IMAGINE, after five years of dating your girlfriend, you decide that it is time to marry her.
You want to make the proposal memorable, so you resolve to ask for her hand in marriage — not in private — but at your favourite restaurant, with the crowds savouring the romantic moment.
The big day arrives and you surprise her by popping the famous question: “Will you marry me?” arms stretched and on your knees.
She, however, does the unthinkable, uttering a cold “No” and briskly walks away. You are left scrambling to get up, the crowd snapping pictures of your disjointed state.
When such a public show of affection dramatically falls flat, the results can be catastrophic, even for the strong-hearted. It does not only leave one with egg on the face, but affects one’s mental health and overall wellbeing.
But what motivates people to publicise their marriage proposals, gambling with mental health and staking their wellbeing in the process? Social media in general, and YouTube in particular, has increased pressure on couples to turn their otherwise private and intimate moments into a public spectacle.
It has become a form of competition for people to flaunt their romantic exploits on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and TikTok. Many are motivated by genuinely sharing precious memories, yet others want to show-off, informing all that they are deeply in love.
The manipulative mind also plays a part in prompting men to go public in their quest to win a woman. Many of these, fearing their lovers would reject them, choose to make their proposal in public, in front of a crowd in a bid to prod them to accept their unattractive proposal.
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Society tends to support the coming together of couples in holy matrimony. No wonder one may be subjected to ridicule from friends and family members if they chose to reject a marriage proposal.
Why is public rejection a threat to mental health?
Studies have shown that the emotional pain that one experiences after a failed public marriage proposal is equivalent to unbearable physical pain, with many in the external world experiencing it as a crushing sensation. Different brain imaging techniques revealed that heartbreak activates similar mechanisms in the brain to those activated when we experience physical pain.
A proposal rejection impedes a core human need for love and belonging. Therefore, it is not a surprise that the rejection influences a variety of outcomes and effects, from emotional, cognitive to behavioural. As a result of proposal rejection, one is likely to experience hurt feelings, anger, an increase in anxiety, stress, depression, social isolation, drug and substance misuse, and of course suicidal ideations.
What to do before the proposal and what leads to proposal rejection?
In a relationship, one might not be ready for marriage, and this could be a major factor in a marriage proposal rejection. One way or the other, a marriage proposal is a sweet surprise but there are intense situations when one might be caught off guard. It is imperative to be on the same page with your partner. This can only be successful if you discuss marriage in advance before an elaborative public proposal.
Our social intuitions are powerful but sometimes perilous, when it comes to stepping into the future. A lot of things need to be considered before one says “yes”. One can be in a relationship and not in love.
If a relationship lacks respect and trust, then the marriage proposal becomes a word without character or a mere empty promise. If she accepts out of fear of public space where every bystander will be instinctively encouraging a “yes”, that will be the foundation of an unhappy and calamitous marriage. It is also good to consider the personality of your partner, some introverts do not opt to shout to the world that you are in love and you have taken a step towards marriage. To introverts, a public proposal will be a recipe for rejection.
Taking care of your mental health after a marriage proposal rejection
A rejected proposal does not necessarily mean the end of the relationship, it is just a chapter of the book where someone is not yet ready. Discovering that the two of you have been dreaming of different worlds under different imaginations, apart from seeking psychological services.
Some possible strategies to help one recover
Watch the negative feelings and emotions associated with the rejection because you can never trick the brain. It was not meant in a way to forget, but to suppress. After you have taken a mini-stock of youremotions and feelings, write them down (journaling), pairing them with the different thoughts that are going in line with the emotions, so as to separate bad and good emotions. This helps in using your own emotions and feelings to facilitate positive thoughts.
Lean on your support system
Social support helps one to reconnect with the once-unknown external world while giving one the opportunity to focus on oneself and possible interactions with others. From the support, you receive useful advice that helps your personal growth and recovery process.
Repetitive thinking of the situation contributes to the development of different psychological ailments, like depression, and anxiety, and sometimes can worsen one’s existing conditions. In avoiding rumination, one is encouraged to distract him or herself with activities that will inhibit the flow of negative thoughts and direct the flow of focus on more positive memories.
Practice self-care and create a positive environment
If you can’t change it, why judge yourself now? Focus on yourself and the recovery process. When you are calm, find a better space to communicate with your partner: rejecting your proposal doesn’t mean she doesn’t love you, as explained earlier, there are a variety of reasons that lead to marriage proposal rejection.
Seek mental health services
The purpose of mental healthcare is not to wipe off problematic situations experienced but rather to harness your instinctive power and channel your energy towards the recovery process.
- Bothwell Matewe is a lecturer at Great Zimbabwe University (psychology department), a journalist on psychological matters and a counselling psychology practitioner. He can be contacted on +263783904710 or email address: [email protected]