I’m Sensitive, Afraid of Rejection and Push Men Away

I'm Sensitive, Afraid of Rejection and Push Men Away

I wanted to see if you had any tips about modifying my own behavior, because I’m driving myself (and a progression of men) at least a little batty.

Reading your blog has been so useful to me over the last 2 months of intense dating, thank you. I try to – and often do ­– successfully apply your advice. It’s been up, and down, and absolutely wonderful and then total hell. I’m 34, attractive to people who like my physical type, and I do okay – many men like me, and I like some of them back. I have the usual frustrations with bad dates, vapor trails, and the men who are just emotionally available enough to keep me around but won’t let anything progress, but I’ve learned to accept this as part of the ride.

But I’m very emotionally sensitive and naturally very defensive, and it’s killing me. When a man pulls back just a little bit – even very early on, and very possibly just in my head – I start to freak out on the inside, to write the death warrant on the non-relationship, and to become tense about the whole affair. I write “you’re obviously not interested – nice to know you” emails way too quickly, leaving men going “Wait. What?” They often stick around to work it out – I swear some of them even *like* it – but I’ve poisoned the natural progression of our discourse, and I think the long-term effects are usually negative.

I know this is bad. I logically know it’s very bad. But when I’m in the middle of an “it’s over and he doesn’t like me! I must defend myself!” attack it feels 100 percent like the only course of action. Then I write the email/leave the voice message and… instantly feel horrible. I sit in dread of the response. I suddenly see the mature, thoughtful way I could asked them what was going on with them that I didn’t take.

Do you have any mechanisms, anything at all, for heading off this behavior at the pass? I feel like a slave to my fears of rejection, and it’s causing a “let me reject you before you reject me!” nuclear reaction that slimes everything in radiation and leaves everyone, self included, emotionally flayed. I hate it.

Thank you, even if you just read this! Your blog really is the best.


Oh, Emily.

I’m about the last person you should be asking for advice on defending yourself.

I’m constantly writing long-winded, emotional, poorly-thought-out responses to the various ways that my words are minced, mangled, and misinterpreted – and every time I do, I feel a piece of my soul break away.

Being understood is tiring work.

If you consistently fly off the handle that every man in the world isn’t following your imaginary script as to how he’s supposed to act, you’re essentially writing your own unhappy ending.

Being right requires constant maintenance.

And letting everyone know that you’re right is like a full time no-paying job.

Which is the key point – there are NO REWARDS for being right.

All you do is end up alienating the people who have the potential to care for you.

Are your negative impulses “correct”? I’m betting they often are.

But if you consistently fly off the handle that every man in the world isn’t following your imaginary script as to how he’s supposed to act, you’re essentially writing your own unhappy ending.

Remember: Men do what they want, not what you want.

Stop expecting them to do what you want, try to understand where they’re coming from, and you’ll soon discover that they start appreciating you a lot more.

I’m not an easygoing person, but I will be the first to tell you that there are few qualities more valuable – in a wife, in a friend, or in a business partner.

If you don’t learn to let things roll off your back, then most men – unless they’re blindly whipped on your intoxicating beauty – are just going to conclude that you’re too much work. Or, as other men have been known to say, you’re “hot and crazy”.

And a man can only deal with so many tantrums, so much criticism, and a finite amount of drama before he concludes that he’ll date someone less attractive, intelligent and impressive and find himself a nice girl who makes his life easier.

In fact, I just did a teleseminar last month, called “Being a Great Girlfriend” in my FOCUS Coaching group. Took a bunch of questions and spent an hour teaching women how to better understand and connect with men in relationships.

When you fire off angry missives to guys who barely have anything invested in you – much less a real boyfriend – you’re certainly not understanding him, appreciating him, or making his life better.

As “research”, I asked my Mom and wife to tell me the three things that made them great partners. After they both said, “Oral sex”, we got down to these three things: not emasculating him, appreciating everything he does for you, and doing your best to make his life happy every day.

When you fire off angry missives to guys who barely have anything invested in you – much less a real boyfriend – you’re certainly not understanding him, appreciating him, or making his life better.

You’re just telling him he’s an insensitive schmuck.

Yeah, we don’t like hearing that. Especially if we have valid reasons for not doing what you want us to do.

So, are there any mechanisms for heading off this behavior at the pass?

Apart from taking a deep breath, a time out, and a full day before you write something you regret, the only thing I can think of is this:

“Why He Disappeared – The Smart, Strong, Successful Woman’s Guide to Understanding Men and Keeping the Right One Hooked Forever.”

