Committed Relationship Doesn’t Mean Rejection Stops

Dear Harlan: How do I handle rejection in a committed relationship? I’ve been with my partner for the past two years, and I still struggle when she isn’t interested in being intimate. What does normal rejection in a committed relationship typically look like, and how do you handle it?

— Struggling

Dear Struggling:  My wife rejects me all the time. It hurts, but I don’t resent her. People think that once they fall in love, commit and get married the rejection doesn’t stop. Nope. It never stops. You can’t hide from it. The only way to handle it is to accept The Universal Rejection Truth of Relationships. The URT states that your partner will not always say or do what you want. And you won’t always say or do what your partner wants. It’s the undeniable truth. When we accept the truth, we don’t spend all of our time hating, hiding or attacking. Instead we can look inward and outward, and move forward. Looking inward means getting comfortable enough in your own skin to listen, even if the words aren’t what you want to hear. Looking outward means working to understand how someone feels, even if it hurts, without trying to change them. Moving forward means expressing how you feel, being heard and giving someone permission to respond freely. It takes people who are willing to embrace the truth and to grow together.

People who fight the URT grow apart. Intimacy is getting comfortable with the uncomfortable, finding comfort when being heard and listening – even if it’s not what we want to hear or be told.

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You Need Love – With or Without a Significant Other



Dear Harlan: I’m in my first relationship. I’ve wanted a boyfriend for a while, and now that I have one, I’m anxious and scared. I’m feeling all these emotions that I’ve never felt before. I’m afraid that it all will end, and life will be back to how it was. It’s as if I’m waiting for the bottom to drop. How can I be in a relationship and relax without obsessing about it ending?

— Obsessing

Dear Obsessing:  Have a life you love inside and outside of your new relationship. Make sure you have friends in your life in addition to your significant other. Spend time with family members who fill you up with happiness. Do things that make you happy independent of your significant other. Make sure you have a life that isn’t dependent on someone else for all of your happiness. When you have balance, interests and love in your life, you’ll know that you will always be OK. Be grateful for the new relationship, and at the same time, know that you will always be OK, no matter what. This is how you ensure that you always have love in your life. This is how you can enjoy the moment and how you can demand and command respect inside the relationship. Yes, it’s scary to be happy, but it’s not as scary when you know you’ll always have love in your life – with or without a boyfriend.

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Never Regret Telling the Truth About Sex

Dear Harlan: I’m having relationship regrets. I told my boyfriend that I wanted to wait to have sex. That is what you suggested. He said he was OK with this and would go at my pace. The next week, he broke up with me. He’s already dating someone else. I asked him if it was about not having sex with him. He said it had nothing to do with it. I’m having regrets. Did I make a mistake?

— Regrets

Dear Regrets:  He’s a loser. You are lucky he’s not your boyfriend. The only regret you should have is wasting time thinking about him. He gave you the greatest gift in the world. He removed himself from your life. Your boyfriend wasn’t interested in dating you. He was only interested in having sex with you. And let me tell you one more thing that makes me feel disgusted: If breaking up with you had NOTHING to do with sex (and I don’t believe it for one second), clearly he was having doubts. Be grateful you didn’t sleep with someone who was already planning to end the relationship. Clearly, there were problems. You must have sensed it. The best way to avoid getting used by a jerk is time. Be proud of yourself. You did everything right. You set a clear boundary and discovered the truth. Yes, it’s painful to break up, but it’s more painful to have someone break up with you after using you. You have nothing to regret – be grateful

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She’s too busy for a date… He’s crushed, confused, and still waiting

Flirting After SchoolDear Harlan: I like this girl, but every time I ask her out, she is busy (legitimately). She sends me mixed signals and sometimes I really think she likes me, but then I sometimes think she’s just leading me on. How do I know the difference? — Led on

Dear Led on: You need more crushes in your life.  Listen to me man… If you had five more women in your life who interested you, this one would be a distant thought. You wouldn’t feel led on because you’d have moved on a long time ago. Interestingly, when you move on, women find you much more attractive. It’s not attractive to sit around waiting for someone to decide that she has enough time for you. Moving on makes you appear to not need anyone. That makes you more wanted. You’ve done everything you need to do. You’ve asked her out. She knows how you feel. Now you can let her know that when she’s available, if you’re not seeing someone, she can let you know about that date. Make it about the timing. Then, spend your time on women who are available.

