Learning to handle rejection

While sometimes rejection from a love interest is largely harmless for some, especially where romantic feelings had begun to bubble, it can be a big challenge for others.

Photo credit: Fotosearch

“I just can’t get him out of my mind. There are days when I think about only him,” 29-year-old Nancy Imbaya, speaks about her feelings for a man at her workplace.

Without the back story, watching Nancy talk, one would think that she and this man are an item. The truth, however, is that things started great between the two of them, there was a lot of heavy flirting and then when she thought he was about to ask her out on a date, he told her that he didn’t like her like that.

“It was like a punch in the gut,” she recalls that rejection. “I just sort of shelved it and pretended that it didn’t happen. I know I will need to deal with it as some point. I just don’t know how,” she says.

Gone are the days that a woman would sit around throwing shy glances at the man she liked hoping he would catch the drift and pursue her. The dating scene is now a level playing field. With the help of social media and dating Apps, women are actively going after the men they want. This means that on occasion, a woman will fall for a man who is immune to her charms. What then? How do you deal with rejection in today’s dating scene?

Hold your head up

While sometimes rejection from a love interest is largely harmless for some, especially where romantic feelings had begun to bubble, it can be a big challenge for others.

Psychotherapist and author Lori Gottlieb in her book Maybe You Should Talk to Someone writes that getting overwhelmed by rejection doesn’t mean that you are weak or sensitive.  Apparently, our need for acceptance dates back to ancient history when humans relied on being in groups to survive.

31-year-old Zawadi Njagi describes the rejection she experienced not too long ago as going through a breakup without the benefit of experiencing that relationship. Zawadi, a Nairobi-based Graphic designer, reckons that her hurt feelings could also have something to do with how her love interest handled things.

“I thought we were doing well. We went on a couple of dates, began hanging out at his place and even got intimate a few times. Then, out of the blue, he sent a mutual friend to tell me that he has a girlfriend and that I should stop forcing issues. It was very hurtful,” she says.

At first, she admits, she handled it badly.

“I was angry so I sent a ton of insulting messages. When he didn’t react to that, I began trying to get through to him to try and change his mind. Of course that didn’t work either. It just turned him off more and now that I think back, that was embarrassing,” she says.

What finally worked for her was beginning to practice self-care and hitting the gym. Two hours every morning was a great distraction and she was always in high spirits afterwards.

“Eventually, I wasn’t even thinking about him anymore. I’m still single but now I’m a gym rat. I’m in the best shape of my life,” she says.

Frederick Kiragu, a Nairobi-based counselling psychologist says that there is a scientific link between good moods and exercise.

“If you exercise regularly, you will be more relaxed during the day, sleep better at night and feel more positive about yourself and your life. In fact, regular exercise can treat mild depression as well as antidepressant medication,” he says.

Keep putting yourself out there

“Online dating is not for the faint-hearted,” Samantha Otieno, a 31-year-old travel agent based in Mombasa, sums up her love life.

When her six-year relationship came to an end two years ago, Samantha dealt with the heart break by jumping head first into the world of online dating. She joined Tinder, Tunda and a few other dating sites.

“I wasn’t expecting to find love right away. I also wasn’t expecting the blatant rejection that I received,” she says.

She speaks about being ghosted by love interests online many times and meeting up with people she had been chatting with online only to be rejected face to face.

“People can be so rude and say the most thoughtless things,” she says.

She shares that her first instinct was to shut down and stop dating but she became even more miserable. So she put herself out there again and focused on the positive things and on her strengths.

“I was getting so crushed by the negativity that I wasn’t hearing the compliments and the flattery. When you have been rejected, you need all the compliments you can get. They work,” she says.

Her resolve to keep dating has finally paid off because she is now dating someone she met on a dating App.

“It’s still early days but I’m hopeful. If I had given up, I never would have met him.”

Don’t rule out friendship

Not too long ago, women were encouraged to date for marriage. That advice is a little outdated for today’s relationship scene where we are dating to grow, and learn from each other, and if marriage comes out of it, well and good.

“It’s the same with early stages of dating. Just because someone came to your DMs or took you out on a couple of dates doesn’t mean that they owe you a long-term relationship,” shares Kate Kolum, 33.

She draws from experience. When she was in her early and mid-twenties, she remembers being clingy. If a man even smiled her way, she would begin feeling territorial. Then she had an entanglement with a colleague which cost her, her job.

“I thought we were dating while he was just having a fling. I took the rejection very badly and caused a huge scene at work. I ended up getting fired and ruining any chance I ever had even at friendship with this man,” she days.

She lost the man and the job but she took an invaluable lesson with her. She now sees rejection for what it is; a rejection of the relationship but not a rejection of her as a woman. Subsequently, she is still good friends with two men who have broken off relationships with her in the past few years. These friendships have contributed to the person she is in special ways and she is happy she kept the friendship.

“Of course you don’t go trying to be friends with a person right after the rejection. Personally, I try not to regularly call or try to check on the person for a while but I keep the option of friendship open for the future. All the people you meet who are not good matches for you romantically, you never know things you could learn from them or the ways in which they could impact your life,” she says.

Clearly, the key to handling rejection or having your affection thrown back in your face lies in looking ahead. However bad you may be feeling, time will lull the hurt.

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