When you love someone and they don’t love you back, it feels like your life is over.
Even when you try not to build up expectations, the disappointment is intense.
I know because it’s happened to me, and deciding whether or not to stay friends was a difficult decision.
But I’m convinced that I ultimately made the right decision, which I’ll share with you in this article.
Should you lose a friend because of unrequited love?
Here’s the thing about unrequited love:
You want to do everything to be around this person and win their heart, yet the idea of being friends with them seems like a cruel second place prize or some kind of a let-down.
Try as you will, it’s hard to shake the feeling you’re not getting what you want.
The truth is that it’s not easy to decide whether to remain friends with someone you’re in love with, even if they give you the option.
The basis of any successful long-term relationship is honesty, trust, and communication.
This is why it’s vital to be completely honest with yourself and the other person in this situation.
If you’ve told a friend you have romantic feelings and they don’t feel the same, you may feel like giving up on love altogether.
Like Crystal Raypole notes:
“Experiencing rejection after you’ve risked telling someone how you feel can cause a great deal of pain.
In fact, some research has suggested pain associated with rejection causes brain activity resembles that caused by physical pain.”
Avoid making this one common mistake
Unrequited love is a gut punch that seems to demand a rapid reaction.
You want to run away, try to “give it time” and be friends, or just collapse in a heap.
But one of the most common mistakes people make with unrequited love is black-and-white thinking.
“I didn’t end up with who I wanted and it’s always going to be this way” becomes your mantra.
I know it all too well.
That’s why it’s crucial to take an honest look at your views about romance and love and make sure that past disappointment isn’t driving your decision now.
Whether you decide to stay friends or not, don’t let it be a snap decision because of how hopeless you feel about your love life.
Consider your options
When you’re on the receiving end of rejection, it’s key to consider your options carefully.
If the other person is open to remaining friends, then the ball is now in your court.
Make sure to think about the pluses and minuses of being close with this person in a non-romantic way.
Here are some vital things to keep in mind.
If you stay friends…
If you stay friends, things will not be the same as they were before.
As I said earlier, honesty is crucial. This means that you need to be fully honest with yourself that staying friends will not be a bridge to ending up together romantically in the future.
Has it happened before? Of course.
But you are on a fool’s errand that’s almost certain to end in disappointment and even worse heartbreak if you try to use the friendship as a way to still eventually have your love returned.
This is also about respect:
If your friend has told you that they don’t feel the same, then you need to respect that and believe them.
If you remain friends it is because you value the friendship deeply and see its merit on its own without any chance of romance.
It also means that you need to be prepared for a scenario in which you are friends and this individual starts dating and getting seriously involved with someone else.
If you are ready for all of that then staying friends is something you should seriously consider.
If you end the friendship…
Should you lose a friend because of unrequited love? That’s the core question of this article.
If you do end the friendship and lose this friend, or they decide to end it, it’s going to be hard and it won’t always go smoothly.
Keep in mind that ending the friendship and letting this person go needs to be for real.
It can’t be a gambit, as that will make you lose self-respect and likely make the other person lose interest in being friends.
In other words, you can’t say you don’t want to be friends anymore or agree to end the friendship just to test their reaction or try to guilt the other person or make them feel lonely and cave to your desires.
You need to really be willing to end the friendship and do so firmly and amicably, moving on from talking and communicating.
If not together romantically making you feel too uncomfortable to be friends, it’s important, to be honest with yourself and the other person.
As I said earlier, I know how it feels to have to decide whether to stay friends because of unrequited love.
To be honest, it’s happened more than once and is a pattern that I realized was happening due to unconscious behavior on my part.
The first time it happened I was blindsided and wouldn’t let the situation go. I wanted to stay friends at all costs, and even learned German and traveled overseas to see if there was “more” under the surface.
There wasn’t. At least not on her side!
Several years of friendship had been a lie, I realized. I was just chasing ghosts and trying to convince myself she felt the same when she’d never indicated that she had any deep feelings for me romantically.
Trying to stay friends when I really wanted to be more than friends made my self-respect and self-esteem suffer massively. I felt like crap, and I expended huge energy and effort chasing after somebody who didn’t want me.
This time could have been spent noticing women who I might have had a relationship with instead of chasing “the one” of my imagination…
The second time in later years, I was dating a young lady who I fell for once again. At a certain point the connection fizzled out and she had no interest in dating anymore.
I was upset and hurt over it, but I ultimately turned down her option to remain friends.
I believe it was the right decision because it was based on honesty.
I didn’t want to just be friends, nor did I want to live my life in hopes of a future different scenario and base the friendship on false foundations.
I believe that deciding not to stay friends can often be the right decision, particularly when you are dealing with something as hurtful as unrequited love. This situation hurts badly, and remaining friends with somebody who made you feel that way is generally not a great idea.
As much as it may pain and depress you, it’s often important to force yourself to walk away.
Cutting through the confusion…
It can be so confusing dealing with unrequited love.
Not only are you in pain, but you are being pulled in such opposing directions.
You want to run away and hide from the disappointment and agony you feel, but you also want to stay close to the person you still have feelings for.
Johann Goethe’s 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther plunged the whole continent of Europe into hopeless despair over the tragedy of unrequited love.
As Werther says:
“In happy ignorance, I sighed for a world I did not know, where I hoped to find every pleasure and enjoyment which my heart could desire; and now, on my return from that wide world…
“How many disappointed hopes and unsuccessful plans have I brought back!”
Don’t I know it…
What should you decide?
Each situation is different and each friendship and relationship is different.
Speaking on principle I would advise generally not remaining friends with someone when there is unrequited love involved.
However, as I mentioned there are situations where staying friends can be a beautiful and genuine experience as long as you don’t try to use it as a bridge to love and value it for the pure friendship it is.
Unrequited love is not going to hurt. The key is what you do with that hurt.
And the decision to remain friends, like every other decision, should be one based on radical self-honesty, authenticity, and respect.