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11 ways to deal with being in love with someone you can’t have

There are many reasons why we can’t be with someone we love. It could be that they’re already married, or that their parents hate us a la Romeo and Juliet, or it could be because they simply don’t feel the same way about us.

Being around them is oftentimes unbearable because our love for them is so strong yet we can’t express them. Trying to hide our feelings from someone we love is one of the hardest things to do. But we’d rather feel the pain than because just being around them can light up our day.

However, you’re getting tired of it already. You’ve had enough pain from being around them and you want to be tougher and wiser this time around.

It’s been a long time that your world has been revolving around them and you’ve finally decided that it has got to stop. Well, I must say that it’s probably one of the best things you can do for yourself.

To help you get off the roller coaster of unrequited love, here are 10 ways to deal with being in love with someone you can’t have.

I. Process your feelings

1) Allow yourself to feel all the feelings

When we can’t have the object of our affection, most of the time we go deep into denial. We hide our feelings from everyone—even from ourselves!

It just hurts us too much to acknowledge that we’re in pain, to hear that voice telling us that we can’t have them. And most of all we don’t want our friends and family catching on and telling us to stop.

It also leaves us wallowing in shame. Unrequited love tears down our self-esteem, no matter how confident we may think we are. So we play it cool and act like things are perfectly fine. In other words, we don’t want to wake up.

And there’s also this illogical hope that if we try to act as if everything is fine, that everything will end up turning out fine.

Look, it’s totally okay, to be honest with yourself.

If you feel stupid for loving them, don’t deny it to yourself. In fact, say it out loud (probably while you’re in the shower so no one else can hear you). If you feel like crying when you see them together with their SO, go find the nearest toilet and cry. If you feel ugly because they didn’t reply, go tell yourself that.

You’ve been suppressing your love for them, do you really also have to suppress your hurt? If you don’t want others to know, then confide in yourself for now.

Tips:

  • When you feel blue, don’t be afraid to lie down and cry.
  • Write a letter to yourself and make sure you don’t filter a single thought
  • Get rid of negative self-talk. Allow yourself to express freely without judgment.

2) Assess why you like this person

It’s not enough that you acknowledge your feelings, you also have to dig deeper and understand exactly why you like this person so much.

Ask yourself what traits you see in them that make you go head over heels in love with them.

What is it that sets them apart from everyone else? And more importantly, what makes them familiar?

Maybe they’re very similar to your ex who you consider the one who got away and you’re simply projecting your feelings for your ex on them and using them as a substitute.

Or it could be that there is something in their personality—cheer or innocence perhaps—that is missing in your life, which you want to have.

While it’s true that our heart feels our most genuine and sincere emotions, it does make some errors, especially when we’re still young or when we’re in a crisis. For this reason, it is incredibly important that you take a few moments to ask why.

After all, it could be that you simply met someone who reminded you of your childhood—your loving grandpa or your bubbly sister perhaps— and your heart thought you were in love.

Understanding why you feel this way towards someone will help you untangle your emotions for them and, even if it doesn’t get rid of them entirely, makes those feelings easier to deal with.

And if you really just are in love with the kind of person they are, then understanding why you love them can help you know what to look for in a future partner.

Tips:

  • Don’t think too hard. Write down the reasons why you like this person.
  • Imagine other people having these traits and think if you’d feel the same way.
  • Think of the other people in your lives who remind you of them.

3) Ask the hard questions

If they’re available, would you want a relationship with them or would they lose their charm?

Do you have commitment issues?

Is this person truly who you think they are?

It’s time to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and be as truthful to yourself as possible.

Consider the possibility that perhaps it was never about the person but your addiction to the thrill of the chase. See, when someone ignores us or is in any way unavailable, they become that much more alluring or tempting in our eyes.

We begin to lose sight of the fact that they’re just another human beings, and see them as something more. We blind ourselves to their flaws or tell ourselves they’re not really that bad. Being with them becomes the ultimate goal.

It might be hard to admit but some people are better off in our imagination than they are in reality.

Because when this is the case (and it often is) and you actually do end up with them, what is going to happen is that you’ll end up disappointed.

They stop being someone who is ‘out of reach’ the moment you have them, and you’re going to notice all the red flags you’ve been ignoring all this time.

Maybe you’re holding on to this fantasy of them in your head because you don’t want to deal with the challenges of real relationships. Or maybe you keep clinging because you have an addictive personality and that should be the one you should deal with and not necessarily love.

So you see, it’s important that you figure out your own motivations for staying hooked with them. List down hard questions about love and relationships and try to assess who you are. You might be surprised to find out that this infatuation is just the tip of the iceberg.

Tips:

  • If you can, talk to a therapist.
  • Find a trusted friend or family member to give you brutal truths about yourself
  • Read up about your personality type and attachment style

4) Get it off your chest.

Nothing helps more than actually putting things to an end.

There’s nowhere to go when you’re stuck with an unrequited love but out, so that’s where you need to go.

