By Sophia Avery, MA
Being rejected is very difficult for most people to handle. Whether it’s based on performance—not getting the promotion at work, talent—not getting selected for American Idol, or personality—not getting asked on a second date, rejection can be very painful. The most painful type of rejection, however, comes at the hand of a loved one—when your mate ends your relationship. Rejection from someone you love feels personal and it can trigger all types of painful memories of rejection from your past and it can linger, causing you pain long after the relationship ends. Insecurity, low self-esteem, loss of trust, loss of the ability to give and receive love, fear of being rejected, and fear of abandonment are just some of the wounds that can result from being rejected by a loved one.
When a loved one rejects you, how do you respond?
“I bust the windows out your car, And no it didn’t mend my broken heart
I’ll probably always have these ugly scars, But right now I don’t care about that part
I bust the windows out your car, After I saw you laying next to her
I didn’t want to but I took my turn, I’m glad I did it cause you had to learn.”
Lyrics from “Bust Your Windows” as performed by Jazmine Sullivan
Anger, hurt feelings, and thoughts of revenge usually come up immediately. In response to the hurtful pain of rejection, many of us want to lash out and hurt the other person just as badly as they’ve hurt you. Everything from beating, stabbing, shooting, and up to and including murder may flash through a person’s mind when facing rejection from a loved one. As an old song said, “It’s a thin line between love and hate.” Clearly, rejection can cause even the most loving person to become a raging lunatic capable of the most heinous of crimes.
How should we respond when rejected by a loved one?
1. Verify your assumptions – Often, we feel rejected and conclude that we’ve been rejected based on a bunch of circumstantial evidence. Other times, we base our conclusion on changes in our loved one’s behavior. Then, we erroneously believe our conclusion based on assumptions and circumstantial evidence is true. For example, a man assumed his wife was cheating on him because every time she came home and he tried to kiss her, she rejected him. To him, it was clear that she’d been kissing another man and didn’t want him to know. He acted on that assumption, and filed for divorce. When the truth came out, he found out the reason she turned away from his kisses was that she didn’t want him to know she had was stopping at the bar and drinking beer on the way home. She refused his kisses because she didn’t want him to taste or smell the beer on her breath.
2. Clarify the issues- If your loved one tells you he/she no longer wants to be with you, ask why and don’t allow you pride or pain to prevent you from learning what has gone wrong. Again, it could be a misunderstanding, erroneous assumptions, or past issues that are causing your loved one to reject you. For example, if a man gets sick and can no longer work to support his family, he may think it better to leave them than to become a burden to his wife and children. However, he may have too much pride to admit to this line of thinking, and may instead, just say he’s no longer in love, and ask for a divorce. Beware of major decisions and changes in behavior that occur after a major illness, accident, or life-changing event—fear may be behind it.
3. Accept the things you cannot change- If you are positive that you’ve been rejected, and understand the reason, next we must accept it. Being rejected by a loved one is very difficult because, in most cases, it’s a one-sided decision. The injured or rejected party has no say in whether or not they would like to continue the relationship, and that can cause them to feel helpless, powerless, hopeless, and depressed because they are unable to change the circumstances that are affecting their lives. Some people accept the rejection, deciding to move on, quickly—an active response. Others may fight against the rejection, hoping against hope for another chance-another way of taking control of the situation. In many cases, both of these responses can work to the advantage of the rejected party. The most harmful response a person who has been rejected can have, however, is to sit in their depression—allowing the helpless, hopeless feelings to remain and invade every area of their lives. When we don’t accept the things we cannot change, and instead become depressed, grieving the loss for an extended period of time, the pain continues to fester and grow, preventing the person from regaining control of their lives. This secondary loss of self-love and self-care can be the more harmful than the initial loss of relationship. In this case, professional counseling may be necessary in order to help the person regain control of their life.
4. Forgive- When loved ones hurt us, forgiving them may seem like a foreign concept. Why would we forgive someone who has intentionally caused us pain? Why? Because forgiveness benefits you, not the person you’re forgiving. The truth is, forgiving someone else, sets us free to live and love again. Holding on to past hurts doesn’t harm the other person—they’ve long forgotten about you—it hurts the one who won’t forgive. Thinking, “I’ll never forgive him” only ties you and your heart to the pain…it doesn’t do anything to the one who has hurt you. Get it? Forgiveness is your gift to yourself—accept the gift, set yourself free and refuse to carry around all that baggage from past relationships.
5. Take some time before you love again- Many people, after being rejected, quickly seek out another person and get into a new relationship. Sadly, this is the true evidence of a wounded, bleeding heart. Instead of allowing the pain of the lost relationship to subside–giving yourself a chance to heal, you nose-dive into a new relationship as a way of getting over the previous one. This isn’t fair to your new love, nor to you, because it’s improbable, if not impossible for you to be fully present for a new person when your heart is still broken from your old love. Take some time to heal, 3-6 months for every year of your relationship. Respect your heart and care enough for the other person’s feelings to say “no” to any new relationship until you’re positive that you have healed and are ready to be fully present in a new relationship.
Rejection, in almost every situation, is painful to the rejected person. However, we must learn that sometimes being rejected can set us free—free to find the real love that we desire and deserve. Next time you’re rejected, control your emotions, assess the situation, and decide whether it’s worth fighting for. If not, thank your former loved one, consider the rejection a blessing and go find your true love!
If you’re suffering from a broken heart, we can help! Sophia Avery, MA- Christian Therapist and Donavan Sterling West-Relationship Consultant can be contacted via www.ChristianTalkTherapy.com for individual counseling, Couples Counseling, and Marriage Counseling. We also offer a dynamic Pre-Marital Counseling series for engaged or pre-engaged couples! Please visit our website and/or find us on Facebook!