The Art Of Relating

With Christine Kniffin. LCSW, Therapist & Relationship Coach

Anything But Rejection!

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Have you ever taken the time to sit down and think about the insane lengths we sometimes go to in order to avoid rejection? The thought of doing anything, often felt only on an unconscious level, that could possibly create havoc in the relationship is avoided at all costs so your partner will not leave, hence rejecting you. This feeling of rejection is so painful for some people that they will avoid it at any price. Fear of rejection, when we get into a relationship, unfortunately can often get twisted around and eventually morphed into “I need you”. When working with clients, I frequently encourage them to adopt the mantra, “I want a relationship, I don’t need a relationship”. I had a client recently tell me that she had finally been set free. For the first time she truly felt that she did not need the guy she was currently seeing. She never sat around needing a relationship per say. However, once she started a relationship that dreaded pattern emerged of feeling as if she needed it, the point that it caused incredible inner emotional turmoil at even the thought of it ending, let alone it actually doing so. Fear of rejection keeps us from being able to experience full emotional intimacy and it drives our relationship behaviors in fairly predictable, negative ways. We are not fully honest about how we really feel, we don’t set the proper boundaries in order to take care of ourselves and we don’t leave soon enough once we realize that this person can’t possibly meet our needs.

If we are too afraid of rejection to state how we honestly feel about things, then we are in essence keeping the relationship from growing. If you get two people together who have difficulty with fully honest expression, this is when you tend to see a lot of those one or two year relationships that never quite get off the ground. A wise therapist told me many years ago, “A relationship that can’t grow can’t last”. The goal of any relationship is to create an atmosphere where each person feels absolutely comfortable saying exactly how they feel. This is honesty and this is what real emotional intimacy is all about. It is essential that you get together with someone that makes if feel safer and more comfortable to express yourself if you truly want to feel the experience of ultimate intimacy. When you are fully yourself and he or she sticks around, this is when you feel accepted for who you are. And, when this happens this is when you feel loved.

Fear of rejection also keeps us from setting the proper boundaries to take care of ourselves in the relationship. Have you ever found yourself just going along with most things that the other person wants to do, but not really considering what you actually want to do? This is one of those out-of-balance dynamics that happens in relationships that has a fairly predictable outcome. One day you will wake up, so to speak, and decide that you are tired of just going along for the sake of being together. Or, you may know that you want to do other things, but just aren’t speaking up. This is the stuff of boundaries. I can’t begin to tell you how many times during couples counseling I have heard a client say something such as : “We always do what you want”, “We always go to the restaurant you like” or “We always go where you want to go on vacation”. When we don’t set the proper boundaries we end up with relationship dynamics that are out of balance. Things can’t stay lopsided forever. They will invariably come back to haunt you if they are out-of-balance and not corrected.
Finally, fear of rejection keeps us from leaving relationships that can’t meet our needs, because somehow we must feel that we need this particular person and this particular relationship. The longer that we stay when we know we shouldn’t, the greater the pain and emotional struggle we will endure when it ends. We look back at all the signs and problems that should have alerted us and now do a real “beat up number” on ourselves for having been so stupid and such a sucker. Can anyone out there relate to this? Wow, I sure can. Once we come to realize that we don’t need him or her, on an emotional level rather than just an intellectual level, the shackles are finally broken and we can move forward more rapidly as we no longer fear the rejection. We can stop wasting so much time in relationships that simply aren’t working. I always like to say that the reason we don’t have great relationships is that we are wasting too much time on the ones that aren’t working, rather than moving forward with the ones that can work.

Take some time and ask yourself if you may have been suffering from a fear of rejection when entering into many of your previous relationships. Think about whether or not you have experienced some of the negative consequences mentioned above. If so, concentrate on doing the things necessary to fight back. For starters, push yourself past your comfort zone and begin to speak up. Start trying to be as honest as possible with your true feelings. Even if you have to come back an hour or a day later to state your honest feelings it better than not doing it at all. Look for anything that is out of balance in the relationship and work on setting your boundaries in order to bring it back into a workable state before it becomes a problem. Most importantly, stop wasting your time in something that isn’t working because you don’t really need it, despite how you might feel.
Christine Kniffen, LCSW is a therapist and relationship coach. For a free consultation call 314-374-8396.