There are few things in life that feel worse than being rejected by someone, whether it’s a stranger, a new romantic interest, a longtime partner, your parent, sibling, or child, or a colleague at work. When someone discards us or ignores us or excludes us, it hurts like hell. So let’s talk about it.
First of all, not everyone is going to like you, or me. That’s just reality. Also, you’ll never please everyone, nor do you want to try. It’s never good to chase love, approval, respect or worthiness; if these things are not offered freely, this is not a person with whom you want to be close, because bending yourself or shaping yourself around some idea of what you think someone else wants you to be, is an absolute betrayal of self, and it will bring you nothing but heartache. You are who you are, and who you are is a unique, one-of-a-kind human being in a world of seven billion human beings. There’s not even one other person just like you, which is remarkable and miraculous. So there’s that.
Here are other things: if someone does not return your call, your email, your feelings, they need to go in your “Not for me” file. They don’t need to go there with your contempt or bitterness, they just need to be put in that file, which you delete every time you fill it, because why would you carry around a drawer of people who don’t get you, see you, appreciate you, or deserve another ounce of your time or energy? I don’t say that in an angry way. Ideally you wish them well on their journey. You just don’t carry the weight of their opinions about you in a knapsack on your back. Life is too short for that. You have to like you. You have to be able to look yourself in the eye when you’re brushing your teeth at the end of the day.
Now, that’s an approachable idea if we’re talking about a stranger, or someone you went out with once (basically, a stranger ;)), or someone at work with whom you don’t really have to interact, but if we’re talking about heartbreak, we’re in a different situation. When family members stop speaking to one another, that’s a certain kind of sadness that’s truly unfortunate. Sometimes it can’t be helped. If a person isn’t willing to communicate with you, to try to see things from your point of view, to treat you with respect and consideration, then there’s not much you can do except to take yourself a safe distance away, and send them love from afar; maybe over time they’ll soften, and maybe they won’t. You can’t control that, but if you’re in a stand-off with your sibling or your parent or your child, really check in with yourself. If you’re the shunned party, ask yourself if you’ve done everything you can to communicate and try to heal the situation. If you have, let that be enough for now. If you haven’t, think carefully about trying again because life really is short, and we just don’t know from day-to-day. It’s one thing to go to bed feeling a little uneasy about something, to have a lack of closure around a particular topic, to have a misunderstanding that’s going to take some time to clear up. It’s another thing to have the last thing you’ve ever said to someone be an angry thing you can never take back; to let things like arguments over money, or being “right” overshadow the love you once shared with this person. Trading righteousness for love is a fool’s game.
If we’re talking about your longtime partner, or someone with whom you’re in love, you’re in for a rough go for awhile. If you have doubts about whether you’re lovable, or about your worth or value, you’re now going to be in that highly uncomfortable place of feeling like those doubts are true, and your former lover has seen the truth of them. This is not generally what’s happening when a partner walks away from us. Sometimes, and this hurts, but sometimes, they just are not in love with us the way we’re in love with them. If that’s what you’re dealing with, as bad as it feels, they’ve done you a favor, because you really deserve to be loved all the way, but you have to make space in your life to receive love like that. If you give the space to someone who doesn’t really have it for you, you’ve filled your dance card with a person who’s “just not that into you”, and I don’t know why you’d do that. Sometimes we fall into a very unhealthy dynamic with a person we feel we just never quite “have”, and we chase and run and dance like a monkey to get them to love us, until finally, they leave. Cut the time you play the monkey. You’re not a monkey, you’re a person. Trust that you’ll find the kind of love you want after you heal yourself and face those deep-rooted doubts.
More of the time, people leave because they don’t like the person they’ve become during the course of the relationship. Maybe they’re just not happy with themselves, but they’re convinced finding a new partner will solve it. People have all kinds of crazy ideas sometimes. They think they’ll be happy if they find the “right house”, or “right job”, or “right person”, but if they aren’t happy with their true house (themselves), it doesn’t matter where they go or what they do, or with whom. The pain will travel with them. It is not your job to wait around hoping they’re going to figure that out, though. It’s your job to come back to yourself, to nurture yourself and to heal. When we really truly love people, we have to want for them what they want for themselves, and this includes leaving us, if that’s what they feel they need to do. Your job then is to open the door. Your job is not to block the door, throw yourself in front of it, or wrap yourself around their ankles. There’s only one person who really has to love you, accept you, see you, understand you, honor you and celebrate you, and that person is you.
Is connection one of the best things in life? Absolutely. Warmth, love, affection? Yes. Being embraced with all your beauty and all your flaws? Of course, but do it for yourself, first, so you’re intimately acquainted with how that feels. That way you’ll recognize it when someone is feeling it for you, and you’ll be able to return it equally, too. Trust your pain. It will open you and strengthen you if you let it, and remember that no feeling is forever.
Sending you love, and a giant hug,