SGR 011 | Micro Rejection: The Silent Relationship Killer
You are mid-conversation planning your next weekend getaway and your partner is telling you about a great new restaurant that he would like to check out. Without even realizing it, you grab your phone, open Instagram, and start scrolling.
Your intention was probably to find the restaurant’s account, but before you get there you start scrolling.
Scrolling through babies, vacations, meals, gym selfies….
“What were we talking about again?”
How do you think your partner is feeling right now?
Is he grabbing for his phone too?
You may not think of this as a rejection - but it is.
This type of rejection is not done with the intention of making your partner feel dismissed or ignored, but it does.
These small, frequent, and toxic micro rejections have a negative compounding impact over time. They are often mindless and could (almost) coast under the radar. You may be familiar with some of these:
>> You grab your phone to quickly respond to a text while speaking with your partner.
>> Your partner checks his email as you’re trying to debrief him about your day.
>> You come in from work to see the back of your partner’s iPhone, rather than a six-second kiss.
Seeing a pattern?
Though not your intention, the message these scenarios send out is: I’m choosing my phone over you. I’m choosing social media over you. This is more important to me.
This type of micro rejection tends to become two-sided. We feel unimportant as our partner’s eyes are glued to his phone, so we pick up ours. Tit for tat. This causes a destructive and disconnected pattern in a relationship, which can make it feel unsafe to have vulnerable conversations that require us both to be truly present.
This destructive pattern can, with a little mindfulness and consistency, be broken and you and your partner can feel more present and connected.
This week, we’re talking about:
- How to detect micro rejection
- What causes micro rejection
- How micro rejection impacts your relationships
- How to prevent micro rejection
- How to reset this pattern in your relationship
We’ve also got a practical and powerful bonus for you - Top 10 Tips for Preventing Micro Rejection - to help you curb this destructive pattern in your relationship, be more mindful or your social media and cellphone use, and be more present and connected with your partner.
Short on time? Here’s a list of today’s topics and when to listen:
- What is micro rejection? - 1:54
- What causes micro rejection? - 3:25
- How micro rejection impacts your relationship- 11:34
- How to prevent micro rejection - 15:32
- What to do if this is the pattern you’re seeing in your relationship - 19:28
- Meredith + Marina’s Takeaways - 23:17
Meredith: Hey there, and welcome to episode eleven of the Simply Great Relationships podcast. We’re so glad you could join us today. I’m Meredith Silversmith, and this is Marina Voron, and today, we are talking about “Micro Rejection.” So we’re gonna be covering what is micro rejection if you don’t already know, what causes it, how it impacts your relationship, how to prevent it, and what to do if this is the pattern you’re seeing in your relationship. So make sure you stay with us ‘til the very end because we’ve got a great bonus for you and we’ll tell you how to get it. So, Marina, what is “Micro Rejection”?
Marina: I’m glad you asked! So, micro rejection is, basically, sometimes when we think about rejection, we think about pretty covert, overt rejection. So like your partner approaches you for sex, and you say no and you feel really rejected. A micro rejection is a really small rejection that’s really subtle, and unless you pay attention to it, you don’t know that you’re actually doing it kinda like what you’re doing right now.
Meredith: Obviously, I wasn’t doing it, but that is a micro rejection.
Marina: Yeah, so a micro rejection is literally like picking up the cell phone in the middle of a conversation where you’re not really overtly rejecting your partner, and it’s not even super intentional. It’s almost like habitual. But it is internalized as rejection because to your partner, it’s like, “Well, obviously, for a second, your phone was more important than me.”
Marina: And that does feel very rejecting, and people will not always be able to label that as rejection, but they will label it as frustration, as dismissal, as a lack of respect, as just something that’s not kind.
Meredith: Yeah, definitely. And I think what’s really important is keeping in mind what causes it because I think, the majority of the times this happens, it’s not intentional. Like you said, it can be just a habitual thing. So, some of the things that I know to cause it or just having a hectic life. I know we both have very busy schedules and lives and so do our husbands but between work and managing your home and children, things like that, there’s so much to do in a day that you’re just trying to cram it all in and get things done so you can get to the end of the day, or you can relax but if you just got home from work, and you’re seeing, you know, you’re running into each other for the first time of the day and the first thing you see is that back of your spouses phone, it doesn’t really make you feel very important.
