When a relationship runs into trouble or fails, one on the most painful feelings that we can experience is rejection. In this article I will explore the issue of rejection, explain where the feelings come from and show you how to move on with your life if this has happened to you. To do this I will describe my own experience of rejection and how I dealt with it.
The end of a relationship can be excruciatingly painful, especially if we were very fond of our partner or if we had invested our future hopes and dreams in the long-term survival of the relationship. I remember vividly the night my wife told me she was leaving me and ending our marriage. After a period of shock and disbelief the terrible truth of what she was saying began to sink in. I was losing something I held so precious to me - my marriage and my family life. The grief consumed me but then the other emotions began to appear. I felt numb, lost, weak and unable to continue with my life and I felt completely rejected as a husband, lover and even as a father.
In the years since that terrible shock I have had a chance to understand what happened to me – and to see how the feelings of rejection were a sign that I needed to heal some deep insecurities. To feel rejected means that we have given over the responsibility for our happiness to our partner. It is a classic sign of dependence. Without the presence of our partner in our lives we do not believe we can be happy. When my wife left me I was forced to feel this dependence – and it was not a pretty sight.
Of course when a relationship ends we are going to feel sadness and perhaps some hurt but the scale of my feeling of being rejected was enormous. It felt that my wife had judged me as being totally lacking and had pushed me away from her. It seemed to confirm my worst beliefs about myself – beliefs that had laid hidden for the ten years of my marriage, and in fact for much of my life. And this is the key thing to understand if you believe you have been rejected. Those feelings of rejection are not new – they originated long before you met your partner. At some point in your earlier life, probably during childhood you would have felt those same feelings of rejection. The rejection you feel now is an echo of that earlier experience of losing somebody important in your life.
Feelings of rejection come from self-rejection
In my own case of rejection, I was eventually able to see that difficult experiences in my childhood could have easily created this self-attack. But there was one more thing to learn. Nobody had ever rejected me. The belief I had been rejected was my own. Yes there had been incidents where bonding was lost but I had interpreted these by assuming there was something wrong with me. This was equally true as my marriage came to an end. My wife DID NOT reject me. She couldn’t live with me any longer, but this was as much to do with her own emotional issues and insecurities as it was to do with mine.
The truth, which is now blatantly obvious to me, is that I had rejected myself from an early age and then suppressed the fact that I had done this. I was then vulnerable to feelings of rejection by a partner later in life. This self-rejection happens because we believe we have failed significant people in our lives (often one or both parents) and do not feel worthy of love. I was certainly holding a feeling of being guilty and unloveable, and have worked hard to let these go over the last few years. My way forward was to start accepting myself and indeed learning to love myself. When I did this the feelings of rejection began to fade and I could see that my divorce was a huge opportunity to learn about myself. It also allowed me to see that my ex-wife had her own issues and in recognising these it was much easier to let her go.
Feeling rejected is a horrible thing but with emotional maturity and a desire to learn and grow from the experience it need not be devastating. If you are currently feeling rejected after the ending of a relationship give yourself some time for the initial shock and pain to pass. Be kind to yourself and recognise that your partner is communicating their own insecurities in ending the relationship. If this wasn’t the case they would have worked with you to heal the relationship, or mutually end the relationship without all the pain. Try to see the feeling of rejection as a reflection of your own sense of esteem. There is NOTHING fundamentally wrong with you except a lowered self-esteem. Work to heal any guilt or sense of failure that you are holding. You will know that you have these issues if you don’t particularly like yourself!
One final thing… If you feel rejected in a relationship, that is exactly what your partner is feeling. They may not be showing it through their behaviour but deep down that is what they are feeling. Somebody who is rejecting themselves (as they must be) needs empathy, compassion and love. If you can give this love (and yes, I know this is an incredibly hard thing to do in these circumstances), you will begin to let go of your hurt and be able to move on in your life without the feelings of devastation. Such an act of emotional maturity, forgiveness and selflessness is a truly heroic form of leadership in a relationship – and its impact is incredibly healing if you can achieve it. In some cases the power of your love will be enough to bring your partner back, and if not, it will allow a truer partner to appear in your life.