“Love Rejection” – A Complete Guide for Dealing with Rejection in Love

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It was Dec. 2001.

I had a mad crush on this tall, dark, handsome school cricket team captain (don’t laugh). Somehow I’d managed to (ahem ahem…) get the message across to him through my best friend and yes, earned my first “love rejection” (as Indians call it, which means rejection in your love life). That’s right – my fourteen year old heart and all the tossing and turning emotions in it had just been rejected by the hero of my dreams.

Rejection in lovePhoto by Chandelier Motion Pictures

Yes I was hurt (a bit) on having earned the first rejection in my love life.

Sounds familiar? I bet.

If you have a love life – if you’ve ever fallen in love, proposed a girl or asked someone out on a date – it’s likely that you have faced, and are going to face many moments of “love rejection” in your life.

Rejection in love hurts and it’s real

What is rejection in love?

“Love rejection” doesn’t only mean being turned down for a date (or relationship). It also includes the everyday feelings of hurt and disappointment we feel when our expectations in the relationship are not met by our partner. From being cold-shouldered while trying to impress your girlfriend, to major relationship issues like infidelity and break-ups also give rise to feelings of rejection in our brain.

From a psychological perspective, rejection (particularly social rejection) is experienced by your brain because of some sort of deliberate exclusion – from a group, activity, level of intimacy, information or communication.

Rejection in lovePhoto by PinkyTurtles

Does rejection in love hurt? Self-help books and experts might claim that it shouldn’t, offering up one or more of the following self-help myths as explanation:

Myth #1. It’s possible to “choose to be happy”, regardless of what’s happening around you, ’cause happiness lies inside us.

Myth #2. Seeking inclusion or approval by others is a sign of weakness and should be overcome by loving yourself.

Myth #3. In order to have happy and fulfilling relationships, you need to first train yourself to be happy alone.

Unfortunately, if published research in the field of psychology is anything to go by, none of this is tenable.

As per Prof. C. Nathan DeWall, PhD, of the University of Kentucky, in order to function normally, human beings need strong, healthy relationships as much as they need food and water.According to Prof. Eisenberger from UCLA, one of the most prominent figures in the field of psychological research on rejection, the responses rejection (including rejection in love) causes in the brain is the same as the reaction caused by physical pain.

How to handle “love rejection”

So are you destined to bear all the pain of your rejection in love without any analgesic?

Fortunately, you don’t have to. You can’t pretend that the pain of “love rejection” is not real, but when you feel rejected in love is something you can control. Here’s a proven 5-step strategy to do just that.

Step #1. Acknowledge our differences

Do you know that there can be roughly 7 billion different versions of any given situation in this world?


That’s simply because no two people in this world experience exactly the same reality in any given situation, and there are about 7 billion people in this world. So there, you have it!

Naturally, the way your girlfriend/partner/potential date/crush looks at life is different from the way you do. Therefore it’s not only possible, but in fact probable that their response to any situation will be rather different from what you expect (in other words, what you would’ve done if you were in their shoes). If you’re one of the this-is-how-they-should-behave-because-that’s-what-I-think-is-right people (like I was), then it’s time for a reality check. The first step to avoid feeling rejected in love when it is not due, is to acknowledge this simple fact that each person’s reality is different.

Rejection in lovePhoto by Just a Toddler

Step #2. Brainstorm possible outcomes

Why do people feel rejected in love? Because they expect to be accepted.

What is expectation? It’s a certain possible outcome of any situation which you have in your mind.

We, human beings have a tendency of visualizing only one possible outcome of any given situation. And when the reality doesn’t match it we feel let down, betrayed, rejected. The rule of thumb that I’ve taught myself to minimize unwarranted feelings of rejection in any situation is, instead of envisaging only one possible response (from anyone), I force myself to sit back and imagine at least two possible responses, one of them compulsorily not-so-positive.

Step #3. Support each possibility with reasons

I also mentally construct all the possible reasons why each outcome should occur.

Let me give you an example. Let’s say, you’ve proposed your classmate. Don’t expect that she’ll accept you (in which case feelings of “love rejection” will quickly set in if she doesn’t), but don’t expect a rejection either (in that case you’re bound to be reeking of under-confidence when you propose her and she’s bound to reject you anyway! ).

Tell yourself, “There are two possible end scenarios. First, she could be happily accept me as her boyfriend because I’m an intelligent, honest and caring person (enlist whatever reasons you can think of, but have at least 2-3 of them). Second, she might also not want to get into a relationship with me because at the moment she might not be ready for any romantic relationship at all, she could be already interested in someone else, or she might be looking for some specific traits in a potential boyfriend which may be different from the positive traits which I possess.”

