The Art Of Saying No, In Love, Life, And Limbo
ELLE Singapore|January 2022
What happens when you lack the ability to SAY NO? Whether because of Fear, Guilt Or Expectation, many of us struggle with establishing clear boundaries. BUT doing so is actually a crucial part of self-care
Chelsea Tang

It was a whirlwind romance that took off during their university days. He’d set his eye on her, been immediately smitten and had been enthusiastic in his wooing. Relentless texts became numerous can-I-take-you-out requests, and eventually, she caved in and went on a dinner date.

That dinner turned into many more meals together, and soon culminated in a classic date activity: the movies. There, shrouded in darkness, he plucked up his courage and made the move to hold her hand. She didn’t resist, and he thought his persistence had paid off, and that he’d earned her unspoken agreement to be his girlfriend.

Except that she’d desperately wanted out. Chloe* knew deep down that she wasn’t interested in the guy as a romantic partner, yet at every juncture of the journey, she just couldn’t find it in her to reject his advances. As the “relationship” went on, the inability to put a stop to it grew as well — “breaking up is way harder than saying I didn’t want to go out on dates with him, and I wasn’t ready to hurt,” she confesses. “I decided to go with the flow, tried to work on finding the spark between us… basically tried to get myself to like him, and hoped that this relationship would magically fall into place. Of course, none of that trying worked.”

One year on — yes, a full year — she found herself at her wit’s end, desperate to escape the one-sided relationship. Yet, Chloe couldn’t bear to initiate the break-up talk; instead, she chose the easier route for herself: showing disinterest, spending less time together, and stopping all intimacy with him. “I made him feel all that, and let him confront me about it before I could even muster enough courage to tell him that I wanted to break up,” she says. “I cried that day and many nights after, not because I lost a relationship, but because the guilt was just too much for me to bear.”

In hindsight, Chloe admits, the way that she engineered the break-up probably hurt a lot more than simply telling him her thoughts in the first place. “It took a huge toll on both of us, which could have been avoided if I’d only been upfront about my feelings in the beginning,” she says. “I wasted his time, and disrespected the feelings he had invested in this relationship.”

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