And it hurts.
You love someone who may have loved you once upon a time;
You love someone who acted like there was a possibility of love in return, but now there’s not;
You love someone who simply doesn’t feel the same way and isn’t going to feel the same way, ever;
You loved someone deeply who loved you deeply and then this person just switched off and hurt you in ways that were unimaginable at the height of your mutual love;
This person loved you and you loved them and then someone new came along and they left. Friends tell you that you are better than this new person in every way. But your ex is still with Mr. or Ms. New Thing.
Whatever the situation, you’re left with a big pile of hurt. And it really hurts.
What should you have done that you didn’t? What did you do that you shouldn’t have?
You feel rejected and less than. You feel as if there is something really wrong with you. You wonder what you could do to MAKE this person want you.
It’s frustrating if they are with a new person who doesn’t come close to being what you are. You seethe because this new person is a snake in the grass and your ex doesn’t see it. This new person is immature or unavailable or spoiled or just plain stupid. And your ex is enthralled none the less. What?
Or this person just fell out of love one day. Or failed to fall in love on the day you did. That’s even more baffling. There is nothing and no one else. Wait. You’re choosing NOTHING over me? What?
Sometimes you think it would be easier if there WAS someone else.
But nothing? How can I compete with nothing? Why SHOULD I compete with nothing? Isn’t having me better than not having anyone? Am I so bad that you choose nothing over me?
Or your ex has spiraled into some other mindset. They’re depressed or upset or self-absorbed in some way. Wouldn’t you want someone to help carry the burden, you ask.
The answer is please leave me alone.
You’re freaking out. How is it that they want you to help by going away? WHAT?
The first emotion is disbelief. How can this be? How did I get here? How am I hurting over this person? Maybe your personality is draining away…you used to be fun and helpful and have a great sense of humor. Now you’re plain and dull and you’re boring all your friends with your sad refrain of unrequited love and the questions, questions, questions.
Part of you refuses to believe it. It CAN’T be so. Something will change. This is a phase. This is temporary. I’ll just sit here and wait for my love to smarten up and see the light. That is what I will do.
Better yet, I will change things. I will call him or her or text him or her. We will get into a big emotional conversation and I will persuade them that this is all wrong.
It’s natural to deny it, but it’s important to believe it. You can take your time but you have to move in the direction of believing it, because it’s true. Let it slowly sink in and do the hardest thing there is to do: Nothing. Doing nothing in a situation like this takes energy. It takes a lot of energy. You will think you spend all your time NOT doing something. And that’s because you are. Your natural inclination is to DO something, which is the thing you must not do.
After you start to believe it and allow yourself to NOT do anything, you will start to feel the feelings. You feel hurt, anger, betrayal. You feel rejected and less than. Your self-esteem is taking a huge hit from feeling rejection.
At this point the urge to DO something returns. You start to take all the responsibility for the ending. You see your mistakes and shortcomings under a big magnifying glass. No wonder why you were left. You’re simply a big loser and you need to work, fast, on becoming the person that your ex will love again. You revisit things that your ex complained about; you make things up; your mind reels with ideas of how to change into someone easier to love.
I’ll be quieter, thinner, happier. I won’t complain so much. I won’t rock the boat. I’ll like the insufferable family and friends that I couldn’t stand. I’ll go back to school. I’ll stop going to school. I’ll wear different clothes. I’ll buy a new car. I’ll get those allergy shots so I can be around that cat. I’ll work in a different industry. I’ll muzzle my kids. I’ll clean more. I’ll clean less. I’ll cook gourmet meals. I’ll listen when spoken to. I’ll go to bed earlier. I’ll go to bed later. I’ll go to church. I’ll stop going to church. I’ll pray. I’ll bargain with God. I’ll help the poor. I’ll devote myself to the eradication of world hunger. I’ll give my next paycheck to the church. I’ll join the Peace Corps. I’ll do anything, ANYTHING, if only You make this person come back. I’ll be everything You want me to be or everything this person wants me to be. I’ll do it all. I’ll do nothing. I’ll be more. I’ll be less. I’ll be everything and anything other than what I’m being right now. I’ll turn myself inside out to be the person he or she will love. I can do it. I will do it.