Step #4. Be objective

I think you realize that this reasoning exercise serves two purposes. First, in any situation it forces you to objectively picture both the positive and negative scenarios, thereby preparing you sufficiently for any outcome other than your desired one. Secondly, it also makes you look at the possible negative outcome very objectively, which helps limit personalization of the negative outcome which we all tend to do. So for example in this case, you’ve identified three possible reasons which might lead to a rejection-two of which don’t involve you at all. However you’re also remaining realistic and true to yourself by including one possible reason which is related to you. Even then you’re maintaining your objectivity by emphasizing to yourself that it’s not about whether you’re “good enough” for her or not, it’s just that what she wants and what you have are not the same.

Step #5. Rejection in love is not about you

This brings me to the most crucial part of dealing with rejection successfully, which is about totally avoiding unwarranted feelings of rejection (there are plenty of real rejections around you already, don’t make it up). Often you (and I, and most other people) tend to look at a situation as a rejection when it is not. We humans have a painful tendency to take anything negative way too personally.

As the earlier example will show you, rejections in love often have little connection with whether you’re good enough for someone or not. It only means what you offer is not the same as what they need. Look at it as the lid of Box 1 not fitting Box 2, simply because the two are not made to fit each other, rather than for the not being “big enough”, or “small enough” for the box.

Next time you encounter feelings of rejection in love (and trust me, there’s always a next time, ’cause life’s like that) apply this 5-step strategy and you’ll find you’ll be way better off in dealing with “love rejection”. You might even be able to use to constructively to create a better you. :)

10 thoughts on ““Love Rejection” – A Complete Guide for Dealing with Rejection in Love”

  1. Thank you for Step #5. Rejection in love is SO NOT ABOUT the person being rejected. As women, I think we can easily internalize it as such, because we are conditioned to meet the needs of others. When we don’t, we often believe that it’s because of us. We need MORE women out here advocating for it not being OUR fault all the time!

    1. You’re right Connie – about most of the victims of romantic pessimism and self-loathing being women. Most of it is social conditioning – a single woman is pitied – more or less – in almost all cultures of the world, whereas no such overt negative connotation is attached with singledom (yeah, I made that up :-D) for men.
      I think a romantic rejection is not only not our fault, it’s no one’s fault – it only means it was just not meant to be. As women, we tend to take a bigger hit on our self-esteem than our male counterparts. And you’re right- it’s every woman’s responsibility to consciously avoid these tendencies by reasoning.
      Thanks for adding a new dimension to the discussion. :-)

      1. Thank you for your comment and you are welcome for the response. I personally understand how much time goes into the development of a quality blog and want to offer my share of feedback.
        Regarding your response, so the solution then to me sounds like this is a problem that we should encounter working with our youth up. In other words, I think that we should begin socializing our young girls about being self confident and not having to internalize rejection at an early age so that when they are adults, they won’t struggle as bad. I know that this is a factor that is increasingly common in single mother headed households.

        1. Hit the nail right on the head there, Connie, about how we don’t live in an environment which fosters development of independent identity and self-esteem of girls right from childhood.
          From a very young age girls are taught to look a certain way, dress in a certain way, talk in a certain way. And hence, if you’re any different – you’re a failure. As they grow older a new dimension is added to this – getting a guy! The older you grow, the more social rebuttal you feel, if you’re a single woman.
          It’s essential that we do our bit in fostering a strong sense of identity and self-esteem in young girls, in being comfortable with who they are.
          Glad again for the wonderful thoughts! :)

  2. May be the way one receives rejection has to do a lot about its depressive effects. I suppose with benign rejection, little to no side effects. With brutal, cold rejection.

    Even if we are rejecting somebody, it should not mean that we (or s/he herself/himself) rob that person’s right to talk to us as normal!

    If I were that tall, black cricketer I would call my secret admirer upon hearing the first news, treat her as normal human being equal to me, and if I plan that I can not adjust that person in my life, would give her the best possible advice so that it serves two purpose 1) she considers me as her well wisher even when I cannot give myself to her 2) i would myself feel a good human being for doing that. And perhaps do a little of psychotherapy, that ‘i was also caught in such and such ….’, ‘it is usual to like a person … ‘, ‘you are young, i want to you to be a good decision maker …’, ‘its just the beginning …’, ‘ you are free to talk to me … anytime … ‘ I’ll be careful to avoid the word ‘not’ as it signals cold rejection.

    I am no psychologist though. We cannot reject anyone coldly as we would reject animals beings.

  3. Hi Sulagna ,

    i know that the girl whom i loved (my classmate) will not love me and still i fall in love with her and finally she rejected me , the situation is more painful for me because i saw her everyday and each time i saw her the more pain my heart is felting .
    hope someday i will be all right as before . i just want to be normal as before i fall in love .

    can you help me ? what should i do ?

    1. You knwo what? The only to be all normal around her and be all cool about it again is to go up to her, flash her a big, confident smile and tell her, “I hope we can both forget whatever happened and be cool again. Like normal classmates/friends.” Remember, the way to overcome an embarassing situation and have a normal ilfe again is to break right through it, by acknowledging it and then telling the truth about it – to yourself and everyone else involved.

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