Accepting the Truth: How to Deal With Unrequited Love

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Falling in love can be one of the most exciting experiences of our lives, but of course, that doesn't hold true when feelings are unreciprocated. There's not much worse than knowing you want something and realizing you can never have it.

We’re not talking fleeting crushes, but intense, passionate yearnings that become giant soul crushers when the sentiment isn’t returned. More than 90 percent of Americans experience unrequited love in their lifetime, and when it happens, we need to take care of ourselves.

Accepting Reality

An incredibly important part of getting over this kind of love is accepting reality. We get so excited and blinded by "our person" that it becomes hard to see the truth and instead interpret their actions incorrectly to best suit our outlook. Step outside yourself. Chances are when this person doesn’t return the same feelings, they won't prioritize you and they'll act aloof. Take time to reflect and muster up the courage to walk away. You can’t lose what you never had.

Distancing Yourself

Stay far, far away from your unrequited love. It might be hard, especially if you work with them daily or just so happen to be best friends with them. But continuing to communicate with someone who won’t love you is a very painful feat. You don’t need the stress or mental pain — cut all ties with them, and in this age, delete them off social media so you don’t dwell and keep tabs.

Understanding Both Sides

Understanding the "why" may make it easier to accept and help you avoid making similar choices. While it might simply be about attraction, get in their shoes. Are they emotionally unavailable? Are they worried about treading workplace ethics? Are they concerned about a friendship breaking up? Some reasons might seem obvious, while others will be hidden. If their reasoning isn't soon apparent, don't dwell on it or prod them for an answer, but carry on.

Forgiving Them

It’s not the other person's fault if they can’t or won’t love you, and forgiveness is more for you than for them. As long as you harbor anger and resentment toward the situation, you’ll be carrying a heavy burden. Forgive and work your way toward healing and peace.

Mourning the Loss

While it might not have been an ideal relationship, in many cases, it was, in fact, a relationship to the person suffering. Never let anyone downplay or minimize your love no matter the circumstances. Whether they were a best friend or a co-worker you knew closely, the pain and heartbreak you’re experiencing is very real. Work through the stages of grief as you would mourn a death — or in this case, the life you conjured up with them. Confront your feelings in baby steps and take your time. Share your thoughts with a trusted friend, journal about it, or simply cry. It’s really okay to pour yourself out in whatever way you can.

Embracing Distractions

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Find ways to fill your time positively, while surrounding yourself with people that offer love and support. Redirect your energy and all that devotion into more productive activities. Take up hobbies, enter a 5K, head on vacation, and when ready, start dating — not for filling voids, but rather to put yourself out there without feeling calloused.

Loving Yourself

If you’re able to confront that one-sided beast, chances are you’re braver than you think. As Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s famously said, "'Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all." Life can be seen in two ways. Either we believe everything is a probable risk and choose to cut down our opportunities; or, we believe everything our heart touches is a potential source of enrichment, which opens the door to meaning but is exposed to criticism and pain — the choice is ours. Just because this would-be relationship failed, doesn’t mean you are a failure. Love yourself for your courage. It takes guts to love someone with your whole heart.