It’s no secret: loving someone you can’t have is painful. Whether they’re in a relationship, not interested, or not ready for something serious, unrequited love stings. At the end of the day, they’re unavailable, and there’s nothing you can do about it — except get over them. But in order to stop these feelings, you first need to understand where they come from.
Deep, intense love usually happens down the line in a committed partnership, so if you’re feeling those emotions without the relationship to go with it, there are a few potential causes. "Sometimes we feel unrequited love because the potential partner seems so attractive and valuable to us… Other times, we feel unrequited love because we think an actual relationship might be possible, although not assured," Jeremy Nicholson, M.S.W., Ph.D., doctor of social and personality psychology, wrote for Psychology Today. Being in love with someone you can’t have also might have more to do with you than your crush. "We may feel unreciprocated love simply because we enjoy the feeling,” Nicholson added.
Just like there isn’t one way to fall for someone you can’t be with, there isn’t one method of moving on that works for everyone (that would be too easy). But there are some expert-approved steps you can take to start the process and begin to feel better.
Stop Talking To Your Crush (If Possible)
It’s in your best interest to stop communication with this person when you realize you can’t be together. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. Often, we accept less than we deserve even if it hurts us in the long run. Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, previously told Elite Daily, "It is not a good decision to settle for 'emotional crumbs.'" Continuing to communicate with someone you love but can never have? That’s a good example of a crumb that will never fulfill you. It may be tempting to keep talking, but Wish said that “crumbs can never bake the cake of love,” so you’re better off going without.
Plus, while you’re busy begging for crumbs and keeping yourself stuck in the same disappointing dynamic, you’re missing out on what else is out there. Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist, explains, “It is so much more difficult to get over someone when you have regular contact with them. Even if it isn’t [or] can’t be permanent, getting some time away from the person where there is no contact is a gift to yourself. It will allow you to start closing your heart to them.” With this person out of your life and your texts, you’re making room for someone you could see a future with — and someone who could see a future with you.
Accept That Your Love For Them Won’t Disappear Overnight
At the same time, don’t try to bury your feelings. “The more you try to push away, the more those feelings dig in and pull you back. In order to move on, you must not try to create artificial closure,” Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Elite Daily, “Not being able to love someone you love is like a wound. It must heal in time and scar over.”
You have to let yourself feel your feelings — even when they’re painful. Klapow suggests letting yourself be aware of the love you have for this person without acting on it. You don’t need to confess it to the object of your affection, either. Instead, talk to a mental health professional, family member, or friend about your emotions. “Let the feelings of love become not something you tuck away, but rather [something] you are able to talk about,” Klapow suggests. “You will discover that they, on average, become less potent if you are able to talk about how you feel over time.”
Focus On Other, Non-Romantic Parts Of Life
Moving on from someone you love can be really difficult, especially when you are constantly thinking about how you need to move on. (Spoiler: that actually makes it harder.) Instead of focusing your energy on overcoming this loss (because yes, it is a loss), look for fulfillment in other parts of your life. Klapow says, “It’s important to find a fulfillment substitute that is not a substitute for the person, but rather a substitute for the absence of life fulfillment you may feel.”
Spend time with family and friends, pick up a hobby, engage in physical activity — all of these things will enrich your life in other ways and help you move forward. “The worst thing you can do is sit at home with a bottle of wine and the internet," Richardson says. "Get out of the house and do as many fun, occupying things as possible. This is where your squad can help by going and doing stuff with you to keep your mind off of the person you can’t be with."
Stay Off The Dating Apps
It may be tempting, but avoid trying to find the next “the one” right away. Instead, Klapow recommends shifting your focus inward and asking yourself questions like: What do I need in my life besides another person? How can I feel loved and fulfilled with just me? What do I bring to the table that allows me to feel safe and secure? “These are key areas of focus when you are transitioning out of a state of love,” Klapow says.
Loving someone you can’t have might feel like the end of the world, but there are ways to get past it and mend your broken heart in the process.
Jeremy Nicholson, M.S.W., Ph.D., doctor of social and personality psychology
Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, licensed clinical psychotherapist
Nicole Richardson, licensed marriage and family therapist
Joshua Klapow, Ph.D., clinical psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show
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