Being A Man: Dealing With Rejection


Editor’s Note: Today’s post is by staff writer Tony Alicea who blogs over Expect the Exceptional. If you haven’t already subscribed to our posts, you should. You’ll receive all of our stories in your inbox or reader.

I have a confession. Before I was married, I was an ambiguous coffee date-aholic.

I looked for any excuse to invite a pretty girl out to coffee. A few hours at Starbucks is sort of a date, but not really. Not if she doesn’t want it to be. Or I don’t want it to be. It’s all very complicated.

Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of confidence. I thought rejection was the absolute worst thing that could happen to me.

So I found ways to protect myself at all costs.

As I got older, my safe place became the coffee date. I liked that I could call it a date if needed. Otherwise it was just “hanging out”. There really are rules to this, trust me.

As we discussed God, philosophy, dreams and ambitions, I was able to size up a potential spouse. Without actually taking a risk, I could figure out if she liked me. And if I did think she liked me, I could figure out if I liked her. If I didn’t like her, I just wouldn’t ask her to coffee again.

If there was chemistry, I knew the inevitable would happen at some point. But I was going to do everything in my power to minimize the risk of rejection. I had it all figured out.

Until the coffee date plan backfired on me.

I met my match in ambiguity. I was sure she liked me. We had so much in common. But she told me she had just gotten out of a relationship and so I respected that. I backed off. But she didn’t say she wasn’t interested. So like any insecure guy, I held on to hope without forcing the issue.

I continued to build a friendship with her, all the while my interest grew. I was just waiting for my opportunity. She was bound to fall in love with me. How could she resist my ambiguous advances?

This went on for a whole year. Seriously, that’s how long we’ll hold on to hope, ladies.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I told her that we needed to talk. And yes, I took her to Starbucks.

It was time to put ambiguity aside and put my heart on the line. I declared to her my feelings. What was possibly uncertain, I now made crystal clear. My heart couldn’t take the indecision any longer. It finally hurt more not to know than to risk rejection.

So I asked her if there was any hope for us.

I could tell she was uncomfortable. She hesitated and cleared her throat before saying the fateful words, “I think you’re a great guy but…

I knew what she was going to say, even though she would likely have preferred to jump off a cliff than to say the rest. I breathed in deeply and waited. There was way too much ambiguity over the past year for me to walk away with any inkling of doubt.

I’m not sure what was more painful, her categorical rejection or watching her squirm as she took 5 minutes to finally get it out. It was an especially awkward moment.

In retrospect, the rejection wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be. But it would have been a lot easier if I was clear and direct in my approach from the beginning.

The momentary sting of rejection will save you lifetime of wondering. 

That day I learned that being a man means taking risks. It means facing fear and conflict with courage. It means finding redemption, even in failure.

Years later, I found the woman I was determined to pursue. There was no beating around the bush. By the second time we spoke on the phone, I told her that I wasn’t interested in being her friend. I told her that I was after her heart.

And 8 months later, I married her.

  • Julie (@InciteFaith)


    Thank you for sharing your story of rejection and redemption. I guess it’s true what they say about finding the one, the right one, “You just know.”

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Yeah, it’s been one of those “I can’t explain it” type of things. Thanks for your encouragement, Julie.

  • lyn

    “That day I learned that being a man means taking risks. It means facing fear and conflict with courage. It means finding redemption, even in failure”

    wow am alady and how i pray that our men today can learn this one thing…
    it would save us alot of heartbreaks and wondering..indeed…not just u but even we the ladies…it makes it easy to relate.with them..:-)

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Yeah, I had to learn the hard way multiple times. This was simply the most significant because I used it to incite change in how I dealt with rejection…and women overall.

  • Joy

    “The momentary sting of rejection will save you a lifetime of wonder ”
    Tony, I love this line, I have been terrified if rejection my whole life in every aspect. Jobs, relationships, writing, trying to get posted here on this site… :-) Julie is right, you just know when it is right. Thanks for this today , great post.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Thanks so much Joy. I never want to glorify failure but there really is so much we can learn from it. The biggest shift has been in my perspective. We can look at it as terrifying or as one step closer to the right choice.

  • ed cyzewski

    I can so relate to this. And the other side for me has been that a period of waiting and ambiguity can be made worse through self-delusion, hoping against hope that things will work out. I kept thinking that being persistent would pay off. Finally facing rejection was tough to swallow but ultimately it saved my mind from the insanity of uncertainty.

    Good words Tony. I appreciate you sharing your story so honestly.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Oh man, I’ve lived through hoping against hope way too often. It was probably more like hoping against sanity. Wishful thinking at its worst. It was a terrible place to be and I found myself there all too often.

