Social Rejection and Romantic Rejection

Social rejection is a situation which arises many times in life and various people react to it in different ways. Social and romantic rejection occurs when a person or a group of people deliberately exclude another person or group.

There are people who avoid rejection at all costs and thus never take any risks or put themselves in a situation where they could be rejected. On the other hand, there are people who don’t let rejection stop them from trying again. I try to put myself in the latter group and I think that I am better than most people at bouncing back and trying things again. My friends generally consider me one of the most persistent people that they know. For example, if I don’t get a job, I bounce back and apply for 5 more.

Rejection is a difficult topic to talk about for most people, including myself. No one wants to acknowledge that they did not measure up in some way, true or false, to another’s expectations. Sometimes people get rejected for good reasons and sometimes they get rejected for bad reasons, but either way, rejection hurts. Every human being gets rejected at some point or another, and most people get rejected many times, whether it be from a romantic interest, a job, an apartment application or a friend. I think that just realizing the fact that everyone gets rejected sometimes makes it easier to deal with- if you have a friend who rejects you, it helps to understand that most people who have friends has experienced one rejecting them. You are not alone in this.

One of the most interesting things about rejection is the fact that it is SO difficult to acknowledge, even to yourself. When a girlfriend dumps you, you don’t even want to think of it that way, much less admit to anyone else. Think about it: the last time you were rejected by someone you cared about did you really admit it and the reasons why even to yourself? Rejection is much easier to admit when you have an easy reason to assign to it that doesn’t make you do any soul searching. If you didn’t get that job, you may say “they needed someone with more experience”. Rarely will you even think “I did not have the ability to do that job”, even if that is the case. This has both positive and negative effects: positive because it makes it easier to maintain your confidence, negative because it does not allow for reflection on your faults and how they might be fixed.

Psychologists have shown that rejection, especially of the romantic variety, triggers a response in the brain affecting dopamine & cortisol activity. In other words, rejection can actually be PHYSICALLY painful. People react to rejection with a variety of negative emotions from despair and resignation to frustration and intense anger. Each year in America, over a million people are stalked, almost always by ex-boyfriends, ex-husbands or ex-live in partners. Something that really amazed me was that 80% of these people are actually attacked physically by their stalker. Frightening. Why do people stalk? People who stalk are those who are not mature enough to deal with the negative emotions of rejection, usually because they refuse to acknowledge that rejection and the physical pain that comes with it even to themselves. Denial is a powerful and very dangerous mental tool.

One of the best signs of a mature person is how they react to rejection. Rejection is an emotionally, mentally and physically painful experience. I think most people who have been rejected by someone they have had a long term romantic relationship with would prefer the pain of a broken bone to the pain of a broken heart. I know I would. But that is not an option. It is very important when dealing with rejection to first acknowledge it to yourself and then to people close to you. Don’t tell the world (as certain people I know have done in a very awkward fashion), but it is good to talk about it with those you trust. Pick yourself up and move on with your life. Don’t give up or quit, get back in the game (whatever that game is- job hunting/romantic/etc) and try again.

Rejection sensitivity is the subjective measure psychologists use when assessing how someone perceives rejection. Some people are extraordinarily sensitive to rejection and even minor things, like forgetting a phone call can send them into a state of extreme anger and frenzied frustration. Psychologists have found a correlation between rejection sensitivity and neuroticism- people who are unable to recognize different types of rejection are at risk for bad behavior. Also, because of this association, psychologists theorize that certain people are more susceptible to rejection sensitivity than others due to their genetics.

Some people undergo seemingly very minor forms of rejection and react with levels of hostility and aggression that go far beyond any reason. Consider the attacks at Columbine High School- a kid undergoes the same teasing and bullying that millions of other high schoolers have undergone, but reacted far beyond comprehension and went on a killing spree. Fortunately, most people do not handle rejection that way. Most people are able to move on whether by ignoring it or acknowledging it or releasing their emotions in other ways (some healthy, some not).

I have personally undergone many forms of rejection and while I may not be an expert, I at least have a lot of experience lol. When I first went to junior high, I had not had the experience of making new friends since preschool since I stayed in the same place all through grade school. Unfortunately for me, my grade school friends all came with me, so I made no effort to make new friends. After the first semester, all of my old friends left my junior high and I was left alone while everyone else had made their new friends and developed cliques… which made it tougher for me to make friends and I was already inexperienced. That lead to some unpleasant rejection experiences. Another type of rejection I experienced was the kind psychologists usually think of as most dangerous- parental rejection. I was kicked out of my house when I was 14 due to my mother’s drug abuse and my non-biological father’s lack of testes. The rejection here caused some issues for me for a few years, but I think I have mostly matured past them and stabilized my life. And, of course, I have undergone romantic rejection a few times. The toughest one to deal with was the first one- Becky- but after I discovered how to deal with it, romantic rejection has been far easier to handle. No doubt, I have handled some rejections poorly, but as a whole I think that I have done quite well for myself. I bounce back pretty quickly, learn my lessons and move on with my life…

… except i’m slightly insane! 😉

Just kidding.

