Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Rejection and role reversal

Sometimes situations are far less clear than you think they are. Relationship break-ups are often an interesting example of this. You may think that you are the one who rejected the other person. Yet, you are also the one who tries to win the other person back. Could your current behaviour actually be the result of feeling rejected?? Ultimately, the real question is: Who is rejecting whom?

This question came to my mind after reading a 2016 Psychology Today article: Why it’s so important to get over your ex. PT: “Why do people dwell on past relationships? It might have to do with rejection. Some breakups are mutual, but often they are initiated by one partner (the rejector) and received by the other (the rejectee). Not surprisingly, being the rejectee is often a subjectively worse experience, linked with more depression and a loss of self-esteem. Being rejected is also connected to rumination, or perpetually thinking about an ex-partner (Perilloux & Buss, 2008)”.

This quote looks straightforward but what if the real roles (rejector-rejectee) are reversed to what you believe they are?? Instead of being a rejector, you are actually a rejectee. And instead of being a rejectee, you are actually a rejector. This would actually explain my personal life in two very different situations. And this would also explain my calmness in the first situation, and my mixed emotions in the second situation. Who was rejecting whom??

I now realise that the first rejection was my late response after many years of being rejected myself. I went from a rejectee to a rejector. The other party involved was not able to handle that role reversal. I now realise that the other party’s behaviour may result from being a rejectee now, after years of being a rejector. Given my experience with both situations, I now realise that such role reversal is indeed hard to accept.

I now realise that the second rejection was the exact opposite of the first one. After several years of being a rejector, I ultimately became a rejectee myself. All this new insight makes me even wonder about the real underlying reasons for the second rejection. Nevertheless, this unexpected role reversal felt like losing control and I suppose it is indeed. Losing control is not easy to deal with in case of certain personality structures, including mine.

Being rejected is a difficult experience. I now realise that it has much to do with the classic 5 stages of processing grief (Kübler-Ross model): denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. For a long time you fight to win back the love lost (denial). Then anger, bargaining and depression take over and ultimately acceptance. Latter is the same as giving up on your relationship.

The feeling of rejection must have a close relation with the feeling of betrayal. Else, it’s difficult to understand where this strange need / wish for retaliation and revenge comes from. Perhaps the best retaliation is another role reversal to correct the “erroneous” ending of the earlier break-up.

The above would translate like this:

The human mind indeed works in mysterious ways.

Chicago – Hard Habit to Break (1984) – artistslyrics, video, Wiki-1Wiki-2

I guess I thought you’d be here forever

Another illusion I chose to create

You don’t know what ya got until it’s gone

And I found out a little too late

I was acting as if you were lucky to have me

Doin’ you a favor I hardly knew you were there

But then you were gone and it was all wrong

Had no idea how much I cared

Now being without you

Takes a lot of getting used to

Should learn to live with it

But I don’t want to

Living without you

It’s all a big mistake

Instead of getting easier

It’s the hardest thing to take

I’m addicted to ya babe

You’re a hard habit to break

You found somebody else you had every reason

You know I can’t blame you for runnin’ to him

Two people together but living alone

I was spreading my love too thin

After all of these years

I’m still tryin’ to shake it

Doin’ much better, they say that I just takes time

But deep in the night it’s an endless fight

I can’t get ya out of my mind

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