There are few things quite as painful and heartbreaking as being in love with someone who doesn’t feel the same way. It’s not an ideal situation, but sometimes it’s the one you’re stuck in and you simply have to find some way to deal with it and save yourself from even more heartache.
Allow yourself to feel the pain. When you’re hurting, it might seem like the best thing to do is to suppress the hell out of your grief, but that’s only going to turn it into something ugly like hate or obsession. Give yourself permission to feel all your feelings because they’re valid. Yes, you love someone, and it’s not like you can suddenly turn off that emotion. Just go on loving them knowing that’s all you can do. Get mad, scream out in confusion and denial, let the sadness roll through you. It’ll make processing things easier for you and eventually, it will start to hurt less.
Use the time to figure out what you really want. Now that the rose-colored lens through which you viewed this person is now clearer, try to see if what you felt was really love or intense infatuation. If you truly loved them, ask yourself why. What was it they brought to your life? Were you trying to use them to fill a void, to feel less lonely? If it’s something that’s more about you than them, you need to do the work on yourself. Love is awesome but it can’t always fix what’s wrong with you.
Give yourself some space. I’m not saying you should move to another city to get away from the stench of your unrequited love, but you need to do what’s best for you. If you’ve been doing a lot of emotional labor for them, maybe consider shedding some of that weight. You don’t have to completely abandon them but you shouldn’t accept more hurt than you can handle. If you spend several hours a day with them, cut down the time. Figure out what best suits your relationship dynamic, run with it, and let yourself heal.
Find a healthy distraction. It’s hard to stop yourself from thinking about someone you’re crazy about or fantasizing about how you could, by some miracle, end up together. We can’t help it; it’s just who we are. What you can do is try to engage in activities that won’t painfully remind you of the love you’ve lost. That means no cheesy romantic movies, songs, and books. The fact that things worked out for those characters doesn’t mean there’s a happy ever after for your unrequited love. Hang out with your friends, travel, go restaurant hopping, try new and exciting things that will cheer you up without bringing unrealistic romantic expectations to the mix.
Pour your passion into something productive. Whenever I’m consumed by a storm of emotions, I just kick back and turn it into creative energy. I write, I draw, I dance. It doesn’t matter whether you’re great at it or producing anything meaningful, just find an activity that steadies your mind. Those strong feelings that come from unrequited love can be a source of inspiration to get things done. Find an activity and just pour your heart out all over it. You’ll feel better, I promise.
Take advantage of your friends’ shoulders. You’re going through a difficult time. Not being loved by the person you love is a cruel thing to deal with, but you don’t have to go through it alone. You need your community now more than ever, and if experiencing unrequited love is not a great excuse to cry excessively and let your friends humor you, then what is? Spend time with the people who love you—it’ll take your mind off the one who doesn’t.
Acknowledge that it wasn’t easy for them either. The hard truth that you must accept is that we don’t get to choose who we love. The same way you didn’t decide to love them, they didn’t decide not to feel the same. It doesn’t mean that they don’t think you’re a great person. Rejection can be hard on the person doing the rejecting too. You have to realize that even though it affects you, it’s not personal. They just can’t force themselves to love you. Sure, it hurts, but you can’t let it define your worth.
Get back out there into the dating circus. You’ve probably heard the saying that there are plenty of fish in the sea and that’s true. There are so many people out there for you to date. It doesn’t have to end up being a serious relationship, it doesn’t even have to lead anywhere. Dating, even casually, can be a fun way to ease yourself into opening up again. You might even meet someone great that you vibe with and get your happy ending.
“The one that got away” is not a thing—get over it. We’re fond of thinking that lost love will leave a scar that we will never be able to erase, but that’s just us romanticizing unrequited love. You’re doomed to a lifetime of being hung up on past love, except you chose to never let go. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. You can keep fixating on your unrequited love and making up futile fantasies of what could have been or you can choose yourself, your whole self over and over. Know that love will find you again, and when it does, what you give will be given back.
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