It’s the best summation I can offer about why men marry some women and not others, and I think you’ll really get a lot out of it. Please come back and let me know what you think. And don’t worry: there’s a money-back guarantee!

Thanks, and please come back here to let us know how it goes.

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  1. 91

    Just ask me…im a pro with getting the fellas after me…problem is…I truly am not looking to make any committments either…for the very same affair that ill make a mistake. …but ive mastered the art of “space distancing”….problem is…its not an act…but part of my own attempt at self preservation and discovery…go figure

  2. 92

    I can completely relate to Emily’s situation. I’ve chosen to be single for the past 5 years. I don’t know. I guess the first evaluator is to test if he’s into my image as well as my soul.. and they just aren’t making the cut.
    I’ve been there and done that as far as one LTR and I am sometimes lonely but it is what it is. As much drama as I see couples encounter at the local mall, I’d rather stand back and observe. Not that I dislike the idea of being with someone… it’s just something that women (and men) perceive to be the truest and idealistic pure form of “LOVE” when we have unrealistic expectations of our partners. So ask yourself really… do you think it’s really worth the effort of tripping and falling towards an picture painted love story? I’d rather spend my passionate moments with a bottle of wine and a shower head.
    The End.

    1. 92.1

      Sounds like you are having trouble putting your heart where your mouth is.  Hope it works out for you!

  3. 93

    I haven’t read through all the comments for this post, but just reading the post itself I wanted to throw in something..
    A lot of people have these defenses, and a lot of people are stuck in “fight or flight” mode from previous traumatic experiences where they created defense mechanisms. If you take the time to BREATHE through your defense mechanisms and understand them, before you try to pursue any kind of real relationship, you wouldn’t need to ask anyone else what to do. Evan gives great advice for the mind to go over, but fight or flight is often felt in the body. I’m studying to become a yoga teacher and until my training didn’t realize how much memory is stored in every cell of your body, and how many people still live in this fight or flight mode without realizing that’s what that is. 
    This fight or flight response can be changed through breath and awareness. Realize that it’s not the other person’s behavior towards you, but that those behaviors are simply triggers to your own “stuff”. Often we’ll make a dramatic story out of this stuff but if you take time to sit with your stuff, dig deep, breath gently through it, you can greatly release that tension, apprehension and stress surrounding any situation or relationship. Breathe first, then think, then act if you feel cautious about moving forward or feel unsure. Moving from a place of fear never gets anyone anywhere. Best way to settle that is to feel your fear and allow it to dissipate when it’s ready to. It’s there to show you something, not dictate your life!

  4. 94

    Andrew 5 – yes very succinct indeed.  Try this one
    Women do what they want, not what you want:
    If a man doesn’t treat a woman how she wants, why is she waiting around?

  5. 95

    Hello! This was me!  I did this d*mn dance for 7 years!  Okay… mighta been more like 19 which is about how long I’ve been spending time with men in any kind of “romantic” capacity.  You need to sit on your hands girl.  Tape your mouth shut… throw your phone in the toilet.  Do what it takes.  And it’s not because you should be worried about how the guy is going to see you when you drop that bomb.  It’s because of how YOU are going to feel after you send it.  It’s a vicious cycle.  You are mad… you want him to feel the way you feel, so you send something nasty.  Then he retaliates with, “You’re crazy! blah blah blah blah” and he feels vindicated and you feel like a loser.  You are a winner D*mnit!  Act like a winner.  You are an emotionally intelligent woman who has self control!  It is important that you regularly remind yourself of this so you can build and retain the confidence in yourself you are going to need to find someone who is as much of a winner as you are. I have found it helps me to exercise when I feel that urge to tell someone off.  It wears me out, gives me a feeling of accomplishment, and reminds me I’m a hot commodity he would be lucky to have… should I decide HE is worthy.  If you’re not up for exercising, another thing I do is go online and read self-help relationship advice until I want to poke my eyeballs out with a fork.  Then I delete my internet history and re-emerge, feeling informed and empowered and calm… perhaps because I just got to listen to 50 other people vent about similar problems and how they dealt with it.  I’m a fixer.  I like to fix things.  And it drives me nuts when I can tell a guy is being wishy washy or waffling, or possibly just enjoying being a little man-wh*re.  At the end of the day, what I think you are really needing in this situation is a reminder that YOU are the thing worth having and whether or not HE is, is yet to be determined.

