Q: We met around 3.6 years ago. The first 3 months were very good for both of us. We both thought we had a future together. However, after another month I realised that we have major differences and should not continue. I wasn’t brave enough to tell her a straight no. I told her that at her age she shouldn’t wait for me and to explore other options, as I had other priorities. She said we should stay friends and be there for each other as friends. I agreed. Over time, I realised that she might be considering me more than a friend. I started ignoring her, hoping she would get the hint. Such on and off communications continued for 3 years. I then made it clear to her that I am looking at other girls and that I feel we are not compatible.
She kept pursuing me all the while. Finally, I stopped responding to her totally. I have not communicated with her for a month. She tried to be in touch, sending me messages asking why her value for me has dropped and that she has started hating herself. These messages are alarming me. Please advise me on what to do.
A: Lack of communication is also communication in many cases, and especially this form of non-communication, which leaves the door open to the imagination. When we are sad and pining for something, imagination doesn’t give us the happiest of things to imagine. I understand that you tried to communicate your feelings to her and in the effort to save her from sadness you couldn’t express a clear disinterest in dating her. I am not holding you responsible for what she thought you meant. All I am asking is for you to be able to see where her behaviour might be coming from, to a degree. I repeat, you are not responsible for it fully, but understanding its roots will help you deal with it (and incidents like this) better and not repeat the same actions. You wanted to be a ‘good’ person who is not too direct in turning people down. We are not taught how to be polite and assertive from the beginning and we grow up with the understanding that ‘yes’ and ‘I am not sure’ belong in the polite camp of words and ‘no’ in the impolite camp. This makes it harder to deal with complicated situations like turning down romantic interest from those we like.
I would highly recommend that you offer to explain yourself once more in as clear and kind words as you can. Don’t say anything you don’t mean, or omit anything that needs to be said, before you terminate contact with her completely for a while. Genuine kindness is successful when it doesn’t generate false hopes.