Backing off – when they’re just not that into you


Love can be challenging… especially if you’re the only one feeling it. 

In your eyes, they are the smartest, hottest, funniest thing on earth and your perfect soulmate – and damn it, all you want is for them to understand that! So you can be together. Forever. 

But in their eyes (and maybe other people’s) it’s getting kind of annoying. It’s getting embarrassing and you need to back off. 

You know when you see someone wearing headphones and they’re rocking out like the whole world is hearing the same thing? Yeah, that guy air-drumming, nodding to his own beat and making overly enthusiastic eye-contact with anyone who’ll notice?

Mhmm, that’s kind of what people look like when they’re trying to bust moves on someone who's not into it. 

Man in car doing air drumming in front of steering wheel.

When you’re struck by the love bug, you need to stay cool, take some time to find out what they’re feeling, respect that and act accordingly. Your job is NOT to wear them down with your enthusiasm. You’re NOT going to convince them you are their ‘one true destiny’ by harassing them.   

Sometimes you’ll hear annoying lovebirds say stuff like, ‘OMG as soon as we met we were both like “No YOU'RE toootally amaaazing” and we’ve been in love ever since’. Now, sorry to kill the mood, but it’s basically a lucky coincidence when two people find each other toootally amaaazing at the same time.  

Mr. Bean comically air kissing with a woman.

Ever felt like someone was making moves on you and you just avoided them rather than have the potentially devastating (for them) ‘rejection talk’? Yeah, well, that special someone who's not responding to your messages and always seems to be ‘busy’ might just be trying to avoid hurting your feelings. 

So, early signs it’s time to back off…

1. Physical distance 

You notice they keep backing away when you're near them? You throw your arms out for a hug and their hands stay firmly in their pockets? You keep trying to sit next to them but they sit somewhere else? Yep, time to back off.

Homer Simpson backing into bushes.

2. Conversation stopper 

You start ‘hypothetical’ conversations about having a crush on someone or falling in love but they change the subject or talk about other people they’re into? Yeah, seriously, back off. 

Woman making an awkward face.

3. Handing out the rain-checks

You suggest maybe meeting up sometime or going somewhere together, but they always seem to have a full diary or just change the subject? It looks like they're probably hoping you'll back off.

Woman saying back off, dude.

4. Mixed messages 

They take aaages to reply to your messages, or don’t respond at all? It might mean they’re not that keen to talk. Give it a break and let them take the initiative.

But remember, even getting a message from them doesn’t suddenly mean they’ve changed their mind. They might just be a decent and polite human being who returns messages or doesn’t want to hurt your feelings. 

Man wearing glitter jacket walking while checking phone.

So, that’s all good when it’s early days and you’re just trying to let them know you're keen. But what if maybe something's happened between you already and you want to take things further? How do you make sure they’re thinking the same thing…? 

Check in, check in, check in! 

A simple question like ‘How are you feeling about all this?’ is a good start. Whether it’s during a date, after a date, or hanging out on the couch together, listen carefully, make sure you understand what they’re saying, and respect how they feel – no matter how disappointing it might be. 

Even if they’re keen at first, keep checking in. People change their minds, and you’re only going to look better for asking. Let them know you’ll only keep going – whether it’s calling them, kissing them or anything else – if they’re 100% into it. Check out this article about consent for more on this.

Damage control 

The downside to all this is you might feel a little bummed out at first. 

The upsides are: you don’t stress them out, you don’t embarrass yourself and you can start getting your friendship (or whatever it is) back on track.

If it feels crap at first, remember it’s not always going to feel like this (and nobody’s denying it: rejection doesn’t feel great). But you’ll be ok (eventually) and it might even feel good to be the one who picked up on the signals, played it cool and acted respectfully. Give yourself a solid pat on the back.  

Getting ‘not interested’ signals from someone doesn’t necessarily mean they dislike you – they might think you’re brilliant – they just don’t want to be in a relationship with you right now (go figure!).

And you’ve just got to learn to let it go, even though it might feel $hitty at first. Nobody’s to blame for it not working out – not you, and especially not them – so definitely don’t start sulking or getting angry. Just back up, rethink what your relationship with this person is and be proud of yourself for taking the high road. You just made it clear that you know, and see 'the line'... 

If none of this is cutting it for you and you feel like you want to talk about it, please try 1800RESPECT, Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Kids Helpline 1800 55 1800.

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