreciate you saying it to my face and in person. I feel respected and cared for. Obviously, I'm disappointed that this is over, but I'd rather know now than later, so thank you. Do you have any questions for me? Anything you want to talk about?

[some discussion, mostly listening]

Okay... I'm going to go now, but again, thanks for your honesty. Take good care of yourself and if we cross paths again, I hope we can be friendly and good with each other. Goodbye.

Once you're away, get yourself to a safe space. This can be a quiet place to reflect on what's happened, finding a trusted friend to which to vent, or you might want to hang out with a group of friends to remind you that you are a good person. Do what you need to do to heal from this event that does not hurt you or others.

Grieve, mourn, and move on to better things. There are out there, waiting for you. Go find them.