I love going on dates. Wait, allow me to be more specific. I LOVE going on dates! But it’s not the getting ready, or the actual outing itself that gets me excited. Rather, it is the possibility of getting to know a brand new person that fills me with almost childlike delight. I look forward to the stories we will tell one another, and to the laughs we will share. I think about all the things they know, and about how many of those things will be brand new to me. I wonder about all the things they can teach me and that I, in turn, can teach them.
But then, I’m an extrovert.
For some people, dating can be one of the most awkward things in the world. But, worse than going on a date, is actually asking for one. Rejection is a fear shared by nearly every person on the planet, and you would be hard pressed to find someone with enough self-confidence as to never feel the sting of being turned down. But what about the other side of the coin? What about the fear of actually doing the rejecting? For someone like me, this is the worst feeling imaginable.
As I’ve mentioned before, when you first start attending a new Poly meetup, you’re bound to get lots of attention. Although I had been a practicing Poly for about five years, I only started attending a Poly group about eight months ago. Because of this, I had no idea what it was like to be asked on dates. No, seriously, I had no idea. In the past it had always been me asking out another person, and even then it was extremely rare. So imagine my surprise when, in my first two months of attending the meetups, I was asked out nearly every week by a different person.
At first, I loved the attention. But as the offers started piling up I quickly realized I was saying yes to everyone (even those I had absolutely no interest in whatsoever on a romantic level). This caused my schedule to balloon out of control, and I found that, not only did I no longer have time for my established partners, but that I was running myself ragged trying to accommodate everyone. This went on for months and, although I knew what the problem was, I just couldn’t say no. That is, until this happened:
This was an entirely new concept for me. Growing up, I was pretty insecure. Like most teenagers and young adults, I constantly worried about what other people thought of me, and I never really felt like I lived up to societal expectations of beauty. This made dating difficult, as I was always petrified to ask out someone I liked (even if I was 100% confident they liked me back). I just couldn’t stand the idea of being told “no”, especially if no reason was given for it. The very idea of it paralyzed me, and it wasn’t until I was in my mid-twenties that I finally realized that someone turning down my offer did not mean they were rejecting me as a person.
Despite this, I believe this feeling is the very reason I have trouble rejecting the offers of others. I can remember just how nervous I was when asking someone out, and can empathize with the many emotions I’m sure they are experiencing. So how cruel would it be for me to disappoint them? How awful of a person would I be if I said no without even giving them a shot? After all, everyone deserves a chance, and everyone deserves to be rewarded for taking such a bold leap of confidence, right?
I know that now.
So, here’s my advice: There is nothing wrong with rejection. Truly and honestly there isn’t. We all have our reasons for not wanting to date and those reasons can range greatly from person to person. But those reasons are your own, and you do not have an obligation to share them with anyone (even with the person you are saying no to). Yes, rejection hurts, but it is an incredibly important part of defining yourself. By rejecting an advance, for any reason, you are making the statement that you are the most important person in your life. You are allowing yourself the ability to make decisions based on your own comfort level and that, especially in the Poly community, is an invaluable skill. And, by the same token, being able to take rejection gracefully is just as important. Although the other person does not owe you an explanation for turning you down, they will definitely appreciate your willingness to accept their decision without incident, and it may even help lay the foundation for a great friendship as you have now made them aware that you respect and trust their “no”. But, no matter what, always remember that not everyone is going to like you, nor are you going to like everybody.
And that’s okay.