Realistically, life is full of various rejections and how you deal with it defines who you are. Can you pick yourself up and move on? Are you willing to try again? Can you keep up a good attitude even in the face of rejection?

One final tip: Laughter is a great cure for rejection. When faced with Becky’s rejection, I didn’t know how to handle it, so I sent her a box full of little gifts and a note to try to get her back. She didn’t want to see me, so I made a mutual friend of ours, Fletcher, deliver the box even though he didn’t want to. Ever since then “the box” has become a running inside joke between us whenever we are talking about our relationships with women or even employers. The ability to laugh at yourself and your situation is a key to making that situation much, much easier to deal with.

Another interesting side note: When university researchers have studied rejection in the laboratory, they have discovered that even short-term rejection from strangers has a significant temporary effect on people. People who are rejected become very aggressive, willing to cheat, less willing to help others and generally engage in antisocial, self-defeating behavior. Don’t let this happen to you. When you start feeling angry about rejection, take a deep breath and find a way to overcome it without negative reactions.

Researchers have also discovered that there are gender differences when peole are faced with rejection. Men are interested in face-saving (pretending like you don’t care for instance), while women try to regain entrance to the group… Probably why more Goths are men than women lol.
Anyways, have any of you experience rejection that you would like to discuss? Any thoughts on how different people react to rejection or good ways of dealing with it?

Published by

Joel Gross

Joel Gross is the CEO of Coalition Technologies.

23 thoughts on “Social Rejection and Romantic Rejection”

  1. I have had difficulty making good, lasting relationships. I see it in my 15 year old son too. When you don’t have a strong support group, it’s harder to get over. It also puts you in a situation of potential bullying (which my son and daughter have both experienced multiple times). Yes, it has made me very angry and have said and done some things I’m not proud of. I want to know what are some good solutions?

  2. Hmm… That’s a very good question Lisa. Unfortunately, I don’t know any guaranteed solutions to bullying or social rejection. I can however give you some tips on coping & dealing with it that will lessen the impact and also cut down on some of the experiences of social rejection.

    The key to having great relationships is to be a great friend to other people. Be someone who is trustworthy, honest and fun. Never violate your friends’ trust. Be there for your friends when they need you. Be willing to try new things with them. Maintain a good mood and a positive outlook even when you feel crummy.

    As for bullying, there are a couple of tactics that I know work. If physical bullying is occurring, tell your child to avoid the bully as much as possible, but if he is confronted he should fight the bully as hard as he can. Bullies are lazy cowards and even if they are much larger, they don’t want to have to face a ferocious defense. Your kid might be beat up, but the bully will think twice next time he wants to harass your kid. Bullies go for the weakest targets- people who won’t defend themselves and people who react to their attacks.

    Social rejection should be handled differently. The best way for a child to face social rejection at school is to keep a positive outlook and remain friendly to everyone. Eventually other kids come around.

  3. I have lived here in the S E part of Kentucky for all my life, and going to church was something very fun to me and I looked forward to it, every church night. untill some people started jumping me about something I did in church that was really nothing. I got faced with this Social rejection in church.. I thought hhmmm in church is where I could find nice careing people, yeah yeah right to! I have spent 7 years going to church, and get faced with Social rejection. I’ll bet you one thing, I’ll never step back inside of a nother church meeting ever again. Yes I know, I’m protecting myself.. because this Social rejection hurts like hell.

  4. I have just learned about rejection sensitivity and have tied it to recent realizations that I was not wanted before or after my birth. I went to live with my grandparents until age 3. However my other 5 siblings were all kept at birth and beyond. I never knew how deeply this affected me, but in my 40’s I still don’t feel like I belong in my family. Unfortunately my parents are deceased so I can’t discuss this with them. My siblings would say I’m being neurotic. But I now understand why my feelings are so easily hurt and why I feel rejected all the time by my friends, sibs, even my kids. I really want to work on diminishing this effect on my life, but as of yet, I’m not sure how.

  5. Joel,

    Good article.


    I too have just uncovered rejection sensitivity in myself. I was reading a book: Listening to Prozac. The author describes a few of his patients and thier issues. I had some similar thoughts/behaviors of the first few he discusses. Then he starts talking about a patient with rejection sensitivity and the description is identical to me.
    I have gained 20 pounds in the last 6 months.
    I wake up at 4 am dreading the day ahead, especially if it is a workday. But I don’t want to get out of bed…even if I have been in the bed for 10 hours.
    I self medicate (which may be making it worse)
    I feel that doom is pending: I am going to get fired, or fussed at for something.
    I feel worthless and useless.
    I worry about EVERYTHING.

