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Romantic Rejection: The Aftermath and How to Heal

Rejection is one of the most emotionally painful experiences that we face as human beings. We can experience rejection in various settings – in our workplace, being rejected/not chosen for a job opportunity, in the school system, in friend groups, and in romantic relationships. Regardless of how you experience rejection, it is hurtful and it can leave you feeling alone and insecure. Rejection from a romantic partner can undoubtedly be the worst kind of rejection, and if you’ve ever experienced this, you know that it takes time to heal. When we experience romantic rejection, physical changes take place in our body. This occurs because we are wired to be accepted, and when we are not, it is a trauma to our entire being. This article will explore the several changes that occur to the body when romantic rejection is experienced, and things that we can do to heal from the pain.

A shift in hormones is one of the changes in the body that you may experience after romantic rejection. Our brain loves love – our body releases phenethylamine, dopamine, cortisol, and oxytocin when we are in love. These chemicals make us feel happy, but when we experience a break up or rejection thereafter, those love hormones are no longer the primary chemicals in your brain. The shift in these hormones after rejection can be physically and emotionally uncomfortable.

Body aches and pains are another side affect of rejection. Cortisol and adrenaline are released into the body after rejection, and because of this, our muscles swell. Aches and soreness in your muscles can cause physical pain. A helpful way to subside this physical discomfort is to move your body and exercise. Getting physical activity in after a break up will not only alleviate any physical pain you may be experiencing after rejection, but it will also help release feel-good hormones and improve your mood.

Rumination is another change in your body that you can experience after romantic rejection. Rumination occurs in the brain – it is when we overanalyze any given situation and our overthinking is on repeat or overdrive. The brain prioritizes the pain of rejection and that is why it has the tendency to ruminate on the experience. In addition to ruminating, rejection may cause us to lose our “mental map”. This experience is emotionally difficult because it forces us to consider other options that are seemingly less desirable or that we did not care about before. Thinking about these other narratives can also heighten negative thoughts and feelings. We tend to create our plans and life roadmap around our relationships, and if we are rejected, those plans shatter. The next step is to reconcile these losses and integrate a new reality – this is very challenging for many of us. This part of the rejection process can be made easier if you reach out to your trusted supports. Therapy can also be beneficial. Processing your experience and creating new plans with the help of friends and/or a therapist can make the healing process a little easier.

Now that we know that rejection has a physical impact on our brain and body, we now can explore tools that can help us overcome the physical, mental, and emotional pain of rejection. First, recognize if your default reaction is to become more self-critical after a rejection. If this is so, recognize it and stop engaging in it. Then, revive your self-worth by reflecting on all of your strengths and positive qualities. Set an intention at the beginning of each day to give yourself an affirmation based on one of your attributes.

Another helpful tool for overcoming rejection is to surround yourself with people who love and appreciate you. Isolation can be common after rejection, but it’s important to not isolate yourself during this time. Reach out to your closest, most trusted people and get emotional support from them. Assessing areas for change can also be healing. This step may happen a little later in the process, but reflecting on areas for growth or improvement after rejection can be motivating and it can keep you focused on the future.

Any kind of rejection is very painful and difficult to experience. If you are struggling to process or overcome a rejection, therapy may be beneficial for you. Contact Symmetry Counseling to get connected with one of our compassionate clinicians today!


Carolyn Steber’s article, 9 Surprising Changes that Occur in the Body when You Get Rejected, was referenced for this post.

Guy Winch’s article, How to Heal from Rejection: 5 Steps to Soothe the Pain, was also referenced for this post.

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