Thursday, June 28, 2012

Being A Man: Dealing With Rejection

I have a confession. Before I was married, I was an ambiguous coffee date-aholic.

I looked for any excuse to invite a pretty girl out to coffee. A few hours at Starbucks is sort of a date, but not really. Not if she doesn’t want it to be. Or I don’t want it to be. It’s all very complicated.

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I thought rejection was the absolute worst thing that could happen to me.

So I found ways to protect myself at all costs.

As I got older, my safe place became the coffee date. I liked that I could call it a date if needed. Otherwise it was just “hanging out”. There really are rules to this, trust me.

As we discussed God, philosophy, dreams and ambitions, I was able to size up a potential spouse. Without actually taking a risk, I could figure out if she liked me. And if I did think she liked me, I could figure out if I liked her. If I didn’t like her, I just wouldn’t ask her to coffee again.

If there was chemistry, I knew the inevitable would happen at some point. But I was going to do everything in my power to minimize the risk of rejection. I had it all figured out.

Until the coffee date plan backfired on me.

I met my match in ambiguity. I was sure she liked me. We had so much in common. But she told me she had just gotten out of a relationship and so I respected that. I backed off. But she didn’t say she wasn’t interested. So like any insecure guy, I held on to hope without forcing the issue.

I continued to build a friendship with her, all the while my interest grew. I was just waiting for my opportunity. She was bound to fall in love with me. How could she resist my ambiguous advances?

This went on for a whole year. Seriously, that’s how long we’ll hold on to hope, ladies.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her that we needed to talk. And yes, I took her to Starbucks.

It was time to put ambiguity aside and put my heart on the line. I declared to her my feelings. What was possibly uncertain, I now made crystal clear. My heart couldn’t take the indecision any longer. It finally hurt more not to know than to risk rejection.

So I asked her if there was any hope for us.

I could tell she was uncomfortable. She hesitated and cleared her throat before saying the fateful words, “I think you’re a great guy but…”

I knew what she was going to say, even though she would likely have preferred to jump off a cliff than to say the rest. I breathed in deeply and waited. There was way too much ambiguity over the past year for me to walk away with any inkling of doubt.

I’m not sure what was more painful, her categorical rejection or watching her squirm as she took 5 minutes to finally get it out. It was an especially awkward moment.

In retrospect, the rejection wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be. But it would have been a lot easier if I was clear and direct in my approach from the beginning.

The momentary sting of rejection will save you lifetime of wondering. 

That day I learned that being a man means taking risks. It means facing fear and conflict with courage. It means finding redemption, even in failure.

Years later, I found the woman I was determined to pursue. There was no beating around the bush. By the second time we spoke on the phone, I told her that I wasn’t interested in being her friend. I told her that I was after her heart.

And 8 months later, I married her.


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