When you’re dating and putting your heart on the line, you can expect a certain amount of rejection at every level of the process. In most cases, it’s obvious: He doesn’t return an email, or she dodges an end-of-the-evening kiss. But there are cases when it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. We expect to be rejected, and if we try hard enough, we can pretty much guarantee that we will.
Perhaps the rejection script in your head doesn’t start until after the third date or third month. “This isn’t going to go well,” you tell yourself. Or if you’re extra masochistic, you can use this version: “It’s only a matter of time before she loses interest.”
Maybe you assume history will repeat itself. Your college boyfriend blew off your birthday? Surely your new love interest will do the same. After all, your birthday is in a week, and he hasn’t even mentioned it.
Yep, romantic disappointment is headed your way. What’s challenging is that this kind of “rejection expectation” is hard to see with a clear head. Maybe you experience it as a series of defeating thoughts or tight shoulders. Still, it usually comes from a wounded dark place – you know, the one that says you’re unlovable and don’t deserve love anyway. It doesn’t operate in the present moment, but judges from the past and assumes awful things about the future.
If you don’t recognize this dynamic and get it under control, it will wreck a promising romance.
Here are some tips on how to get back your best self – quickly!
1) Stop looking for evidence
If you’re convinced someone is pushing you away, you can find evidence to support your theory nearly everywhere you look. He didn’t ask for extra salad dressing with your takeout order like he usually does. She didn’t come outside to meet you when you arrived late to the party. Or in the ground zero of potential hurt feelings – your sweetie rolled to the other side of the bed in the middle of the night.
When you’re feeling confident and self-assured, you can weather these alleged slights – or at least speak up about them. But when you’re feeling fragile and defensive, you don’t have the perspective to judge what’s acceptable along the spectrum of human behavior and what’s absolutely not okay.
2) Assume the best
Of course, you shouldn’t tolerate bad treatment or go into denial. But if you suspect you’re being overly sensitive, tell yourself that your love interest is totally into you and wants what’s best for you. If you wake up in the middle of the night feeling bad that your love is on the other side of the bed, tell yourself that he probably can’t wait to cuddle with you first thing in the morning.
People who believe deep down that they are loved – by others and themselves – attract more affection. On the other hand, if your significant other is truly giving you the cold shoulder, you’re not giving him or her the power to knock you off your center.
3) Focus on the good – not what you’re not getting
Want to kill people’s motivations? Tell them everything they’re doing wrong. Tell her that you thought she ignored you at the party. He didn’t introduce you properly. She took too long to answer your text. Why didn’t he offer you a drink? You’re not going inspire anyone.
Rather, praise everything they do well – even if it seems minor. “I love how you always have clean towels in your linen closet” or “I admire how social you are at parties. People always cluster around you.” If you’re going through a rough patch, it pays to dig deep to resurrect good feelings.
4) Ask for what you want
Do you long for a weekend getaway? A summer picnic? A drawer of your own? People want to make you happy. Tell them how. Several years ago, my friend reported that his new romance wasn’t going well. “I think she’s blowing me off,” he sighed. “She’s always busy during the week.” He had been working with a therapist who advised him to say, “I really like you and enjoy spending time with you. Would you be available to meet sometime during the week?”
“Okay,” she said. Two years later, they were married.
5) Take a breather when you need to
If you feel the rejection goblins grabbing ahold of you, take a small break from your relationship. Return the phone call or postpone the relationship talk until the next day when you’re not running a tally in your head of the other person’s offenses.
Also, play attention to your gut. We’re all guilty of overreacting at some point and not giving someone the benefit of the doubt. But if you’re dating someone who makes you feel rejected most of the time, it’s a sign you’re not a good match. That’s when it’s time to find someone you know will eventually come over to your side of the bed.
About the Author:
Sarah Elizabeth Richards is a journalist and the author of Motherhood, Rescheduled: The New Frontier of Egg Freezing and the Women Who Tried It. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Marie Claire, Elle, Cosmopolitan, Slate and Salon.