Rejection in dating is a lot like rain in that it’s bound to happen sooner or later. The silver lining, however, is that being rejected doesn’t have to sting so badly as long as you learn to avoid taking the rejection too personally. Remember, you have control over how you feel and how much you let the rejection define you.
I have counseled male and female clients over the years who, when rejected, eat themselves alive with self-doubt and insecurities. They feel convinced that the rejecting person wasn’t attracted to them, thought they were boring, or thought they weren’t interesting enough to date. Yet, as a therapist, I have the unique experience of hearing about dating from both sides, including people who do the rejecting and people who get rejected.
When my clients have decided to stop dating someone or not see someone again, the most common reasons are ones that have nothing to do with the inadequacy of the person being rejected. People reject others in dating because they’re not really ready for a committed relationship; they don’t want to give up the excitement of dating new people; they don’t feel like they share a similar enough sense of humor; and they feel like they don’t have enough in common to talk about.
When a client tells me that he’s been rejected by a woman with whom he had at least one date, I ask him to tell me play-by-play details about the date. Specifically, I ask him to focus on how he felt about the date – not on how she felt about him. I ask my client many questions: Did you have a lot in common when the two of you talked? Did you get her sense of humor, and did you feel like she got yours? Did you both talk about the same amount of time on the date, or did one talk more than the other? Usually, when my clients think back about details of the last date, they often realize that the person who rejected them probably wasn’t the perfect match for them anyhow!
What to do when you are rejected:
What you say to yourself about why you were rejected will determine how you’ll feel about the rejection. Take a look at the beliefs and corresponding feelings below.
A healthy, self-protective attitude about being rejected…
You tell yourself: “I don’t know why he rejected me. He probably started talking to someone else before he met me, or maybe he’s still hung up on an ex.”
How you will feel: You won’t feel too depressed or upset because you’ve told yourself that the rejection isn’t actually about you. You will feel disappointed for a minute but will then move on. You realize this: Getting upset because he rejected you would be like going to a department store that’s closed and taking it personally that you can’t go inside.
An unhealthy, self-destructive attitude about being rejected:
You tell yourself: “When I think about why he never called me again, I remember our last date. He didn’t go to kiss me or make plans for the future, and he seemed bored toward the end of dinner. I thought he would make such a good boyfriend, but he just didn’t like something about me.”
How you will feel: Sad, depressed, and angry. You will blame yourself for your inadequacies and feel like you may never meet someone whom you like and who likes you back. You may want to swear off dating or you may give up the hope of finding someone better for you.
Specific techniques to use:
Get angry. Most people hate to get angry, afraid that it’s an unappealing trait or sign of weakness. Child, please! Anger is a good friend to have, a feeling that reminds you that you have been unappreciated or that your boundaries have been trespassed. Connect with your angry feelings whenever someone rejects you. Say to yourself: “You wrote me off before truly giving me a chance? I was nicer to you by giving you a chance, but now I’m done, so now there’s one less person who’s interested in you.”
Distract yourself until the disappointed feelings pass. Try any version of the following behaviors: call a friend; pop in a fun exercise DVD; watch a silly video online; pay your bills for the month; take a hot shower; or trim your nails if that’s what works. The point, however, is to do something!
Write down a list of positive qualities for which others have complimented you. Your list could range from being smart or fun to being reliable and honest. The more you remind yourself about your positive qualities, the faster the disappointment over the rejection will pass.
When all is said and done, getting rejected is not the end of the world — especially if you’re rejected by someone you hardly know. Attitude is everything in dating, so try harder than ever after a rejection to bounce back and say, “I know I’ve got something to offer, and the person I will end up with will see that from the start.”
Dr. Seth is a licensed clinical psychologist, author, Psychology Today blogger, and TV guest expert. He practices in Los Angeles and treats a wide range of issues and disorders and specializes in relationships, parenting, and addiction. He has had extensive training in conducting couples therapy and is the author of Dr. Seth’s Love Prescription: Overcome Relationship Repetition Syndrome and Find the Love You Deserve.