(As usual, the patient I mention has been disguised)
I had an interesting conversation with a patient a few days ago. She brought her one year old to the office. He was, I commented, admirable in every way, which he demonstrated by sleeping quietly throughout the session. We spoke about her husband, George, who had been especially helpful recently.
Me: I guess you’re lucky. As I remember you used to tell me you were attracted all the time to the wrong sort of guy.
Patient: George is great, especially since the baby was unexpected… It’s because of you, you know.
Me: The baby?
Patient: If it weren’t for you, I wouldn’t have kept after George. You remember, I stopped him in the cafeteria and told him we ought to get together. He said,“sure;” but he didn’t do anything for two weeks. Then I met him at the company party, and we both said we’d go out, but he still didn’t do anything. You remember, I asked you whether I should give up, and you said, to try again. I went to his office and took out my appointment book, and said, “All right, what day exactly are you free?” And that was that.
I don’t remember; but that is advice I give frequently. In the beginnings of a relationship I do not think a man, or woman, should give up easily. If someone responds positively, but does not follow through, I think it is reasonable to try again and maybe even a third time. Of course, if someone says “no” clearly, that wish should be respected. Over the years I have seen a number of happily married men and women who have told me that they never would have married the person they did if their spouse had not persisted in the face of being rejected initially. Or, in a few cases, after a second or third rejection. On the other hand, I have a personal prejudice about such matters. I think it is annoying to have to sell yourself to anyone. I think it is preferable to get involved with someone who takes one look at you and thinks you are terrific, whether you are terrific or not. Sooner or later such things happen.
I do not think it desirable at the end of a relationship to cling to someone who has one foot out the door. At that point, the guy, or girl, knows you, and there is nothing to say to make yourself more available or desirable. The best strategy always is to be gracious and accepting. It is reasonable, nevertheless, if you continue to hope for a reconciliation, to make contact every once in a while, (every month or so, not every day or so.) If your partner changes his/her mind, the relationship can be started up again later on. The best way of making that unlikely outcome actually happen is to behave in that accepting way. Stop reaching out to your former lover before he, or she, is driven to getting a restraining order. (See my blog post, “How Does Your Lover Feel about You “Deep Down?”) (c) Fredric Neuman Author of "Come One, Come All" Follow Dr. Neuman's blog at fredricneumanmd.com/blog/ or ask advice at fredricneumanmd.com/blog/ask-dr-neuman-advice-column