There’s no sugar coating it. Being rejected by a romantic partner sucks.
It stings when it’s a potential match on a dating site that doesn’t return your message. The rejection hurts when it comes from someone you’ve been dating for awhile. And it’s utterly devastating when that rejection originates from the person who vowed to love you forever.
One of the reasons that romantic rejection is so painful across the board is that we have a tendency to personalize it. To interpret the message, “I don’t want to be with you” as some version of “You’re a worthless and/or terrible person.” We then often follow that up with some lovely generalization – “Since this person doesn’t love me, nobody will love me.” And then our brains, happy to play along, begin to offer up endless examples and evidence to support these conclusions.
No wonder rejection sucks so badly.
It is so difficult to see a recent relationship and its demise with any sort of clarity. This is doubly true when there is rejection and an unwanted ending. But before you punish yourself for your shortcomings or allow yourself to wallow in a pit of self-pity, consider these possible reasons for the rejection that have little to do with your worth as a person and as a partner.
1 – You’re Not What They’re Looking For
Perhaps the easiest situation to face is when you’re rejected before the relationship has an opportunity to develop. At this early juncture, they are not really rejecting you because they do not yet know you.
Furthermore, no matter how utterly amazing you are, you’re not going to be the right kind of amazing for every person.
And that’s okay.
Scratch that. That’s MORE than okay. Because if you’re the type of person who is pleasing to everyone, it means that you’re not being true to yourself. And that’s a hell of lot more important than getting a follow-up text after a first date.
Sometimes this rejection happens after some time has passed. Like when you’re putting a puzzle together and you wedge a piece into place until eventually, you’re forced to admit that it doesn’t fit.
This type of rejection really is a blessing. You’re not wasting time on a person that isn’t a good match for you.
2 – They Are Unhappy With Themselves
This is a biggie.
And so very common with people that end up cheating on their partners. Which, of course, brings with it a hefty serving of rejection.
When people are not in touch with their emotions, they become aware of their unhappiness, but they struggle to pinpoint its cause. And since it’s uncomfortable to look within and take responsibility for their own state of mind, they look to external causes.
So, tag. You’re it.
Sometimes this manifests as projection, as they paint you with everything they are struggling with themselves. Other times it may be more complex – depression, anxiety or addiction causing them to retreat. And then as the relationship suffers from a lack of attention, they blame you for being the wrong person.
This type of rejection is especially painful. At some level, you release that it’s pointless. That their snipe hunt for happiness won’t take them anywhere worth going. At the same time, it’s frustrating because you want to help them and once you’ve been rejected, you lose any influence you once had.
The biggest lesson here is not to take on their unhappiness. That is not your burden to bear. You cannot help them, so focus on your own recovery.
3 – They’re Bored
When we’re kids, we build up the idea of adulthood – “I’m going to stay up all night, eat junk food whenever I want and I’m going to become a [fill-in-the-blank with some high-impact, low imagined stress, big bucks kind of career].”
And then at some point in adulthood, we’re left thinking, “Is this all there is?”
Because no matter what we have going on, we are all creatures of habit. And habits inevitably become boring.
So sometimes you’re rejected because your partner has become bored. Restless. They want to throw everything out and start fresh.
Which I think is an urge we can all relate to on some level. Yet we don’t all indulge it in a reckless and selfish way.
This type of rejection really is about them. They’re not willing or able to engage with you as a team to explore how to bring more excitement into your lives. Instead, they’re taking the nuclear option and you’re in the blast zone.
Use this (unwanted but gifted) opportunity to shake up your own life. Besides, getting out of your comfort zone is a great way to rebuild your confidence after you’ve been rejected.
4 – Your Paths Have Diverged
How many of your friends from middle school are you still in touch with? And those that you no longer see, is that because they’re miserable people? Or unlovable?
Or simply becomes you’ve moved on in different directions?
Of course, it is infinitely more painful when your partner’s path diverges from yours. But it’s not necessarily a bad thing.
I’ve always found it funny/sad how we classify marital success purely by its duration. I mean, imagine if we applied this same metric to other areas of our lives –
She was a really great student – she was in school for fifty years!
He was an amazing dog, but he was a failure as a pet because he died before he turned ten.
It was a wonderful dinner. The service was so slow that the meal lasted for hours!
I’m afraid I have to give the book only one star because it ended.
Pretty crazy, huh?
So why do we then so easily apply this faulty logic to marriages? Classifying them as failures if they end and successes if they persist?
This type of rejection is a loss, a mourning. Yet it may also be the right – and brave – call to make. Sometimes it’s best to finish the meal before it spoils and hold the experience in memory.
5 – They Are Attempting to Avoid the Work of Relationships
When the honeymoon period ends, the real relationship begins.
ALL relationships of any duration and authenticity require effort. Sacrifice. Compromise and communication.
And some people are just lazy. Or deluded.
So when a relationship hits that first gravel road of reality after the open highway, they decide that a new ride will smooth everything over.
This type of rejection is a reality-check. You deserve someone who will fight with you when life becomes tough. Instead, you’ve learned how they “handle” problems.
Your lesson here? Pay close attention with your next relationship. Look for courage, persistence and a good grounding in reality. You want the iron horse that can go the distance, not the shiny trinket that will soon tarnish.
6 – They’re Experiencing Shame
Shame says, “If you see me. Really see me. You won’t love me.”
And so when someone is in the depths of shame, they often reject others who get too close out of a fear of being seen – and rejected – themselves.
This rejection is tragic. They’re setting you out at the very time they need support and love the most. Yet the more you push for them to open up, the tighter they coil around themselves.
This is an opening that can only be done on their schedule. And by rejecting you, they’ve told you not to put your life on hold while they try to sort theirs out.
Depending upon the circumstances, you may be receptive to a reunion down the road if they do their own healing work. Or, you may decide that it’s too painful and you need to move on. Both are okay.
It is not your job to fix them. That’s the enduring lesson here. Oxygen mask and all that jazz.
You’ve been rejected.
And it’s scary being alone.
And yes, there may be some painful truths in the rejection that you need to accept. At the same time, don’t be so quick to assume all culpability. More often than not, the reality is somewhere in the middle.
I want to leave you with this, the mantra that I recited to myself every night after my husband abandoned me –
Never allow one person to determine your worth.
They may have rejected you. Don’t make the mistake of rejecting yourself.