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Dream big, start small, and live in a world of “YES”

Predict-The-FutureDear Harlan: You recently came to my school and I saw you in my assembly. You talked a lot about a “yes place,” where negative responses do not exist. However, I am unable to visualize this place. What can I do to see it? – Yes Place

Dear Yes Place: Before I answer your question, I want to explain the exercise you’re referencing for everyone else reading this response. During my live events, I’ll have audience members participate in an activity. You can do this, too. Do it right now. Close your eyes in a moment (don’t close them now or you won’t be able to read the instructions). Imagine you live in a world where there is no such thing as the answer “no.” Whatever you hope, dream and desire is within your reach. Think about your friendships, romantic relationships, professional life, family life, financial life and how you spend your time. What do you see? How does it feel? What are the sounds? Whose face do you see? What does your world look like when you wake up? Who do you spend your time with during day? Who is sitting across the dinner table from you at night? What does your world look like when you go to sleep? Now, open your eyes. What did you see? I call this your “yes place.” What’s one thing that you saw that you want to make happen? Sometimes people will tell me they have all the money in the world. One student told me he got straight A’s simply by asking and doing no work. Even if you imagine a world where people live forever or come back to life, there is power in imagining “yes.” A student who sees better grades without doing the work can use this as the impetus to find the best and brightest students who can share their tricks and tips with him.  Having all the money in the world isn’t about the money as much as it’s about the freedom. Figure out what money represents and set your path in that direction. Wishing people are back in your life will help you find new people and places where you can feel the warmth of wisdom of those who have left you. “Yes” can be a scary place. It means having to face our fears. It means having to listen to other people’s fears. It means having to overcome failure, struggle and rejection. “Yes” is a place where hope and happiness can never be dimmed. Getting to “yes” takes practice and patience. Most of us have little of both. We live in a world where people tell us what to do. We live in other people’s “yes places.” A 16-year-old at another event told me she was having a hard time finding her “yes place.” Why? No one ever asked her what she wanted. She did what everyone told her to do. And this is why it’s so hard for you to find your “yes place.” You have never done it before. You need to practice. Life has been more about everyone else’s “yes.” Start with one thing you want to change. Make it small. Think it. Believe it. See it. Feel it. Find people who will support you. Find places where you can find connection. And be patient. It takes time. It takes practice. Start small. Dream bigger. Eventually, you will live in a world of “yes.”

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Woman holding pink card saying dream big against fitness class iDear Harlan, I’m a 15-year-old, and my life goals are set. I want to graduate from high school, go to a college where I can pursue architecture, then come back to Texas and start my own firm. However, people tend to say that a woman of my cultural background can’t achieve those things. I have mixed feelings with just about everything. Lately, I’ve given up. My grades are falling, and I’m losing focus. What’s the best thing to do in order to regain my confidence and dreams? – Losing the Dream

