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How to Handle Romantic Rejection: 7 Tips

February 4th, 2013 by

iPhone messages of dating rejection

Note: This article covers rejection in a dating context. Breaking up is different.

1. Don’t over-analyze the explanation they give you

People are notoriously vague and indirect when they reject you. If you get a text message that says “Sorry, I’m just not into this right now.” it could mean “I despise every cell in your hideous body.” or it could mean “I like you, but I like Bradly more.” And you have no way of knowing which it is.

Psychologists have labeled this tendency to be vague as “persevering indirectness,” meaning that when we need to reject somebody, we tend to be as non-confrontational as possible at every stage of the rejection process.

Here are some common reasons why people are indirect when they reject you…

  1. They want to avoid drama and negotiation. If they list a specific reason for the rejection, then that gives you specific points that you might try to debate. They’re ready to move on from you. They don’t want to fight about each point endlessly or be forced to defend their emotional reasons logically.
  2. They want to spare your feelings. If they care about you as a person, they won’t want to cause you unnecessary pain by giving you a brutally honest explanation like “I heard Susie likes me, and she’s way prettier than you.”
  3. They’re embarrassed about their true reasons. If you’re waiting until marriage to have sex, you’re going to encounter this reason often. A person can’t just say “I need sex. Soon. Because I am horny.” because that would make them feel like a monster (even though they wouldn’t deserve to). So instead, they say “You’re really, really nice, but not what I’m looking for right now.”

When you get a vague explanation, your impulse is to pick it apart and try to decipher the rejection message; maybe show it to your friends and see what they think it means. This is a waste of time, because the rejection message they give you is often completely detached from their actual reasons. They’re not trying to give you an explanation that’s honest; they’re trying to give you an explanation that you’ll believe.

2. Don’t project all of your insecurities onto the rejection

When you get rejected and you’re only given a vague explanation, it’s tempting to start filling in the gaps with your own insecurities like “Oh, it’s because I’m ugly.” In Psychological terms, you’re doing something called “projecting,” which means that you’re guessing what they’re thinking based on how you think.

Examples of projection…

  1. A thief thinks everybody is a thief.
  2. A man who’s having an affair thinks that his wife is cheating on him
  3. A woman who’s insecure about her appearance thinks that she gets rejected because she’s not pretty enough.
  4. A person who’s waiting until marriage to have sex thinks that they get rejected because other people don’t want to date them without sex.

Projection is an error in thinking, and it often leads you to form terribly inaccurate conclusions about where other people are coming from. Projection keeps you stuck in a cycle of worry and rejection, and deepens your insecurities unnecessarily. By contrast, finding out about the real reasons why you were rejected can help you grow.

Remember: The question is not “Why would you reject you?” The question is “Why did they reject you?” And those two questions often have two drastically different answers.

3. Count your successes

If they agreed to go on a date with you, then they were at least somewhat attracted to you. So if you get rejected after the second or third date, you can generally assume that your looks weren’t the primary reason. Your good-enough looks got you the first date. Your personality, values, and priorities will get you (or lose you) the second, third and all future dates.

Before you start damning yourself for all of the personal flaws that could have led to this rejection, take some time to think about how far you did get with them. This will make you feel better, and also help you factor-out things that didn’t contribute to the eventual rejection.

So how far did you get? Five dates in? First kiss? Where was the turning point? Or did it not feel right from the start?

4. Try to understand the person who rejected you

When somebody dislikes you, it’s tempting to protect your self esteem: You don’t want to know what they’re thinking, because what they’re thinking would probably hurt you if  you knew it. But that’s often only half true.

Truth might be painful, but at least it’s finite. It’s better to have an idea about the actual reason they rejected you — even if it’s harsh — than it is to waste mental energy worrying endlessly about why they might have rejected you. Most of the time, their actual reason is something you either don’t want to change (e.g., your values or life priorities) or something you can work on (e.g., coming across as self-absorbed).

But how do you determine their actual reasons if they won’t give you a straight answer? If possible, check with a mutual friend, preferably one who will tell it to you straight. That’s the most straightforward path to a direct answer.

Also, try to reflect on the person’s behavior. What was missing from the dates? When did they seem to fall away? When did their body language become more dismissive? Be honest with yourself: Did you really have that much in common? Waiting till marriage can make you over-eager and quick to try and make any date work, whereas other people might be more realistic about not having anything in common.

What kind of person are they? What kind of person do you see them dating? What kind of people have they dated in the past? How far away are you from their usual type? Those are useful questions.

5. Break the awkwardness with new memories

Many dates spring out of overlapping friend groups. Consequently, the most awkward part about getting rejected by somebody is that you have to see them again whenever your mutual friends throw a party.

When you’re forced to be in the same vicinity as your rejector, your first impulse will be to completely avoid them, which will mesh well with their own desire to avoid you. Don’t do this. Don’t run the other direction when you see them coming. It will ruin the party for you and further cement the awkwardness between you.

If you were rejected after only a few dates, you’re probably not that banged up about it. I mean, it’s not like you were dumped after a long-term relationship. It didn’t work, and now your primary goal should be establishing some sort of civility so you don’t feel weird at parties together.