Stop right there. Forget about changing for someone else (now and until forever). Forget about bargaining for what you should have without bribing whatever deity you believe in. Forget about changing your whole life just so this narrow-minded little bonehead will love you. FORGET IT.
Every relationship is a learning experience. In each relationship we learn what parts of us could use improvement. But not because this person found them unattractive or irritating but because YOU found them unattractive or irritating. We all have regrets and things we wish we could do over. A relationship shines a light on all the things we need to change and every breakup gives us the opportunity to work hard on ourselves. But it’s not for someone else or to be loved. It’s for our own self-improvement and our own progress.
What did you do in this relationship or around this person (if you weren’t in a relationship) that could improve? Think about it. Journal about it. Do the Relationship Inventory in the Getting Past Your Breakup book. Think about ways to change things that need to change. But DON’T change things in yourself just because this person didn’t like it. Maybe this person has no taste or doesn’t know a thing. Don’t think of changing for another person. Only change for you. It’s OKAY to accept someone’s constructive criticism if it’s spot on and will help you in the end, but if not, just REJECT IT.
It’s a rejection no matter how you slice it. And it’s a rejection that stings.
However, it’s important to take it in stride. Take rejection in stride? Yes. That’s easier said than done! Well, of course it is. Everything is easier said than done.
Taking it in stride means telling yourself that you are okay no matter what. Yes, there might be things that need improvement but it is a lovable, worthwhile person who is willing to look at those things and change them. And if this person does not value all that you are and all that you can be there is only one sentiment to go in that direction: THE HELL WITH THEM.
It is time to REJECT THE REJECTER. And his or her ridiculous standards of measurement. Perhaps this person doesn’t know what he or she is losing. Perhaps this person has NO IDEA how worthwhile you are and what value you can add to their life.
That is their problem, not yours. You don’t want anyone who doesn’t think you are the end-all, be-all of lovers. You just don’t want them. They are stuck in some goopy substance that does not allow them to move off their position and see how great you are. That is their problem and their loss.
You have to see that the rejecter should be rejected. Do you want someone without vision? Without appreciation of all that you are and all that you can be? Do you want someone who might really like you but not be “in a good place” to commit. Oh PULEESE. No, you do not. You want someone who loves you and thinks you are the best thing that ever happened to them. If this person doesn’t get that, then the hell with this person.
Stop talking to him or her. Stop trying to convince them otherwise. Stop waiting around for him or her to “get it.” The hell with anyone who doesn’t get it. And “the hell with them” doesn’t have to be in a mean way, but in a “I’m moving on…” way. Sometimes it’s just not “it” and no one has an explanation for it. You can bang your head against the wall all you like because you thought it was “it,” but the simple truth is for it to be it both people have to think it’s it. And this person doesn’t think it’s it, so it’s not it. And the hell with that. You don’t need to convince anyone how good you are or how good you two are together. The person for you will KNOW it and not need any lectures or convincing.
Or another possibility is that this person does recognize your value and how great you are but they are not in a place where they can be in a relationship. Maybe they’re not over their previous relationship. Maybe their life choices (home, job, school) are up in the air. And many people will say, “But I can help you get THERE and be in that place!” but you can’t no matter how much you want to or no matter how much you would want someone to help you if the positions were reversed. It’s just something you have to move beyond and accept. Not think about “closure” or “explanations” or “second chances.” You need to worry about accepting it, no matter how crazy it seems, and moving on.
Maybe it’s not about you in any way. It still hurts but this is something you can’t change. Even if you think that if the shoe was on the other foot YOU wouldn’t let such a catch get away, it doesn’t work that way for everyone. Some people simply can’t get there from here. Let them be. It’s not the right time in their life, and there is nothing you can do about it. Gently let it go. It’s hard and it hurts but gently let it go.
