Love is a tricky thing. Sometimes, it’s a beautiful emotion you get to experience alongside a significant other. Other times, it’s a horrible reality you come face to face with alone. When you think about love, you probably think of that first feeling — the happy, exciting love you see at the end of a Nicholas Sparks movie. But on the other end of the spectrum, the pain you feel when you love someone you can’t be with is a feeling nobody wants to feel, let alone deal with moving on from it.
Unfortunately, being in love doesn’t always include a happily ever after. There are a ton of reasons you might find yourself in love with someone whom you can't actually enter a relationship with. Maybe you love someone who’s moving away and you can’t do long distance. Maybe you love someone who is with somebody else in a monogamous relationship. Maybe your values and ideals don't match up. Or maybe you love someone who doesn't love you back. So what do you do when you find yourself in love with someone you won’t end up with? What do you do with all of those feelings, and how do you move on?
Cut ties if you can.
It’s in your best interest to stop communication with this person when you realize you can’t be together. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes easier said than done. In a lot of cases, people settle for someone that doesn’t actually love them back for the security that comes with a relationship. Dr. LeslieBeth Wish, a licensed clinical psychotherapist, previously told Elite Daily, "It is not a good decision to settle for 'emotional crumbs.'" She says unfortunately, many people do so “out of fear of being alone or dealing with changes in finances, parenting, homes, and other major changes. But crumbs can never bake the cake of love.” Licensed marriage and family therapist Nicole Richardson agrees. She says, “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, you’re making room for someone you could see a future with.
Accept you can’t turn the feelings off.
At the same time, don’t try to stuff the feelings you have under the carpet. Joshua Klapow, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist and host of The Kurre and Klapow Show, tells Elite Daily, “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. Not being able to love someone you love is like a wound. It must heal in time and scar over.” Klapow says to allow yourself to feel the love you have without taking action on it. Talk to a mental health professional, family member, or friends about your feelings. “Let the feelings of love become not something you tuck away, but rather [something] you are able to talk about. You will discover that they, on average, become less potent if you are able to talk about how you feel over time,” Klapow says.
Focus on strengthening other areas of your life.
Moving on from this person may be really hard for you. Instead of focusing your day-to-day on overcoming this loss (because yes, it is a loss), find 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."
Don’t start swiping right just yet.
It may be tempting, but avoid trying to find the next perfect person right away. Instead, Klapow says to shift your focus inward and ask 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.
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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