Dear Losing the Dream,  Cover your walls with pictures of these women (search online and print them out): Maya Angelou (author, poet, actress, singer), Eleanor Roosevelt (politician, activist and former first lady), Amelia Earhart (American aviation pioneer), Hillary Clinton (presidential candidate and former secretary of state), Marie Curie (the first woman to win a Nobel Prize), Margaret Thatcher (first female prime minister in Britain), Toni Morrison (novelist, editor, professor), Rosa Parks (civil-rights activist), Malala Yousafzai (Pakistani activist for female education), Oprah Winfrey (media mogul), Helen Keller (writer and lecturer), Dr. Hawa Abdi (human-rights activist, Nobel Prize nominee), Mother Teresa (religious sister and missionary), and the 16 women in this article by Arch Daly in The Huffington Post ( Also, include the most important person’s picture – you. Sleep, wake up and live among these women. This is your sisterhood. It belongs to you. There is no limit to what you can accomplish. It’s hard to see at 15 years old, so you need to be reminded. I meet women from all backgrounds and cultures who have shattered others’ expectations. There are two more things you must do: The first is to get help immediately. There’s no time to waste. Be loud and proud, and say, “I need help!” Talk to your teachers, counselors and adults who believe in you. Ask them for help. Once you find answers, find strong female mentors who live, breathe and know your journey. Find women who will inspire, encourage and help you get wherever you want to go. Ask your career counselor for ideas, ask teachers to connect you, talk to a spiritual leader, and search for women in architectural magazines and websites. Find their contact info via Google and LinkedIn. Reach out to them. YES. Actually reach out. Interview them for a class assignment (ask your teacher for extra credit). Ask them questions that will help you find answers. Ask each woman, Who are the five people who helped you the most? Ask them what three places helped them learn the most. Ask what advice they’d give to a 15-year-old who is told that she can’t do it. When you finish writing, ask if you can stay in touch. Continue the relationships. Along your journey, remember: People who tell you it can’t be done are talking about themselves. Something happened that made them stop believing. Find out what happened. Use their experiences to teach you how to overcome obstacles and reach your own goals. People who achieve their dreams don’t spend their time discouraging others from dreaming. Dreamers inspire and encourage others to dream big. I know, because I’m one of them.

Attention Readers: I’d love to hear your stories and words of wisdom for this 15-year-old. What has been your journey? Who are the people who helped you? What other women should she model? Where are the places you found support? What other advice would you offer this 15-year-old leader? → Send responses here

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Fear Strikes When Striking Up Conversation with Hot Tall Man in Towel Section

woman with basket choosing towel at household chemistry goods deDear Harlan, I don’t have a problem striking up a conversation with a guy I am interested in if we’re in the right social setting. Some people say I have a masculine personality because I am outgoing, confident and take charge. With that being said, what do I do if I see a cute guy in a store or out in public, but am not in his vicinity? I saw this cute, tall guy walk by me at the store the other day. It was a breath of fresh air to see someone I was finally attracted to! But I didn’t want to hunt him down and then stand near him and then try to start a conversation about towels. What do you suggest someone do in this situation? Stalk them down or just let it be? The thought of walking after him and just asking him out does scare me. He’d either be flattered or super creeped out. Plus, it would feel embarrassing if he rejected me in public, and he might be uncomfortable. I do understand the Universal Rejection Truth, but do you have any other advice? – Stalking in the Towel Section

Dear Stalking in the Towel Section, Wrap yourself up in an over-sized towel and say, “Excuse me. Does this fit?” Then watch his fiancee pop out with a scanner gun to add it to her registry. I once started a conversation with a woman in the sponge aisle of the grocery store (cleaning sponge, not contraceptive). The only sponges were in a four-pack — too many for a single man like me. I asked her if she saw a single-pack sponge. Then I asked if she wanted to split the four-pack. She laughed. We chatted. I asked if she wanted to get coffee. She said she would, but she had a boyfriend. I asked if he liked coffee. Then I asked if she was interested in being friends. She said she could always use more friends. I never pursued the friendship. I wanted a girlfriend. The sponge experience was a good one. I had many bad ones too. I never let them stop me. The best meeting was at the UPS Store. I approached a beautiful stranger. I was making copies. She was sending a fax. We connected. A year and half later we were engaged. I didn’t let fear of rejection stop me. Why? I know I’m a good person with good intentions. Are you? Do you believe that everyone you approach is getting the greatest invitation in the world –a chance to participate in your life? If the answer is yes, shift from creepy to curious. Talk to people you find interesting. Be friendly. Ask questions and listen to the answers.  Focus less on being wanted and more on what you want. Turn your fear of rejection into a fear of allowing someone to miss out on the chance of a lifetime – a chance to meet you.