Marina: Yeah and it’s really hard because the notifications never stop, right? At least I know for the both of us, that’s very much the truth like the notifications, the emails, never stop. And it’s so tempting to just pick that phone up. But yeah, that’s not a good feeling. The other one, it’s pretty obvious, and I think I’m definitely guilty. I’ll take ownership here, is our cultural obsession with social media but like our personal obsession with social media and this concept of scanning to see what your friends are doing, what better thing there is out there, and always comparing your “in real life” situation to whatever someone’s doing on social media, and it’s almost like “This is zone out” like, I know when I go into that mode, it’s almost like eyes glaze over. I’m like scanning like a zombie and I know it’s not real, but I think that’s a big culprit and I’d say Instagram’s kinda like my guilty pleasure with that, but it’s not even a pleasure.
Meredith: Yeah, definitely. I could own then see I’m a bit guilty as well. I get sucked in, and then I’m just oblivious to what’s going on around me so. You know, I think, another cause, and this is maybe a bit further down the line beyond these sort of habitual things that we’ve been talking about, is not feeling important to your partner. So if I have had the experience over the past three months of my partner, you know, seeing the back of their phone or seeing them on social media when I’m around, I might start to feel like I’m not important to them. And then, in turn, I may start to sort of act in ways to communicate that back. So I may choose to de-prioritize my partner and pick up my phone or choose to not respond when they say “Hey, what do you want for dinner” or “Hey, come look at this.” It can be a way of communicating sort of this underlying feeling of not feeling important or valued.
Marina: Yeah and I think just to add on to that, it’s also like not having enough of those positive interactions like how many couples come in and sit on the couch and watch something there only half paying attention to and then they’re on their phones and there isn’t enough positive interactions and there’s almost like a pattern of doing this sort of activity and it doesn’t feel good but because there is a lack of overall positive interactions, it’s almost like I’d rather put no effort into this than put a little effort into a much more meaningful and positive interaction.
Meredith: Yeah, absolutely. And there’s sort of roles into the experience of taking your partner for granted, right? So, sort of moving down the spectrum of how this progresses. If you’re taking your partner for granted and you feel like they’re always gonna be there and you’re really busy right now, this day, this week, this month, this season, whatever. You can make up for it later. You know, “Don’t worry about it. It’s just right now; it’s just temporary”. Sometimes that’s true, but unfortunately, because the things that distract us are so habitual, they become ingrained in our behavior and they become, you know, It’s not just me as an individual, living in a bubble checking my phone. It’s me doing that for a period of time with consistency, my partner being affected by that then creating their own behaviors as a result which feedback to me and now it’s a habit, and now it’s a dynamic in our relationship. So the idea of feeling that you can make up for it or to fix it later, late never comes. Now, it’s the norm, and that’s the ultimate, you know, down the line that’s the cause.
Marina: Yeah and I almost think like you can see that in even smaller ways with couples who like “Save the good times for Friday night or the weekend or the holiday” and it’s like “Well, we’re so busy during the week. We’re not gonna have a good time anyways. We’re not gonna communicate anyways”. So it’s like, “If I can’t have my date night, I might as well be on my phone” or “I might as well not really pay attention to what my partner's saying” and send out these little micro rejections. But you know, life is not gonna get less busy.
Marina: Life is not gonna get less hectic, and you can’t live your relationship two weekend days at a time.
Meredith: No. And that’s so sad because as you’re describing that, I suspect you probably feel the same way, Tom and I don’t do that. You know, we really like, we have fun pretty much every day. It’s not necessarily the most fun thing. We’re going out to dinner; we’re going out to a movie. But you know, even if we’re cooking together or folding laundry together, watching a show together, those are things that are fun, you know, we make them fun.
Marina: Yeah, exactly. And I mean, I’ll say this. George and I are a little guilty of falling into that trap of sitting at opposite ends of the couch on our social media and having these kind of really artificial and micro rejecting conversations when we’re both really stressed out and that’s something that we’ve been really working on in our relationship to like when we’re stressed out, that does not reduce our stress, that actually makes us feel worse. It’s just the easy thing to do. The easy thing to do is rarely the productive and produces the results you want things to do. So we’ve been really actively working on that especially at times when the stress is really high to be very aware of like on a Tuesday night, taking our dog for a walk or watching a funny movie together but actually paying attention and having our cell phones away or playing a game or going to the park so that we’re not getting caught in this trap because I think it’s so easy to make it a pattern. Like you have three consecutive days in a row, and you come home, and you veg on the couch and instead of talking, you’re on the phone, and your partner tries to interact with you, and you barely look up and go “Huh.” Of course, your partner is not gonna wanna continue the conversation. So that’s something we’ve been working on, and we’ve been very diligent with that but you know, it’s a work in progress, and I think that learning that this is what we were doing to each other because we knew it felt bad was like a really big step for us.
