“We are never so vulnerable as when we love.”
In business, motivation is often an asset because it often allows us to overcome obstacles and opens the door for success. However, in relationships that same perspective can lead you in circles when rejection is involved.
Rejection can make us question our own sense of self worth and motivate us towards detrimental behaviours such as investing more time and energy into winning that person back. It becomes the point of focus and you enter a warped sense of reality where you truly believe the person can be all you hoped for. All you have to do is help them see the same hope in the relationship.
What is it about someone’s rejection that perpetually draws us closer to them?
A friend of mine is in this exact predicament. He often oscillates between deep care and absolute heartbreak for a woman he met a year ago. She continues to keep in touch with him but says she’s just not sure about the idea of “them.” She also adamantly suggests that she’s not ready for a relationship, and then he discovers she is seeing someone else. He attempts to cease contact with her as a result but focuses on every text or message she sends him when he pulls away. His heart is never far from her even with each attempt to side with logic.
The power of hope and expectation are at play when it comes to a cat and mouse situation in relationships. In these cases, it seems the only way to keep your partner’s attention is when you’re almost out of the picture. When your expectations and hope outweigh the pain of reality, we tend to side with what could be because it allows for the connection to stay alive. Someone could spend years trying to get out only to soon find themselves in deeper. You feel trapped by your own emotion and your inability to move on.
In reality you know that things aren’t as you hope for it to be but you’re somehow drawn to that person and having them in your life. Psychologist Helen Fisher calls this “attraction frustration” where an emotional dependence on your partner reorders your daily priorities to reestablish that connection. Research I’m involved with at the University of British Columbia also looks at individuals with high rejection sensitivity. These individuals often experience a higher likelihood of perceiving, expecting and overreacting to rejection.
So what’s the secret to getting over someone past their expiration date?
1. Focus on what draws the other person to you. Do they love you at your best or only when you pull away? Is sustaining an attraction like this realistic in the long run?
2. Promises are only half the picture. Are they behaving in a way that show they care for you or your emotional well-being? Is your partner selling you a dream without the reality?
3. If they draw an emotional connection from you but pull away from commitment, question if it’s really because they’re not ready for a relationship. Often times, it has more to do with a lack of wanting to put in the effort for fear of what might be expected of them in a relationship with you.
4. We also often draw from others what is missing in our lives. Ask yourself why you are so drawn to this person versus someone who is available. Are you making more excuses for their behaviour rather than holding them accountable?
The couples whose relationships have survived the test of time report that their partners are often one of their best friends. Their love can ease the pain that life brings, laugh with you through life’s moments and create a sense of acceptance and love for each other. While hope is often what keeps us working towards our dreams, actions make these dreams a reality.
Amy Yew is a researcher and therapist. Tell us what you think and submit any questions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also tweet your thoughts on Twitter @AmyYew.