Guilt and anxiety about declining dates and relationships
December 9, 2009 4:07 PM   Subscribe

Help me overcome my fear of rejection - the catch - it's a fear of rejecting other people

Any time I have to turn someone down I become horribly anxious and terrified of hurting them and how they might react. This means that sometimes I avoid giving people a chance because I'm scared of having to break things off, and sometimes just going along with things cos I feel guilty to say no - which is even worse. I started dating for a bit but any time I had to break things off I'd feel so awful it just wasn't worth the fun parts. I've been trying to limit my involvement to people unlikely to form an attachment to me (because of this and the fact that I'm totally emotionally unavailable after a horrible relationship) but this weekend I drank too much and went home with a friend who I thought would leave it at that, but now I realise I missed lots of signs that he actually has feelings for me. I think I had some feelings for him but wasn't planning on doing anything about them. Now I feel like I accidentally used/misled him and I feel physically sick, my sleep is messed up etc. We are supposed to go out to dinner tomorrow but I don't think it's going to be like our normal catch-ups. I've been anxious all week and need to talk to him today. How can I gently explain that I wanted to do it at thetime but don't want to take it any further? He's been so good to me and I'm scared he's going to hate me and be upset and not want to be my friend. And in general, how can I stop being so terrified of disappointing people?
posted by Chrysalis to Human Relations (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Well You have the fabulous chance of having dinner with this guy. Well you can bring up.....
Hey guy look about the other night, I had fun but I would rather not do this again. If he is truly your friend he'll understand and if he is truly a "male" he'll also let you know that he wouldn't mind getting into an "arrangement" with you.
posted by The1andonly at 5:02 PM on December 9, 2009

In general I find women feel romantically rejecting a man will be much more upsetting than it actually is for most men. "imagine how hurt he'll be" "if he did that to me I'd feel really bad" "he showed me a lot of affection that night and now I'm being horrible to him".

Admittedly it's not a great feeling, but most of the time it's not the end of the world either.

I'm not talking about breaking off long-term relationships, which are obviously different.

I'd guess most men have been rejected by various women in various ways many times before they even get to 20yrs old and probably don't like it much, but handle it.
posted by selton at 5:05 PM on December 9, 2009

I would like to add that if immediately he seems kinda off don't read too much into it because soon he'll be back to wanting the usual catch-ups, even while realizing and accepting fully you don't want a relationship.

By the way, if it makes you feel better about rejecting in general, based on my experience and some assumptions on my future, the first rejection a person experience hurts. Numbers 2–10 don't hurt. Eleven hurts. Twelve and up, only prime numbers hurt.
posted by ifandonlyif at 5:23 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, disappointing but not end-of-the-world earth-shattering. Most guys are used to some disappointment.

The longer you wait to tell him, the more disappointed he'll be, trust me on that.

He's been so good to me and I'm scared he's going to hate me and be upset and not want to be my friend.

Well, be honest with yourself. There's a good chance a big reason he was being so friendly before was because he thought he had a chance. Since he doesn't, it's not fair for you to assume he'll still keep coming around as much, even if he is a cool bloke that can brush off a little rejection. I'm sure he'd probably rather spend that time looking for someone who will actually reciprocate his feelings.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:41 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

I experience this frequently. This is part of anxiety and - don't take this the wrong way - it's kind of self-centered. Not that you aren't fabulous, Chrysalis, which I'm sure that you are, but assuming that every heart will horribly break because you reject or say no thank you or say maybe later is (while a product of anxiety) assuming a lot. It's assuming that the other person has absolutely no other prospects, that the other person is desperately in love with you, that the other person will die without youetc. Usually, people who are rejected are a little disappointed but don't go running for a knife to stab themselves with. Once someone pointed this out to me, rejecting got slightly easier. I still hate it, it still gives me tremendous anxiety and I have stayed in bad relationships too long because I didn't want to hurt the other person. But what people appreciate far more than "cushioning the blow," is usually honesty. I think that you will likely never fully get over this fear of disappointing people - it's probably a big part of your giving personality and also anxiety - but you can get better at it. Try saying no - not just to this guy (I'm flattered but actually, no) but to people at work or school (actually, I don't have time to finish that project for you, so no I can't do it). Eventually you get more and more used to it and it becomes easier.

Good luck!
posted by cachondeo45 at 5:45 PM on December 9, 2009 [4 favorites]

He's your friend, right? So talk to him about your feelings like you would with your friend. One of my biggest regrets in life is not talking to my best friend when something similar happened. She and I both clammed up the next day and never said another word about it, and while we're still friends we've spent the last 5 or 6 years drifting apart. If only I'd had the courage to say, "I've felt this for a long time but I value our friendship too much to risk it on a drunken night of fun" things might have turned out different, and for the better. If only she hadn't demanded we move on as friends and never mention it again, we might still be so close. Heck, we might have ended up closer.

So, if you value your friendship be honest about what you're feeling and what your needs are. First be honest to yourself though; once you're doing that it's easier to express them to others and easier for others (him!) to understand what you're feeling and where you're coming from and why. And if he values your friendship too he'll go along and you can remain friends. Yes, he'll be disappointed probably, and yes he might really get hurt, but if that happens you're also giving him the opportunity to heal and, if necessary, move on. If you can't be honest with him, he'll carry those 'what if?' feelings and that emotional baggage with him no matter what happens between the two of you.
posted by carsonb at 6:02 PM on December 9, 2009

Let him bring it up. If it is only "signs" then you might have it wrong. There is nothing worse than a woman you have no interest in telling you that you just want to be friends. It makes the woman appear to be self-centered and vain. I had a roomate say that to me once and then I had to reject her back and explain that I didn't see her that way (I couldn't exactly tell her I had a crush on the other roommate). A very awkward moment.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:40 PM on December 9, 2009

Rejecting someone is like removing a band-aid. It is only more uncomfortable the more you think about it. In reality, letting someone down quickly is very liberating for both sides--the sooner he knows where you stand, the sooner he can pursue other interests and opportunities, and the sooner your conscience can be clear that you did not prolong the situation longer than necessary or feel like you led him on.

That said, if you think a relationship has potential, premature rejection can work in the opposite way, in that you break up with someone because you fear an Eventual letdown. Don't let yourself do that.
posted by mynameismandab at 8:38 PM on December 9, 2009 [1 favorite]

Here's something that helps me. I tell myself, "Stop being be so vain that you think a rejection from you will ruin someone's life and they will be reduced to a shivering, worthless husk if they don't receive acceptance from you. I mean, they somehow managed to live these (however many) years without your glorious presence."

(Actually I was told that by my shrink. He was a hard-ass, but it worked.)
posted by Kloryne at 8:42 PM on December 9, 2009

Or what cachondeo45 said.
posted by Kloryne at 8:43 PM on December 9, 2009

Just for perspective I feel compelled to recommend this book: Nice, by Jen Sacks.
This is a very funny good-read book about a woman who has so much fear of rejecting her lovers that she kills them instead. She is just toooo nice to say no.

Really, almost anything you do will be better.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:13 AM on December 10, 2009

« Older What are the odds?   |   isn't it supposed to be the scientist huddled... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.