Busted Halo

Most dating and relationships books, columns and shows won’t go near issues of faith. Author, professor and speaker Dr. Christine B. Whelan assumes faith has some role, and tackles even the toughest questions.

Click this banner to see the entire section.

September 28th, 2009

Conquering the Daisy Complex

Learning to fear regret more than rejection



This autumn I’ve given talks at several young adult Catholic organizations. I keep them short because I know that it’s in the Q&A that the good stuff comes out: How far is too far (sexually) before marriage?; How do I know when I’m in love?; Where can I meet someone who’s interested in a relationship, not just a hook-up? These are terrific questions — ones I’ve written about a lot on bustedhalo.com — and the public Q&A is always interesting (and often blush-inducing as students ask me to discuss the nitty-gritty of it all!) But the private questions I get after each talk impact me the most.

A few weeks ago, one young man, we’ll call him Thomas, came up to me after a talk in the basement of his Catholic student center. “I may be a little shy at times, but I do not consider myself socially inept,” began the handsome, blond haired, 19-year-old science major. He has plenty of friends, including several close friends, and “I can chat up about any girl that I have interest in,” he assured me. “But I’ve never been in a relationship.”

Thomas has a lot of first dates, but when he’s really interested in someone, he freezes up. “I don’t have a problem with asking girls out that I only have a limited interest in. It’s simply that, when the stakes are high, I fold,” he said. “I simply end up letting them go.”

The Daisy Complex

In his head, Thomas plays out the negative scenarios… But once scenario is nearly guaranteed: If Thomas doesn’t ask her out or show his interest, she’ll never know he cares about her that way. And that, to me, is the saddest of all possibilities.

Call it the Daisy Complex: So many of us worry ourselves sick — think of that silly game where you pluck the petals off a daisy, “She loves me… she loves me not…,” seeking an arbitrary answer — and our fear of rejection keeps us from taking the first steps to happiness.

In his head, Thomas plays out the negative scenarios: He asks her out, she says no, and the friendship is ruined — he’s lost her entirely.

Or, he asks her out, she says yes, but then things don’t work out, and everything is weird after that.


The scenarios of doom are endless. But one scenario is nearly guaranteed: If Thomas doesn’t ask her out or show his interest, she’ll never know he cares about her that way. And that, to me, is the saddest of all possibilities.

“I know it’s a problem,” Thomas told me. “I just don’t know how to fix it.”

I gave Thomas two bits of advice… and told him I’d share his story with other young adult readers who might be struggling with similar fears. Here’s my advice. What’s yours?

Don’t Wait for the Fear to Build. Go For It Early! First, get in the game. Being selective is great, but don’t wait too long to ask a young woman out or the fear of rejection will build inside you. Going for it early means asking out any woman that might be of potential interest, before you start worrying about the consequences down the line. These dates don’t need to be anything fancy — grabbing lunch together in the cafeteria, or maybe coffee, a movie or a study break — as long as it’s clear to her that you are expressing some interest, and you feel that she is reciprocating that interest. (Want to know how to flirt and reach body language? Check out one of my all-time most popular columns here .)

Fear Regret More Than Rejection. Part of the fear of rejection is a fear of the unknown. We worry about how terrible we’ll feel, and create nightmare scenarios in our head. But, while it certainly hurts to get negged, in reality, it’s not going to end your social life. In avoiding relationships, you can shield yourself from the possibility of rejection by never opening up, never admitting your feelings, and while that might prevent rejection, it also prevents meaningful and fulfilling human interactions. And now we’re talking about things to fear: If you never try, you certainly won’t succeed. If you never open your heart to give love to a special person, you’re not going to get those warm and fuzzy feelings back atcha. To fear regret more than rejection means to stop playing the “No, I don’t think of you that way” scenarios in your head, and instead fast forwarding to meeting this woman 20 years from now, admitting your crush from college and having her say, “Oh, I felt the same way. I wish you’d said something…” Now that’s crushing.

More advice?

Fear of rejection — and spending countless hours in your Daisy Complex wondering, “She loves me? Or not?” — holds so many of us back in our personal lives. How would you advise Thomas overcome his fears and express interest in women he really cares about? Does this sound like you? Share your stories and thoughts below, or email me at puresex (AT) bustedhalo.com.

The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
See more articles by (214).
Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Carmelita Rivera

    Reply to Lili/and then Reply to Daisy Complex:

    Lili: I think that Jesus would say, “Under the duress of a brother’s death, emotional outbursts are especially, absolutely, TOTALLY FORGIVEABLE!” And possibly this whole Grief Issue (brother’s death combined with priest cussing incident–under duress, remember) could all be tied together in friend’s achy-breaky heart.

    So maybe he will go to Church when he is ready. I would recommend a more ultra-welcoming, liberal Catholic experience for his “trying-it-out re-entry”. In friend’s timing, with truly outreaching Catholics, it might work out, any day now. In the meantime, FOR YOU attending some (free) Hospice Grief Group seesions might let you see Grief in a whole new way, and help your Grief, about all this past hurt.

    I love the Scripture, “See I make all things NEW.” Sometime the friend might want to try new spiritual experiences.

    On to Daisy Complex: A PERFECT ARTICLE!
    WE JUST NEED more, more, more, and deeply in-depth, ON HOW TO FIND, BUILD, AND SUSTAIN HEALTHY RELATIONSIPS. Yay Author! Par excellence, Dr. Whelan!

  • Lucy

    Having lived with both regret and rejection – I would always choose regret. Rejection by the person I loved so much still affects me negatively every single day years afterward.

  • Violeta

    pray for him. let go and let God.

  • lili

    I have a friend that happens to have cussed out a priest many,many years ago. (in the process of recieving the knews that his (my frind’s) brother had been killed.
    He carries HUGE guilt and it detracts from his religious experiences and he does not go to church any longer. His is deep in discomfort. But misses church, the ritual, etc.
    And NO. I cannot get him to go to confession.
    What to do? Any advice????

powered by the Paulists