Coping with Dating Rejection: Rolling with the Shots
Let us cut directly to the chase: if you suspect that this article will feature some variant on getting back up on the horse you just got knocked off of, then you’re correct. That having been said, that worn-out aphorism offers the reader very little in the way of actual information. What about not wanting to get back on the horse? After all, you just got knocked off it and, to borrow another aphorism, no one ever tells you to put your hand back on a hot stove top. Seriously – coping with dating rejection can be an emotional nightmare.
A lot of times you will hear the pain minimized or someone who does not know you will write an article about how it really is not that bad. However, be honest; recently, a famous billionaire in the technology industry was dumped by his actress girlfriend and his comment was that “it hurt bad.” That is an honest statement, dating rejection hurts and to minimize that pain is to devalue your experience.
If we acknowledge that the experience is painful, then why would we want to get back onto the horse or put our hand back on the stove? Put simply, many things that are part of a painful process have rewards that balance out the pain. Do not get too caught up in aphorisms or metaphors because dating and relationships bear only the most casual resemblance to the other things you try in life. Romance, love, belonging with someone; these are worth some pain. The positive thing is that the pain can be made tolerable and, with some perspective, you can learn from the experience.
Dating Online: A Degree of Rejection Beneath Your Notice
If you plan on trying out some online dating sites, be prepared to be rejected. Not once or twice or a dozen times; if you want online dating to work for you then be prepared to be rejected hundreds or even thousands of times. Hopefully you proactively approach people you are interested in with messages.
Waiting for interested people to find you, is like a baseball player standing out in the outfield with their glove held out in front of them. The chances that the ball landing seamlessly in the web of your glove is not good. The critical aspect of online rejection to remember is that these rejections are less than paper cuts.
As a threshold issue, most online rejections are just a failure to actually reach a living human being; a prerequisite to rejection. Many online accounts were set up in a moment of curiosity and just as quickly abandoned. Large numbers of accounts have been abandoned by people who felt the sting of rejection and gave up. Your heartfelt introduction is just sitting there and the dating websites are strongly incentivized to conceal the numbers of the living versus the dead.
Incidentally, if you are still laboring under the idea that any large scale commercial service is your friend or ally then you need to rapidly disabuse yourself of that notion. The big online dating sites care that your credit card runs each month and if you happen to forget the account and let it run for a year? So much the better. Dating sites are your tool, do not be theirs. If you want someone who actually cares then hire someone who actually deals with you as a person and stop buying into the illusion that a Fortune 1000 company cares whether you find your mate, or are eaten by radioactive weevils for that matter.
Once you sift through the chaff of moribund accounts, then you will run into people who are, while technically alive, not seriously looking for a relationship. A disappointing percentage of people are there to “see what is available,” or, worse, to simply affirm for themselves that they are desirable. There is no point in feeling hurt because these people never get back to you. They do not want what you want and you are nothing more than a statistic they are using to boost their self-worth.
If it makes you feel better then you can be fairly confident in the knowledge that anyone so doubting of their own value is not worth your time and definitely is not anyone you want to be in a relationship with. Remember, if you message twenty or thirty people every week, you should get responses from live people and the silence from the others is nothing to be concerned about. Do however note that if you are sending out hundreds of inquiries without at least a 5 percent rate of return that you probably do need to take a lesson from this dating rejection and adjust your approach.
Coping with Dating Rejection
Eventually you will connect with one of those live people and they will, after wasting your time for a week of setting up a date and an hour of actual time, reject you. If they have any class they will tell you over coffee that they do not think this will work out. Far more likely, since people with actual class and social skills are a rarity, they will express interest and then perform a rapid fade from your existence; the ghost maneuver.
If someone has the class to reject you to your face, then take heart. While it is not the best way to spend an hour, at least you have no doubts and the other person had a measure of respect for you to let you know. The key here is to not plead, or say something negative. The appropriate response is to politely thank them for their time and exit. “It was nice to meet you, I’m sorry you feel that way, and best of luck in your search,” are the only things you need to say before making a polite exit. Resist the urge to return fire and nurse your wounds later. Obviously you would like things to have turned out differently but you will find that knowing is better than not knowing.
Dealing with “Ghosts”
More common these days is the ghost; you meet someone and the date goes well and then they are difficult to reach for a second date, your texts go unanswered for hours and days, and eventually they just stop responding entirely. To be blunt, this speaks of a certain degree of cowardice on their part. Ghosting someone else is not only disrespectful but says quite a bit about the person doing it. It says they lack the courage to face the less pleasant things in life, that they avoid perceived confrontation, and that they care more about their own feelings than the way they make other people feel.
