So we’ve had a heart break in the HUS community, and I’m really grateful that a reader could bring that here and ask for support. I’m also moved by all the virtual (((hugs))) offered to her. We may not know one another offline, but the relationships here are real when you need a friend.
Rejection is the hardest part about dating – it’s one of the hardest things in life. Fear of rejection, rejection before a relationship can ever get off the ground, and rejection once relationships are well underway. Sometimes we get blindsided by rejection after years of marriage. Rejection never gets easier, but when it happens there are ways of coping and reflecting that I think can be helpful.
Breakups are Super Stressful
A 2015 study aimed to better understand life after a breakup.
When it comes to who initiates the breakup, women and men don’t agree. One interesting finding is that the most common cause of breakups is “lack of communication,” which was indicated twice as often as “infidelity.”
Finally, the person initiating the breakup did report less grief overall, but both parties experienced extreme stress as a result of breaking up.
You have good reason to feel extremely upset, stressed, even ill. Breaking up is very difficult for everyone, especially in the first days and weeks. This data shows how difficult – you are not alone.
Some People Take Breakups Harder Than Others
The above data shows that there are some real differences between men and women, but it’s also true that within each sex there is a lot of variation, and that distribution is the same for both sexes. In other words, some guys and girls get through breakups fairly easily, while some guys and girls are devasted for extended periods of time. And everything in between.
Lauren Howe’s Atlantic article The Psychology of Why Some People Take Breakups Harder Than Others explores the difference.
It boils down to what Howe calls a “self-deprecation trap.”
People less traumatized by breakups tended to see the rejection as separate from their identity, saying things like “Rejection is part of life.” and “It just means we were not a good match.”
Others were actually able to view the rejection as a growth experience, which I think is pretty impressive
What Howe and Dweck found was that the first group tended to see personality as fixed, so a failed relationship meant they were now stuck with some undesirable trait that would thwart future relationships. Others believed in change and growth, so were able to learn from and use the relationship experience to get a better outcome the next time.
Howe says we should create a healthy habit of questioning our own narratives. This is something we can do individually, with a trusted confidante, or here at HUS.
Rejection Makes Your Life Better
There’s a better relationship in your future.
When we are rejected, we are in pain because we find out that we are not loved. Our feelings for another person are not mutual. When the breakup is a surprise, we struggle to make sense of it. We thought everything was fine – why did things change?
But the truth is that things were not fine. Our relationship was not thriving. And letting go of that relationship is both necessary and beneficial to our future happiness. Because what we’re really looking for is someone who loves us back, without complications, ambivalence or reluctance.
The sooner we get out of a relationship that’s a dead end (even if we didn’t know it), the sooner we are free to enter a better one.
Raise your standards and your expectations.
Just make sure you’re focusing on the right things. Choose someone who:
Treats you well, with respect.
Is effective and productive.
Is emotionally available and demonstrative.
Is ready for a relationship commitment.
You’re not perfect, and there were likely real mistakes you made in the failed relationship. Take time to reflect on that. Be brutally honest with yourself – but keep the narrative productive as Howe suggests, not hopeless.v
Try making a list of 10 things you’d like to do differently next time around. Hell, that’s even a good idea if you’re in a healthy relationship. I could make that list in about a minute and I’ve been happily married for over 30 years.
You think you still want them but you don’t. You really, really don’t. Keeping on with that relationship is settling. Welcome the new and challenging journey that greets you.
Tactics to Help You Move On
Elite Daily has an article by Sheila Amir that includes some excellent suggestions for managing the initial, hardest stage when you’ve just broken up.
I. Dive into your own recovery.
II. NO COMMUNICATIONv
III. Treat people well.
Revenge is pathetic, forget about it. Wanting revenge is admitting that the only way you can feel good about yourself is if someone else feels bad. And besides, it doesn’t work. You won’t feel good if your ex gets hit by a car or dumped by his next gf.
IV. Never feel stupid for loving.
What good is sitting alone in your room? Get back out there.
We all experience heartbreak. I wouldn’t marry a man who hadn’t. I wouldn’t be the same person if I hadn’t.
It’s not enjoyable, but it is something that shapes our identity, our values, and even our dreams. Think of it as a really tough pilgrimage. You’ll get there in the end.