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.
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.
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.
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. :)