Psychology and Relationships

Dating means constant rejection, but don't lose heart: Try these 5 tips

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Dating, much like job hunting, is a grueling process punctuated by disheartening rejections.

Being repeatedly rejected has a "cumulative effect," says Mark Leary, a former psychology professor at Duke University. Leary's research focuses on social relationships. 

"If you wrecked your car every day of the week, it would be stressful and anxiety producing." 

If you wrecked your car every day of week, it would be stressful and anxiety producing.
Mark Leary

Feeling bad makes you a "normal human being," Leary says, but fixating on your rejections can lead to some long-term consequences. 

"People develop a worldview that the world is a rejecting place," Leary says. 

If you believe your rejection was your fault, it will affect your self-worth. "Even if it's just a one time rejection, if you think it's you, your self esteem will go down," Leary says.

You might be more hesitant to give people a chance and start to "withdraw," he says: "One way to not be hurt is don't go out on any more dates." 

If you think it was the other person's fault or just chock it up to bad luck, you might get "a more angry retribution kind of response," Leary says. 

Instead of bitterly bowing out of specific experiences, you can learn how to cope with repeated rejection in a way that helps build confidence, not diminish it. 

1. Take a beat 

Give yourself space to breathe, says Thema Bryant,  the president of the American Psychological Association and a professor of psychology at Pepperdine University where she directs the Culture and Trauma Research Laboratory.

"Sometimes right after rejection or repeated rejection we are immediately trying to soothe ourselves with another person," she says. "The breakup was last night and this morning I'm on every app." 

Resist that urge and allow yourself time to just feel bad. 

2. Reflect fairly

While taking time to grieve you can also reflect on why you seem to be having trouble. Are you getting similar feedback from all your dates? Or are you pursuing a specific type of person that doesn't seem to value you?

"I like to say it's, 'pulling the wisdom out of the wounds,'" Bryant says. 

"Sometimes we have self-sabotaging behaviors where we actually like the person but based on our own history the people we like the most we also treat the worst," Bryant says. "You might send mixed messages. Being able to reflect on if there is any way I'm contributing to this cycle so I can learn this about myself." 

I like to say it's, "pulling the wisdom out of the wounds."
Thema Bryant
President of the American Psychological Association

Try not to jump to the most hurtful conclusions, Leary says. Most people interpret rejection as being more personal than it actually is. 

"Do your best to do a realistic appraisal of what the problem is," he says. 

If a potential partner takes a long time to text back and says it's because they are busy with work, don't invent another, more upsetting reason as to why they aren't more communicative.

3. Be nice to yourself 

While reflecting, remember to separate your history from your worth. 

"There are times it doesn't work to look at the evidence," Bryant says. "The evidence is telling you this keeps happening to you because you're worthless or unattractive but the truth is we do not always receive treatment that aligns with our worthiness." 

4. Don't compare yourself to others 

The pain of rejection is partially due to how isolating it feels. When you're going on date after date, you might start to compare yourself to those who have found a partner. 

"To give yourself grace and compassion, I would say release yourself from comparison," Bryant says. 

And try not to adopt a scarcity mentality.

"That fear of there not being enough people or not enough love for me," she says. "There are lots of people who are looking for friends or looking for relationships."  

5. Surround yourself with people who value you

Jumping back into the dating pools after a series of rejections can affect what treatment we accept. 

"When you are feeling insecure and unworthy in a deep way, that can affect our choosing and who we open ourselves up to," Bryant says. You might feel "lucky" just to have someone calling you back. 

Instead of expecting a stranger to boost your confidence, surround yourself with people who do value your company. 

"We want to heal our confidence so we can re-enter that space with some clarity about who we are and that we do have good things to offer in friendships or relationships," Bryant says. 

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