When I decided to leave my marriage, I was brimming with optimism that I would find love with someone else. I wanted someone who understood me. It needed to be someone who wanted to spend the summer outside and the winter watching X Factor. The bottom line was that I was looking for someone who was a real match for me. My husband had not been any of those things. We differed on everything from paint samples to where to order pizza from. It made for tough living conditions which eventually broke us apart. Yet, I gave literally no thought to how to handle rejection if it happened along the way to finding Mr Right.

False optimism

I thought it would be easy to find that someone. That marriage had definitely been rushed right into but not with the first man who had asked me. I had never struggled to find someone to spend a Saturday night with. Also, I don’t think that I had ever been dumped in the past. In fact, more than one man who I had dumped turned up on my doorstep begging for a second chance. So, I ignored the warnings from fellow single friends that the dating game had changed and that meeting a partner is not an easy task anymore. Metaphorically speaking, I ploughed straight in. I was confident, cocky almost, that another man would fall at my feet and that I would never need to know how to handle rejection again. I was wrong. Fucking hell, I was wrong.

Reality bites

In the last year or so when I have been dating, I have been rejected more times than I have cooked a proper dinner for one. Sometimes, it has been after one or two dates. That taught me all about modern dating and its pitfalls, such as ghosting. Other times, it’s been before that first date has even happened, which really is totally shit.

It prompts so many different emotions – confusion, anger, frustration, self-doubt and even hurt. I know that I am not alone in sitting there after that WhatsApp message is left on a blue tick wondering what I did wrong or what I could have done differently. Often, this is just scrolling back through those messages to see what different words I could have, or should have, chosen. A pointless exercise I know. But, sometimes a little bit of emotional cutting is just what the doctor ordered when learning about how to handle rejection. I have a suspicion that it is because I won’t resort to sexting or nudes – and maybe that’s what everyone is looking for? Regardless, it’s just not my style.

Offline dating

At the beginning of the year, I deleted the dating apps as I wanted to cut this toxicity out of my life. I relished taking control and blocking these time wasters out of my life. However, it didn’t stop the rejection from creeping in. A friend of a friend proactively contacted me to ask me out – a date was set. Then, he ghosted me too. So, is rejection an inescapable part of life? Well, unless I flush my phone down the toilet but we know that isn’t going to happen.

I did date someone else so far this year too. He was one of the funniest and most fun people I have met in a long time. A true diamond. We met up three times before circumstances just meant that it wasn’t meant to be. So, this time I had to do the rejecting. I hated knowing I was potentially hurting someone. But, I did the decent thing and I explained my reasons as best as I could instead of dragging out the inevitable and making it worse in the long run. It was not fun – it felt like kicking a puppy. But, I had to be cruel to be kind. And I would never ghost someone like that, either.

Ouch

Rejection hurts in a lot of ways, we know this. Whether it’s not getting that dream job or not getting the dream guy, finding out that something or someone you want doesn’t feel the same way is brutal.

The problem is that when it happens in the dating game, particularly before a date even takes place, you don’t know what to pin it to. A job interview may give you constructive feedback on how to improve. Dating doesn’t work in quite the same way.

In lots of dating examples, these douchebags who hurt us don’t even know us – not really. They only know a few words which I have sent in a few hastily tapped out messages or the side of me which I have let them see during a small handful of meet ups. Those people don’t know my story, my soul and how I am now a good person. In my recent dating escapades, only one person has got further beneath the surface of it all. That one hurt too – but more understandably so.

Karma, karma, karma …

Maybe, for me, this is all karma. I have made a lot of mistakes in my past – none of which I am proud of. It’s fair to say that I wasn’t a good partner to my ex. The poor combination we made and the frustrations which I felt in our relationship spilled out in more ways than one. That love which brought us together ultimately turned to resentment and that was the end of that. So, is the world paying me back for all the shit that happened in the years gone by? This is the sum of all of the pointless fights, the selfish behaviour and the lessons which I had to learn myself in the truly hardest of ways?

It would make sense if so. That soon-to-be ex-husband of mine moved on faster than the speed of sound and found someone else. They now share a home, a life, and care of TJ. So, was it me? Ultimately, is my lack of luck in the dating game a punishment for the past? Did I need to go through this process to understand how to handle rejection and learn from it all?

If so, when does it end? When will it stop? Surely I have paid my dues by now. Those lessons have been learned and I know how to move forward and I am a better person for it. If not, why is it happening? Is it really me? Am I destined to be single for, well, not forever but for the foreseeable future?

Single and smiling

Don’t get me wrong – being single is not a bad thing. But, I worry that it defines me and people see desperation where really there is craving for a good laugh and an honest companion. I am living alone for the first time in my life, which has its own pros and cons. Sometimes, it is honestly the best thing ever. Choosing exactly what I want, when I want it and how I want it is living my dream. It is something I really missed when I was in that doomed marriage and I lost my sense of self because of it. But, sometimes, a duvet day is an activity best suited for two.

Single life also gives me the brilliant opportunity to do what makes me happy. To read, write, watch, cook, relax, work out. Basically, all of the things which are pushed out of my life when I am single parenting during the other 50% of my time. But, I am yet to be brave enough to have a coffee in a café on my own or to see a film solo. I haven’t been for a bracing walk on a beautiful winter day alone. Maybe I will work my way up to that. Until then, there’s an inescapable feeling that some aspects of life are passing me by yet there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Only time will tell if this changes.

Either way, rejection is awful. It is part of life, a rubbish and shitty part, but an inevitable one all the same. So, maybe I should just get used to it and, then, finding out how to handle rejection will become clearer. It would appear that I am not finished kissing all of the frogs in order to find my Prince. But, I will keep trying and looking. Bloody hell, I hope it’s a short wait.