From age 14 to age 84, asking someone out is nerve wracking, and getting a rejection is naturally the most disappointing of outcomes – but there’s few amongst us to whom this hasn’t happened. Perhaps you’ve even been a heartbreaker yourself in times long gone. In fact, rejection is pretty common. Studies have shown that many people who start opposite-sex friendships do so with the hope of eventually having one grow into a long-term romantic relationship, which makes unrequited feelings, no matter how much time and energy you put in, unavoidable. So what can you do to get over the feelings of rejection when someone you’ve been pining over wants to just be friends?
Take a Step Back
So you’ve been honest and told the object of your affections you’d like to take your relationship to the next level, but they want to remain ‘just friends.’ Do you really have to remain friends with them? Of course not! But think carefully about whether your humiliation is greater than the value of the potential friendship. If you need to take a step back from them for a while – or forever – that’s actually okay. Re-establish some boundaries between you. If you still have feelings for this person, hanging around simply hoping they will change their mind will not help you move on. Rather than accepting friendship when you want something more, be as open and assertive as you can. As Joanna Hunkin wrote in her advice column on the Friend Zone for the New Zealand Herald, “if you don’t stand up for yourself and your feelings, no one else will.” If you’re not wanted the way you want to be wanted, it’s okay to walk away.
Review the Situation
You also need to perform a reality check. Ask yourself – did you wait around too long before asking them out? Did you convey to them from the start that you had romantic feelings, or were you too nervous to do so? If you answered yes to these questions, maybe you need to have a think about this and use this situation as an opportunity to learn and grow. When you meet someone you like, even if this makes you incredibly nervous, you need to try to be assertive and confident – make eye contact with them, find out about their interests. Be engaging. If you hang out with someone repeatedly while being too nervous to move your interaction towards romance you are unlikely to end up in a relationship with them. If the idea of further rejection terrifies you, try some subtle flirting gestures in future and see if they’re being welcomed or brushed off.
Don’t be an Angry Friend-Zoner
Above all, when you have been rejected, getting angry with the rejecter is the worst thing you could do. No amount of bitterness regarding time spent wooing someone who didn’t respond will actually alter the situation. Love and relationships are not vending machines – you don’t put certain things in and get exactly what you want out. Rather, they’re a constant game of chance. No-one owes you their time or their feelings, and that’s why we should be all the more grateful when they’re offered. You lost this hand, but you still have the opportunity to walk away from this with your head held high if you do so graciously. So don’t send that angry message – just tell them you’re sad it didn’t work out and you’ll call them when you’re ready.
Take Care of You
Rejection hurts, but you need to remember that no matter what – even if you got the timing wrong and it didn’t work out – you did the right thing by asking someone you like out on a date. When you’re a grown up, mooning over someone and never explicitly revealing your feelings is rarely the best choice unless they’re already in a committed relationship. Human beings are complex creatures and whether or not chemistry bubbles up between people is often unpredictable. If you were feeling something they weren’t feeling that’s really no reflection of your worth as a person. Focus on this and practice some self-care – hang out with friends that make you feel good or do something that reminds you that you’re a worthy person that lots of people love. The right person, when they come along, will accept your invitation to go on a date in a heartbeat.