Responses to Relational Dissolution Are Personally Revealing
We often talk about the look of love. Two people locking eyes other across a crowded room. A couple gazing at each other on a first date, oblivious of their surroundings.
If recognizing romantic interest is possible, can we also recognize rejection?
And if we do, how do we respond? Research provides some answers to these questions.
Romantic Great Expectations
Rainer Romero-Canyas and Geraldine Downey, in a study entitled "What I See When I Think It´s About Me," (from 2013) examined how people in high versus low rejection sensitivity (RS) interpreted the facial expressions of potential dating partners´ reactions to their online dating biographical sketch. Results showed that people low in RS gave lower estimates of perceived negativity when they viewed videotaped reactions of people thought to have read their online dating sketch, as opposed to the sketch of someone else.
The authors note this is consistent with the tendency of RS people to confidently expect acceptance, as opposed to their high RS counterparts who tend to anxiously expect rejection. Interestingly, they did not find that RS was related to estimates of positive reactions.
What this means, the authors explained, is that people who are confident about being accepted by potential paramours underestimate negative reactions toward them as opposed to those who expect to be rejected.
They note this is consistent with the fact that interpersonal optimism, likely stemming from prior experiences of acceptance, may influence perception and promote approach behavior that enhances the likelihood of connecting with others.
How Men, Women Respond to Rejection: The Impact of Dominance, Depression
Obviously, every relationship is different, as is the emotional makeup of the parties involved. Although we cannot attribute the findings of scientific studies to every situation, there is some interesting research that is worth considering regarding how some personality traits might impact response to rejection.
Ashleigh J. Kelly et al. (from 2015) found that the reaction of heterosexual men to rejection depends on their degree of social dominance. They found, among other things, that upon experiencing romantic rejection, men higher in social dominance orientation were more likely to blame women, while also reporting having responded to past rejection with manipulation and persistence, as well as with aggression and threats of violence.
With women, research shows that depression might contribute to post-breakup blues. Ashley A. Yttredahl et al. (in 2018) examined romantic rejection in depressed women. They found that women with major depressive disorder were more emotionally sensitive to both rejection and acceptance in a romantic context.
Certainly, these results do not characterize the response of all men and women to romantic rejection. All research should be taken in stride, because everyone is different. Many jilted lovers simply shake it off and move on. This is true even among people who struggle with depression or exhibit behavior consistent with social dominance.
Self-Esteem Softens the Blow
Katherine L. Waller and Tara K. MacDonald (from 2010) studied the impact of initiator status on post-breakup distress, specifically as it relates to trait self-esteem, defined as "the degree to which an individual chronically evaluates him or herself positively."
They found that individuals with low self-esteem were more sensitive to romantic breakups when they were not the instigator, as compared to when they were. Individuals with high self-esteem, on the other hand, did not suffer differently after a relationship ended regardless of who initiated the breakup.
Taking self-esteem to the extreme, someone with delusions of grandiosity might even respond to rejection by questioning the judgment of the rejecter.
"The problem is not me, its you!" They might also adopt a stance of "Your loss."
Rejection and Resilience
Rejection is not necessarily a reflection of personal failures or flaws, but might simply be a relational mismatch. Incompatibility does not mean you will never meet the right person, it only means that currently, you are with a partner who is not right for you.
Life is short; seek to spend it with loved ones who clearly reciprocate the sentiment. We often recognize in retrospect that time spent with a less-than-loving partner was time wasted. It was time we could have spent with family, friends, or getting to know alternative prospective paramours — who were clearly interested.
This column was originally published in Psychology Today.
Wendy L. Patrick is a career prosecutor, named the Ronald M. George Public Lawyer of the Year, and recognized by her peers as one of the Top Ten criminal attorneys in San Diego by the San Diego Daily Transcript. She has completed over 150 trials ranging from human trafficking, to domestic violence, to first-degree murder. She is President of the Association of Threat Assessment Professionals San Diego Chapter and an ATAP Certified Threat Manager. Dr. Patrick is a frequent media commentator with over 4,000 appearances including CNN, Fox News Channel, Newsmax, and many others. She is author of "Red Flags" (St. Martin´s Press), and co-author of the revised version of the New York Times bestseller "Reading People" (Random House). On a personal note, Dr. Patrick holds a purple belt in Shorin-Ryu karate, is a concert violinist with the La Jolla Symphony, and plays the electric violin with a rock band. To read more of her reports — Click Here Now.
© 2021 Newsmax. All rights reserved.