Steel yourself and let them know you want to end things. It might be painful to let go, but if you keep wallowing in your feelings hoping that they’ll be yours one day, you’re only going to regret it when you do manage to break free later.

And to make things worse, there’s a chance that you’ll resent them (and yourself) if you don’t let go of your feelings now.

You might have just met some really lovely people with who you would have had a beautiful future with if only your heart was available.

Because you have spent so much of your time and energy thinking about that one person you never had, you completely failed to see these other people until they too are taken and gone.

So get it done and over with. If you can’t do it today or next month, set a deadline you’re willing to commit to starting your healing.

If you have to confess to the person that you like, then do it. Tell them all the words that you never got to say whether in person or through a letter.

Don’t let the fear of rejection or shame hold you back. That’s not what you’re here for, and it no longer matters now.

No matter how it may go, remind yourself that there’s nothing to be ashamed of when someone doesn’t love you back. It’s quite a normal thing, after all. Do this for yourself and not to convince them to change their minds, not to get any sort of pity that’s left in them.

Their answers might break you but it will be exactly what you needed to hear to know that it’s time to move forward.

And if they’re giving you mixed signals because they want to keep you hooked, then do your best to stay away. You don’t want to be with that kind of person.

Tips:

  • Sort out your feelings and organize your thoughts.
  • Try to write out what you want to tell them, and then read it out loud.
  • When you’re ready, let them know without any expectation.

II. Prioritize yourself again

5) Go back to your life goals

What was your life like before you met them? What kind of life did you envision for yourself?

Try to get your focus back on the things that used to set your soul on fire.

Take a step back and dust off your planner. Do it to give yourself joy and to help yourself get better. Do it so that you will love yourself so fiercely that you won’t crumble simply because someone doesn’t like you back.

Aside from life goals, what were your hobbies?

Maybe you used to draw, sing, fish, crochet, or garden before you spent all your time dreaming about them. Maybe you abandoned a few of your hobbies to pick up their interests so that you have something in common? Go back to doing your own thing!

Those are the things that make you YOU. Don’t forget yourself just for some infatuation.

Look, feelings come and go, and so do the relationships that come with them.

Put too much of yourself into others, and you’re going to be left with a feeling of loss when things end. But what you invest in yourself is yours forever and nobody can ever take that away from you.

Think back on the time you were once deeply in love. How many hours did you spend being with them and crying over them…and then think of where you would have been in life if you put all of that into yourself instead.

Go after your dreams, not after people.

Tips:

  • Review your goals and see how far you’ve come.
  • Add new goals if you want (make sure you include being emotionally strong to the list).
  • Set aside time each day where you focus only on the things you like doing, and have fun.

6) Spoil yourself

Go splurge on some good food even if you’re on a diet. Take a long, steamy shower and then binge-watch your favorite TV show.

Treat yourself like a baby that needs all the love and nurturing they can get…because, at this point in your life, you do!

Unrequited love sucks, but to tell you the truth: it’s nothing special.

Go stand in the middle of a park and look around you—everyone you see will or have had feelings for someone they couldn’t have at some point in their lives. And yes, that includes the happy couples you see walking around with their kids in tow.

It might seem hard to see yourself falling for someone else, not with you so madly in love with that one person right now, but the time will come when you’ll find the right person for you.

So don’t fall into despair. Indulge in life. No hurt is ever going to go away in an instant but the more you wrap yourself with positivity, the less the heartache will burden you.

Tips:

  • Even something as playing music a little louder than usual help.
  • If you don’t have the money to burn, go binge on the TV instead.
  • Avoid rom-coms and love songs for now.

7) Reach out and ask for support

When people get heartbroken, the first thing most people do is to shut themselves off and become distant. They’re hurt, they want to hurt, and they’ll start pushing people away—even their friends who are more than willing to do their best to help them in any way they can.

But you don’t have to fight your battles alone. And you shouldn’t!

Having someone to offer you their support, or even just lend an open ear, would go a long way to helping you endure the worst of the hurt and help you heal.

And if you can’t trust your friends to be objective, or keep their lips shut, and fear that they’ll just make things worse, then you can always go to a therapist.

It might sound like a petty thing to burden a therapist with, but helping people work through emotional wounds and heal is what they’re trained to do.

And unrequited love, when it’s gotten to the point where you’re distraught and can’t easily think of anything else, definitely is an open wound. If you ignore it, it’s going to leave deep scars that might hurt your relationships with people in the future…which will need a therapist’s attention to heal (and it will take a much longer time to heal).

Whether you should choose to confide in friends, family, or a therapist is a decision that is entirely up to your judgment and the depth of your wallet. But whatever you may choose, it’s going to be better than shutting off and riding through the hurt all by yourself.

Tips:

  • Share, but only those you’re comfortable sharing.
  • If you can’t bring yourself to speak, a hug will work.
  • Surround yourself with positive, funny, graceful people.

III. Protect yourself

8) Set boundaries and be consistent

Sometimes, the very people that you know can’t ever be yours will, for some reason, insist on looking for ways to get closer to you. Sometimes it’s because they genuinely want to become friends with you. Sometimes, they know how you feel and are doing it to tease you (there are some people who just want to get validation that they’re attractive).

