Can’t Take No For An Answer?

Are you pushing too hard in your search for love online? Here’s how to tell—and what to do.

By Margot Carmichael Lester

ou exchanged a few nice messages, but now he’s not responding to your email or IMs. Not a quitter, you gamely continue to make contact, hoping he’ll change his mind about you or at least show enough respect to admit he’s just not that into you. But do you really need this when the signs are so clear? Why waste your time on this dude when you could be writing to guys who want to communicate?

I know from my own online dating experience that sometimes it’s just plain hard to take no for an answer unless you actually get a “no.” For some
We have an expectation that the person should like us.
reason, we lose all ability to take not-so-subtle hints like unreturned emails and ignored IMs and move on. But why?

“We want to protect our ego and a rejection is a slap square in the face of it,” explains Jonathan Alpert, a New York City-based psychotherapist and relationship expert. “We have an expectation that the person should like us, just because we like him or her.”

Sarah Gmyr, a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, did a lot of research on the subject for her thesis, Romantic Relationship Development via Computer Mediated Communication. “I found that some participants were too scared to start over. They would rather be in a dead-end, unhappy ‘relationship,’ than venture out into the dating scene again.”

Ouch. So how can we learn to take the hint, deal with our feelings and redirect our energy into a constructive search for the person of our dreams?

It’s not about you.
We want to make the rejection all about us. But a change in perspective can work wonders. “Don’t personalize rejection,” Alpert counsels. “It’s about the other person and his or her desires, not you.”

Step into the other person’s shoes.
Before you send off that email, put yourself in the receiver’s shoes. “I used to do this till I was on the receiving end,” says Sally Margolis of Diamond Bar, CA. “I tried being nice about telling him I wasn’t interested, but
Online dating presents a marketplace of sorts for daters.
he kept contacting me. It was sad and awkward and I didn’t want to crush him by saying, ‘I’m not interested. Please stop contacting me.’ So I just ignored his emails after a while.”

Know that you want The One, not this one.
“Men and women who find themselves in this type of situation need to ask themselves why they would want to be part of a one-sided, unfulfilling relationship,” Gmyr says. “If the ultimate goal is to fill up the proverbial love tank — which is why humans develop romantic relationships with others — does it make sense to want to be in a relationship with someone who doesn’t care about your well-being?” Uh, no!

Recognize that he’s out there.
“Online dating presents a marketplace of sorts for daters,” Alpert notes. “There really are many others out there. So explore other avenues. Not everyone will be a match for everyone else. It’s a numbers game, so go out there and try again.”

So next time you don’t get what you want from that object of your online desire, change your tune. If you absolutely must fire off one more communiqué, make it a nice one. Instead of flaming the guy or desperately asking him to reconsider, thank him for exchanging emails with you and wish him luck in his search. Or take a page from Claire Evans’ book.

“When I get a rejection, I write back and say something like, ‘We weren’t a match, but if you know someone who’s looking for a woman like me, let me know. I’ll keep an eye out for dates for you, too.’”

Talk about making lemonade out of lemons! This tactic not only showcases you as a reasonable and respectful person, but it might just lead you to love. And isn’t that why you’re online in the first place?

Carrboro, NC-based freelance writer Margot Carmichael Lester also pens the Ask Margot advice column.
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