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 February 21, 2005

Dealing with unwanted attention

“I think we should be friends.”

If you’re a veteran of the dating world, you’ve heard it more than a few times from relationships that ended with a loud thud.

Odds are you decoded it correctly: “The thrill is gone. It’s time to move on.”

But regardless of how many times you’ve been on the receiving end of this demoralizing little chestnut, it may leave you wondering: “What’s wrong with me?”

In truth, probably nothing. If you have enough dating experiences under your belt, you know that relationships fizzle out more often than they lead to wedding invitations.

For some men and women, however, the end of a relationship feels like the end of the world. Their level of despair is directly related to how secure they are.

“It is important for people to develop good self-esteem and not look to others to give them self-esteem,” explains Dr. Beverly Whipple, vice president of the World Association for Sexology; past president of the American Association of Sex Educators, Counselors and Therapists; and coauthor of the international bestseller “The G Spot and Other Recent Discoveries About Human Sexuality,” which has been translated into 19 languages.

“We have to feel good about ourselves, know ourselves and know what we want in a relationship,” she tells “Others cannot define that for us.”

Try telling that to the person you no longer wish to date. It certainly helps if you can terminate a relationship compassionately, instead of dumping someone cruelly. Why stomp on someone’s ego with unnecessarily callous comments when you can gently explain that your relationship has gone cold and there’s no longer any chemistry? It’s really no one’s fault.

In a perfect world, you and your partner will return to the dating pool a bit shaken, but relatively unscathed.

Not So Fast…

But what happens when your boyfriend or girlfriend doesn’t get the message—or refuses to take no for an answer?
  • He begs for a second chance on your answering machine…at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and at 3 a.m.
  • She remains in denial, calling your office every half hour to see if you’d like to “have dinner and talk.”
  • He continues to send flowers, hoping a dozen roses will cure your ennui.
While the old adage asserts that hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, many men are no less indignant when they feel rejected.

You can spare yourself a great deal of misery by being honest and direct, instead of dumping someone with no explanation. You don’t need to apologize for your decision. Just be forthright, to the point and respectful, says Dr. Joy Davidson, a psychotherapist, sex therapist and author of “Fearless Sex: A Babe’s Guide to Overcoming Your Romantic Obsessions and Getting the Sex Life You Deserve.”

“If someone presses the issue and wants to know why the chemistry isn’t there for you, it may be because he really wants to know how he’s perceived—even if the truth isn't pretty,” she tells “In that case, be blunt, without being cruel.”

“You’re not my type" is a reasonable start.

“If someone wants more,” Dr. Davidson says, “you can say, ‘I tend to be attracted to men/women who are taller/shorter, thinner/bulkier, more ambitious, more artistic, etc.’ It’s a fair response.”

If the discussion morphs into a debate or argument, it’s time to end the conversation—without any obligation to justify your feelings, she says.

Unwelcome Advances

Being pursued after you’ve ended a relationship may feel flattering at first, but you need to set boundaries. Avoid the temptation to respond to continued advances, or you’ll inadvertently encourage them.

“Be very direct in saying, ‘I'm not interested in you sexually or romantically’—or whatever the situation calls for,” Dr. Davidson advises. “If you want to continue a friendship, but the person isn't taking your ‘no’ to romance seriously, monitor your own behavior to ensure you aren’t giving him or her mixed messages. Nothing will secure another’s attachment like intermittent reinforcement.”

Be clear and consistent—and don’t waffle.

“If they persist, you need to tell them that their approach is not only unwelcome, but smacks of disrespect toward you and your boundaries,” Dr. Davidson says. “If they still don't give up, take a break from the relationship altogether. Tell them you’re going to stop responding to emails or phone calls in order to make your point unmistakable. Follow through with 100% reliability. Anything less is like sending an engraved invitation to further the chase.”

Posted by LC at February 21, 2005 10:09 AM | TrackBack

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