No surprise here: so there’s a boy. I’ve been crushing on him for half a year now, and about a month ago I—with no precursor flirting whatsoever—abruptly confessed my feelings to him (I know, second-hand embarrassment all around; I’ve since read Sparklife’s very own guide to flirting and have seen the error of my ways). I was politely and kindly rejected, which was to be expected and which I’ve come to accept. I was determined to continue to get to know him as a friend with warmth and dignity, and not to pester him further about this.
Unfortunately, I think I’ve unwittingly turned into one of those awful suitors that transform into sneering monsters the moment their romantic feelings aren’t reciprocated. I’m not trying to defend my behaviour, but I think that I’m overcompensating for the way I feel vulnerable around him by being utterly irresponsible and snarky. I’ve continued to ignore him (it started when the butterflies in my stomach made it impossible for me to look at his face) when we pass each other in school corridors, because I’m worried about appearing overeager/creepy, and because I don’t want to interrupt his conversations with friends. I’m curt and abrupt around him, I’m scared to smile and joke or tease, I’ve neglected my responsibilities in our shared co-curricular club because working with him turns me into a mess, and because I’m selfishly thinking that there’s just no point trying to impress him anymore.
I have spent some time trying to sort my feelings out, but maybe I’m not as levelheaded as I thought. What can I do to regulate my behaviour? I don’t want him to think that I’m immature and can’t handle rejection; I want to become a worthy friend. On the other hand, I have to admit that a part of me hopes that if I start flirting, then further down the road, once he and I have had more time to get to know each other (since being rejected, I’ve found we have quite a few common interests), he might come to see me as more than just a friend. Do I stand a chance? Is this violating all rules of flirting known to volatile and weird high school students? I know that this is a selfish thought, and is probably indicative of ulterior motives, and that I might just be lying to myself about trying to be his friend—but friendship or not, I at least want to be able to be civil around him. Any advice?
For starters, Sparkler, it is my duty and pleasure to inform you that handling rejection with dignity and maturity does not require that you cast every guy who declines to be your Romantic Lead in a supporting role as your friend. I mean, if you went to a restaurant and ordered champagne, and the waiter came back and said, “We only have Kool-Aid,” would you feel compelled to guzzle the Kool-Aid just to prove that you could handle not getting what you wanted?
Of course not, right? Because you’re allowed to want what you want—and to be uninterested in accepting something less, or something else, just because it’s the only thing on offer.
So if you’re either unwilling or unable to segue directly from crushing on this guy to being his pal and partner in co-curricular club endeavors, that’s okay. Really! You don’t have to prove your worth or maturity or whatever else by settling for a platonic relationship when what you wanted is to be more than friends. In fact, trying to substitute one for the other is one of the world’s most reliable recipes for making yourself miserable and unfulfilled—particularly if you’re not really that interested in the friendship on its own merits, but instead see it as a potential stepping stone to the romance you were really going for all along.
Which, uh, certainly seems like it might be a problem for you.
Which brings us to this: based on your description, you are currently expending an enormous amount of energy trying to quash your extremely potent feelings for this guy, and an equally enormous amount of energy trying to pretend a casual friendliness you don’t feel—but then sabotaging your own efforts by continuing to hope that things might someday work out between you if you play your cards just right. It’s no wonder that you’re having trouble behaving normally or consistently around him (and is it just me, or are you around him all the damn time???) when you’re sitting on such a roiling pile of contradictory emotions.
But that’s why the best advice I can give you, at least for the immediate future, is to give yourself the gift of a little distance—so that you can channel all that energy into actually being okay, rather than putting on a show of okay-ness for someone else’s benefit. Focus on effectively and adequately fulfilling your responsibilities to the club you’re in, acknowledge him if he approaches you, and treat him with the neutral respect you’d use on a teacher or a friend’s parent, but don’t seek him out. If you have the option to be somewhere else, whether it’s across the room or in a different area code, take it. You need this, sweet pea. You need time. You need space. You need to process your disappointment at being rejected without having to worry about how it makes you look to the person who rejected you. Focus on getting past the immediacy of your crush on this guy before you start trying to figure out what kind of relationship to have with him in the future.
And on that note: Do you still have a chance with him? Ehhhhhh… it’s possible, but unless his rejection came with a caveat about needing to get to know you better, a guy who says “no” to you is usually uninterested in a way that more information is unlikely to change. I’m sorry. But more importantly, even if he does reconsider, he’ll have to come to that conclusion on his own; you won’t persuade him to see you differently by continuing to pine for and/or throw yourself at him. For the sake of your dignity and emotional health, you’ve gotta consider this a done deal. (If he changes his mind, he knows where to find you.)
And once you’ve finished riding the emotional rollercoaster of having been turned down, it won’t be such a struggle to act normal around him—and you’ll start getting a sense for what kind of role you’d like this guy to play in your life, if any. Just remember that not every unrequited crush has to be the start of a beautiful friendship. Sometimes, they’re just learning experiences, or things that might-have-been-but-weren’t, or even a bullet that you’re eventually glad you dodged. But whatever you decide on that front, you can always be proud of yourself for having had the courage to pursue someone you liked—and the strength to hear him say “no” without falling to pieces.
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