There's no denying a breakup can be one of the most difficult things to go through. But weirdly, if you get rejected when dating, it can sometimes hurt just as much — if not more. So the next time you're feeling confused, hurt, or blindsided by someone leaving you on read, it may help to think about why dating can be so emotionally tricky.
To start, rejection in dating is hardly ever cut and dry. While a long-term relationship may end in a clean break and/or with lots of explanation, "rejection in dating can often be vague or even non-existent (e.g. ghosting), leaving you to wonder what really happened," Jonathan Bennett, a relationship and dating expert at Double Trust Dating, tells Bustle.
Maybe you were having a great conversation on a dating app, only for it to die for seemingly no reason. Or perhaps you made plans to meet up and they didn't show, leaving you to wonder what went wrong, but with no way to find out. As Bennett says, "That can cause a lot of anguish and anxiety," and understandably so.
Dating also involves a lot of hope and excitement, and with such high highs, you may be more likely to experience lower lows. "You’re just getting to know each other," Cherlyn Chong, a breakup recovery and dating specialist, tells Bustle. Once you go on a few dates, it's easy to think about the future, and get carried away daydreaming about what might be.
If all of it comes to an abrupt end, you may find yourself pining away for those highs, Chong says, and that can "sting a lot more than the rejection of a long-time partner, where the love is more comforting than passionate." It's a different type of pain, but one that hurts all the same.
Of course, rejection can be tough on anyone. But other factors can make it easy to take it personally, or to not see the role the other person is playing. For example, "when the rejection happens too soon into dating someone, you can feel like you got rejected because of something you did," Chong says, or you might wonder if something is "wrong" with you.
This is more likely if you're still reeling from a breakup, or if you have lowered self-esteem, as rejection "tends to reinforce the deeper, negative beliefs that you already have about yourself, culminating in you feeling hopeless about finding love again," Chong says. That's why even the most minor rejections, in this scenario, can be downright excruciating.
It may also help to consider that, compared to a breakup, dating rejection usually involves multiple letdowns. After all, "when dating, most people don’t meet their next partner instantly," Bennett says. "Facing rejection from one partner is bad enough. If you constantly face rejection while dating it can be emotionally deflating." You may start to feel burnt out, or again, wonder if the rejection is some sort of reflection on you.
The whole thing can be fraught with emotion, but there are ways to keep rejection pain in check so you can have more fun, and hopefully not feel too discouraged. First and foremost, try to ensure you're fully recovered (or at least more recovered than not) from a breakup before looking for a few partner.
"Many people date prematurely, hopping straight from their ex to dating in order to replace the ex in some way," Chong says. "This is often more damaging to one’s emotional recovery than not, because the wounds have not been properly dealt with alone. Hence, two or three straight rejections in a row can cumulate into more pain than ever before."
It'll be up to you to figure when the timing is right, but consider putting a lot of energy into focusing on yourself, and only dating once you feel truly ready. If it ever becomes overwhelming, not fun, or upsetting, remember it's OK to take a break, Chong says. You can always dive back in a few weeks or months later, once the mood strikes.
As for the date itself, experts recommend going in with zero expectations. "Focus on the present moment, not what you expect of your date, nor of the possible future you see with your date," Chong says. "That helps to manage your emotions and anxiety as you go along. When you expect nothing, you can’t be terribly disappointed, but you can be pleasantly surprised if everything goes well."
You may even want to pat yourself on the back after a date, whether it goes well or not. This might look like hanging out with friends, taking yourself out for ice cream, or coming back home to your favorite show on Netflix. "Have your goal of dating to be just going on a date, and reward yourself when you’ve achieved it every single time," Chong says. That'll start to create a positive association, so the experience can stay fun.
Rejections will happen. "It’s a part of life," Chong says. And yet, by keeping a few of these things in mind, and making sure to treat yourself well as you go out and meet new people, dating can certainly be a good experience — and even lead to good things in the future.