5 Ways Men Can Handle Rejection Better & Recover From Heartbreak Faster

Photo: Peshkova / Shutterstock
man thinking serious look

Rejection can be painful but there are ways to handle it that make it easier. Many of the men I’ve worked with over the past two decades come to me when they’ve been rejected by a woman and realize they need support to move forward. 

When Bob first started working with me, he had been rejected by Ann, a woman he thought could be “the one." Before he reached out to me, he was drinking alcohol alone most evenings, avoiding others, working extra-long hours and binge-watching TV or hibernating when he wasn’t working. Initially, he felt like a failure and alternated between beating himself up and blaming and judging her

RELATED: 9 Scary Ways Rejection Messes With Your Mind

RELATED: People Who Bounce Back After Being Rejected Have One Psychological Trait In Common

Here are five ways to handle rejection better, so you can learn from the experience and move forward

1. Be compassionate with yourself 

Rejection is not a reflection of your worth as a person. You are not a failure just because this woman chose to leave the relationship (or not start it in the first place). You may feel hurt or disappointed and it’s important to let yourself feel those feelings, but don’t beat yourself up over it. Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with you, put your attention on what’s right.

This concept took a while for Bob to fully own, but after several sessions with me, he recognized that he is not a bad person and he was able to stop his negative self-talk and be kinder to himself. He went from calling himself a loser who would never have a good relationship to believing he was a good, kind, responsible guy and deserving of love. 

Catch yourself when you use the words always (e.g., Women always reject me) or never (e.g., I’ll never have a great relationship that lasts). 

How can you treat yourself with the kindness and compassion that you’d offer a close friend?

RELATED: Why The Fear Of Rejection Is Life-Limiting

2. Have empathy and respect for your ex 

She rejected you and it hurts. Even if she said or did some things that were objectionable, that doesn’t make it ok for you to criticize, blame or judge her. Take the high road. Try to understand her perspective and how she may be feeling. As tempting as it may be to blame her for the rejection or try to make her feel guilty about it, don’t do it! 

You may not like her decision and you may be angry about it. Your challenge is to acknowledge her choice and respect her and her boundaries. Don’t grovel to win her back!  Even if the rejection stings, you don’t need to sting back. No stalking or spying on social media. Treat her with dignity and respect and keep your distance. 

Bob started out feeling upset and angry at his ex-girlfriend, Ann. He blamed her for the breakup and thought things could have been okay if they stayed together. Initially, he didn’t accept the rejection and he tried to get Ann back. He kept track of everything she did on social media. When he was able to understand her perspective better, he realized that she had been unhappy and that she wasn’t willing to settle for an okay relationship.

He stopped blaming Ann and trying to win her back. He stopped following her on social media, accepted that it was over, and was able to be kinder and more respectful when they occasionally spoke to each other.

How can you have empathy and respect for the woman who rejected you?

RELATED: Why People With ADHD Are Terrified Of Rejection — And How To Overcome It

3. Learn from your experience

You could look at this rejection as an awful experience that you want to forget as soon as possible. Don’t do what Bob did at first, numbing himself with alcohol, TV and workaholism and isolating from friends and family.

Take the time to be present with your feelings, to reflect on the experience and learn from it. This does not mean wallowing in negativity and feeling like a victim. Instead, try to be objective about the situation and use this experience as motivation to become your best version of you. 

Part of learning from the experience is taking responsibility for your part in the breakup. Bob realized that since they first started dating almost a year before, he had been the more enthusiastic partner and his ex had just gone along with things. He was the one who came up with ideas of where to go and what to do and he thought she was interested too. However, he didn’t ask her and they had never really had a conversation about what each of them wanted in the relationship. 

Bob was pretty busy with work most weeks and he thought that things were okay with his relationship until at the end Ann told him that he worked too much and she wanted to be with someone who would hang out with her every evening (he worked long hours). They had started with great chemistry, but it turned out that they weren’t that compatible in all the ways that mattered. 

Bob realized that he could have checked in with Ann more before making plans to do things that she didn’t want to do and he could have made the relationship more of a priority. He also realized that the right partner for him would need to accept his work responsibilities and not get upset if he had to work late or travel for work. Bob is now committed to communicating more clearly and to understanding what the other person needs.

So, how can you take responsibility for your part in the rejection and learn from the experience

RELATED: The 7 Reasons Women Physically Reject Men

4. Plan your next chapter

Sometimes guys will jump right into a new relationship after being rejected. Don’t do this! Take time to reflect on what you’ve learned and plan out your next steps. This includes getting clarity about your vision for the future and knowing what you need to make a relationship work. Once you feel confident and clear and you have a plan to move forward, you can get back out there in a conscious, deliberate way. 

You can now be discerning and choose your next partner wisely. The right partner for you needs to be aligned with your vision for the future. Don’t leave your love life to chance and just hope someone great will show up.

When Bob took the time to clarify his vision and relationship requirements, he could see that he and Ann were not that great of a match after all. Part of his vision included taking better care of himself and when he made exercise a priority, he felt healthier and better about himself. Bob felt confident that he could meet someone who really was a good match for him. We worked on putting together a great profile and he approached dating in a new way, seeing himself as the chooser and not focusing in on one woman right away. He met many women, and he was able to gracefully disengage when he saw it was not a match. 

Several months ago, Bob met two very interesting women and he got to know them both before choosing to be exclusive with one woman, who seems like a great match for him. Teresa, Bob’s new girlfriend, also wants a long-term exclusive relationship, they communicate well together, she has a high-powered job and loves to exercise, and they are both excited about the trip they are planning to Tahiti.

Their relationship is still new, but it is much more conscious and they are both choosing each other, so it has a better chance of lasting than Bob’s previous relationship. 

Don’t let your next chapter just happen to you. Make wise choices that are aligned with your vision for the future. Perhaps you need help clarifying your vision and understanding what is really essential for you in the right relationship.

RELATED: 15 Things Women Are Tired Of Hearing From Men They Reject

5. Get support

Don’t be a tough guy and try to get through the rejection without any support. Don’t do what Bob did at first — isolating, drinking and hibernating. Reach out to your friends or family members. Let the people who are close to you know what you are going through and stay connected with your community. If you don’t have a community, seek out groups with shared interests and be willing to ask for help.

Seek professional support from a therapist or coach to help you process and learn from the experience and develop healthy coping strategies for moving forward. A professional can help you understand the situation, work through emotions, build self-confidence, make healthy choices, and move forward with more knowledge and awareness.

When Bob and I worked together, he improved his self-esteem, accepted what happened and let go of his past relationship, gained awareness, made healthier choices…and he’s very happy now.

So instead of sulking, stalking, drinking or hibernating, remember to be compassionate with yourself, have empathy and respect for your ex, learn from your experience of rejection, plan your next chapter and get support.

RELATED: 5 Ways Highly Confident, Strong People Handle Rejection With Grace

Dr. Wendy Lyon is a psychologist, master-certified relationship coach, and best-selling author. She has helped hundreds of singles and couples transform their lives and create loving relationships.