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A Crash Course In Handling Rejection

A Crash Course In Handling Rejection

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The spring/summer cusp is an exciting time of year: long days, less schoolwork, highly anticipated events like prom and graduation right around the corner. Maybe finals exams and dream vacations are the only thing on your mind; or maybe, just maybe you’re considering a prom-posal or summer romance.  

You’re not going to want to hear this, but if you’re thinking of shooting your shot, it might be time to think about your rejection contingency plan. Rejection happens to all of us—it’s a fact of life. And I think we can all agree that romantic rejection hits just a little different than other types. You didn’t ask, but here it is: your crash course in handling rejection with care.   

POV: You’ve been crushing on a friend for most of the school year and eagerly awaiting the chance to reveal your feelings. What better time than prom? You’ve enlisted your friends, you’ve spent hours painstakingly choreographing a flash mob and crafting a homemade sign reading: “Prom?”  

The big moment arrives. The prom-posal’s a blur but what you do remember is them shaking their head, deer-in-the-headlights look on their face as they stammer, “I’m going with someone else.” 

(Quick sidebar: A public prom-posal puts a lot of pressure on both you and your crush. Consider asking them privately to get consent before breaking out the theatrics.) 


Someone saying no can mean a lot of things—related and unrelated to you—but what it doesn’t mean is that something’s wrong with who you are. So, be kind to yourself. Recognize that you’re awesome and do things to boost yourself up, like hanging with friends or binging your comfort show. 

Be kind to the other person, too. Even if you’re feeling hurt, angry, embarrassed, or confused, don’t let this be the beginning of your villain arc; respect the other person enough not to send all those negative emotions their way. You wanted to go to prom with them a second ago, remember? Try to keep in mind that they’re not the bad guy, either—they’re a person with feelings and desires that just may not align with yours. 


POV: You’ve been dreaming of the day when school is out and you finally get to spend long summer days with your partner. Your post-graduation plans will find you at opposite ends of the country next year, so you’re looking forward to spending as much time with them as possible before you move away. You know long distance will be hard, but you know the two of you can handle it…until they sit you down and confess that they don’t want to stay together after graduation. 


We’re not saying you have to like their choice—but a true sign of respect is honoring someone’s wishes or feelings, even when they don’t match your own. This means listening and sticking to the boundaries they express. 

Your first instinct may be to cling to your ex and the relationship (i.e. “let’s stay friends”), but taking it slow and spending time apart can be a healthy thing. Try to set a comfortable pace post-breakup and prioritize your needs. If you need space, take it. If you don’t want to talk, you can decline their call. It can be helpful to take a break from social media or unfollow your ex until you feel ready to know what they’re up to without you.  

But what about closure?! Closure is real, but it’s not what we’ve learned about in rom-coms. Closure is a process that challenges us to reflect, process, and accept the lessons a relationship or break-up taught us (with or without the other person’s help). It may be excruciating not to have your ex’s input as you sort through your emotions and come to terms with your situation; there may be questions you feel only they can or should answer, or you may just want to know they’re hurting too.  

When you’re going through it, it’s totally normal to feel like you can’t find closure without them, but try to take responsibility for your own feelings and make sense of the experience from your own perspective. Your ex may be a resource for those unanswered questions at first but, eventually, YOU are the only person who can turn the page on this chapter and move on. Combine reflection (journaling, meditation, talking with a mental health professional, processing with a trusted friend or adult) with activities that bring you comfort or release (exercising, playing video games, watching movies, eating a favorite snack, or snuggling your pet). Lean on your support system for venting, advice, or maybe just some good old-fashioned fun.  

Rejection sucks—no contingency plan can change that. But being better prepared can soften the blow, and over time you’ll gain perspective and begin to heal. You’ve got this (and One Love’s got you)! 


Sheridan Riolo is an Engagement Manager in One Love’s California Region.  Her “why One Love?” — I do this work because I’m fascinated by so many aspects of relationships, and being at One Love allows me to talk about relationships day in and day out.

Sheridan’s favorite healthy sign is Comfortable Pace.

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