Being in love with someone who doesn't love you back is undeniably painful. Maybe they're an ex you never got over or a friends with benefits that you suddenly caught feels for. Regardless of who it is, it's tough to feel so deeply for someone and then realize they don't feel the same way. In a perfect world, everyone's love and affections would be returned. But unfortunately it's not. So it makes you wonder, why does unrequited love happen in the first place?
For some of us, unrequited love seems to happen more often than it should, Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford, PhD, Founder and CEO of Family Matters Counseling Group, tells Bustle. Although there are many theories surrounding the psychology behind unrequited love, she believes it all boils down to individual attachment styles. Do you typically feel secure in your relationships or do you tend to get paranoid that your relationships won't last?
"Studies conducted on the topic of relationships suggest that people who engage in relationships anxiously are more likely to experience unrequited love than those who go into relationships confidently," Dr. Tarra Bates-Duford says. It should also be noted that people who try to avoid relationships are less likely to experience unreciprocated love, but enjoy "idealized romantic feelings" from a distance. People with secure attachment styles were found to be the least likely to experience unreciprocated love, she says.
But attachment styles aren't the only thing to be aware of. "We are also more likely to experience unrequited love when we have already fallen head-over-heels in love with the 'idea' of being in love," she says. When you've experienced the overwhelming emotions you get when you're in love, you're going to look for that again. That's why sometimes a seemingly innocent crush can turn into unreciprocated love.
As much as it sucks to admit, the best thing to do when your feelings aren't mutual is to try and move past it. After all, you shouldn't have to deal with anymore unnecessary heartbreak. So here are ways to get over unrequited love ASAP, according to experts.
1Start By Figuring Out Why You Want A Romantic Relationship With That Person In The First Place
One of the ways you can get over unrequited love quickly is to determine your reasons for wanting this relationship in the first place, Dr. Bates-Duford says. Are you stuck in a non-relationship with someone because you're scared of being alone? "People that often struggle in the area of unrequited love may need to consider how they value themselves," she says. "For example, some people may not see the value in themselves unless they are part of a relationship." So if you want to get over an unrequited love situation, figure out why you want a relationship with that person. Then, figure out the relationship you have with yourself. When you truly love yourself, it's easier to make healthier decisions.
2Give Yourself Permission To Be Sad About It
When you find out that the person you're in love with is dating someone new or they straight up tell you that they don't feel the same way, it's heartbreaking. You may be overwhelmed with sadness and negativity. Faking postivity for a while is one way to try to make yourself feel better. But it's OK to be sad. As therapist, Alisha Powell, PhD, LCSW, tells Bustle, it's important to acknowlege your pain and give yourself permission to cry or be angry about it. "Give yourself some time as you mourn the possibility of what could have been," she says. "You may not be over them as soon as you would like, but eventually you'll remember that life continues to move on."
3Get Back Out There
Getting back out there is advice you typically hear a lot after a breakup or rejection. Although it's easier said than done, it can be quite an effective way to finally get over that unrequited love once you're ready. "Taking the time to date and meet new people will give you opportunity to identify if you truly wanted the person you were crushing on or if it was just the desire to have what you couldn't have," Dr. Bates-Duford says. More importantly, you'll have the opportunity to find that special someone who will return your feelings. It may take some time, but it doesn't hurt to try.
4Get Clear On What "The One" Really Is For You
Unrequited love really is the worst. But at the end of the day, you deserve to be with someone who actually loves being with you. "The One" isn't someone who's just going to pop in and out of your life whenever it's convenient for them. They'll actually work out problems with you, not leave the minute things get too serious. Beyond that, you won't have to overanalyze every little thing they do in order to figure out whether or not they like you back because they'll make an effort to show you how much they care. "Instead of putting your focus on the person you have unrequited love for in the moment envision the [person] who is calling to you from the future who will be able to match your love — they're there waiting," psychotherapist Monica A. Ross, LPC tells Bustle.
5Reflect Back On Your Interactions And Take Notes For The Future
"It’s easy to look at the object of your unrequited love as someone who can 'do no wrong,'" Christie Tcharkhoutian, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and matchmaker with Three Day Rule, tells Bustle. But once you realize they don't return your affections, take the rose colored glasses off. As Tcharkhoutian says, it's important to look back and recognize the moment in your relationship where you may have given them too much credit or perceived their interest as something more than intended. Maybe even talk it out with a friend who witnessed your interactions together. "Don’t be ashamed or regretful, but learn from this situation," she says. "Next time you feel yourself moving in that direction, your heightened awareness will help you recognize the dynamic and not fall into a similar predicament."
6Get Acquainted With Your Person's Good And Bad Sides
Get to know people "three-dimensionally," Tcharkhoutian says. When people keep falling into the same dynamic of unrequited love, they have the tendency to idealize the best things about a person. All the other stuff like flaws and imperfections typically go out the window. But only seeing someone as this "perfect" person for you can keep you living in a fantasy world. "Being able and willing to see the faults (and strengths) of someone is a good way to stay grounded," she says. "This will make your longing for them, more realistic and less of a fantasy about who you think you are and who you want them to be. "
7Take Pride In Your Capacity To Love
"The best way to move on from this experience is to acknowledge and be proud of yourself for being vulnerable and brave enough to love someone, regardless of reciprocity," Tcharkhoutian says. It may be difficult to think this way after you've been rejected, but change your mindset. Remind yourself that you have so much love to give and anyone would be lucky enough to be the recipient of it. "When you meet the right person, you will thank yourself for not allowing this experience to make you hard-hearted but instead, opened your heart to value all the love you have to give to the right person," she says. "And that right person will cherish it for the gift that it is."
Loving someone who doesn't love you back can leave you feeling pretty down about yourself. But there's absolutely no reason to feel that way. "Whatever your circumstance, the most important thing to recognize is that unrequited love is a beautiful, valuable thing to experience because it reminds you of all the love you have to give," Tcharkhoutian says.
That's because your love comes from a place of selflessness. "In our consumer-focused society where we put value on what someone or something else can give us or how they can make us happy, unrequited love is a rebellion against the idea that love can only exist if it is returned," she says. It's something to be proud of. In short, don't be afraid to love. In time, it’s very possible that you will find that special someone who’ll love you back just as much as you love them.