Our Best Tips For Navigating Being In Love With Someone You Can't Be With

As much as being in love is one of the most wonderful things in the world, on the other side of that coin is being in love with someone you can't be with — or, as they call it, unrequited love. To love someone who doesn't love you back is devastating on so many levels. It doesn't affect just your emotions and mental state but your physical state too.


According to a 2010 study, when participants were asked to discuss the people they loved who didn't love them back, the region of the brain that registers physical pain lit up. This activated area proves that unrequited love actually causes palpable pain. So, no, that ache you feel isn't just in your head; it's real.

While in an ideal world, the person we're in love with will come to their senses and come running to us in some grandiose, Hollywood-ending type of way, in the real world, such endings rarely exist. Because of this, the best way to handle the situation is to deal with it, no matter how much you may be suffering.

Accept we can't control who we love

Although anthropologists have studied love for centuries and romantic love has been found in 170 societies, and there's yet to be discovered a society that doesn't have romantic love, according to biological anthropologist Helen Fisher, Ph.D. Why people fall in love with whom they fall in love with isn't very cut and dry. Some attribute it to having certain things in common, like education and economic background, but that doesn't mean that's the case for everyone. Love, although understandable on a neurological level, still has components of mystery. Because of this, the first thing we need to do when it comes to loving someone who doesn't love us back is to accept that we have zero control over who we love — and who they love.


"Sometimes we feel unrequited love because the potential partner seems so attractive and valuable to us," doctor of social and personality psychology Jeremy Nicholson M.S.W., Ph.D., tells Brides. "Other times, we feel unrequited love because we think an actual relationship might be possible, although not assured. This can happen when there is a friendship with mixed signals—or we misconstrue the interest of someone else." While it can feel good to hang onto the hope of "what if," accepting the reality of the situation is much healthier.

Create new experiences

If the person you're in love with is an ex or maybe a friend whom you were in love with, but they didn't feel the same, a good way to take control of the situation is to create new experiences. For example, if you and the person you loved always went to the same restaurant for special occasions, don't avoid the place for the rest of your life. Instead, go there and create new memories. If a certain song meant something to you because of the person you love, don't give it up — give it a new meaning. Let your emotions on how to handle this lead the way and bring new life to it all.


"Your feelings are always communicating with you," licensed therapist Kim Egel, LMFT, tells Healthline. "As you pay attention to the truth of your experience, your feelings can help point you in the right direction for you." If you put your trust in your feelings or, as some would call it, your gut, you'll be guided toward a healthy and, ideally, new way of thinking.

Let friends and family be there for you

Although there are those who are content to hide behind their emotions and mental suffering by saying that "they're fine," when they're anything but that, try not to be one of those people. Unrequited love is complicated, throwing feelings and emotions into a whirlwind of drama that can be obsessive and all-consuming. That's why you want to open yourself up to your family and friends about what you're going through so they can give you perspective.


"Unrequited love happens when we project our own disowned traits or potential onto another person, idealize that person, and then languish because that person doesn't reciprocate our feelings," couples' therapist Alicia Muñoz, LPC, tells Mind Body Green. "Instead, we come to view another person as our holy grail." While being convinced that the person you're in love with is actually not all the things that you perceive them to be isn't going to be easy, a close network of people who know you well and have known you for a long time can help you see the light — at least to a degree.

Understand it's not about you

People are going to love who they're going to love, and you're going to love who you're going to love, and there's no way around it. Sometimes, we get lucky, and the person that we love happens to love us back, but other times it's just not the case. What's most important to realize is that it's not about you; someone not loving you doesn't say anything about your character or your ability to be loved.


"If you thought your ex was perfect, but they broke up with you out of the blue, you might consider [focusing on] their inability to make or keep a commitment to you," clinical psychologist Chloe Carmichael, Ph.D., tells Brides. "Sometimes just realizing that a person is actually not the stable, reliable 'relationship person' we initially thought they can help decrease that person's desirability, thereby making it a little easier to move past them."

They don't love you back? It's their loss, so lean into seeing them as undesirable.

Seek professional help

If it gets to a point where your friends and family can't help you anymore, your obsession is off the charts, and all you can think about is the person you're in love with who can't be with you, then it's time to see a therapist and talk to them about the issue. "One of the greatest benefits of seeing a professional is we get objectivity," registered psychologist Dr. Joti Samra tells Greatist. "[Therapy] can guide us toward asking and reflecting on the right questions. It can give us an objective, an image of what we might want."


Not only is a therapist there to listen without bias, but they can offer techniques and methods that you can use on a daily basis to manage your feelings. It's important to learn how to handle those emotions and redirect them in a way that's positive and uplifting, as opposed to negative and self-defeating.

Never give up on love

Although you've probably heard it thousands of times before, there is someone out there for everyone — yes, everyone. In other words, just because you're in love with someone you can't be with doesn't mean that's your only chance at love in this lifetime. You will have so many opportunities to love and be loved by someone who literally only has eyes for you, so why waste your time on someone who makes you suffer by not being able to love you back? Life is too short for such things. 


As Gabriel García Márquez wrote, "Nobody deserves your tears, but whoever deserves them will not make you cry." Every time you find yourself torn up over your unrequited love, remind yourself of this fact and remind yourself that your love is out there — they just might be a little late because of traffic.