Doug wrote: “I’m just about 23 and in college. I have had a good number of flings and stuff throughout college, but now that I am getting a little older I want to find something more real. But I have a problem that seems to be persisting. In high school, I wouldn’t get much action, still had things here and there but I always longed for a relationship and I just felt way more emotion in general. And then, freshman year comes around of college and being young and naive, I met this one girl who I clicked with so freakin well, we’d hang out all the time. She was one of my best friends as well as my biggest crush ever, I think I literally loved this person. Again, this was freshman year of college, spent the whole year kind of going after her, but long story short, there were complications on her side and she “let me down easy” and I was devastated emotionally. It took so long to get away from the sadness.
I then joined a fraternity and had a whole new family of friends and met other girls and had flings with quite a few. And here is my question: from that event freshman year, I’ve met wonderful women who’ve shown me their affection (I could have had everything I wanted with one of them specifically), but every time I try to date someone and feel my self even getting the slightest bit closer, I don’t know what happens, I freak out and search for some reason to end the whole thing and I look like the biggest asshole on the planet. I don’t know, I haven’t felt much compassion or love with anyone in the past 3 years, and I just feel dull like it’s died and those feelings won’t come back. I don’t really know what to do, I’ve debated just booking like an hour with a counselor of some sort just to explain it out and hear the advice they have to say. What do you think?”
Liz says: Rejection hurts so much that we can often respond in ways that are extreme in an effort to prevent ever feeling that pain again.
But as you’re learning, beating them to it doesn’t feel good either.
Most of us have a fear of being found inadequate, unappealing, or unattractive by those we desire. Some will avoid intimacy from developing because it feels “safe” never being in a position to be judged and rejected. Others will continue dating after healing from their heartbreak by dusting themselves off, learning from their mistakes, making personal changes, and/or deciding that person was just wrong for them and they did you a favor by letting you go.
Keep this in mind: rejection points you in the direction of where you belong. This is true for everything in life. Rejected from that job? That just means they saved you from wasting your time working someplace you may not have been suited for. Rejected from a woman? Great, that just means you’re closer to finding a woman who’s right for you. Once you start seeing rejection as saving you from wasting your time and pointing you in the right direction, it can be like an ointment on a bee sting.
Plus, if you get honest feedback for why you were rejected you can make improvements that help you evolve into the person you want to be (within reason, of course). For example, many successful authors say they were rejected by publishers several times before their manuscripts were accepted. The publishing houses would send feedback, the authors would consider their suggestions and make certain changes, and then eventually they found success! Now imagine if they did what you’re doing in your relationships. If they had taken the first rejection letter so personally that they told themselves they must be terribly inadequate writers, then abandoned writing altogether (like you’re abandoning intimacy), they wouldn’t be living their dreams.
We all get rejected sometimes. There are severely maladaptive ways of handling romantic rejection, like becoming a stalker or murderer, and then there are mildly maladaptive ways, like avoiding intimacy altogether. Preventing an intimate relationship from developing out of fear usually results in a lonely life.
Life is about risks and that makes it fun as well as scary, but we take them because to not do so is to not live.
So learn how to open your heart again and give someone a chance, because that’s the only way to developing the kind of happy relationship you’re looking for.