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Addicted to rejection?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  September 9, 2013 08:35 AM

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Q: Meredith,

I'm a 24-year-old female and I'm addicted to rejection. At least I fear I am.

I've had several exclusive relationships of various lengths and levels of intensity, the most important of which ended almost two years ago. That relationship was on and off for about three and half years. From day one I was head over heels for "Frank." He was so smart, kind, successful, funny, and handsome. We had an unbelievable connection and talked about everything and nothing for hours. He quickly became my best friend, and I loved him. But for the first year, I couldn't shake the feeling that he wasn't as serious about me. Out of fear of the truth, I never confronted the issue. Instead I just wished I could be someone better, and hoped he'd one day fall for me. That day never came.

Finally, after about 15 months of wishing and hoping, I broke up with him, or more accurately, I broke up with myself. I loved him and wanted to stay with him, but I knew it was one-sided. For whatever reason he wouldn't just put me out of my misery, so I took matters into my own hands and freed myself by accepting reality and saying goodbye. At first he didn't ask me to stay.

Within about two weeks, everything had changed. He was begging me to come back to him, saying he didn't know what he had until he lost it. He admitted he had always been distant, and came clean about cheating on me once while in Europe during the first few months of our relationship, and promised to be better.

And he was. He sent flowers, was patient and accepting of my anger, and treated me with all the love and respect I could possibly stomach. I allowed these unexpected efforts because I felt I owed it to myself, the one who had loved him so sincerely, to give a second chance and let him love me back. But I just didn't feel as strongly as I used to. Despite his grand gestures, I remained somewhat bitter about the previous year, and what was worse, I felt bored.

I told him (and myself) that it was too late for us. I broke things off "for good" right before a two-month study abroad program where I did my best to make a clean break from my first love once and for all.

It wasn't that easy. Both abroad and back in Boston, I dated and waited. I met plenty of wonderful guys who treated me well, but I didn't fall for any the way I had for Frank. Nothing and no one made me forget him. After four months of misery, I was positive I'd thrown away my one and only, and I wrote him a letter begging for my own second chance. Slowly but surely we started seeing each other again. He kept me at a distance just as I had done to him the year before, but I waited patiently.

After another seven or eight months in purgatory, we were back together, just in time for my next trip. I went to teach English in Europe for two months, and I missed him the whole time. I thought we were forever. Really.

Then out of nowhere, back in Boston, things started to fizzle. I felt bored again. I wanted to be honest with him, and I suspected he would be upset but willing to work through it, or better, he'd tell me that my feelings were normal and that my curiosity for the world didn't mean I didn't truly love him.

He didn't. He cried and told me he felt the same way. He loved me but we were in different places and needed to go our separate ways. I was terrified and full of heartache, but I knew he was right.

Since the breakup I've been on around 30 first dates, probably 15 second, and a pyramid number of third, fourth, etc. I've tried to be open-minded and optimistic, and as a result I've spent time with a handful of wonderful guys with amazing qualities. Somehow, no one has been able to hold my attention.

I've made a point to focus on other aspects of my life, and moved to a new part of the city, started a new job, and traveled extensively. Nothing has helped me forget. The thought of Frank still puts a lump in my throat.

In March I met Jack. I didn't fall for him as deeply and quickly as with Frank, but he was fun and he made me laugh, so I gave him a shot and I didn't even mind that sometimes he'd cancel our plans last minute. I didn't mind that he had me constantly wondering and feeling vaguely rejected. Until, of course, I did. Three months of the back and forth and I got brave enough to break up with myself again. At first, he didn't ask me to stay. (Two weeks later, he still didn't ask.)

I still think about Jack, similar to how I think of Frank. I miss him. Sometimes I think of calling him, asking him to forget about the time I stood up for myself, and meet me for dinner. But why? I have no idea.

Jack was fun, but I didn't love him. He wasn't someone so remarkable that a girl couldn't possibly let go. He was just a guy. A boy who didn't care whether or not I was around. How could that earn him my continued attention?

I want to be happy. I don't want to spend my life leaving good guys in the dust and pining after the ones who don't want me. Is that what this is about? Is that the kind of person I am? Am I addicted to rejection, doomed to hold on to it forever?

– Heartbreak Lovers Anonymous, Boston


A: I see nothing wrong here, HLA. You loved Frank -- just not enough. He was wonderful at times, but it wasn't a forever kind of relationship. And then there was Jack, the pleasant distraction. He wasn't serious about you, but he had some good qualities. It's OK to miss the nice things about him and to be sad that the relationship didn't evolve into something better. A small loss is still a loss.

If you were addicted to rejection, you would have tried to stay with Jack. You certainly wouldn't have been so honest with yourself about how you were being treated. In both relationships, you were compelled to confront uncomfortable feelings. You walked way instead of begging to be loved, and you forced Frank and Jack to be honest so that you could make the right decision.

You're not doomed to hold onto rejection, but you are doomed to have feelings. There's no way to avoid being sad after a breakup, even if it's a tiny one. That's all that's happening here. You're just being human and learning as you go. Keep it up.

Readers? Is she doing something wrong? Is she addicted to rejection? Why does she miss Jack? Discuss.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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