How to Deal When the Interest Isn’t Mutual

Monday, Jan. 31st 2011 4:01 PM

How often have you heard (or expressed) sentiments like these: “If he would simply stop and get to know me he would like me,” or “Maybe I should call him again. He’s probably playing hard to get.” But when is enough enough? When is it time to stop pursuing your person of interest?

A beautiful woman in her mid-30s recently told me about her interest in a guy who had not returned her calls. She said she really liked him and believed that he was worth getting to know, she was unwilling to give up on gaining his attention (even after leaving four messages). But she also did not want to appear to be a stalker, or over-zealous. In the movies, that would make her quirky and romantic, and she would probably get the guy by the end; in real life, however, her interest may be wondering, “Why can’t she take a hint?”

And you don’t want to be a stalker. It’s embarrassing, and we devalue ourselves by chasing people who have made their disinterest clear, which is terrible for self-esteem. In some ways, the question becomes: How would I like to be treated? I have certain ways that I want to be treated, and standards for how I’m willing to conduct myself. One of these standards is that I’m not going to chase someone who doesn’t want me – or who is consistently playing hard to get. I am a guy. I grew up learning how to be rejected. If my interest isn’t returned pretty quickly, I move on.

I once took out a very attractive woman who was clearly accustomed to being pursued. I had no problem with participating in that dance for a short time. But when it became crystal clear to me that she knew I was interested but was still playing a game, I called and said, “I have asked you to hang out a few times now, so it is clear that I am interested in you. This is my last request. If you decide you want to hang out with me in the future, you are welcome to give me a call, and we can see what I am up to then.”

I wasn’t playing hard to get; in fact, I was refusing to play this game. I respected myself and valued my own happiness too much – and
she respected that. She called me a couple months later, and a relationship ensued.

If you are pursuing someone, your first job (your only job other than giving him/her an opportunity to get to know you) is to make your interest clear. Sometimes, that interest can be relayed with a glance or a smile; sometimes it requires an overt statement of interest. If you’re just not sure he/she knows (i.e., “I know he hasn’t called me back after my first four tries, but I saw the way he looked at me, so I’ll just call one more time”), ameliorate any lingering doubt by overtly saying “I am interested in you.” Sure, putting yourself out there may be uncomfortable, and you may get rejected. But is rejection as embarrassing as shamelessly chasing love interests until they have to tell you stop? I don’t think so.

Once you have made your intentions clear, you can cease to interject energy into the creation of a relationship with that person. You’ve done your part; the ball is in his/her court now. And if your romantic interest does not want to play, you can get easily get another ball – and another partner. To pursue any further action borders on becoming a nuisance, which is the first stop on the road to stalkerdom.

Remember, ask yourself how you would like to be treated, but this time not as the pursuer. What if you were the other person? I bet you’d want to be treated in a similar manner. And I hope you’d appreciate the person who put his/her cards on the table and accepted your answer with dignity.

Keep Rising,

Frank Love

…and please do not multi-task when driving.

Enter your email address here to receive Frank Love’s latest article via email:

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Share and Enjoy:
  • Facebook
  • Google Bookmarks
  • email
  • RSS
  • Twitter
  • Digg
  • Google Buzz
  • LinkedIn
  • PDF
  • Print
  • Reddit

Leave a Comment: Let Us Know Your Thoughts

How to Gracefully Exit a Relationship

9 Comments on “How to Deal When the Interest Isn’t Mutual”

  1. Pandora Says:

    You are right on time! I have been dealing with just this issue for the past 2 weeks. I am an attractive female in my early 30s, and I expressed my interest in a guy by giving him my number when he asked for it. The next day, he called me. The following day, I called him, but he did not answer. I left a voicemail, but I have not heard from him again. I have been going back and forth with myself as to whether or not I should call him back. I came to the same conclusion as you. The ball is in his court. If he calls, he calls. I am too old to play games and chase men.

  2. Mei Lan Hsiao Says:

    Go back to the basic starting from listening and understanding. Particularly when facing rejection, need to understand the view point of the other party first

  3. DiBiggest Says:

    I like this one. And this is a conversation Ive had with several people including the pursuers. Rarely do I pursue ,maybe to my own detriment but depending where you are in life the intial feeling of being pursued can be flattering and a helluva ego booster. Often that gives the pursuer the wrong impression about your intent and one has to be careful. Historically the thought of rejection always played a role for me, even now and these days people don’t really know how to communicate with one another.
    Good piece

  4. Tom Kaufman Says:

    True, and the earlier on that one recognizes that fact the easier the process is for everyone. We base our expo with the intent to educate people on that very premise.

