It can be overwhelming to be ghosted, dumped, or not have your feelings reciprocated, and trying to figure out the reason it went down—Did I text too frequently? Was I too forward on our last date? Does he think my dream of visiting Dollywood is stupid?—can be hard. Some people down a pitcher of frozen mango margaritas and show up at their ex's doorstep demanding answers about why things didn't work out. Others go on a digital rampage, erasing any trace of the ex in their social media feeds. Is there a better way to cope?
We asked a sexuality educator, podcast hosts, dating coaches, and a philosophy professor to tell us how to make sense of the sting. They gave us their best advice on how to move forward, gain perspective, and establish a zen-like sense of peace after having one's heart stomped on.
Answers have been edited for length and clarity.
Andrea Silenzi, Host/Producer of the Podcast Why Oh Why
I will not quietly accept being ghosted! It's not socially acceptable, and I think we need to train a new generation of ghostbusters, ghost-ees who are willing to haunt the person who has ghosted us and make it clear we deserve to be treated like a real fucking human being. Go straight for the confrontation. We maintain our pride by being silent and pretending we didn't care. But I think the actual way you reclaim your pride is by being outspoken when you're hurt. Express your outrage when they refuse to behave like a human adult. This might make me a weirdly calibrated person, but I don't think we should feel rejection at all. Rejection is a thing we choose to feel. When I feel rejected, I'm usually projecting my insecurities onto the reasons given. When in fact the rejection I feel is usually about my relationship with myself. I think about the qualities I was obsessed with about this person, and usually it's just a trait I wish I had. Sometimes I take rejection and try to project that energy into taking on that quality.
Raphael Krut-Landau, Philosophy Professor
If you are turned down, you may feel small. Expect to be visited by the temptation to console yourself by making someone else feel even smaller than you. Greet the temptation, make it a cup of tea, and let it pass. After being dumped, it can be fun to fantasize about revenge. The best revenge is living well. Take as long as you need—a month, a year, a decade. You're not on a schedule. Many poems and songs will speak to you more directly now. How we come across an artwork changes how we take it in, so maybe you should go hunting for something that appeals to you. I recommend you read "The Glass Essay" by Anne Carson, read the books Against Happiness by Eric Wilson, Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things, and Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. Watch Hal Hartley's movie Surviving Desire, and listen to the philosopher Lucy Allais discussing forgiveness.
Timaree Schmit, PhD, Sexuality Educator
A relationship ending is not a failure; it's an opportunity to find someone with whom you're more compatible. Get back out there, keep your momentum. Research seems to indicate that rebounding is genuinely effective, that getting back on the horse immediately is not only a reasonable option but also one that leads to better outcomes than wallowing. Keep in mind that when someone says "no" that doesn't mean "because you're awful." It could mean any number of things. Rejection isn't always something to internalize.
However, if you keep using the same approach and it's never successful, perhaps that is a chance to reevaluate your methodology, who you are targeting and why it's not working. While this wound is open, we have a chance to explore injuries that didn't heal right the first time and lay better foundations for the future. What is it about this situation that makes it feel so awful? What is the underlying hurt here? Do you think you won't find love again? Do you feel betrayed or duped? Does this remind you of an earlier hurt or an existential pain? Use this time to do something nourishing for yourself, something productive, creative or otherwise good for you. I'm a fan of making yourself a mixtape of breakup songs—a variety of angry, sad, and hopeful—and listening to it while doing something else expressive: working out, making art, writing, etc. Feel the feelings and work them out.
Steve Dean, Online Dating Consultant
My favorite way to approach rejection is with empathy. Rather than blaming the other person for the rejection, I like to look inside myself and try to understand a little more from their point of view. Practice some basic theory of mind to understand a little bit more about what was going on in their life. I've written a "Guide to Getting Over Breakups," but it all boils down to the same basic things: The first is accept your feelings for what they are. I'd recommend practicing mindfulness meditation, which is called Metta meditation, where it's accepting that the things have happened, and all the different people in it are unique and wonderful individuals who may have been going through different things. We have to be much more empathetic toward the people we date. A lot of times we're so quick to judge them and quick to assume that because they're not validating us, that they're the one at fault. That's a dangerous mindset to take on.
Laura Yates, Bounce Back Coach and Writer
Allow yourself to feel what you're feeling. Sad, hurt, angry—all of those feelings are valid no matter how many times your friends might say he/she isn't worth it. When we try to ignore what we're feeling it can make us turn to unhealthy distractions or coping mechanisms. You'll be doing yourself more favors if you honor what you're experiencing without judgement. What you shouldn't do is try and get answers from your ex; that will only make it worse and reflects that you have no boundaries. We often use the idea of "getting closure" as the thing that will help us to understand, make peace or let go. That will always end up prolonging unnecessary communication though and lead to yet more questions that you need closure for. You don't need your ex to get that closure. If the relationship has broken down, that's all the proof you need. Stay true to your worth and value, and hold your head high!
Sometimes people take rejection extremely personally. But usually, what's going on isn't rejection at all. The way I encourage people I work with to look at it, is if you aren't right for that person, they're not right for you either. We can't be for everyone, and relationships often run their course. People's wants and needs change. It doesn't make you inadequate, but instead it's clearing the path for you to eventually meet someone much more aligned to you. Holding onto resentment will only keep you in pain longer. Forgiving doesn't mean in any way condoning your ex's behavior (if you were ghosted or your ex did wrong by you), it means allowing yourself to let go and move forward.
Surround yourself with people who remind you of how great you are. Use tools such as journaling and meditation to work through what you're experiencing. Trust that it will get easier, even if right now it doesn't seem or feel that way. It's about taking small, positive steps every day. To bounce back quicker, listen to my podcast, Let's Talk Heartbreak, which will be relaunched in the summer. I also recommend Dr. Karin's Love and Life podcast and the Love Is Like a Plant podcast. As for books, I always recommend to clients: The 4 Agreements, Attached, Emotional First Aid, The 5 Love Languages, and Single Is the New Black.
Laura Lane and Angela Spera, This Is Why You're Single Authors and Podcasters
Angela: I firmly believe in blocking exes on social media. I think the quickest way to get over somebody is not having them in your face every time you check your phone.
Laura: If you're ghosted, it's not about you. The other person doesn't have the guts to be an adult and say to you, "I'm not ready for a relationship." Or, "Hey, I was dating a couple people, and I actually got serious with someone else." Or, "Hey, I really like you but the timing doesn't feel right." Just remember that, what a dummy the other person is. And do you want to date someone like that? Probably not. This is super old school, but my bible when I was being ghosted or dumped it was always the book He's Just Not That Into You or Why Men Love Bitches. Those were the early 2000s books that got me through my breakups and inspired me to write a book myself and update those books. Both of those books still stand up. They're oldies but goodies, and they worked for me.
Angela: I just like hearing other people's stories. When you're going through a breakup, you can feel that you're alone and a little crazy, so hearing other people's stories make you feel better. I really loved Julie Klausner's book I Don't Care About Your Band.
Laura: I also recommend Hilary Winston's book, My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me, and the New York Times' Modern Love column. I read that religiously, and it makes me realize relationships are not how they seem in movies. They're not the Instagram-curated version that we see on our friends' feeds. They're complex, and no relationship is perfect.
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