    People have said to me for a long time, “don’t be so sensitive”. I do overreact to even the slightest criticism.

    A good friend of mine said, “just pick yourself up”. It is not that easy for me to do.

    The problem is, I don’t know what has caused this.

  6. Jeff,

    I love how people just expect you to snap out of something that is deeply rooted and probably physiological (not just psychological.)
    Have you tried any of the following? Meditation, counseling or support group, vitamin therapy or working out? I’m not saying they are fixalls but they can help get you out of bed. Last night I wrote down all the things I know that make me happy, kayaking, certain foods and music, etc. When I’m really low, I am going to force myself to do one of these things. Also I don’t watch the news because I am also a worrier! Best of luck to you. Know that you are not alone and you are important. Laura

  7. Laura,

    I went back on Prozac this week…it has not kicked in yet, but I am ready for it to do so.

    If I tried to make a list of things I enjoy, I am not sure I could put many things down right now in my state of mind.

    I do know I need to start doing some type of exercise…maybe walking a bit a few times a week…at least it is something.

    Take care,


  8. I have had a very difficult time battling my own past rejections. When I entered high school, I left a tiny junior high and entered a school consisting of about 1100 students. While I at first felt intimidated, I still tried to keep a hopeful perspective. This was soon shot down, as I found that all my friends were branching out, and leaving me in the dust. I had a hard time making new friends and just about gave up trying. Instead, I sat every day of my freshman year at a table of girls who made fun of me despite the fact I was right there. It was traumatizing and hurt me every day, making the wound of rejection deeper and deeper. I left after that year and went to a new school where I made new friends, but I developed a natural desire to alienate myself from most people and avoid taking any emotional risks, even as small as asking a person I don’t know very well if I can join them at lunch. At the first sign of rejection or dislike, I completely cut myself off from that person, because my defense is this: “I do not need you to like me, I don’t need anyone!” I can be very rude when I do this, but normally I don’t care, if it means avoiding facing a rejection. It worked (or so I thought) in previous years, but it was only a matter of time before it blew up in my face and it has. I have let myself become increasingly antisocial over the last few years since I left home for college. I relocated to a school about 10 hours away from my home and had to start over with new friends, and though they mean a lot to me, I intentionally alienate myself from even them at times. I am not having much luck from friends I confide in and I just don’t know where to go from here.

  9. I was rejected before birth and adopted to a family who let my family membership status drag on years past their participation. I was told that if I “have a child, don’t bring it home here”, and literally dropped off at the side of the road when I eventually did become pregnant.
    I have attracted a total of zero close friends my whole life (though I have some ‘buddies’, but not enough to be able to count on any of them to, for example, babysit).
    I attempted to report a few serious crimes and was told to ‘go home and take your Prozac’ by the police, including one instance wherein one of the people were murdered within a couple of days by a person I had repeatedly tried to eject, both with and without the police, from the building I live in.
    As a professional musician, I have been excluded from participation (no one wants to play in my band) even when I was able to secure gigs, a crowd, and/or a position in one of the biggest radio stations in Canada. The studio I worked in sat idle night after night, even while I had offered to have people in for free demos.
    As I mother, I (and my child)was ridiculed by vast amounts of people who did not care that my little baby was completely innocent.
    Recently I had a boyfriend who turned out to be a bad guy who thought, with his buddies, that it would be funny to serially cheat on me (which gave me at least two STDs), and which escalated to rape, which case was rejected by the police/crown attorneys as ‘not a significant risk to the public’ as if a) there has to be a risk to the public under ‘no means no’ laws and b) my mental health has somehow obscured my competency. Meanwhile, the perpetrator is a full patch member of at least one organized crime group.
    And guess what. I still laugh.
    But, to be honest, my feelings are too hurt to consider normal relationships anymore (damaged).
    Cheers, and good luck to your expanded knowledge on this subject, provided your motivations are humane.