The bottom line is that you do not want someone who does not want you no matter what the reason. The reasons might be things that are easy to work out, but this person doesn’t want to work it out. The reasons might be somewhat flimsy and stupid, but they’re still reasons that block your access to the love you want.
No matter what the reasons—real reasons, stupid reasons, made-up reasons—they are still very real to this person and you cannot spend your time trying to circumvent the reasons. The bottom line is that he or she does not want you. Yes, it hurts and it stings. And love is all about not about being hurt or stung by rejection. Don’t sit around waiting for this person to want you. Reject anyone who doesn’t want you. They are not worth it.
The first prerequisite for love is to be mutual.
Otherwise it’s not okay and it’s not love.
Stephen Levine said, “The road is hard. Love softens it.”
Requited love, mutual love, real love softens it.
And until that love comes from a romantic partner who values you and sees how wonderful you are, get that love from family, friends and YOURSELF.
You MUST be good to yourself as you move on from someone who does not value you enough to want an exclusive, romantic relationship with you.
Because who knows what (or who) you are missing as you roll around in the mud with this bananahead. Get on with your life and become the person you always wanted to be. Be you and be true to you and someone who is QUALITY will love you for you.
Use this relationship breakup to work on yourself and GET READY for true love, real love, lasting love. Get ready for a relationship with yourself and THEN a relationship with a loving and appreciative person who WILL come into your life once you learn to value YOU. And you start valuing you by rejecting the rejection and the rejecter. The hell with it.
Tell yourself that Mr. or Ms. right is OUT THERE and he or she will value you for the person you are. In the meantime, work on whatever needs working on. Have your feelings…let them out…write about them, talk about them but allow yourself the feelings.
Don’t contact this person who does not value you. Be grateful it did not go any further. Be glad you are letting go of someone who doesn’t value you. Their presence will not soften the hard road. Their presence will just make things harder and THAT IS NOT WHAT WE WANT IN A PARTNER.
In a partner we want someone to share life’s sorrows and joys. We want someone who is there day in and day out. If this person can’t handle us without a big problem in our lives, why would we think they could handle it if things are tough? They can’t.
Let them go and hold on and hold out for someone who loves you for you. There IS that person out there. Mr. or Ms. Right will never question your value, will never not love you unconditionally. If this person has rejected you in some way, he or she is NOT the one for you.
You might think this person is perfect in every way. No this person is not. Because this person doesn’t WANT you and the person who is perfect for you will want to be with you. Not wanting you and not appreciating you and the value you bring to someone’s life is NOT a little thing. It’s a big thing. And if this person doesn’t love you, doesn’t want you and doesn’t appreciate you, then they are not perfect and their flaw is a fatal flaw and you need to reject the rejecter. You must.
If you’re trying to “win” in some way, ask yourself why? Does this go back to childhood? Are you trying to win over a cold and rejecting parent or caretaker? Are you trying to prove your self-worth by showing the world that someone else wants you?
Journal about the things you are trying to “win” over. Journal about how locked into this struggle you are. Is it really about this person and this period in time or does it go way way way back? Stop re-injuring yourself. Reject this rejecter and every rejecter that came before. Do your affirmations. Know that you are worth it. The hell with all the rejecters.
After you do the Relationship Inventory in the Getting Past Your Breakup book, do the Life Inventory and the Parent Inventory. It is through these inventories that the answer will come to you and allow you to change the dance steps you are doing.
Even if you love this person, this person does not love you….and the person for you will love you deeply and completely, unconditionally and without question.
In your pain you might not believe that it’s ever going to happen for you, but believe that it can.
It is possible.
In the meantime you MUST MUST MUST be good to you and know your value and understand your value and get your value from inside you and not outside.
Be good to you.
Move on from rejection. Feel your feelings. Reject the rejecter.
Celebrate the you that is you.
And know that the right person for you is out there.
Be good to you.
Susan J. Elliott, J.D., M.Ed.
Original article posted 2007
Edited 2008, 2009, 2012