Understanding Rejection in Personal Relationships
Rejection is one person saying to the other — “Keep away, I don’t want you around me now. ” Such a message often hits exactly in the center of our ego and shakes our self worth. Thus both giving and receiving a message of rejection has to be handled with sensitivity.
Thankfully most social rejections are subtle. Most of us, in the beginning of a relationship, choose less-risky ways to make a connection. Saying “Hi”, sharing a joke, participating in a yoga class together, all these activities can aid in the process of building intimacy.
There are also many types of social contact possible. So we can choose to keep a relationship at a distance that is comfortable for us. We can choose to remain acquaintances or friends or try for something more intimate.
Once both the people forming a connection find the right distance from each other, then both are happy. There was not any need for an explicit “No” message or setting boundaries. The relationship happened organically.
Explicit rejections are tougher. They can occur in the context of romance or even with friends who want more contact than you want to give. Sometimes people don’t take the subtle hints. In these cases, the “No” or the rejection message has to be arrived at by you.
In my own case, I have had to dish out a “No” when I don’t have the energy to meet the needs of the other person without making me feel like I am losing something. At other times I don’t trust that the other person will respect the boundaries that have currently been set by us.
This uncertainty of boundaries causes in me some emotional discomfort. I want to protect my own space and integrity by ending the discomfort. I choose to end the relationship itself. This can be seen as rejecting the other person.
Having arrived at all this so rationally, it is still a difficult position to be in — the giver of a “No.” Rejecting someone leaves one with guilt if the receiver responds with pain. One case is when other person sort of breaks down and slithers away after the conversation. Sometimes one can feel anger and tiredness if the receiver calls us names like selfish and sends us innumerable text messages.
Anyways, it definitely seems an art to learn. I think it is important to be clear and centered while communicating your boundaries to people.
Hearing a “No” message is no easier. Sometimes I think if the other person had communicated to me more, I would have been more satisfied. I don’t think that anymore. I do think that a certain level of communication helps. Especially if it acknowledges our vulnerability in exposing ourselves to the other person.
The message itself however has to be received and digested completely at our end. The responsibility of receiving a rejection message is thus with the receiver.
The process of recovery from a rejection message is thus three stepped for me. It turns out that at times I have miscalculated what it is that I can expect from the other person. I also seem to have transcribed onto them something special like “they can give me security” etc. which is not real.
The first step is to actually hear the other persons “No,” set the boundary from my end appropriately and let them go. This means that I agree to move on. In fact, I have not had anyone change their mind later on and come back to me unless my own circumstances changed significantly. I also have to agree to live with incomplete information. I am lucky if I am able to understand why the other person made the choice they did. But often I only have a guess.
Second step to recovery is to find out what expectations I had from my connection to them — love, security etc. Thirdly and most importantly, moving the expectations to where there are possibilities of gratification. For example, an old friend maybe able to provide the love and care that we expected from the disaster date. An ex-boyfriend might turn out to be a more consistent lover than the current perfect match.
Sometimes I find, I run from one “No” to the other, hurting myself deeply. That brings me to my favorite theory — hooked to rejection! A flippant way to see the devastating reality of addiction to negative external messages. This can happen especially if our self-worth is not the best and we are looking for external approval. If we have had negativity for a period of six months or more, it is good to examine what is happening in our lives with a counsellor.
May all of us find ways to meet our needs for love. May we handle each other with care.
Sankaran, A. (2014). Understanding Rejection in Personal Relationships. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 21, 2017, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/archives/2014/09/02/understanding-rejection-in-personal-relationships/