Bookstore shelves overflow with classic literary masterpieces and trashy romance novels in which relationships crash and burn. Scarlett O’Hara may have consoled herself with the notion that she would always have her beloved plantation Tara, but Rhett Butler was unquestionably gone with the wind when he dumped her.
Rejection is a painful fact of dating life, whether offline (the second date that never materializes) or online (the emails that remain ignored or, even worse, are programmed to bounce back). It can be particularly crushing when you think things are going well and your date promptly tosses you aside like day-old sushi.
While we all tend to take rejection personally, wondering where we went wrong, it’s critical to remember that your date’s behavior is a statement about him or her—not about you, according to Dr. Brenda Shoshanna, a practicing psychologist and author of several books, including “Zen and the Art of Falling in Love” and “Steppingstones to Love: A Guide and Workbook.”
“You really don’t know what’s going on inside the individual you feel rejected by.” “In some cases, it could be that he/she liked you too much and either couldn’t handle strong feelings or didn’t feel that they measured up. Many people reject first to avoid being rejected themselves. In another case, the person might not yet have been complete with a previous relationship. There are endless reasons.”
“Two people can have a great time together, never see each other again, and it isn’t anyone’s fault,” adds Suzanne Barash, a certified relationship coach and sex therapist. “It’s not a personal rejection. It just wasn’t a true fit.”
Dump the “R” Word
Dr. Shoshanna actually discourages use of the word “rejection” when dealing with a relationship that grinds to an unsettling halt.
“Don’t blame it on yourself,” she urges. “Don’t take it to mean there is something wrong with you. Take a broader view. Realize that the dating process is a process of ‘selection’—of simply making acquaintance with another and finding out if the two of you match or are suitable for one another. There are many factors that go into this selection process. If you do not ‘match up’ with another person, it truly says nothing about you—just that your needs, backgrounds, vibrations or basic relationship patterns are different.”
“There are some real losers out there who promise to call and then misplace your number—and you sit by the phone or your email, waiting to hear that you’re ‘good enough’ to see again,” Barash adds. “It’s time to do a reality check and rethink your interpretation of rejection.”
Instead of playing relationship roulette, where there are winners and losers, try to consider every date a success—regardless of outcome.
“Ask yourself: What was good about this meeting?” Dr. Shoshanna advises. “What was good or likeable about the person I was with? What did I learn about myself or others? What did I give to the other? How did it help me grow—even if what I learned was not to go out again with that kind of person?”
Approach potential relationships without major expectations to keep your self-esteem from self-destructing. View dates as a “meet and greet”—an opportunity to learn something about the other person without investing your soul.
“When we place expectations on a person or situation, it is easy to be disappointed if what happens does not match what we have in our heads,” Dr. Shoshanna explains. “Learn to enjoy people, situations and dates as they are, and as they unfold.”
“You will feel stable and centered, no matter what happens,” she says, “and you will also be open to many wonderful surprises.”
“You will have fabulous dates, you will have duds, you will be successful, and you will lose out,” Barash adds. “Don’t allow rejection to color your dating experience. Learn from it. Realize that the universe provides us with exactly what we need to grow, so stay open to new thoughts and feelings.”
Cancel the Pity Party
To survive a dating downer, empower yourself with the knowledge that some dates will be a blast and others will tank.
“You don’t have to stay immersed in the ‘poor me’ syndrome,” Barash says. “If your self-esteem is intact, then it’s more difficult to get into rejection mode.”
Sure, that sounds great—in theory. But what do you do when your ego nosedives and even a pint of Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia offers no consolation?
“Have a conversation with yourself,” Barash recommends. “Become your own cheerleader: ‘I’m sad this didn’t work out, and I still know that I’m cool and a great date.’ Allow yourself a time limit to be in a funk—5 minutes, 20 minutes—and then move on, having learned that life will still be exciting and always a challenge. You’ll have your successes, and you’ll have your losses. In the end, you’ll learn more about yourself”—and build a stronger “self” in the long run.
Above all, don’t allow yourself to sink into “the misery of being forgotten,” Barash says, or you’ll miss out on the adventures that await.
“With shoulders back and head held high, breathe deeply and affirm: ‘I am a positive force in this world, and I impact all who I meet’, she says. “Yes, that’s right. You’re doing great.”