It’s an almost inevitable side effect of dating: You made yourself vulnerable to someone you like, and they told you, hopefully gently, that they’re just not that into you. Getting rejected can feel like a punch in the gut, but you can’t let it keep you from staying open and optimistic. Rejection is not only a natural part of the dating experience, but also an essential step towards finding a relationship that’s going to make you truly happy.
We consulted three relationship experts to build a five-step plan for how to deal with rejection that can help you ease the sting, grow from the experience, and move on with your life after being turned down.
Step one: Let yourself feel it
Feeling sad, angry, or disappointed? Don’t try to fight it. “Your feelings are always valid,” says therapist Anna Aslanian. Of course, some ways of indulging them are more productive than others. Aslanian recommends a few healthy ones: “Talk to someone supportive; freewrite in your journal until there’s nothing left to write; go for a walk.” And if you really need to let it all out? She says: “You can just sit and cry.” There’s nothing wrong with that!
Step two: Accept it
It can be tempting to live in denial once you’ve been rejected—Maybe they didn’t mean it! Maybe they’ll change their mind!—but do this other person, and yourself, a favor and take their words seriously. As Aslanian often points out to her clients, “for relationships to work, you need two people.” Therefore, if this other person is not on board, “you need to respect their boundaries and really hear what they’re saying. We can’t control or change other people. We can only control how we respond to things.” So resist sending that iffy late-night text or showing up with unsolicited flowers. You’re too good to beg.
Step three: Reframe it
“Understand that rejection is not personal,” says psychotherapist and sex therapist Eliza Boquin. “We’re not always going to complement, fit, or vibe with other people. It doesn’t have anything to do with your value or your worth.” Think of a time when you might have rejected someone in the past. It was probably more about the chemistry you shared (or didn’t) than about anything they did.
You may even come to see the person who rejected you as doing you a favor one day. After all, the alternative would have been being stuck in a relationship with someone who doesn’t want to be with you—which doesn’t sound very enjoyable, and would have kept you from pursuing a relationship with someone who does.
One way to get a head start on that seemingly far-off point of view, Boquin suggests, is to “make a list of the reasons why you’re actually better off without the relationship, or the ways it wasn’t going to complement your core values.” By writing down the “cons” of this would-be relationship, you can help yourself see the rejection as a way of getting one step closer to the kind of relationship you actually want and deserve.
Step four: Boost your confidence
Understandably, getting rejected by someone you like can hurt your self-esteem. Go ahead and give your friends a gentle nudge that you could use a few extra reminders here and there of how great you are. And don’t be shy to be your own cheerleader too.
“If you’re nervous about getting back into dating, you want to reassure yourself and practice a lot of self-affirmations,” says psychotherapist Alyssa Mancao. She suggests writing out self-affirmations on sticky notes and putting them on your mirrors. Mancao recommends phrases like, “‘I deserve to feel pleasure;’ ‘I am worthy of love and emotional reciprocity;’ ‘I deserve to have my needs met;’ ‘I deserve to have my values honored.’” Yeah, you do!
Step five: Get back in the game
Don’t rush yourself, but when you’re ready, try to hit the dating scene with a fresh perspective. “Think of dating as a way to find out what’s important to you, instead of hoping that every person you meet will be the one,” says Aslanian. By seeing dating as an adventure, we can avoid putting too much pressure on things.
Now that you’ve turned this moment of rejection into an opportunity for growth, you might even find yourself projecting a more positive energy and attracting new potential partners. After all, “when we’re happy and feeling good,” says Aslanian, “we’re more likely to be open when we meet someone new.”