When you love someone who doesn’t love you back, it leads to two things: pain and more pain. But every love is a lesson to learn. With this form of unrequited love comes the lessons of loving, letting go, and moving on.
Loving someone who doesn’t love you back
So what happens when you give into the feeling and fall for someone who can’t reciprocate your feelings?
#1 Oh no, it’s not happening. At first, there’s the denial. Of course, you believe the love you feel will be returned. In your rose-colored vision, there really is no such thing. So you convince others—and yourself—that the apple of your eye will eventually notice you. Then they’ll fall for you, ride into the sunset, and live happily ever after.
Despite all the pep talks, deep in your core you know it will never be. You ask them to hang out, and they say they have other plans. You send them the wittiest, funniest joke via instant message and all you get is the indifferent seen-zone. Worse, just when you feel like the turning moment finally comes for them to return your affections, you see them with another person. [Read:How to Stay Connected during Self-Isolation & Keep Your Sanity]
#2 Just friends. There’s nothing as heartbreaking as being close to someone, but you only go so far. No matter how nice they are to you and appreciate all you do in their eyes *and in the way they fidget in front of your favors* you will always and forever be nothing more than “just friends.” Even to them, watching you is painful as you go to all lengths, showering them with affection they never asked for.
You wear your heart on your sleeve, yet they might be totally oblivious as they have their own eyes set on someone else. [Read: How to Read the Signs You’re Being Stashed in Your Relationship]
#3 Floor, meet your heart. Yes. When you love someone who doesn’t—and couldn’t—love you back, it feels like you’ve just given your heart to someone and seen them trample it. It’s painful, alright.
It feels as though your world is falling apart, and every fiber of your being torn to shreds along with it. Pain, despair, and loneliness overcome you. You find yourself wallowing in bed on a Saturday night, watching sad movies, and stuffing your face with all the comfort food you find. And yes, you cry (a lot!) because you have loved like you have never loved anyone. Yet you are on the losing side of that love for the person who doesn’t love you back. [Read: He’s Not Ready for a Relationship Right Now: Should I Wait or Walk?]
#4 Face the music. After the tears fall and the gloom lifts, you have to face the truth—you two are just not meant to be. One day you’ll meet the person they love, the person you’d have given anything to be.
You may even try to pry them apart, but your efforts prove futile. So let’s just be honest: the person you love really just doesn’t love you back. And they are in love with someone else.
#5 Someday, someone. The wounds cut deep, but in time you’ll eventually heal. Though looking back wistfully to how you were and remembering that person brings an all-too-familiar tug at your heart strings. But with time, the pain finally disappears.
When that time comes, you’ll be open to meet someone else—and you’ll fall again. This time, though, things will be different. You will love someone and, at last, that someone loves you back. Your love will be way more than you ever thought you could love and be loved.
How to deal: Moving on from unrequited love
Come on. It’s not rocket science. Sometimes, no matter how badly we want it and think we deserve it, some things just don’t add up. Things don’t happen the way we want or hope they would. The person we love so much just doesn’t love us back. Tough luck, but that’s life—and love.
And love can suck big time.
Now that you have a reality check on what will happen when you fall for someone who doesn’t love you back, how do you move on? While the things above remain easier said than done, the real work comes in knowing when to give up and start to move on. [Read: How to Read the Signs You’re Being Stashed in Your Relationship]
Here are some tips to help you get started, to overcome the pain of loving someone who doesn’t love you back.
#1 Acceptance. While your mind and heart remain at odds with each other, give yourself time to accept the way things are. Reality is a hard pill to swallow, but that’s the only way if you want to heal and move on with your life.
#2 Be kind to yourself. Don’t give yourself hell for not being loved. Don’t blame yourself or your shortcomings—everyone has them. It’s not a matter of you not being enough for that person. Just be kind to yourself and allow yourself time to heal.
#3 Grieve if you must. It’s hard to move on without shedding tears, even figuratively speaking. Realizing the one you love doesn’t share the same feelings is like losing someone in a relationship. Even if yours is actually one-sided. Just process all the many emotions coming at you.
#4 You deserve better. Even if you think this person is the only one you could ever love. And you believe with all your heart you won’t find anyone nearly as great as them, you’re wrong. There will be someone out there who will love you the way you deserve to be loved, even more.
#5 Get out there. Failing in love one time shouldn’t be reason to shut yourself out from the world, or from the possibility of being loved by someone else. And even if you are not looking for someone to fill the void of that lost love, going out and socializing helps heal.
Find yourself a new hobby and meet new people, reconnect with friends, and just enjoy the company of others.
#6 Focus on YOU. Create goals and focus all your energy on accomplishing them. Whether it’s about giving yourself a health and fitness makeover, traveling to different places, or moving up the career ladder, setting personal goals helps take your mind off negativity and gear you up for a more positive and productive life. What’s more—the exhilaration of checking off your to-do lists makes you feel good and increases your confidence. [Read: How to Avoid a Covidivorce: Keep Your Relationship Going Strong]
#7 Open yourself up. Just because you’ve been burned once, your love life isn’t doomed. Don’t put pressure on yourself to find a replacement, but keep yourself open to dating opportunities. You can even prefer to be single, but when someone comes knocking, by all means, let them in. Who knows, the right person for you may just be right around the corner.
Loving someone who doesn’t love you back is brutal, and falling for someone who doesn’t share the same feelings as you can be devastating. Instead of fixating on the so-called “love of your life” and chasing after someone who may be in love with someone else, pour all your energy into more worthwhile things.
It’s better to let go of something not really yours in the first place than to watch the world pass you by, dwelling on a love that could never be. Once you take the time to heal, you find out life is still beautiful. And it has someone in store for you when you open yourself up to loving again.
Loving someone who doesn’t love you back sucks. However, it’s not the end of the world. Learning to let go is, in fact, only the beginning of something better. So make the choice to let go of unrequited love and pour the love on yourself instead.