by Caitlin Ascolese, for Match.com’s Happen magazine
Finding out that your romantic interest is one-sided is never great, but when you’ve been out of the dating loop for years, getting shot down can carry an extra sting. “When you’re first dating after a long relationship, you’re more vulnerable, so you feel everything more personally,” says Lori Gorshow, MSW, dating coach at Denver’s http://www.makedatingsimple.com. Fortunately, there are things you can do to handle the inevitable hiccups in stride. Here are six common reasons for feeling rejected — and how to stay sane.
The empty inbox
The situation: It took you ages to work up the nerve to write that seemingly perfect-for-you person whose profile you saw online. But days later there’s no response and you’re feeling as if you should change your username to mondo_loser.
The solution: Cheer up; there are a million possible reasons he or she didn’t write back — maybe he’s busy at work or maybe she’s allergic to people who are allergic to dogs or yeah, maybe you just don’t seem like his or her type. Instead of stressing over a stranger you’ve never met, focus on those aspects of online dating that you can control. Set goals: Get someone to scan in your favorite pictures to upload one day; then, later in the week, vow to email 10 people who catch your eye instead of just that one. “Dating is a numbers game, and the more you increase your numbers, the better your chances of finding someone compatible,” says Gorshow.
The disappearing act
The situation: You thought that coffee or dinner date went pretty well, but now your companion is totally MIA, and you’re wondering if you did something wrong.
The solution: “Even if you know intellectually that you’re risking rejection, it’s still upsetting,” says Linda Reing, co-author of Still Hot: The Uncensored Guide to Divorce, Dating, Sex, Spite, and Happily Ever After. She advises steeling yourself against minor blows like this by doing whatever it takes to feel sexy on your own, whether that means losing a few pounds or getting a totally new post-breakup hairstyle. It’ll still hurt when a prospect vanishes, but at least you won’t feel like it was a personal insult, because you’ll know you’ve got it going on. And that derails the “No One Will Ever Love Me Again” express train you may board if you lose perspective and lump the experience in with your past marriage.
The real-life letdown
The situation: Not only did you find someone amazing on a dating site, you actually built an intense rapport over email. But in person, that sense of soulmate-itude just wasn’t there.
The solution: Chalk it up to an unfortunate rite of passage for single people in the email age. “It’s so seductive to get into an emotionally intimate relationship over email, because you finally have someone to listen to and you may divulge way too much, and it’s also easier for someone to seem charming,” says Sue Mittenthal, co-author of Still Hot. In the future, save big conversations (details of divorces, deaths, deep dark secrets) for in-person conversations so you don’t go into it with unrealistic expectations about the depth of your bond. And once you’ve established a rapport with someone, have a phone call or two and meet offline sooner rather than later. After all, you want a boyfriend or girlfriend, not a pen pal.
The digital “dis”
The situation: After a few promising evenings with a special someone, he or she announced that it was over. But they did it over email — email!
The solution: Such an impersonal blow-off might have been unheard of a few years ago, but sadly, this easy-way-out is becoming more commonplace. Ban yourself from wondering what you did wrong — “You don’t have to understand why a potential relationship ended in order to move on, and focusing on that will only prolong the pain,” says Gorshow. Instead, focus on what you liked most about that person, and vow to seek those qualities out in your next date…someone with all that good stuff who does feel a connection. And remember the sting of that digital dumping when it comes time for you to break up with someone — karma counts.
The stunted set-up
The situation: You were psyched when a pal mentioned someone who’d be perfect for you, but now that friend has tons of excuses for not introducing you. You sorta suspect that the would-be date gave your bud a red light.
The solution: Yes, it’s ego-bruising, but it’s not about you. “Dating is a weeding-out process, and all you can do is screen for the things you do want and respect that other people are doing the same thing,” says Gorshow. In fact, putting too much emphasis on a total stranger may be a sign that you’re lonely for any connection versus interested in an actual love connection. Spend your time making plans where you might meet people (like singles’ nights and group outdoor activities) instead of feeling sorry for yourself, and you might just wind up with a great match after all.
The happy bachelor(ette)
The situation: You and your new steady have chemistry, share great conversation, and can’t stop smiling when you’re together. But your honey couldn’t be less interested in remarrying.
The solution: “Recognize that there are a lot of people in this dating pool who raise children, have busy jobs, have friends, and truly feel like their life is complete,” says Reing. Instead of wondering what might happen if you two last long-term, apply that energy toward actually enjoying the relationship. You may find out that you’re also perfectly happy to date without a wedding in sight. Or you may decide that commitment is a must-have for you, and in that case, you’ll act accordingly.
The smooth operator
The situation: Your date was sweet, sexy, and falling for you — almost too good to be true. And now it seems like he or she was just that — because you’ve been ditched and left heartbroken.
The solution: “Because they’re inexperienced or just so eager to make a connection, many new singles ignore the classic signs a player or commitment-phobe,” says Reing. One valuable resource you have? Your seasoned single friends and pals of the opposite sex. Share your dating experiences with people who will tell it like it is — then (this is the hard part) actually consider their advice.
And all the experts agree: Don’t jump into bed too soon. Once you’ve had sex, you feel more attached to a person regardless of whether the relationship merits it. Even in this age of digital dating, it turns out some old advice still holds true!
Caitlin Ascolese is a freelance writer in New York City.