Meredith: That’s great! Definitely. So how do you, I mean how it impacts the relationship, right? When you have these micro rejections going on over and over, over time. Basically, it makes your partner feel rejected, right? But it’s so subtle and covert that you almost can’t put your finger on it. That’s how I typically hear it from couples. Like, “I know something feels off, I’m not happy, I don’t feel good” they might say “I don’t feel loved” or “I don’t feel important but I just can’t put my finger on why.”
Marina: Yeah and I hear it as like “Oh, he’s so rude!”.
Meredith: Mhmm. “Disrespectful.”
Marina: When really… And you know, this is where, going back to episode one, communication. This is where you’re doing all the don’ts, right? Like, “You. You’re doing this; you’re making me…” instead of kind of identifying your own feeling and being able to communicate it. And it’s almost like “I don’t wanna give people a free pass here” but it’s really hard to always connect those dots of like “This action is actually making me feel rejected” but when you start to pay attention, it’s a really good question to ask yourself “When my partner picks up the phone when I’m telling them something, especially when I’m telling them something important, is the feeling that I’m getting, he’s so rude? Or is the feeling that I’m getting is like I’m rejected right now?”
Marina: In that way, it’s not as obvious, but it’s definitely there. It’s definitely rejected, and it’s like the more you feel rejected or, the more your partner feels rejected, the more you internalize that the phone is more important than you. And the more you feel devalued, the more you feel like “I wanna protect myself. I don’t wanna approach my partner as much because that was really hard for me when I try to have this important emotional conversation with my partner and they whipped out the phone in the middle to check what somebody from high school was posting on Instagram”, right? It’s like saying “I was vulnerable in that moment and you made me feel like my vulnerability was less important than what somebody posted.”
Meredith: Yeah, for sure! And, you know, it creates a lot of frustration because especially when you can’t put a finger on something and you can’t quite say like “Well, this is why I feel the way I feel.” That’s frustrating in and of itself. And for it to keep happening, it creates frustration, it creates distance, and it leads to both people doing it. You know, “If you’re gonna do it to me, I’m gonna do it back to you. If you don’t take what I have to say as important, then I’m not gonna take what you have to say as important” and it kind of starts the spiral in a negative direction.
Marina: Yeah and it’s a two-way street. It’s really like I’ve never seen a relationship where it’s one person who’s completely doing the right thing and one person who’s constantly doing this. It becomes a pattern where you start doing this to each other, and in a way, that’s contempt, right? Like in a way, that’s saying “I intentionally want to make you feel bad.”
Marina: “I intentionally want to make you feel unimportant.” And our big question is always “Is that how you want to feel in your relationship?”.
Meredith: Not for me!
Marina: Not for me either! That’s the complete opposite of why we’re in relationships and how we want to feel.
Meredith: Yeah! Absolutely! So you’re maybe listening to this and saying “Oh boy, this is me, or this is my spouse” so we wanna give you tips, right? Or you may be listening to it. Hey, I hope you are listening to it and saying “That’s not us! We’re doing everything right!” that’s fantastic! So if that’s you, we wanted to give you some ways to prevent it. So to prevent it from happening at all or to prevent it from escalating further from where it is. So one of the biggest ways to do this is by implementing rituals of connection. We will talk about these all the time forever because they’re some of the most powerful ways to create positive energy and feelings in your relationship. So if you haven’t already listened to episode two, go back, listen to episode two on rituals of connection. There’s a really good bonus with that one that has a suggested list of rituals that you can do so definitely pop back there.
Marina: I’ll add a little caveat to that list. All the things of that list are cell phone free. They are “Put your cell phone on the side” type of ritual.
Marina: So, another really, really great tip is just to be aware of turning towards each other and this is a concept that I love so much that when your partner puts a bid out there and a bid is just like a little small call for connection or attention, to always be aware of that and turning towards each other and paying attention to your partner’s bids is not saying yes to them. It’s not like, “Hey, babe. Can you get me a coffee” and the response it has to be yes for it to be acknowledged. It’s more like “Hey, yeah sure. I want a coffee also”, right? It’s just acknowledging that your partner’s trying to connect with you in that moment. And it’s an attempt to share your inner role with each other, and again, there’s some vulnerability in that and when you know that if you’re gonna approach your partner and you’re gonna make a little bid for connection that the likely, like 99% of the time, or even less like 80% of the time or 85% of the time, your partner’s gonna say “Hey, I’m right here”. That brings a lot of security and trust into your relationship as opposed to when you say “Hey, babe. I’m right here.” and you get (picks up phone).
Meredith: Yeah. That’s very triggering for me. That’s definitely one that is not fun. And I mean, I even break it down as small as like “Hey, babe.”, “Yeah?”. Like, just that!