  5. Boyd Lemon Says:

    Dealing with rejection isn’t as difficult as the anticipation of rejection, in my experience.

  6. Happy Dater Now Says:

    You are so right on this one! I was never the type to chase anybody, but I had an interest once that went on forever only to be rejected later. Had I learned earlier the things you mentioned here, I would have saved myself a lot of time and wasted emotion. Bottom line is, if your interest is not returned in a reasonable time and fashion then it’s just not there for the other person. And that means something. Do yourself (and possibly the other person) a favor, and move on to a situation where it’s mutual. A true love is a love that loves you back.

  7. G Says:

    Reminds me of “He’s Just Not That Into You”. If the object of your affection is sending ambiguous signals (interest, but no action), they aren’t truly interested. Or, you may be a back-up. Echoing DiBiggest, it’s also important to be clear with your pursuer even though the attention is flattering.

  8. Ansa Tyus Says:

    Great job! Much thought went into this one and it is a topic that most people can relate to.

  9. Diamond Dust Says:

    It’s been several weeks since I started this ongoing thing. Posts about “That Girl” — who is often someone we know, but sometimes ourselves.

    “I Want You Bad” girl…

    This girl is tricky. It’s kinda hard not to relate to her. We’ve all met a guy who we wanted really really really really bad. Some of us know how to take a deep breath and assess the situation. Others of us need a little help in that area. And let it be said early on that I know this girl can also be “that guy”

    I got to thinking about this girl weeks ago, but then I read this post by Frank Love: “How To Deal When The Interest Isn’t Mutual”

    Frank has such a compassionate tone in his post that I really had to think harder about the way I view this chick. She’s the one who calls/emails/texts/tweets/facebooks a guy she’s interested in several times each day. She laments to her friends how he never returns her attempts at reaching out and that even when he does he’s short with her. Or that she tries to set up times for them to get together and he’s either unresponsive or flaky on setting times and keeping them.

    Her friends will most likely offer words of support and encouragement. Offering every viable explanation for his flakiness and unresponsiveness except the obvious one: he’s just not that into you. The one friend who tries to offer some semblance of perspective gets shut down and cut off. That girl will run back to her other friends and go on and on about “how dare she try to suggest something is wrong with me…” the extreme ones will even try to suggest that maybe the friend has it out for her in some way. She’ll come up with all the past occasions when “something just didn’t feel right…” No one likes being told that the way they’re seeing the world ain’t quite on target with what’s actually happening, but “that girl” has such a visceral reaction, everyone quickly learns it’s best to just let her see what she wants.

    Like I said, Frank’s compassion in his writing had me stopping and thinking. I’m quite literally the antithesis of this girl. I took an early dating lesson to heart: I don’t chase. I’ve gotten mixed reviews on the effectiveness of this method. Many of my guy friends have told me over the years that it can be a bit intimidating. In any case, watching “that girl” chase a guy who clearly doesn’t want her only furthers my resolve not to be her.

    However I get how it can be: you think this guy is great and would love to get to know him better, but even more you want him to get to know you better because you feel like you’d be awesome for his life. On the surface, that’s not all that bad but when you’re constantly putting forth that effort and not getting anything back, it can be a problem.

    I may be too intense with it, but I’m here to tell you that if he doesn’t respond to you initially, repeated attempts at getting his attention will not work. More than likely it will only drive him further away. I like Frank’s explanation on this: (paraphrase) it’s ok to let him know you’re interested, but if he’s not returning evidence of interest, have some respect for yourself and find someone who will.

    I’ve not had a lot of success with these girls as friends. For one, I don’t have the patience to support delusions. I mean we don’t gotta talk about it, but I can’t just keep acting like I don’t see the red flags and for two, I’m always an easy scapegoat. I’m ALWAYS the first one to get cut off for keeping it too real. I can say that I almost wear it as a badge of honor these days and put my own, perhaps ironically deluded, spin on it: I was such an awesome friend she had to let me go be an awesome friend to someone else. 😉

Leave a Reply