Though it’s a weird thing to brag about, I am really good at being rejected. From college into the post-grad twenties, there are lots of dating opportunities, and often my romantic feelings for someone aren’t mutual. Getting rejected is painful and ego-bruising but over the years I’ve developed survival strategies. Knowing that I can have my heart broken and be okay lets me makes dating and taking emotional risks less frightening.
Skill One: Be hurt, but accept it immediately. I wasn’t always so good with this one. That crushing feeling that permeates from the heart down into the gut can hurt more than any physical blow, and I found myself not just hoping, but expecting, that a few days without me would change his mind and free me of my heartbreak. I quickly learned that it’s important to respect their decision and resist trying to change their mind. It takes guts to be honest and direct with someone about ending a relationship and it’s up to me to accept that this decision was not made lightly.
Skill Two: Unless they give a reason, you probably don’t want to know why. When I was 19, my first boyfriend disappeared for several days with no communication after we’d been dating a month. Eventually we ran into each other on campus and he admitted that he wanted to be single. I had no clue why and after two weeks of unreasonable devastation I demanded an honest explanation. He said, “I’m looking for someone less interesting and more physically attractive.” Woah. Now I felt depressed and ugly. It’s okay that he wasn’t attracted to me, but as I can’t change the way I look, that information wasn’t constructive. I learned from this and when a later boyfriend broke up with me for “irreconcilable differences”, I trusted that I just wasn’t the one for him. We maintained respect for each other, and we’re still friends to this day.
Skill Three: CEASE COMMUNICATION. For at least one month. Seriously. For those with little self-control:
- Hide that person on Facebook so they don’t pop up on your newsfeed. Facebook should really have an “Ex” button that blocks you from stalking their page and crying about how much fun they’re having being single for at least a month.
- Write down their phone number and put it in a safe, inconvenient place and then delete it from your phone. Or, change the name to “X” if you want a warning if they call you. Which they won’t, because they just dumped you. Do NOT text them. Do NOT call them. But Jillian, I left my toothbrush in his bathroom! Buy a new toothbrush! We know that’s not the reason you want to go back there. Unless you left prescription medication or something else you literally cannot live without, it can wait a month.
- I know Tindr and Grindr let you know how many miles away that person is from you at any given moment. YOU DO NOT NEED TO KNOW THAT. Block them. Right now.
One of my friends told me they were having difficulty getting over an ex and then revealed that they were texting each other every day! Being in constant communication with your ex will only prevent you from moving forward with your life.
Skill Four: Be miserable. I like to give myself one week to cry whenever I feel like it, sleep in, watch TV, eat too much ice cream, and wallow. Feeling pain is a good thing. It’s emotionally cleansing and you need it to recover.
Skill Five: Then pick yourself up. This is the perfect time to focus on yourself and make your life more awesome. Exercise. Make fun plans with your friends. Volunteer. Start a new hobby. One extracurricular I started because Boyfriend #1 rejected me boosted my resume enough to land me an amazing job.
Skill Six: Don’t rebound. After every rejection it’s natural to want to feel desired again. But rebounding is a superficial emotional Band-Aid and using someone else to mitigate your grief is rude. Just because one of the 7 billion people on the planet decided you aren’t “the one” doesn’t mean you’re not fabulous. Take time to enjoy being single before you jump back into the game.
I believe that the pain of heartbreak and rejection is an integral part of the human experience. It’s a sacred time of grief that lets us self-reflect and bloom into better people. It allows us to empathize with family and friends who will inevitably experience the same pain at some point in their lives and lean on us for support. I have loved many people who didn’t love me back and eventually I recognized that they did me a favor by ending things. My family has a saying, “Thank God they broke up with me or I’d still be with them!” Don’t let the fear of rejection hold you back from experiencing relationships and putting love out into the world. It’s a beautiful thing.
Jillian Altizer wrote this article for Flux, an online forum for those of us encountering adulthood. Jillian is a community organizer with a passion for feminism, running, agriculture, writing letters, and listening to radio shows. She is determined to have at least ten different careers before she dies at the age of 105 or older.