Rejection in Relationships

Dan Bolton


At the beginning of this months blog theme on on rejection I stated that rejection is something that never stops, even in long term relationships and marriage. It's vital for men to understand the importance of this both in finding and keeping a great relationship. Rejection in a relationship can be a good thing. I will explain this idea below.

There are two different types of rejection we can experience when in a relationship- one which occurs intermittently that does not threaten the relationship, and one that involves breaking up the relationship. Men tend not to react well to either. Rejection involves emotions that men have a difficult time tolerating: Shame, embarrassment, and humiliation. Learning how to tolerate these emotions and handle rejection differently is essential in keeping a relationship strong and vibrant, and can help reverse the tide of a relationship that is on it's way out.

Instead of finding a way to manage the emotional pain around rejection, most men either avoid it, act out neediness with their partner, or react with anger. Let's elaborate on men's typical reactions:

1) Avoidance- As with many emotions sometimes men just deny them and push them down somewhere deep inside, to the point we are not always aware we are experiencing these emotions. The problem with avoidance is that you don't do anything to change what you're doing, do not open up communication about your feelings about the rejection, or communicate your needs to your partner at all. This reaction leads to stagnation and possible resentment later in the relationship, where neither partners' needs or feelings have not been sufficiently addressed. I have seen some couples avoid problems for years and when they finally couldn't take it anymore, it was too late to do anything about them.

2) Acting out neediness with your partner - I knew a man who became so desperate in his relationship because he and his gf had not had sex for 6 months. He had no idea how to handle the combination of the urges, confusion, and frustration he was feelings, so he started begging her for sex. As you can imagine this did not turn out well, they did not have sex, and not long after this broke up.

With regard to the breakup kind of rejection a reaction that I see happen all the time is endless calling your ex after she has broken up. After a woman has broken up with you this is absolutely, unequivocally the absolute worst possible thing you can do… if your goal is to try to get back together with her that is. Yet, it is the thing that many men feel most compelled to do more than anything else when this happens. It seems almost compulsive. I do get it. Dealing with such a strong sense of helplessness over a decision another person made about your relationship is extremely difficult. You've got to learn to let go and sit with those intense feelings. I find many men need very focused guidance with this over a short period of time

3) Reacting with anger- argumentative, jealousy, possessiveness - Some men deal with rejection by returning criticism to their partner. Men can take what would otherwise be a constructive criticism and turn it into a tell-your-partner-everything-that-is-wrong-about-her session. Unless it is some chronically abusive rant your partner tends to go on, I suggest you take this time to sit and listen, because she is telling you exactly what to do and what not to do to make her happy!

None of the above reactions to rejection provide anything constructive to your relationship life whatsoever. In fact each of these reactions potentially threatens the health of your your relationship, and even the life of the relationship itself.

Here I will reiterate: Rejection in a relationship can be a good thing. If your partner is giving you feedback then she is telling you what you can do to make things good. If it is purely silent or withholding or abusive in nature, then this is unconstructive.

As a side note, for those readers not in a relationship, it is the men who can tolerate these emotions who end up getting the girl (I will go into that later). When you are learning the ropes of attraction, flirtation, and dating sometimes it is trial and error. There are no guarantees, and you will make mistakes. What man hasn't done something stupid when it comes to feeling attracted to a woman? I have done plenty of stupid things when it came to women. Without all of these mistakes I would not have the learning experiences to be writing this blog to guide my readers looking for guidance. Rejection is great because it provides a very distilled learning opportunity. Learning what not to do is the fastest path in the growth process. Judging yourself and beating yourself up is the worst thing you can do. Learn from the mistake and move on. 

To show genuine interest in a woman inherently involves a man putting himself in a vulnerable position. The same goes for giving and showing love in a relationship, as well as taking criticism. Vulnerability is difficult for men. There is always the possibility that this love and interest will not be reciprocated. Shame, humiliation, embarrassment are the most difficult emotions for men to accept. That is why if you go out to the bar scene, especially with younger (but this happens with older men too) the night often ends with two men duking it out. So, they can at least go home feeling tough or that they did something manly rather than sitting with the pang of shame or humiliation from rejection. The same goes for the reactions I outlined that happen in a relationship. It is about saving face.

People are generally forgiving. Making one mistake will not necessarily make or break an encounter or a relationship. Often women are trying to figure it out just like you. If you make a mistake, take the feedback, listen critically, and change direction accordingly. The great thing about people is that when they feel someone has listened to them they feel good. Why is this? Because most people don't listen! That is why reacting to rejection with avoidance, neediness, or anger is bad… Because it shows you are less interested in understanding the other person and more absorbed in your own emotional process.

Next week

The Tele-Seminar will be this coming Tuesday, October 29th at 7pm. I think this will be an interesting discussion, since who has not experienced rejection? For those willing to admit it and join in the discussion, be prepared to learn and grow! If this sounds like something you'd be interested in hearing more about, sign up for the free tele-seminar below...

Subscribe to Dan Bolton, LMHC's mailing list

* indicates required
Email Format