  10. I’ve recently found out that i have an half brother. I had always knew him as a distant cousin, but now i have came to the undeniable true that he is much more than that, since he is also an uncle…He always seem to have a sort of a crush on me and between us and since we were both children seemed to exist a mutual strong atraction. We both went to different directions in life and lived for many years on different countries. Recentlly i knew that hes living on the same town that i, got married to a ex girl friend of mine and had 3 children, after he had before a relation with a cousin of us. He had always seemed to push me to other men, and enjoyed the possibility of seeing me get envolved with them, with a sadic pleasure. I saw him sometimes last year watching me from the other side of the street, on a store or even on a gas station. Always from far way, never intended to talk to me about the fact we have familiar bounds or anything else. As a mattter of fact he seems to hate me and enjoy hurting me…he knows that between us were and still are feelings too…but he never intended to talk to me. His behaviour seems to me a bit disturbed but at the same time hurts me beeing rejected from a person that i could love much for shore, but hes keeping me away. I find him exceptionally atractive and i know that he founds the same about me. This man keeps showing his porsche and letting me know that he has a good life and welfare, hes an exhibitionist. I’ve been ignoring him and not letting he know about all my interest and curiosity about him, but the true is that if i alouded me to i’d probably fall in love with him.
    Could you please translate this behaviour of him so that i can manage this, because it causes me a lot of hidden sufering. I’d like to understand it in order i can deal with it. Its not a common place and certainly not an easy situation to get through, can you please help me…

  11. Just lounging,

    I suggest you cut this guy out of your life. Sounds like someone who only hurts you and does not help you. Focus on your own issues and keep him away from you.

  12. Hi all,

    I just wanted to ask if there is anything that can be done or learned regarding social rejection. I have started isolating myself and turned to substance abuse many times because of social rejection. I would love to know if anyone has been able to overcome this and how you did it.

    Thank you.

  13. My wife and I have been married for a little over ten years, but we have recently separated by her choice. During our conversations through e-mails, I tried to explain to her about all of the stress that I’d been through in the past several years. She wrote back to me and said “those are only excuses”. To me, she totally rejected me, totally rejected what I had been through and she totally rejected my feelings. Either she doesn’t care about me and what I’ve been through, or she doesn’t know what rejection is. I have sent her this website and blog about the subject of rejection in hopes that she will be open-minded enough to read all of what is on this site and maybe gain more knowledge about me, herself and what rejection is all about.


  14. I need to rephrase this sentence…..”I have sent her this website and blog about the subject of rejection in hopes that she will be open-minded enough to read all of what is on this site and maybe gain more knowledge about me, herself and what rejection is all about.”

    What I wanted to say is…..I have sent her this website and blob about the subject of rejection in hopes that she will be open-minded enough to read what is on this site about rejection and maybe gain more knowledge about me, herself and what rejection is all about.

  15. I was “rejected'” out of this wonderful, unfair, one-sided game, never having kissed a
    girl in my life, understanding that this was not “fun” for me ( I guess other guys see this
    lunacy as apart of life) as I was so bad at it. I can accept that.I serve in many volunteer
    capacities and I do not miss the need to “be someone else” or “make myself better” just
    to get “qualified” for some people who are just not worth it. I am a good person and I feel
    fortunate that I was drummed out of this mess. From what I read here, men are miserable
    in trying to do this. It must be a horrible, horrible game to play!

  16. Can anyone tell me why, if you are rejected by a partner that you know was bad for you in many ways, your mind plays tricks on you and makes you think that you want them when really you don’t. You start putting them on some kind of pedestal when you never thought of them in that way when you were with them. The effect that rejection has on my mind is really doing my head in and leading to all kinds of self destructive activities.

  17. I was adopted as an infant, but feel I too have a sensitivity to rejection…moved a lot growing up, changing schools, never feeling like I fit in anywhere. I long for a soul mate, a true love in my life, but have tried dating sites and constantly get rejected over and over, even after just one date. I am a single mother and aged 46 and really wish I could give up the desire for a soul mate, because it really feels like it will never happen, not in this world. Only in my dreams. Too much pain, my ex husband turned his back on me while I was still pregnant with the baby who will be 3 this year. There is one man who seems to like me, but I think he just likes a sexual relationship, which I allow, in order to feel some sense of love. I also intentionally avoid people, friends, because of the uncomfortability of discussing my problems, and I find it very difficult to maintain a feeling of happiness, and since I dont want anyone else to see that, I avoid. I withdraw. Unless it is time spent with my man friend I mentioned, or with my children. Yikes, I sound horrible, dont I?

  18. My experience with being rejected has been the most hardest pain endured yet,emotionally. I say this because I liked a guy,he was my ‘friend’ and he had a girl friend, so I tried to distance myself and listen and just be his comforter when he’d say they were having problems. But. He seemed to have liked me and gave me a kiss once,so we never got too serious with words on how we felt,but I felt so much for him and he just stopped coming around and quit talking to me. I guess, its my fault as a woman but I was scared to tell him how I felt because I didn’t want to ruine our friendship, but it is what it is and all I can do is move on.

  19. That’s right. Label the people hurt by rejection as quitters who are emotionally immature potential stalkers. Pathologize the victims of rejection rather than the perpetrators. Feel cooler now?

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