Whatever their motivations maybe, you need to draw the line. It’s hurting you and your main concern should be taking care of yourself.

If they’re trying to be friendly towards you, then try to be polite, but also try to find an opportunity to tell them about how you feel and set clear boundaries as you see fit.

If you’re fine with talking about your hobbies, but are uncomfortable with them placing a hand on your shoulder, then say so. Just because you can’t be with them doesn’t mean they can’t be a good friend. You might have to take time to yourself to sort your emotions through, but it might just be worth it.

On the other hand, if they’re clearly trying to tease you or hurt you, then tell them exactly what they’re doing and that you won’t be having any of it. And don’t play cool, or try to play their game right back at them—the moment you see them, leave for your own good.

And of course, make sure you’re consistent. Avoid telling yourself things like “maybe just this once…” or “just for today” and letting them break the boundary. At least, until you’re ready and being close to them no longer hurts you. By that time, you will have moved on.

9) Slap yourself when you get dreamy

Sometimes you just can’t help but feel all warm inside and suddenly want to gush on and on about them and how good they are. Never mind that they can’t ever be yours—that’s the last thing on your mind!

When you catch yourself acting like this, slap yourself and tell yourself to stop it.

Okay, so you’re in love and it’s perfectly normal for people who are in love to talk about the person that their heart is beating for. Normally, there wouldn’t be an issue with that.

But the thing with gushing and getting all starry-eyed and dreamy is that it’s not only going to reinforce your feelings for them (which is something we don’t want), it will also leave you feeling absolutely horrible when you get out of cloud nine and are hit by the reality that the person you just got all dreamy about is way out of your reach.

You’re not going to catch yourself in time at first, but if you keep on telling yourself to stop the moment you start getting all dreamy, then eventually you will indeed teach yourself to stop in your tracks. It’s a skill you can learn, and it’s going to be very important moving forward.

After all, the odds are in favor of the fact that you’re going to have more unrequited loves in the future.

IV. Let go and love, still.

10) Live with the fact that you can’t have them.

This is definitely easier said than done, but in the end, you’ll just have to accept the fact that you just can’t have them.

It’s going to be incredibly hard to come to terms with that fact at first, but as time goes by, it will become easier for you to handle. And the day will come when those emotions will have quieted down and you’ll just look back and laugh at yourself for having felt the way you did.

Everyone heals differently. Some people take only a couple of weeks or months to heal. Others take years. You’re going to end up a little battered and bruised, a little changed.

The wounds you got will turn into scars, proof that you’ve survived pain and can endure more. One day you will look at those same scars and be proud of the fact that you endured all this time. You’ll see those younger than you suffer the same pains you did and know that they too will carry on, just like you did.

But until that day comes, you’ll have to trust that you will heal.

And who knows. Maybe the reason why you can’t get them out of your head is because they’re your Twin Flame. And maybe, just maybe, their very presence—and that includes their unavailability—in your life is helping you mature and become the best person you could be so that you’ll be ready for your one true love when they come knocking at your door.

11) Love, nevertheless.

You might be wondering “wait, why should I keep loving them?” and you’d be right to ask that question. After all, shouldn’t you be trying to move on?

And yes, moving on is exactly what you should be doing. But moving on doesn’t necessarily mean that you should try to hate them, or that you should stop loving them in the first place.

Moving on is accepting the reality of your relationship. To stop daydreaming about what-ifs and situations that just aren’t meant to be, and instead of letting things be as they happen. You can still love someone and not want to walk down the aisle with them or have them in your bed at night.

I’m talking about platonic love.

And yes, it’s perfectly possible for your romantic feelings to settle down and become platonic, especially once you’ve accepted the nature of your relationship together.

And platonic love can be as deep and fulfilling as romantic love if you were to let it. And to make it even better, you can indulge in it even if the two of you aren’t meant to be with each other.

The funny thing with love is that it does whatever it pleases. Your heart chooses who you love, and it does so without caring for what you may think or feel about it.

Sometimes feelings die out even when everything seems to be going perfectly fine, and sometimes they refuse to die even when you have been hurt and broken. You can even try to convince yourself that you hate them, but if you truly did love them, then all that hate will wither and die when they show their face.

So it’s best to just let it be. Love, and love freely.

But for that to happen, you should distance yourself until you’re truly ready. Otherwise, you’d go back to the same trap.

Conclusion

It’s not easy, being in love with someone that you just know isn’t ever going to be yours.

Almost everyone has experienced the pain of unrequited love, so you are far from alone in your suffering. In fact, it’s quite possible that the person you’re pining for had felt the same way towards someone else.

You will be fine so long as you are willing to heal. And make no mistakes—it isn’t going to be easy, at least not at first. But this wouldn’t be the last time you’ll find yourself in this situation. Thankfully, it does become easier as you grow older and wiser.

Thank them for making you realize that you’re capable of such love. Now, go forth and put this love to yourself and probably to someone who can actually love you.

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Written by Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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