Many people today are, at best, ambivalent about intimate relationships. These individuals have been hurt in their childhood, by parents they counted on for love and support, or they were rejected in their adult lives by people they loved. As a result, they approach intimate relationships with trepidation, often inadvertently sabotaging their chances at love and by so doing, reinforcing to themselves that the arena of love is fraught with pitfalls.
Rejection is painful, to be sure, but the real problem is that too many people assume that if they were rejected once, they’ll be rejected again. This isn’t the case at all. Many people are convinced that the rejection was due to some fundamental defect in them; something bad or lacking in their make-up that makes them unacceptable or unlovable.
In reality, people are rejected for any number of reasons. If they weren’t sufficiently loved by their parents, it’s actually a reflection of the parents’ inability to love their child as opposed to an indication of the child’s lack of worth. If they were rejected as an adult, it could be that they simply weren’t compatible with the other person, or perhaps they exhibited some behavior that was off-putting. In the latter case, rejection is an opportunity to learn about how to act in ways that are more conducive to a successful relationship.
Sometimes people are rejected because of bad timing – the other person has just ended a relationship and isn’t ready to start something new, or they have things going on in their life in the moment that make it impossible for them to focus their attention on love.
Sometimes a person is rejected because of cowardice on the part of their partner: the partner happens to be afraid of intimacy and the inherent risks of disappointment and loss.
Whatever the reason for the rejection, it’s important not to generalize over one or two bad experiences. Every person is unique and has something special to offer. Everyone is lovable and can be seen this way by someone else.
If people avoid intimacy out of fear of rejection, they’ll never learn that love is possible; if they push others away out of the same fear, they’ll only reinforce their belief that relationships all end in pain.
Instead of focusing on the fear, it would be better to remember three important truths: 1- every adult is really and truly strong enough to survive disappointment or loss in love, so they needn’t be so afraid; 2- it’s always better to make the best effort at love than to run from it, as even a brief romance is life-enriching, and 3- every relationship, whether brief or lengthy is an opportunity for learning more about love and getting better at it, so rather than running from love, every chance for intimacy should be embraced.
Life is short; it can be unfair and fraught with suffering. We can choose to run from the things we fear or stride purposefully toward that which will make our lives richer and more meaningful. Many of us will get knocked down by the vicissitudes of life whether we run from love or embrace it fully. Without love, life is bleak and rather empty. Even though rejection is always a possibility, we might as well go for the thing that will give meaning and joy to our existence. We might as well really go for love.