  6. 96

    I am what is called a “highly sensitive person.” Not only is my intuition usually correct, I am empathetic to my own detriment of dangerously nearing “doormat” status. My new word is “no” to men’s bad behavior and “yes” to trusting my intuition and taking care of myself.

    As recently as yesterday I was lied to once again by a guy that I dated two years ago for several months but broke up with after he lied to me about seeing (code: sleeping with) other women. While seeing other women is not a big deal to me, in general, I had just had a serious talk with him about honesty since our relationship was progressing. I told him not to ever say anything to me that he didn’t mean and to just tell me if he wanted to see someone else. Well, Facebook is a funny thing. While we weren’t friends on FB, we apparently had mutual friends that posted a pic of him and this woman with comments like “I’m so happy for you two” etc. And the woman in the picture gushing “baby baby baby I love you so much.” I looked at the date and the picture was taken on a Friday. He was with me the next evening. I confronted him with the evidence and reminded him that honest communication was a non-negotiable thing for me. He made some lame excuse and still wanted to hang out with me as friends to which I said no thank you. He tried again in a year but I was seeing someone seriously and told him so.

    Flash forward to four months ago. He asks if I am seeing anyone and while I was, the relationship was different and not entirely serious. I informed my current dating partner of this man’s renewed interest. I could do what I wanted. So I let him take me to dinner and let him know that friendship was all I was interested in at the moment. He says that is fine with him, he enjoys my company, blah blah. Over the course of several weeks, he keeps asking me to go to a Rolling Stones concert with him out of town…his treat. I decline because of expectations of sex I am sure. Things deteriorate with my other dating partner (because of a lie, naturally). So I ask Rolling Stones guy how the concert was and he says he missed that one but there is another one closer (still overnight) in three days. I tell him I could do that one if he would like me to..or if it’s off the table that’s okay too. *I clearly state that I am okay if he no longer wants me to go.* He acts all excited and “yes yes I’ll let you know by tomorrow.” That’s cool I say but I definitely need to know so I can make arrangements for work, kenneling my dog, etc. What happens? Yep. Tomorrow (Saturday) comes and goes and I HEAR NOTHING! So yesterday (Sunday) evening I send him a text to nevermind about the concert because I expect that when someone says they will get back to me the next day, they actually do and I don’t have time for this nonsense. Again…lame apologies and how right I am, he should have contacted me. Blah Blah. I do not understand this behavior at all. I am not afraid of rejection. I just expect honest communication. I don’t freak out. If you don’t want to go then just say so.

    Whenever I am dating someone, at a certain point, usually after 3 or 4 dates, I have the discussion about honest communication. I do not tolerate being lied to or played. So why did I give Mr. Rolling Stones another chance? Because I am kind and empathetic and people make mistakes and I truly believe in forgiveness and that anyone can change their behavior. But last night I said “no” to that nonsense. Players gonna play…just not with me anymore. Would I like someone in my life? Yes!! But I have gotten to the point that any man that wants to date me I am suspicious of. I have stopped trusting any words coming out of their mouths. I have the honesty talk with them, I am not clingy or possessive. Men tell me I am beautiful and smart and fun to be with. And yet, lies every single time. So while I don’t necessarily try to reject them first, I am now looking for a lie, expecting one even.

    1. 96.1
      Karmic Equation

      You don’t need to have the “honesty” conversation with good guys. If you feel you need to have this conversation with the guy you’re dating, then just end it. If you truly trust your instinct, you don’t need the conversation. That conversation is an insult to honest guys and gives a road map to the dishonest ones on how to handle you.

    2. 96.2

      Sue, I totally agree with Karmic Equation below. I identify with “I am what is called a “highly sensitive person.” Not only is my intuition usually correct, I am empathetic to my own detriment of dangerously nearing “doormat” status. My new word is “no” to men’s bad behaviour and “yes” to trusting my intuition and taking care of myself.” 

      After my recent relationship which consist of a series of small lies and then a big lie about going on vacation with an ex. I decided things have got to change. I didn’t trust my instinct and I was dead wrong as usual.

      The ironic part is that being the naive, self-centred and occasionally bratty girl in my 20s, I was with authentic and loving people. The best partners ever. A period of self-reflection in my late 20s and early 30s led me to be more empathetic and willing to compromise. But lo and behold, I chose the worse ever 2 partners in my life – self-centred, shift blame, lying, emotionally unavailable prey on my empathy. How did something so good (increase in empathy) go so wrong? I feel really bitter about this because there is nothing more disgusting than taking advantage of empathy and honesty.

