Unrequited love is a love that - for some reason - isn't returned. The intensity of the feeling is usually less than that of the love felt in reciprocal relationships (1). Although I’m willing to bet that it probably doesn’t feel that way to you!
I suspect something has happened that’s made you feel heartbroken and/or concerned that you're not able to move on for whatever reason. Otherwise you probably wouldn’t have found yourself on this page! But don’t worry - you're not alone. You're safe here, I'm not judging you; you just need a little helping hand right now.
Let's look first at what counts as unrequited love - because there are several types. Then I’ll give you tips and advice to help you get over this current hurdle and be able to move on with your life again.
Maybe there's a good reason you can never have a relationship with the other person, because they...
... are too young or too old
... are not culturally compatible and/or have a different religion
… have never shown you any sign that they could be interested in you
... are spoken for or even married
… are living too far away with no chance the two of you will ever meet (online relationship) due to the distance or an existing committed relationship
… are in any other way clearly unavailable.
Equally, it's possible that you appeared on the outside to be a good match and you’ve fallen head over heels for that person, but they’ve told you they don’t feel the same way.
Whatever the circumstances, you're hurting because you've invested emotionally in this (unrequited) relationship. Let's therefore take a look at what that might mean for you...
I want to reassure you again: you're not alone. Research has shown that for every equal romantic love partnership, there are four unrequited lovers pining over the objects of their affections. 1
Also, know that emotional pain can appear to be more difficult to bear than physical pain. Unfortunately, no hot-water bottle or cold compress will ease your mental anguish :-(
But, realising that you have recognisable symptoms can help to normalise your feelings. So, depending on the type of your unrequited love and the level of your emotional investment, you might feel any or all of the following...
I could go on of course - so many of my clients have told me all of those things and more. During the early stages of developing a reciprocal relationship, these feelings are completely normal and grow in intensity. But when the love is unrequited, I’m afraid it’s a different story.
You may have been holding out for quite some time, hoping that your romantic feelings would be returned in the end. So...
No matter what your heart tells you, now is the time to face reality. You wouldn't be here otherwise, would you?
Brace yourself: your love isn't going to be returned and you're going to have to move on. I wouldn't be surprised if your family and friends have already said the same.
But how do you move on?
That’s where I come in! Let's get cracking...
Slowly, is the answer. There is no magic pill, I'm afraid. It does also depend on the type of unrequited love and/or how you were rejected and whether or not you see them every single day.
On one end of the scale, rejection can be done kindly. The other person takes the time and trouble to have a decent, honest conversation with you. And on the other end, rejection can be really cruel. You get ghosted - no texts, no calls, no emails, nothing. They might block you on their phone and social media accounts too. No contact possible.
Or perhaps there was no outright rejection. Instead, you yourself came to the realisation that your romantic love is one-sided.
However your rejection happened, the very best thing you can do for yourself now is simply to accept that it’s over. Holding on any further will only hurt you more.
So it's time to take responsibility for the choices you made up to this point. Your falling in love might have been an unconscious process, but it was a choice to invest in that love. You chose to nurture these feelings, and to take all the actions that maintained your belief in a positive outcome..
The sooner you can own your role - without judgement (!) - the sooner you can move on. Instead of being a victim, become the hero! You can survive, you can overcome, and you can let go and move on.
All you can do now is to accept that, very simply, the other person's needs, wants, situation and expectations just don't match what you offer. That doesn't make you or what you can offer any less worthy!
If you’re giving yourself a hard time, that may be an indication that there's some healing to be done. Particularly if getting stuck in these situations is a familiar pattern for you, I highly recommend you get some professional help, ideally before starting another relationship. You'll discover why further down.
Grieve! You've suffered a loss - no two ways about it. Research has shown that your brain registers the pain of social rejection much like it registers physical pain. Know that it's perfectly okay to cry yourself to sleep, to feel let down, alone, angry, depressed and heartbroken. Immediately after being rejected you'll probably feel miserable most of the time. There's a great downloadable hypnosis track specially for you, see my article Hypnosis FAQ and Downloads.
Chances are that you have a digital record of your interactions with the other person. So you’ll probably find yourself reading old messages over and over again, and looking through photos. (And you've probably already spent a lot of time trying to find the ‘hidden meaning’ behind every word and emoji!) This is all okay during this time.
After about a week or so, you'll find that you’re a little more able to open up to the world around you. Remember the transition from victim to hero? Here we go...
Make a list of the other person's flaws, the reasons why it could never have worked anyway, and how you're better off without them. You know - it’s all that stuff you were perhaps vaguely aware of but somehow managed to ignore. Write it all down, from the smallest observation to the major irritations and, if it fits your situation, the final blow of the rejection.
Reconsider your expectations. You hoped for and imagined a future together. It takes time to first let go of those hopes and dreams. Only then can you imagine and work towards a new future.
Recreate in your mind the path you want to follow. Include in your thoughts your family and friends, your work, your dreams and ambitions. Develop your plans around meeting your essential emotional needs in balance and using your inborn resources. (Discover more about the Human Givens here.)
Focus on other relationships - you're someone's child, sibling, aunt/uncle, friend, colleague, neighbour, etc.
Reach out and share your troubles. Celebrate other people's achievements and joys, and weep with them for their losses, disappointments, pain and sadness. Stand beside them when they're frustrated, angry and at a loss.
If those connections aren't immediately available to you, consider undertaking some voluntary work. One of the most effective ways to enable yourself to deal with your own struggles is by helping others to deal with theirs.
See also my articles:
This too requires action. But this action will help you to move on so much quicker because it provides an opportunity for quiet reflection. Following the reflection, make informed decisions about your future and how you want it to look. And start taking steps in that direction. And always remember to take pride in your achievements (however small) along the way.
Here are the questions for you to reflect on...
(Btw, these are worth asking at the end of any relationship - they’re not restricted to unrequited love .)
This is an opportunity to increase your self-awareness and understand yourself better.
Ask yourself these questions:
Once you've done the grieving and the self-awareness stuff, it's time to tidy up your social media accounts. They may have been helpful to you during the grieving process, but they won’t be helpful now that you’re ready to move on.
Erase any reminders of the object of your affection. Don’t allow yourself to just take a peek at what they’re doing today… unless you want to send yourself spiralling back to square one again!
While we’re here, I just want to make sure you’re giving yourself the very best chance of having a fulfilling, reciprocal relationship. So...
I know how unrequited love hurts, and that it can cause you to feel helpless, hopeless and worthless. So my best advice to you is: don’t allow that to happen. Focus on what you can do, what you really want from life, and trust that you are worthy of reciprocal love.
Take all the time you need to heal, and promise yourself that you won’t torment yourself unnecessarily ever again. Life can be hard enough without adding another burden to your shoulders! Above all, learn to handle rejection - it's part of life. Be grateful for the lessons you’ve learnt, and move forwards with confidence. Remember: hero, not victim!
I really hope this article is of help to you. :-)
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Thank you so much in anticipation. :-)