It is entirely fair to say that people who ghost after a date are broadcasting that they are really bad relationship material. Do you want to be in a relationship with someone that selfish and passive-aggressive? If your answer is anything other than a resounding “no,” you should immediately stop dating and immediately get therapy so that you’ll be ready to date when someone better comes along.
There are people who will, after what seemed like a polite date, let you know in a text message or phone call that they do not think it will work out. While lacking the courage of rejecting someone to their face, they at least do not leave you wondering what happened. Take the rejection with good graces, resist the temptation to tell them how you actually feel, and move on.
Always Take the High Road
In all of these situations, take the high road. If someone places you in the friend zone or rejects you outright, you can still capitalize on that status. Just because you struck out with someone does not mean you cannot be civil or even friendly. Remember, people have friends and some of those friends are single. If you end your coffee date telling them where to shove their latte, you will never get to meet those friends.
On the other hand, if you shrug and give a rueful smile, and then keep in occasional contact, you stand a greater than zero chance of being introduced to someone else, and all it costs you is resisting the urge to have the last word. By not imploding and responding negatively, you set yourself above and apart from those people who rave like toddlers. Do not invest much in the people who reject you and never expect them to come back or to introduce you to anyone; the point is that something, even if unlikely, is better than having the last word and eliminating an opportunity you do not need to.
One point to remember is that, believe it or not, you will meet people that you are just not into. There is a reason why pretty much every organized religion on the planet has some variation on “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” It is really good advice. When you meet someone and things do not click, say “you’re really cool but I do not feel we’re really compatible,” or whatever kind manner of rejection, which is like a kind kick in the reproductive organs if you’re being honest, you would most like to receive. Do not ghost on people because you’re afraid. Even if the person you meet is abjectly vile, rude, or has mislead you about their attributes, you will remain civil and courteous because being nasty takes more energy and leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
Accept that if you date, whether online or not, you will be rejected. If you are really having a difficult time coping with dating rejection, and you cannot face the prospect of further rejection, then again, do not date and seek therapy. It is something you must be able to face, accept, and move on from, if you are going to succeed.
Nursing Your Wounds and Getting Back on the Horse
Now we get to the part about horse riding. To begin with, everyone who tells you to just get over it or to “suck it up” is wrong. Either that person has never been rejected while dating, which is not plausible, or that person avoids feeling things that hurt.
First, make sure the rejection is worth it; if someone did not respond to your inquiry online, just forget it and move on. For every message you send that does not get a response, send another one to replace it. No anonymous person, who might not be checking their messages, is worth a second of your time; may they play leapfrog with unicorns.
Save your actual wallowing for someone who at least had coffee with you and rather than avoiding the pain go ahead and revel in it. Be sad and disappointed. Get in bed and sulk, listen to all of your sad songs, go off the deep end and get out the really mopey Cure albums, stream romantic comedies and mock them with your bitterness. Just generally make yourself feel worse, and hug your pet.
After you do that for a day or two you will probably be really bored. Now you need to move forward even if you still feel bad. Getting back to work will not immediately make you feel better but going through the motions, as robotically as is necessary, will get you close to the actual solution for rejection.
Hopefully you do not feel that your coffee date, or even your partner of six months is irreplaceable. While the length of time that you wait before putting yourself back out there may vary, and lengthier periods of mourning may even be appropriate for longer term relationships, you cannot listen to the seductive voice that suggests no amount of success is worth the degree of rejection you are experiencing. It is somewhat sad to note but honestly, until you invest time in each other, until you both contribute to a relationship, the people you date are fairly fungible; until they distinguish themselves, they are interchangeable. Know that the best remedy for rejection is acceptance by someone else but until you get back into the game, you cannot replace the people who reject you.
This is not a suggestion to take nothing from rejections. You should not just try again but try to evolve; like any game of skill, you must fail repeatedly to learn. Expect to fail often. If you are routinely being rejected by people you would like to know better, then you will need to adjust your strategy. Is your appearance the best that it could be? Could your conversational skills use some refinement? Are you better suited to activities than to coffee dates? It definitely pays to experiment with what works best for you. Accept that you will never reduce rejection to zero, but hopefully you will be able to develop a strategy that reduces them to more tolerable levels.
Author Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article do not represent the views of the Social Security Administration or the United States Government. They are solely the views of Ted Stalcup in my personal capacity or as a representative of EmLovz. I am not acting as an agent of the Social Security Administration or the United States Government in this activity. There is no express or implied endorsement of Ted Stalcup or of EmLovz by either the Social Security Administration or the United States Government.