The old adage goes, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.” While this approach is admirable under some circumstances, what no one tells us is it’s equally important to know when to give up on something or, in this case, someone. Often it’s more difficult to give up on a potential partner than to keep pursuing them because it means sacrificing a fantasy. Fantasies are fun and they whisk us away from the monotony of life. Once the rousing possibility of a person is gone, life can seem like a beige, windowless room.
I say go there. Go to that undesirable place and wait. Enjoy the company of your family and friends and pursue professional passions in the meantime. Another crush will come along — maybe even one who feels the same way! Take it from someone who has refused to give up on guys in every way possible: Giving up is oh-so-liberating. Here are a few circumstances when you know it’s never going to happen and you can free yourself up for something better.
Doesn’t Respond to Your Electronic Prompts
If you extend a Facebook friend invite and he doesn’t accept, then that’s that. Yes, really. Would you refuse the friend request of someone you were even mildly interested in? If you extend the invite and he accepts but doesn’t send you a private message along the lines of, “It was great to meet you last Saturday!” then things are looking bleak. You can keep prompting — as I have done — but I caution you that these prompts inevitably reach a dead end.
Inconsistency with texting is another telltale sign of an unreciprocated crush. If your texts outnumber his three to one or he doesn’t respond to open-ended questions, it’s time to admit defeat. Also, any excuses that revolve around technology failure — such as an iPhone falling into the dog’s water bowl or a laptop spontaneously combusting — are nonsense. My current boyfriend called me a few weeks ago (before we decided to be exclusive). He said, “I sent you a text this morning but my phone is acting weird and I want to make sure it went through.” I had an epiphany: So that’s what a guy does when he’s authentically interested — finds another one of the 47 means of communication out there if there happens to be a problem. Revelatory!
Asks You Out and Doesn’t Follow Through
This has happened to me twice — probably more than that even, but two times stand out. The first time, I was a sophomore in college and the big man on campus — Sigma Alpha Epsilon, tall, looked amazing in a speedo — asked me out. He didn’t ask just to hang out — he asked if I wanted to go to dinner. I said yes! And that was it. He never called, and ceased looking at me when I walked by. Did I give up? Of course not! I had clearly done something wrong and had to fix it. Like Sadie Hawkins on a mission, I marched to his room and invited him to my sorority’s semi-formal. He accepted and I relaxed knowing we had cleared up whatever misunderstanding had taken place with the not calling nonsense. He attended the formal with me and appeared to have a good time. Yes, we made out on the dance floor. Afterwards he told me to give him a call. I dutifully called the next night. He said he was tired and returned to ignoring me when we passed each other on campus. Even if you achieve your aim by pursuing someone, eventually it has to be a mutual pursuit.
Doesn’t React to a Gift You Give
A good friend of mine was getting the cold shoulder from a man she’d been out with a few times. She knew he was going to Costa Rica, so she made him a mini-travel kit and dropped it off at his apartment. He wasn’t home, so she left it with his roommate. At the end of the day when she hadn’t received a thank-you text (or any text) from him, she was incensed. “This is who I am,” she said to herself. “I’m just a nice person. What’s wrong with being a nice person?”
There’s nothing wrong with being nice for the sake of being nice, but here’s the catch: the wonderful thing about being a pleasant person is that it’s a reward in and of itself. When you give gifts or do unrequested favors for someone you have feelings for, however, you’re not doing it for nothing in return — you want everything in return. You want attention, affection, and undying love. You want this person to know that you are the sweetest thing there ever was. Think about it: these gift-giving gestures are more for you than your intended. Paradoxically, you improve your chances by walking away.
You Run into Them on a Date
Running into your crush (in person or online) when they’re arm-in-arm with someone else is an unmitigated bummer, but it’s also a sure sign that now is a good time to call the whole thing off. If you have not been out on a date with your object of affection, then you may be seeing them with their new squeeze. If you have been out once or twice and you run into them while courting, then it’s a safe bet that they’re in playing-the-field mode. There are those who might choose to stick around while he makes a decision between everyone they’re seeing. I’m not naming names (cough — yours truly — cough), but one might justify it this way: “We’re not exclusive. He’s free to do as he pleases.” And he was. And he did. And he eventually married one of the women I saw him out with. Give up before all this goes down.
Samara O’Shea is the author of Loves Me… Not: How to Survive (and Thrive!) in the Face of Unrequited Love, out now from February books.