  • http://www.vickywalker,info Vicky

    This is SO interesting! I have written about this from a female perspective, knowing you’re being sized up or measured against a standard and being aware that the less effort a guy is putting into the initial contact and the more generic the questions / location the less likely it is to turn out well! (Not least as a heart warming tale of romance to tell your grandchildren!)
    So glad you’ve had a happy ending, Tony, and thanks for your honesty.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      I’m sure its a very different perspective on the other end. That’s why ambiguity killed me. There’s no point in trying to figure out or assume where the other person is. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and be straightforward at the very beginning. I know it would have saved me a lot of heartache!

      • http://www.vickywalker,info Vicky

        This may be another post altogether, but I’d be interested to know whether you were looking for an ‘ideal’ of some sort, either your own or a ‘Christian’ ideal, and that made you more cautious. Jumping in sooner would certainly have changed the life you have now so it’s a funny thing to weigh up.

        Women have their own versions of this, I’m sure, so please don’t feel like you’re carrying the can for all men! Again, thanks for sharing.

        • Tony J. Alicea

          I think we all have our “ideal”. I know I made the checklists, like most others. It’s funny that my wife met so many of the key points of my checklists but she ended up being nothing like I imagined. All I can say is that there is no real formula for love. For me it was more about “being” the right person as opposed to finding the right person.

  • Jeremy Walker

    Bro, I totally appreciate you sharing your experience here…I’ve feared rejection a lot in my life…but I’ve also learned if you let the fear of rejection from someone your interested in control you…then you also risk allowing that spirit of fear to spill into other parts of your life as well. All of a sudden you might fear rejection from friends, family, your spouse, acquaintances, people at your job,your boss…Satan can really use the fear of rejection to clam us up and put us silently into a corner.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Yeah it can spiral out of control quickly and bleed into every area of life. Once we face our fears though, it’s almost never as scary as we make it out to be in our mind.

  • Rachel G

    Loved this. Especially the line “The momentary sting of rejection will save you lifetime of wondering.” Such a good reminder to take a risk. I’ve been learning and acting on that sort of idea instead of wandering “what if?” Thanks for sharing.

    • Rachel G

      Or, rather…wondering* what if :)

    • Tony J. Alicea

      The regret will kill us, that’s for sure. There are way too many opportunities that I regret not moving on. I can’t do anything about the choices behind me but I can do something about the ones in front of me.

  • Justin

    Tone – another great post, my friend! Thanks for being vulnerable enough to share – another way to thwart the fear of rejection!

    Fear alone, has crippled me many times – and as you mentioned, it’s using the courage that God has given us (and He gives in generous doses) to stand up to that fear and leap, that changes the game entirely.

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Thanks J! I’ve taken a couple of leaps that seemed not to have a net and they’ve paid off in spades. Even in the failure I learned that it wasn’t as bad as nightmare I envisioned in my head. It was a game changer indeed…in a good way!

  • bethany

    I love this, Tony! Your writing is always so direct and yet approachable, and you’re not afraid to point out your mistakes. Katie is a blessed girl. :)

    • Tony J. Alicea

      Thanks Bethany. If figure if I don’t point out my own mistakes, someone will do it for me! :)

    • Katie A

      Yes, I am! :)

  • Jason

    Top notch, Tony. The momentary sting seems so horrible that we endure entended horror to avoid it…how absurd in the end!

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  • Juan Cruz Jr

    Tony, I use to be more cowardly in my approach when trying to minimize rejection: I use to just pretended I wasn’t interested and then agonized for years at what could have been. The thought of rejection creates fear and creates missed opportunities. Thanks for sharing your story.

  • Stephen Haggerty

    “And 8 months later, I married her.”

    Boom-shak-a-laka! (From NBA Jam, that’s right)
    Sounds like the previous rejection turned into prayers of thankfulness for God leading you to the match He made for you.

    Thanks for sharing, Tony. It’s cool to see how he used your past to prepare you for your future.

  • Keri

    This post is a home run, my brotha. It’s been about 14 years since I’ve dated, so this might sound weird-but, I’ve recognized how much I do this in friendships. I wait for another to pursue coffee/playdate/dinner date/phone date with me before I step out first. I don’t want to risk the rejection, telling myself, “I have lots of friends! If she needs me, she’ll ask.” I do this especially if it’s someone I admire or think “has it all together” better than I do. Lame, Keri, LAME! ;)

  • Jay Cookingham

    Thanks for the open and honest peek into your life bro’. I love the fact that God uses redemption throughout our WHOLE life. Not only salvation, but every part of our life He wants to redeem and restore. I’m happy for you bro’!

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