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Request: Single man prefers in-your-face rejection

Woman-Saying-NO-with-Hand-RejectionDear Harlan: I am a male, heterosexual college student, of average physical attractiveness. Lately, I’ve had very limited dating success. Over the past year, I’ve asked several people to get coffee or lunch, and we usually have a nice time. Usually after a lunch date or two, I will unambiguously ask someone out on an actual date. The pattern has been pretty consistent: She will say “yes,” I will feel great for about a day, and then when I go to follow up with her (usually only once, or at most twice, via text, always respectfully) to actually make plans, she will either phase me out (“I’m too busy”) or never reply or contact me again. After about two weeks of no contact, I’ll move on. Simply put, what’s going on here? This form of indirect rejection that I’ve encountered seems not only needlessly disingenuous, but also somewhat cruel. I understand that some people avoid rejecting others out of a misguided attempt to spare the jilted person’s feelings, but being encouraged and then ignored is a far harsher blow. The truth is, I’m more than willing to be rejected the good, old-fashioned, overt way. In the end, shouldn’t honesty win out? It seems like there’s something bizarrely selfish about avoiding the personal discomfort of saying “no.” – Misguided Rejection

Dear Misguided Rejection: Agreed, these people suck. But you can’t change how people reject you. What you can change are these get-to-know-you lunches. They’re not working.  Date with even more intention.  Yes, more. Stop hiding behind coffee and tea. Make it clear that you have romantic interest from the get go. Start with a date (use the word “date”).  Another suggestion is to focus on dating women who have made it clear that they want to date. Find single women online, through friends (get set up), and at singles events.  Then, you’ll get the clear-cut in-your-face rejection (or acceptance) you so deeply desire.

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Want women to want you? Do this one thing

Couple Holding Hands Walking Away
Dear Harlan:
I’m a junior in college and have a crush on this girl. I don’t drink or go out that much, and neither does she, which is pretty rare on our campus. We’re decently good friends, but not extraordinarily close. I’ve kind of confessed my feelings once in the past year. She explained that I’m her “favorite person,” but said that she just doesn’t feel the same about me as I do about her. However, my friends (both girls and guys) say that she probably does have feelings for me, judging by the way she acts. And her friends, when drunk, tell me that she really does like me and could even see herself marrying me, and say that she’s just been telling me that because she doesn’t want to ruin her chances with me if we got together now. What should I do? – Mixed Messages

Dear Mixed Messages: Give her permission to NOT want you.  You’re not the feelings police. Your job isn’t to investigate how she feels and report back to her. She told you: She doesn’t want to date you right now. Respect her boundaries. The next time her drunken friends tell you that she really likes you, make it clear that you’re going to be a gentleman and respect her feelings until she lets you know otherwise. In the meantime, get out and meet other women. I guarantee once you have other women in your world, this one will be far less important. And you will be far more attractive to her. Volunteer, participate in service trips, consider doing something spiritual (there’s not a lot of drinking during Bible study). Once you start meeting and dating other women, this girl will see that she might lose her favorite person. Then, she might be more motivated to date you. One thing I know: Waiting around and trying to persuade her to date you will never change her mind.

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Rejected? It’s rarely about you

Red Grunge Rejected Rubber StampDear Harlan: You recently printed a letter from a reader who told you she was going to quit reading your column because it’s no longer a “fit.” She had a problem with you discussing sex before marriage. First of all, who cares about this concern? Second of all, why even comment or say anything to you? I read all the columns in my newspaper, and while I might not always agree with the advice, I try appreciating other people’s point of view.– Open-Minded

Dear Open-Minded: I’m sure she’s still reading. People who threaten to quit my column are the most loyal readers. I really appreciated that letter. See, I’ve been rejected my entire life. The first 20 years of rejection, I thought it was all about me. I took it all very personally. The second 20 years, I realized that rejection is more about the people trying to hurt me. I might play a role, but it’s usually a supporting one. When someone calls me names, insults me, flips me the bird, threatens me, and puts me down, it’s more about them. Reasonable, self-aware, thoughtful, intelligent and kind-hearted people don’t attack and tear other people down to lift themselves up. Only people in terrible pain do that. I’m cool being an outspoken honest well-intentioned distraction from the real issues bothering these people.

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