Every day we encounter new information about relationships: how to get into one, how to keep one, how to end one. But what if you don’t want a relationship right now? Or what if the people who want a relationship with you aren’t exactly your type? At some point or other, many girls find themselves receiving unwanted attention from a guy. Afraid to hurt him, yet equally afraid to lead him on, the awkward struggle for “just friends” status can go on for weeks—or longer. Is it possible to communicate lack of interest without appearing heartless and rude?
Since every person is different, we can’t possibly plan for all the variables in situations like these. But we can provide some basic guidelines for dealing with unwanted attention.
1. Acknowledge his effort.
Have you ever tried to make a new friend by asking someone to hang out with you? It’s a very vulnerable question. Asking it means risking rejection, feeling silly and even walking away knowing the person didn’t think you were worth their time. Every time a guy asks a girl out, he goes through these same emotions. This doesn’t mean you should pretend you like him to prevent him from feeling bad, but it can help to acknowledge his effort.
If your classmate takes the time to ask you out and you know you’re not interested, thank him for the invite before declining: “I am flattered by the invitation, but I’m not dating anyone right now.”
2. Be honest.
I recently interviewed 10 young men for an article on my blog. In the interviews, I asked them what they were looking for in a partner. The interviewees were unanimous on one character trait: honesty. Repeatedly they stated that they would prefer a woman be honest about why she wasn’t interested rather than she delay the conversation for weeks.
We’re often afraid to be straightforward because we want to “let him down easy.” But if we aren’t being honest, we’re defeating our own purpose. It can be tough to tell the truth, but it’s better for both parties in the long run.
3. Set boundaries.
Some guys take rejection with grace and dignity, walking away with their pride intact. But others will be hurt and embarrassed. They might respond negatively either in the moment or later on. It’s important to set boundaries in the relationship and any contact you have after your conversation.
This might mean asking for accountability from a friend, letting her know if the guy contacts you. You might have to set limits on your social media or even block and delete him if he still pursues you. This is not “mean”; it’s setting a health boundary. If he cannot respect your boundaries when he’s not in a relationship with you, he definitely wouldn’t respect them if he were dating you. You can tell a lot about a guy by how he responds to rejection.
Remember to also set boundaries for yourself. We tend to romanticize the past, making it seem better than it was. Regret and guilt set in and we might reach out to “patch things up.” Set boundaries—and get accountability—for yourself until you are emotionally prepared to think clearly about the situation.
If you aren’t sure whether to address unwanted attention in the first place, pray! Pray for the right opportunity, the right words and a receptive heart to do what you’ve been called to do. Also pray that the guy will listen.
If you’ve already had the discussion and are feeling guilty about it, pray for wisdom. Ask God to help you see the situation in an accurate light, and to remove the guilt if you have done the right thing.
And finally, pray for the hearts of all people involved. You have to do what is right for your own life, but sometimes those choices affect others. Pray for peace and joy for yourself and those around you. God truly does care about the practical things in life—things like breakups and unwanted attention. You can trust His guidance.
…do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say. (Luke 12:11-12)