How to Deal with Unrequited Love

If there was ever a topic I feared writing about it would be this.

But if I ever let fear make my decisions, I wouldn’t do much.

Here we are… Unfiltered and honest.

I’ve always been a bit of a Hitch-like figure. Great at giving relationship advice, but a failure in most of my own.

I feel uniquely qualified to give advice in this area because after much reflection, I realized similar patterns in my own romantic behavior that has spanned 10+ years of my life.

I’ve always known that I’m different from others. I can feel that. I have a big heart and am more sensitive.

When it comes to romance, it takes me a lot longer to develop feelings. I like to know a person on a deep level, their views on the world, their wants, dreams, and goals. They also must be someone I really enjoy spending time with.

Romance for me is different than attraction and sexuality. I understand instant attraction. I lost my virginity to a one night stand. Not something I would have predicted if I mapped out my life, but that’s the way it was meant to be.

Attraction is a key component. It has to be. The more time I spend with someone, they either become more beautiful or more common, and it has to do entirely with their personality and my connection to them.

Sometimes the love can happen out of the blue. Like someone I know so well, but something’s changed in me and I see them completely different than I had before. It usually comes as a shock, like a strike of lighting, but remains as a constant noise that’s impossible to turn off, even when you so want it to go away.

What To do?

Being in that situation, where you fall for a friend who may not feel the same way is tough. Really tough, because there is a balance that gets tipped over. This can make things awkward, and uncomfortable for both parties. It’s uncharted waters and sometimes the waves are really big.

Below are some steps to help navigate you through.

Step 1. Sit With Your Feelings

Photo by Brock Wegner on Unsplash

Sometimes it can come as a shock and it’s important to know that the way you feel is not just a flash in the pan, but actually real.

Take time to accept how you feel and work to figure out the best way to express yourself.

Don’t write a handwritten love letter. I tried that when I was 15 on my first love. I will never forget the embarrassment when she told me I got her eye-color wrong.

“They’re green… not blue.”


I still saw her eyes as blue after that so I don’t think I was wrong, but everyone has different perceptions of themselves, so who am I to argue?

Step 2. Tell Them How You Feel

From Universal’s Love Actually (2003)

The longer you wait the harder and more awkward this will become.

It is better to tell them as soon as the feelings come to see how they feel about you. Sometimes you already know that they don’t feel the same, but you have to hear it from their lips to truly believe it.

This is a difficult step in the process because rejection is tough, and honestly awkward for both parties. If you are good friends, they might say nice things about you to soften the blow. For me that always made it worse, but I would do and have done the same thing, so I understand completely.

Step 3. Accept Their Response

Photo by Ante Gudelj on Unsplash

Do not linger.

Do not give yourself false hope that they will change their mind about you.

Do not try to change yourself to fit into someone you think they would like.

I’ve been the friend who turns someone down and honestly there’s nothing that the other person can do that would make me change my mind. It is the same on the other side.

If a good friend turns you down, it is one of the most difficult forms of rejection and can be a major bruise to your ego. This is because you value their opinion and hold them in high esteem. They also know you personally making the rejection multi-faceted.

Accepting that someone you like, doesn’t like you will take some time, but you can only start to move forward once you let the fantasy of your potential relationship die.

You need this step to move forward.

Sometimes it will come full circle, but this rarely works out.

I was turned down by someone in high school. She told me “maybe” when I asked her to the prom, after we had gone out a few times… Then took an underclassman. That hurt.

Years later, she came after me and we hooked up a couple times.

We were both such different people that once the “living a high school fantasy” wore off I had no interest in continuing the relationship. I remember waking up next to her one morning and thinking, wow, the butterflies are totally gone… And that’s okay.

I think she felt the same way, and we haven’t spoken much since.

Step 4. Give Yourself Time to Heal

Photo by Jennifer Griffin on Unsplash

This is probably the most difficult stage.

You may think that telling someone how you feel is hard, and it is, but the healing process afterwards takes some time, work, and reflection.