Meredith: Because that’s turning towards, right? If your partner calls you and says “Hey, you” whatever you guys call each other, just say “Yeah?”, “ What?”, “What’s going on?”, you know, respond! And it sounds so silly, but if you start to pay attention, you’d be shocked at how often we all sort of miss those moments because we’re involved in something else.
Marina: Sure! And I just wanna add on to that, “Yeah” is not “Yeah.” I always tell my couples that “Yeah” should come with a little eye contact. Not a ton but just at least look at the person then acknowledge that you’re talking to them because sometimes, this “Yeah” gets a little lost in translation. Put the phone down, look at your partner, show them “You’re present and I’m present here in the same moment.”
Meredith: Mhmm! Definitely! So, if you are listening to this and you feel like this is all happening in your relationship and what do I do, we have covered. We’re gonna talk about it right now. So, the first step is to identify it for yourself, right? So, not pointing fingers at your partner, looking at yourself, looking at your own behavior and say “Okay, what am I doing? When am I doing this? And what am I doing?”. It’s probably around the phone or laptop. For some reason, electronics, right? I don’t know how many of us are like deeply engrossed in a book at ignoring our partner even if we are a reader. So, pay attention to when it happens and ask yourself “What am I doing?”. So if you’re reaching for your phone or something else in the middle of a conversation or you’re engrossed in something when your partner’s trying to reach out to you, ask yourself “What am I feeling right now?” because there are some different possibilities. “Am I feeling overwhelmed? Do I feel like I need to get out of this conversation or avoid it in some way? Am I feeling triggered by something in this conversation? Am I feeling triggered by just my partner’s presence?” because sometimes, that can happen. You feel bored; you feel rejected, you know. Ask yourself those questions to try to develop some awareness around what’s creating the action and then afterwards, ask yourself how did you feel after you disengaged. Was it relieving? Was it stressful? Was it comforting? Was it rewarding? What did that accomplish for you? Because if you can get a better understanding of what it’s doing for you, we can sort of find an alternate way of achieving that same goal.
Marina: Yeah because like this action has some sort of gain. We wouldn’t all be going to that all the time if it didn’t, and the thing is right now, probably we’re not paying attention. And paying attention and figuring out what we’re getting from that and is that the best way to actually get it is really, really important. The next thing is to identify it and discuss it with your partner to really be able to own it. Again, going back to episode one, going back to communication tip sheet, to be able to own it and to say “I’ve noticed this in myself” and explore what your partner’s experience has been. Give them the platform and discuss it together and discuss what you can do better and maybe also insert an “I’m sorry. This was not my intention to do this." It’s a really, really powerful conversation. I think the more you’re able to own it and discuss it, talk about it, the more you’re aware of not doing it. It doesn’t mean like you never get to go on social media. It doesn’t. That’s not the message we’re trying to send here. It just means that when you’re having partner time and when you’re having meaningful conversation or when you’re engaged in something, you’re not being a jerk and micro rejecting your partner and your partner’s not being a jerk to you and micro rejecting you by doing something that’s kind of trivial, redundant and very FOMO based.
Marina: So, we don’t just want you to listen. We want you to listen and integrate this into your relationship, so we’ve put together our top 10 tips for preventing micro rejection in a PDF for you, and you can get it at www.simplygreatrelationship.com/011.
Meredith: Mhmm! Definitely, go get that! That’s a good one. Definitely a good one. So takeaways. What is your takeaway, Marina?
Marina: My takeaway is that I think that a lot of preventing this or shifting this in your relationship starts with doing that individual questioning of “What am I really getting out of that moment that I disengage from a conversation with my partner and pick up my phone? Because there is some sort of reason why I’m doing it, and it’s really important to identify that.” So my big takeaway is that it needs to start with self-exploration, not finger pointing of like “You always do this! How can you be so disrespectful?”.
Meredith: Mhmm! That’s a good one! I think for me, it’s more the eye contact thing, like the smaller moments because I feel like I’m aware of, the bigger ones but those small moments even when you are responding. So, you’re saying “Yeah?”, “What?”, “What’s up?”, you know? But even if you are still engaged in something else, they could still feel like a micro rejection. I think that’s really significant to keep in mind.
Marina: Yeah because you’re not really like “Yeah” from behind your phone. You’re in eye contact with your phone.
Meredith: Yeah! For sure!
Marina: So, yeah! That’s a really, really good one! So, that’s all for today. We hope that you take these tips and start using them right away. This is really one you can start using right, right, right away. We’d love for you to continue the conversation with us in our Facebook group. We’ll be there to hook you up with more tips, with live streams, with Q&A’s. So, you can find us at www.facebook.com/groups/simplygreatrelationships, or you can click the link on our web page, www.simplygreatrelationships.com. We’ll see you next time!
Marina and Meredith: Bye!