      I am still filtering my emotions through, it has been a few days since the break up. What I have thought about is this, I would love to hear from you as well.

      Empathy not at the expense of myself. I deserved to be empowered by my decisions as I believe other people do too as well.  The other person accepting responsibility, sincere apology, making it up to you. If it is still not enough, I can only acknowledge my feelings and walk. I tend to think the best of people and they definitely don’t live up to it.

      The brutal truth is that people will test boundaries and try to get away with what they can. Those who are authentic givers and understand empathy are far and few in between. When you are empathetic, not everyone gets it, it’s not because you are clueless but it’s because you choose to behave differently. Some will take it as a weakness. At this point,  I was starting to hate empathy a little.

      In your case and mine, our mistakes are choosing the wrong people, this could be clouded by empathy as much as chemistry. Other possibilities would be lack of self-love, low self-esteem, etc.

      They have shown us over and over again who they really are, we just didn’t want to believe it. I was in denial for the past 1 year, from the get go, honesty was called into question. Instead of acknowledging it, hairs are spilt between non-disclosure and outright lying. Only after much drama, a reluctant apology was given. This didn’t change and only got worse. Just like the Rolling Stones guy never did change.

      We are not there to be Mother Teresa to these people just as we don’t expect them to be ours. Empathy only comes into play when there is a genuine challenge from a person who has shown you empathy, commitment in return. Not as an excuse for bad behaviour, EVER. Not in place of mutuality and fairness, EVER.

      I am doing a reassessment of what I genuinely want and taking empathy too far or out of context.




  7. 97

    This is probably a problem caused by things happening growing up. A parent might have died, meaning they left and you’re emotionally left alone, though they didn’t choose to leave you. Or something similar. If so, I would suggest therapy. If not, this person should get herself so busy she doesn’t have time to think about what he thinks/wants to do. Teach yourself to not think for someone else, to only be receptive and let things flow naturally. A good guy will go with your pace and if that pace if not rushing in but slowly moving forward, he will take those steps with you. Don’t think ahead, enjoy the moment.

  8. 98

    Laya is bang on. Just let yourself feel but don’t act on those feelings. It’s tough. I have the same fear of abandonment issue and mother wound, and things trigger me a lot to have these irrational thoughts. The thing is, we don’t even know they are irrational, because that’s how our brain is wired because we had in attentive mothers, people abandoned us, betrayed us, etc. Cofnotive behavioral therapy can help, but it’s a process. Don’t give up. I’m not. Everyone has their own issues, whether they recognize it or not. What’s most important is how we dea with them.

  9. 99
    Lisa Johnson

    I don’t know which is worse, the question or the answer! First, let’s address the question. To me the lady seems a bit immature. Sounds as though she has not adequately expressed what she’s expecting from the relationship, therefore allowing the man to act immaturely with wishy washy behavior. Yes ladies to be treated the way you want to be treated in a relationship you have to spell out how you want to be treated, what your expectations are…in whatever detail you feel necessary to get the point across. If he’s unwilling to listen or worse unwilling to try to meet those expectations…move on, fast! Of course this is a two way street. Men have expectations as well and they need to learn the art of communication and put those right out there. If you think that your “soul mate” will automatically know your expectations and automatically reciprocate….dream on Alice! You have to stress in the in beginning that you aren’t going to tolerate certain behavior, like hot and cold! Ask the man point blank if he’s just in it for the sex…watch how he answers and listen to your intuition. If he’s not serious and you are….drop him like a hot potato.

    As for Evans answer…🙄

    ”Men will do what they want to do”

    Of course they will unless you value yourself enough to say to them, “If you want to be with me, you have to be mature and follow some basic etiquette!”  With that said, some people are just over bearing and controlling. These people don’t respect boundaries, have major trust issues and no life of their own. These types make having a relationship next to impossible and of course people pull away from that. However most of the time it’s same old story. Relationship starts out like a barn on fire, woman doesn’t lay the proper ground work, expects a man to be on the same page as her, she’s making plans for them, he’s making plans to escape! Don’t take Evans advice that says only a pussy whipped man will stay because that’s bullshit. If you value yourself as worthy, then make sure he know that value and if he’s worthy himself, he will continue to put in the effort to make the relationship work.



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