Dear Sara,

The same pattern keeps repeating. I meet someone online, we spend weeks or months talking. We talk on the phone, we email, we Skype — he tells me how awesome I am, how I’m just what he’s looking for. We go on one date, maybe two, and I never hear from him again. I’m starting to take this personally. How can I know what I’m doing wrong when these guys won’t tell me why they suddenly lose all interest?

Here’s the thing about online dating: The actual dating isn’t supposed to happen online. It can, if both parties are really good at writing or some other form of remote communication, but ultimately there is NO reason why you ought to be waiting several weeks or months to meet
someone in person, unless he lives in a different state or continent. Meet him or her in a public place as soon as you feel safe enough to do so, yet curious enough to make it worth your time. Why? Because an ounce of experiential data is worth a terabyte of pictures, video, and email. If you’re already attached to someone you haven’t met, chances are you’ve waited too long, and both of you are setting yourselves up for some sort of delayed disappointment. (Unless, of course, you share the mutual chemistry you hope for.)

There is more to meeting in person than simply verifying that a person looks like their pictures. So much, that we’ve only scratched the surface of the science behind it. Consider it nature’s overly complicated way of making sure genes are distributed widely. We have a population of seven billion now. I personally love being picky: The way a person holds themselves, the way they smell even when they are clean, etc. If you’ve ever rejected someone yourself, and I hope you have, you’ve got to give humanity the right to reject you as well, carte blanche. Physical attraction is important to all of us in different ways. We’re all affected by it, but we all translate it or describe it differently, in part because we all want different things at different times, and even the most self-aware person is still only half sure of what they want. In a sense, all dating is blind dating. We play chess with each other. We hide our faults — sometimes we’re hiding our best features. We reveal our strengths, strengths which we adore about ourselves, yet can easily turn others off. If you think about it, there is a certain romantic justice to the whole process. There are no algorithms yet powerful enough to make Person A love Person B.

Here’s hoping that you arm yourself in the future against false expectations by meeting more people, more often, but for now remember that rejection is something both males and females experience.

Wouldn’t it be nice if we culturally supported widespread constructive criticism between friends and lovers a little more than we do now? Absolutely. Miscommunication often kills perfectly good romances and friendships. Even when people give you a reason, it’s often not the real one. A lot of people with simple rude habits might improve if we told them about it. But for now, when it happens, let yourself be disappointed for one day, tell yourself it could be any little thing, try to shake it off, and focus on the next person the next day. That said, it can be extra harsh when mysterious rejection happens to anyone in succession. Remember: Anyone who doesn’t want to invest in the whole person isn’t worth the time to mourn too deeply. As Marilyn
Monroe said, “If you can’t handle me at my worst, then you sure as hell don’t deserve me at my best.”

Think of the painful experience as a specific Scout badge on the sash of dating. And think of it that way consciously as a method of recovering: Anything worth having is worth enduring pain to achieve, right? Rejection is a kind of an accomplishment. This accomplishment makes you more sensitive to the plight of your friends who have been through similar experiences, hopefully makes you treat others more respectfully than you have been treated, and finally, makes you value what you have when you do eventually find it. (It also emboldens you to humanely reject another, when the gesture is called for.)

And don’t demonize the person who rejected you, because that’s just a hollow way of coping that won’t make you feel any better anyway. Give the person your whole-hearted forgiveness. Give the rejector the right to look for the person worth their time, and accept that for now, that’s not you. Rejection is only bitter if we curl ourselves tightly around it. If you let it go instead, your life will be more beautiful overall, and you will be happier, with or without a significant other.

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One reply on “Breakup Badge: Rejection’s an Accomplishment?”

  1. Wow, you are super wise! I especially love the last few sentences here! I’m gonna have to write in during my next dating quandry!

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