Unrequited Love: Why It Hurts and How to Get Over It

A man suffering from unrequited love looking out the window and thinks.

Unrequited love hurts. If there’s someone in your life you’re in love with who doesn’t return your feelings, it can be extremely difficult to be around them. Whether you’ve developed feelings for a close friend and don’t want to risk ruining your friendship, have feelings for someone who could never return them, or are still in love with your ex, it’s not a great feeling. At all.

Why does unrequited love hurt so badly? Merriam-Webster defines “unrequited” as,  “not reciprocated or returned in kind.” Basically, unrequited love is a sneaky form of rejection, even though you may have never even put yourself out there in the first place. Even though unrequited love is painful, it is possible to get over it. Here’s how.

Start by asking yourself if the unrequited love could ever become requited love.
In other words: Does the person you’re in love with know that you’re in love with them? It’s one thing if you haven’t confessed your feelings to someone, because it means you still have a shot. But it’s another if you’ve told someone you have feelings for them and they didn’t return them, or if the person you’re in love with is off-limits. We’re going to focus on the latter—and how to get over it.

Allow yourself to wallow.
Getting over unrequited love is, in a lot of ways, like getting over a breakup. Even though you didn’t necessarily have a relationship with this person, you’re still allowed to be sad about what could have been. Wallowing is an important part of breakups, and it’s an important part of getting over unrequited love, too. Take as much time as you need to feel your heartbreak.

Accept that some forms of unrequited love can simply never be.
At least not in their current form. If you’re secretly in love with your boss or pining after your sister’s husband, those are not feelings you should act on in this present moment. Sometimes, we just have to accept that not all love can or should be pursued. It sucks, but in some ways, acknowledging it may help you come to terms with it.

Put yourself back out there.
You don’t have to rush back into dating, but meeting new people can be a nice distraction. More importantly, it can help you re-calibrate your relationship needs. Was the subject of your unrequited love really who you were looking for, or have your tastes and needs changed?

Be kind to yourself.
Getting over unrequited love is hard. There’s no set amount of time it should take and no one thing you absolutely have to do to get through it. Remember: Unrequited love doesn’t make you a failure; it just means you’re human.

Try to see unrequited love as a beautiful thing. Yes, it hurts that someone didn’t return your feelings, but it’s wonderful that you’re capable of offering someone so much love. When you find the person who gladly accepts it and returns it, those who didn’t will fade into the background.

Elizabeth Entenman

Freelance Writer

Elizabeth is a freelance writer, editor, and advertising copywriter in Brooklyn. Right now, she’s probably somewhere Instagramming her dogs.

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