• Relationships

Dater X: Why Does Rejection Make Us So Angry?

I looked at his profile before I read the email he sent—a rookie online dating mistake. The guy in the photos looked highly attractive—green eyes, a shaved head, a strong, square jaw line, and an impeccable sense of style. In his answers to the cheesy profile questions, he managed to seem funny and charming. I had a good feeling as I finally opened the email he’d sent me.

“Hey gorgeous. Ran across your profile, and you are so my type it’s scary. Hope you don’t mind that I am picturing you naked. You into something casual? Think we’d have mind blowing sex.”

It pisses us the heck off when someone rejects us. But why? I think it’s because the other person’s vision of us just doesn’t mesh with our own self-image, in which we are awesome. Deep down we’re scared that the other person is right and that we aren’t as amazing as we think.

It’s been a slow month and I, Dater X, am horny. At certain times in life, I might have jumped at the offer of casual sex from an attractive stranger who seemed reasonably cool. But as I’ve told you so many times, I’m done with hooking up and am looking for something real, intense, and lasting. So, I left Square Jaw’s message unanswered. When he wrote back a few days later and again a few days after that, I decided to send him a quick note explaining why I wasn’t into him.

“You seem cool and, I won’t lie, you’re hot. But I’m looking for a lot more than casual sex. Best of luck finding it with someone else.”

I meant it sincerely, and felt glad that I’d written him rather than letting him keep sending fruitless emails. A few minutes later, I saw that I had another message from him.

” I don’t need your luck, stank bitch. PS: Lose 10 pounds.”

I tried not to take the message to heart—this guy was obviously pissed. I tried to take the high road and just delete his message without responding. But a few minutes later, I found my stomach churning with anger. I reported him to the website’s administrator.

This whole incident got me thinking: Why, when someone rejects us, is anger often the first emotion we feel?

Now, I am as guilty of this as the next person. When someone breaks up with me, my first instinct is to meet my friends for drinks, tell them all the crappy things I know about him, and feel reassured that I haven’t lost something great because they tell me he’s an a**hole. I pay no attention to the fact that I’m waging a PR war against someone whom, in most cases, they’ve never even met.

I even felt this instinct with my last long-term boyfriend when he sat me down to tell me that he didn’t think things were working out after more than three years together. Through my tears, I screamed a torrent of insults at him — some of them real, most of them exaggerated — and told him he’d done me a favor by breaking up with me. I unleashed a few real low blows.

And I’ve heard tons of other people have this reaction as well. My best friend, six months later, still refers to a friend of mine who stopped calling her after two dates as “f**ker.”

I even remember taking mental note of this phenomenon on that MTV show “Next.” Two people would be getting along, the nexter totally vibing with the nextee. But as soon as the word “next” was uttered, it became a flurry of expletives as the person walked back to the bus. The insults were usually focused on the person’s appearance, since that was really all the rejected had to go on. Just like Square Jaw.

It pisses us the heck off when someone rejects us. But why? I think it’s because the other person’s vision of us just doesn’t mesh with our own self-image, in which we are awesome. Deep down we’re scared that the other person is right and that we aren’t as amazing as we think.

So we go on the offensive.

Square Jaw is obviously a little disturbed to lash out at some woman on the internet just because she wouldn’t agree to bone him after a three-sentence email. But this interaction reminded me how ugly a response anger is to rejection.

There are so many reasons a person rejects another. They could be looking for a different kind of commitment. They could be looking for someone who’s more social, more of a homebody, more passionate, more realistic, taller, shorter, snarkier, more earnest — the list is infinite. They could just not be feeling that unexplainable something. Getting dumped can seem personal, but I’m starting to learn that it really isn’t. Hey, remember Tall Guy who broke up with me because I dress well and make direct eye contact?

I’m realizing that, for two people to last, the stars have to align on a whole lot of freaking levels. And that just doesn’t happen all that often. So when it doesn’t happen, I am going to see it for what it is. Not that the other person is evil—that we’re just not each other’s green zebra. And when I do find a match, I’m going to appreciate it more than I ever have before because I recognize how rare it is.

Which brings me to Brown Eyes. You guys are probably wondering what I decided to do there. After reading your comments last week, I realized that you were right and that I really had nothing to lose. So I asked him if he’d like to get burgers and go to a comedy show with me tomorrow night. He said he’d love to.

I’ll let you know how it goes next week.

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