Editor’s Note: This article is part of a campaign titled #JustNotInterested, run jointly by Feminism in India and Tinder, to unpack and understand consent, disinterest and expectations in relationships. The campaign curates conversations on Instagram stories on various facts of modern relationships. This article is based on one of those conversations.
Getting turned down hurts. There is no denying that. But it is rare that we think about the consequent self-care methods we indulge in to heal ourselves and accept a ‘no’ in the healthiest manner possible. In a world where movies like Pyaar Tune Kya Kiya and Fatal Attraction set terrible examples of toxic behaviours that men indulge in to avenge the audacity of women to reject their love, it becomes imperative to restructure the ways in which we perceive the healing process and its justifications. Feminism in India held an Instagram chat where they asked their followers on how they cared for themselves in the aftermath of getting turned down, receiving many interesting responses on how people dealt with the blow of rejection.
The first step is coming to terms with the fact that you will not “win them over.” Relentless pursuit is a damaging approach to finding love. Rejections are sometimes bound to lead one to feel lonely, stressed, anxious or often, in a phase of low self-esteem where they recalibrate their identity to align with the interests of their crush. One respondent said, “A part of me blames myself for the rejection and I try to look for things they are attracted to and qualities in people they hang out with.”
In many cases, the whole process of struggling to overcome negative emotions assumes a worse form. There is unfiltered hatred, vengefulness and hostility towards the person who rejects you and somewhere within that state, we forget that there are harmless ways of overcoming this ordeal that not only ensure overcoming self-sabotaging behaviours; but also do not infringe upon the other person’s security and right to say no. In the chat, one of the respondents said, “I have been conditioned to hate the shit out of the person. But it’s 2019, we can unlearn the toxic habits we have learned from our peers. So, if something like this happens, I respect their decision and stay out of their business or be their friend (whatever works). But most importantly, not hate them for the decision they took.”
However, there is no single, uniform method for overcoming the agony. Joel and Clementine have each other erased from their memories in Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind. Similarly, there are several coping mechanisms that one could use to ensure a smooth fizzling out of dejection and heartbreak. You are allowed to individualise your means to achieve better mental health. Many opt to focus on themselves by complete immersion in favoured hobbies or use the method of distraction to occupy their minds with a different thought. One respondent said, “I always divert my mind away from the habits that he had created in my life, and go into things I love like books and music. The worst thing you can do to hurt yourself is nag or chase after disinterested people.”
It is a gradual movement from looking at rejection as a thoroughly pessimistic event to realising that it is just a part of falling in and out of love, and meeting new people or forming new relationships. These are some of the respondents talking about how they devised their own methods for handling the post-rejection period. A respondent mentioned her key ingredients to moving on – “Comfort food + two best friends + good movies and series + sleep.”
Some people try to save the relationship and keep the friendship alive, while others prefer to burn bridges in order to move on. “I just confess my feelings and ask if he still wants to be friends. If he does, it is okay. If not, I cut all my ties with him in order to move on.” While there are different techniques for managing ‘no’s’, one needs to be aware that these methods should be positive and not coercive in their nature. In handling rejection, one has to tread a fine line between caring for oneself and being aware of when it could transform into malignant behaviour toward the other. While exercising the freedom to choose a distinct and personalised coping mechanism, one must ensure that there is mutual acknowledgement of the other person’s freedom to love, accept or reject, and that the recipient is not indebted, in the slightest, to suit the demands and expectations of the proposal.
Failures in confessions and proposals don’t necessarily have to be about you and how your shortcomings led to the rejection. Disinterest is just as natural in proposals as in your preferences of different genres in movies. You don’t always justify why you dislike classics or sci-fi’s. Sometimes, things don’t click together and another respondent said this during the chat and rightly pointed towards how one can strike a balance between understanding that their coping should not be at the expense of the other’s consent. “While self-care is important, I also want the other person to feel like they are entitled to say no and I’m an adult and will accept that with time.”
No refusal is easy, but at the same time, one must not forget that they are not entitled to assigning blame or putting the ‘rejectee’ at the receiving end of nastiness. In being turned down, we often neglect that rejections should be administered with as much civility and respect as acceptances. When you start normalising rejection and honouring the other’s decision, it will become a less challenging of an episode in your life. You will be able to welcome thoughts that were uncomfortable before, about liking and not being liked back.
In this entire process, it is crucial to realise that neither self-destruction nor shaming the other is a productive resolution to overcoming rejections. There is a need for conversations to be stirred regarding these discomfiting experiences and how we can devise constructive solutions for surpassing the overwhelming aftermath of rejection. The negative undertone of the word requires to be decimated for creating and navigating dating spaces which don’t turn malicious in the utterance of the syllable ‘no’.
Featured Image Source: Vicky Leta