So go up and talk to them. Say “hi” and be nice about it. Put yourself in the same room as them and act like it’s not a big deal.  Basically, do all the things you’re avoiding doing. It will quickly break the tension in the air, and allow you both to enjoy the party.

Until you start being friendly, the last memory you have of each other is the rejection. You need to change that. Make the last memory some random conversation at a party.

Be the bigger man (or the bigger woman) first. Break the awkward tension with friendliness and nonchalance. You will thank yourself later for it.

6. Self-improvement is for winners

Focusing on improving yourself will always help. Even if you get rejected over something you can’t control, improving something else that you’re insecure about will make you more confident, and will help you face the next romantic challenge with better odds of success.

It’s impossible to make yourself the perfect romantic prospect, but it’s easy to make yourself a better romantic prospect. Sometime’s all it takes is a wardrobe upgrade to make you feel more confident (you’d be amazed at how inexpensively you can improve your clothes).

Try not to think in terms of “I need to loose fifty pounds to be attractive.” Instead, remember that losing even a single pound (or gaining a single pound of muscle) makes you more attractive than you were before. Focus on being better, not perfect.

Also, don’t neglect internal self-improvement, as it can help you not care as much about the flaws you see in your appearance. This is a weird example, but about half way through writing my first book I suddenly realized that I had stopped flipping out when I got a pimple.

Making tangible progress on goals that matter to you will help you define yourself by something other than your appearance  and others will pick up on that confidence.

7. Refine your mate selection, try again!

Waiting on your friend group to cough up new potential mates every once in a while is not the way to go. If you depend on your friend group, you’re going to get introduced to people who have one thing in common with you: They’re single.

Instead, be smart about where you look for potential dates. Go out and find groups of people amassed around activities that are close to your core values. is great for this. You can find meetups for anything. Meetup isn’t touted as a way to meet new dates, but it damn well should be.

Are you a writer? Find a local writing group. You can probably find one that’s specific to your genre of writing. Are you a runner? Find a local running group. Are you a runner who’s waiting till marriage? Try a Christian running group. Don’t go to meetups looking for a date. Go their looking for deep commonality, and the dating thing will probably happen by default if you go to enough of them.

Grow from your last rejection, improve yourself, and pick a person that you have more in common with for your next first date — all of that will drastically increase your odds of success. Now, get back out there!

Author: Mike

Mike handles all of the programming and design work for Although he still writes the occasional article, he spends most of his time these days creating new site features and keeping everything organized. Mike is web software developer by day, and is in school to become a psychologist. In his free time Mike enjoys running, biking, and movies.

14 Responses to “How to Handle Romantic Rejection: 7 Tips”

  1. Kristina says:

    Thank you for writing this, totally what I needed! :)

  2. Jenny says:

    I really love number 5. So difficult to do, but definitely has a ton of positive effects. Plus you end up appearing super classy and mature.

  3. Mike says:

    Thanks, Jenny & Kristina! And yeah, number 5 is probably one of the most difficult things to do on this list. So scary, but so instantly worth it.

  4. FDB84 says:

    Thanks for the article Mike, It helps me understand what I’ve gone through in the past. On some occasions girls actually told me that there is a guy that they like (better) :O

  5. Mike says:

    @FDB84 – Thanks for your comment. Glad it helped! Sometimes I think that the more direct, explicit explanations are actually more considerate.

  6. WanderingWashingtonian says:

    Great article, Mike! This is so helpful! I really appreciate the advice given here. You rock!

  7. Mike says:

    Thanks WW! 😀

  8. Diego says:

    Great article! I got recently rejected and feel pretty bad about it. After reading this I realized I did pretty much the opposite of what you suggest we do on steps 1 and 2! It’s tough because this is a person I have to see almost on a daily basis. My romantic aspirations with this person are definitely out the window, but I would like to maybe make a comeback from all the damage I may have done on over-analizing the rejection and projecting my insecurities. Got any tips? Much appreciated!

  9. Liz says:

    The article warms my heart up. Thank you for the supportive words, practical suggestions, and most importantly, helping us to look at rejections from multiple perspectives.

    PS> When my crush rejected my invites, he gave me specific reasons, such as “I have a meeting that evening” or “I need to go to my friend’s birthday party”. LOL

  10. Isa says:

    Well, except for the “waiting till marriage” part, I think this was an actually good article.

    Anyway, sometimes people don’t have many successes to count, probably the extra beers the guy took were the ones who made you attractive for few hours and that’s it.

  11. Leo says:

    Mike you’re a star! Thank you!

  12. Odii says:

    Lovely article, thanks. What I really can’t handle is #5. It’s not merely about awkwardness for me. How can you live with seeing the cause of your pain everywhere? It’s maddening. I’d rather take a physical break, stay away until I’ve healed before dealing again. And generally, I don’t see what more we could do with each other. If there will be friendship, it’ll have to be a new one, non-threatening in every way.

  13. Tammy says:

    Made me smile! :)thanks!

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