Not That Into You: Tips for Getting Over Unrequited Love

One of the deepest hurts is being in love with someone who doesn’t love you back. Psychotherapist F. Diane Barth says the emotional pain can be so great that it can sometimes be felt physically. “Even if you know that your heart can’t really break, you’re feeling like it’s doing exactly that. There’s a physical pain in your chest, and the rest of your body feels bruised and aching as well,” Barth writes in her Psychology Today column.

How do you recover from being head over heels for someone who doesn’t want to be in a relationship with you? Here are some tips for moving past the pain of unrequited love.

1. Know you’re not alone

Young woman using cellphone in the park cafe

Plenty of people have experienced the shock of unrequited love. | iStock.com/Bokeshi

If you feel all alone in your pain, have some comfort in the fact that plenty of people have experienced unrequited love. A study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reported more than 90% of people have been in a situation where their loving feelings were not returned. The study also found those who are the object of unrequited love also go through distress due to the burden of having to reject someone.

2. Know there is nothing wrong with you

Depressed woman pressing her hand against her forehead

This does not determine your self-worth. | iStock.com/grinvalds

Don’t allow this rejection to cause you to question your worth. You’re still an amazing person and worthy of love. A relationship is just not going to happen with this person, and that’s OK. If you have difficulty remembering you’re still desirable despite an unfulfilled romantic interest, try to repeat positive affirmations to yourself. Do this every day until you believe deep down that you are worthy, regardless of who does or doesn’t want to be with you. Author Louise Hay outlines how to reframe negative thoughts on her blog. 

3. Grieve

sad woman grasping her head

It’s OK to be sad. | iStock.com

Give yourself permission to be sad. Finding out the person you want to be with isn’t interested in sharing a life with you will take some time to get over. You’ll likely experience a mixture of emotions such as anger, denial, and even depression. Let yourself feel all those feelings and don’t judge yourself for having them.

Author and motivational speaker Nancy Nichols said grieving the loss of a relationship usually occurs in stages, so it’s important to give yourself time to go through the process. “Extreme sadness, guilt, fear and regret are part of the grieving process. You have feelings of despair, emptiness, yearning and intense loneliness. You cry a lot and uncontrollably … Don’t try to white knuckle your recovery. Seek professional help and consider temporary medication that can help you cope with your grief,” advises Nichols on her website.

4. Let go

man and woman holding hands while crossing the creek

Let go and start living your life. | iStock.com/jacoblund

Even after you’ve grieved your loss, the memories of the life you had imagined will remain. However, it will be necessary to let go of this love and what it represented if you want to fully move on. In Wherever You Go There You Are, author and mindfulness expert Jon Kabat-Zinn writes letting go involves becoming more aware of not only the fact that you’re still holding on but also what it is you continue to hold on to.

There is something vitally important to be learned from the practice of letting go…It’s not only the stickiness of our desires concerning outer events which catches us. Nor is it only a holding on with our hands. We hold on with our minds. We catch ourselves, get stuck ourselves, by holding, often desperately, to narrow views, to self-serving hopes and wishes. Letting go really refers to choosing to become transparent to our own likes and dislikes, and of the unawareness that draws us to cling to them.

5. Learn from the experience

Stylish young woman posing at the spring blossom garden.

Take time to reflect on the experience. | iStock.com/jacoblund

Try your best to see this rejection as a learning opportunity. What was it about this person that made you fall so hard? This experience can help you learn more about the type of person you desire to be with. You can also learn more about yourself and what you need and want in a relationship.

Clinical Psychologist Ben Michaelis told Medical Daily, “Unrequited love can be a helpful, even critical part of people’s journeys. The road of personal development and the creation of a healthy, reciprocal relationship is a process, which requires learning about who you are and what you need in order to be happy.” 

6. Figure out if this is a pattern

woman and man talking

Do you have a habit of loving unavailable people? | iStock.com/Wavebreakmedia

Have you been here before? Do you have a habit of falling for people who are unavailable or not interested? If the answer is yes, you’ll need to try to figure out why this has been a common occurrence for you. What is it about unavailable partners that interests you? Relationship and mindset expert Kyle Benson says our choices often have to do with insecurities:

We are often unaware that the partners we are obsessed with are the ones that reinforce our deepest insecurities. Studies on the science of adult attachment show that our beliefs about love attract specific partners. People who fiercely guard their independence are attracted to partners who invade it. People who desire extreme closeness are attracted to people who are scared of intimacy.  

7. Nourish yourself

woman doing yoga

Take care of yourself. | iStock.com/monkeybusinessimages

The aftermath of being rejected by someone you care for can be an emotional shock, so it’s important for you to take time to focus on self-care. After you’ve taken time to grieve and you’ve stared to let go, turn your attention toward healing. Take long walks, book time at the spa with friends, pick up an old hobby. Do whatever you need to do to feel better and take care of your needs right now.

8. Reject fear

Sad woman looking down through a car window

You will find love that’s reciprocated. | iStock.com/AntonioGuillem

Don’t let this experience make you afraid to love again. You will hurt for a while and you might have trouble opening up to another person, but you will move past this. Finding the right person involves taking some risks. You might get some bumps and bruises along the way, but you will find love that is reciprocated.

9. Remember the other person

young couple

Treat others the way you would want to be treated. | iStock.com/nensuria

It will be difficult, but try to remember the other person’s feelings. He or she cannot help it if the attraction is not mutual. Put yourself in that person’s shoes, and try to behave how you would want to be treated. Don’t be mean or give the cold shoulder. In the book Breaking Hearts, psychologists Roy F. Baumeister and Sara R. Wotman note how easy it can be to get so caught up in your feelings of rejection that you forget how the other person might be feeling. But becoming too focused on your side of things could result in misunderstandings and an unnecessarily strained relationship. “The would-be lover’s preoccupation with his or her own needs and feelings may also tend to hamper an accurate understanding of the rejector’s view,” they write. “These communicative obstacles set the stage for a variety of misunderstandings and problems.”

Helpful resources

Mature woman sitting on a bench

Mature woman sitting on a bench | iStock.com/Moussa81

Sometimes a book can help you get through a rough patch by providing comfort as well as answers to questions you might have. Here are three books to help you navigate this difficult time.

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