Rejection from our significant other is like an arrow through the heart, but we can’t let it destroy us!
I recall the first time I was completely rejected by a man. It’s been many years ago; but, I can visualize the scene in my mind as though it happened yesterday. The man was my first husband. We had been together since I was sixteen, and married when I was barely eighteen. He knew me when I was still a girl and was with me through my twenties, as I developed into a woman. He was my first real relationship and true love, and I imagined we were destined for a forever marriage.
He had become distant in the few years prior to the day in my memory. He had suffered some major shake-ups in his life and was not handling them well. I suspected that he was greatly in need of outside help; but, he refused to accept it. Perhaps our love didn’t burn as brightly as when we were first falling in love, but I believed that we had a solid relationship and we would make it through.
We had just attended a friend’s birthday party. He clearly didn’t want to be at the party (they were my friends, not his); but, I assumed his dark mood was because he just wanted to go home. Once we got home, he told me he wanted to talk, and that’s when he dropped the bomb that I was not expecting!
He immediately began by telling me he no longer found me attractive, he didn’t love me anymore, and he wanted a divorce. I was in shock, paralyzed, and devastated! I later learned of his multiple infidelities during our relationship.
What a punch to the gut to swallow the feeling that I was somehow inept as a woman and a wife.
I wasn’t good enough. I couldn’t make him happy and he had to seek fulfillment elsewhere!
It took me a long time after this experience and our divorce to talk myself into believing that his rejection was a compilation of his issues. His mental health. His dissatisfaction with everything in his life. His anguish from the personal loss and failures he felt and extended over to me as part of his life. In his words, he just wanted to start over with nothing the same. He didn’t want to be married. He just wanted to be isolated and alone. I didn’t fit into the new picture.
I finally managed to talk myself down from the ledge because hovering over the feelings of inadequacy and shame that he introduced to me was far from healthy or productive. There were still clearly signs of something not being quite right with him; but, wow! What a feeling to be drop-kicked by love!
My next obsession, as I felt my marriage slipping through my fingers, was desperation to save it and somehow redeem myself as a person worthy of being loved and wanted again. No, I was no longer the fresh-faced wisp of a girl that he swept away with him many years before. Maybe he would love me if I lost weight? Maybe I would be desirable again if I dressed differently? Perhaps if I was more adventurous in the bedroom or took up more of his hobbies he would want me again?
My thoughts and emotions bounced back and forth between what I could do to change myself to be accepted again and trying to find peace in his rejection.
Maybe I was better off to not be with this person who seemed to only love what was on the surface and could no longer see me.
Maybe the value he set on me really didn’t matter. He clearly had problems and didn’t have the first clue what was right for him or anyone else, so why would I let him destroy me when maybe I was fortunate to escape from such a relationship?
Why would I care what such human garbage thought of me? I knew I had a lot to offer a partner, and if he was too dense to see it, then it was his loss!
The circumstances still hurt; but, I wasn’t done yet with lessons in rejection.
The next man to turn off his affections for me was my second husband. I wholeheartedly devoted myself to being the perfect wife and mother. Our lives became swallowed up in the roles of parents. One of our children required specialized medical care as an infant, and I literally had almost no sleep for the first three years of his life.
Lack of sleep, two babies, and a husband who receded away from his family to engage in porn addiction and a more intimate relationship with his recliner than his wife had a way of sapping my energy and enthusiasm for much of anything.
At one point, he made the declaration that I” had slipped.” I was no longer the sexy, energetic woman he married. Never mind that he had developed amnesia for all matters of hygiene, dressed like a slob, and couldn’t be bothered to pry his now seriously overweight and out of shape rear end out of his favorite chair. I had slipped. He could keep livin’ la vida lazy, but I was to be condemned for becoming an overwhelmed and overworked mom- essentially to three!
Déjà vu hit me like a Mack truck. Even Mr. Disgusting found me too reprehensible. I don’t think I even cared anymore if he found me acceptable. In my book, he had a lot of nerve to reject me; but, it hurt just the same to again not be good enough! I resumed the crusade to reinvent myself, probably not so much for him but in spite of him. I worked out like a fiend and took a hard look at what I wanted to do for myself to feel renewed and like myself again.
This experience, too, had been shelved in my mental file until a friend’s situation caused me to face these feelings again. She reported that her husband, whom she seems to have a really good relationship with, has stopped having sex with her. She acknowledged that even early in their relationship he never had a strong sex drive. He swears to love and be devoted to her, he just has no sex drive. He credits his situation with a low baseline sex drive compounded by now being in his mid-40’s.
She doesn’t have reason to believe that he’s no longer invested in her or the marriage. He feels bad because he knows women desire intimacy and a man who has stamina. She responded to his explanation that, by all accounts, men want sex frequently, and if they don’t seem interested in it at home, they’re probably having their needs met elsewhere.
Their situation may be an anomaly, but she can’t help but feeling unattractive, undesirable, and a failure as a wife if she can’t gain his interest in this way. Besides seeking advice from a doctor for his condition, what can I tell her?
We can’t let others determine our value. If they can’t appreciate our value, maybe they don’t deserve us!
Acceptance and desirability are relative, subjective, and a two-way street. Of course, as a partner we should not let ourselves go to the point of being well outside the range of what we were when we joined out partner; but, our partner should also be understanding of things beyond anyone’s control. Life, age, illness, disability, hard times…things will happen during the course of a relationship, and not all of them are pretty! And, let’s not forget: it takes two to stay on top of their game!
Rejection is not always about you! Often, people feel bad about themselves or have their own personal demons to battle, and these insecurities end up being projected onto others. Maybe my second husband was feeling lousy about letting himself go and was fearful that I would reject him– who knows! Just don’t be so quick to internalize the opinions and actions of others to be a flaw of your own!
Help is always available! Sometimes the root cause of rejection is not easy to identify, and it can come in many forms. No matter the cause, it’s not something that must be endured alone. If it’s possible to work on the issue as a couple, then go to marriage counseling. Maybe the cause is medical, and sometimes the help we needed will be just for us because the relationship is already too damaged.
The agony of not being wanted is brutal. We can’t allow one person’s opinion of our value to destroy us because, let’s face it: that’s what one person thinks! When the person who rejects us is our significant other, it’s like an arrow through the heart. We may feel like a failure in every possible way.
It’s important to consider the voice behind that wake-up call and what motivation they may have to reject us. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the problem rests on their shoulders! Some rejections do serve as a wake-up call, though in the most unpleasant form, that we may have business to attend to. If so, attend to that business without allowing the situation to cause damage and destruction to our self-worth!