If you talk frequently I recommend pulling back for a bit, they will understand.

This can be difficult if you’re in the same friend-group. I would not recommend telling people in the friend-group about what happened unless they bring it up. What you said is between the two of you and should remain as such.

That being said, you should talk to people in your life who are a bit outside of the situation so they can give you more sound, honest advice. This may be a parent, a sibling, or a friend who doesn’t know the other person.

I would also recommend doing things to help sooth you through the grief stages.

For me, I burry myself in workouts, particularly running. The fastest mile I ever ran was the day after UCLA rejected me.

Another big one is to express how you feel in mediums you feel comfortable. Write, paint, cry, meditate, read, surf, or dance, it doesn’t matter what, but make sure to live though and experience those emotions in full.

I’ve always turned to music. I write and sing songs about heartbreak and that generally helps through the process.

Listening to music is also helpful. John Mayer & James Bay are kings of heartbreak songs.

There is no time limit for this stage.

I wouldn’t recommend spending years of your life feeling sorry for yourself, but don’t think that you can schedule the healing process. Complex emotions take time to recover from- and if this has happened to you more than once, as it has for me, you will notice that certain relationships take more time than others. The best way to heal faster is to not compare who you’re getting over to potential new relationships.

There was a long time that I had to compare everyone I went out with to my first love. Every woman.

This was a big mistake because it made it far more difficult for me to be emotionally available.

Step 5. Move On

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

Move on. Move forward. Do not take one step back.

This does not mean that you have to jump into a different relationship quickly, I’ve tried that and it doesn’t work, it just means that you can’t hold on to any hope that things will change.

Rather, time, experience, and the world will naturally change you as a person. You will become different, stronger, more secure in yourself for having gone through this process.

I hope that you don’t have to go through this process more than once, as I have, but if you do, hold on with the confidence knowing that you let yourself open up to feel that way about someone else… And if you did feel that way about someone who doesn’t feel the same, imagine how great it will feel to be with someone who has feelings just as strong as yours. Who adores you for your uniqueness, beauty, strengths, and faults, just as you adore them.

Big thing that has always helped me move on–> A person is not right for you romantically if they do not feel the same way about you.

That may take time to accept and if so, you’re still in the healing stage, but know if someone doesn’t feel the same about you- you’re not meant to be with them. There is nobility in the pursuit of romance, but you cannot force love.

Step 6. Rekindle The Friendship… Or Don’t

Photo by Torsten Dederichs on Unsplash

I’ve always found that people worth being in your life will always be. Some relationships are seasonal, some are for life, some are in between. Madea, yes Tyler Perry’s Madea, dives deep into this, describing relationships like a tree. Some people are leaves (seasonal), some are branches (a few years), and some are roots (for life). Watch her here.

This stage is tough because it is up to both parties to decide if it’s worth it to move forward.

Things may be awkward initially, but with time, and a little bit of effort- the friendship can grow back stronger.

Or it won’t.

If you’re reading this contemplating whether to tell your friend you like them, you have to accept the fact that if you do there is a chance that it will ruin the friendship. I’m not saying or hoping that it will, but it is a possibility and one you have to accept.

Don’t let that deter you.

You will never regret telling someone how you feel, even if you were rejected and feel like the loser in the scenario.

Staying in a relationship, where there is an unknown power balance will be way worse and will stunt your personal growth going forward.

You are never a loser if you respectfully and honestly tell someone how you feel. Don’t blame them, or yourself if things don’t work out. Sometimes things just happen. How you both respond will show your character and the true depth of your relationship.

Not all relationships/ friendships are meant to last, and that’s okay.

Final Thoughts

I wrote this to help me get over someone I care about deeply and to help others do the same in their own lives.

At no point did I intend to hurt the people I mentioned in this post. They are purposefully anonymous. I use them as teaching moments/ examples only.

Please don’t ask me who they are, I won’t tell you, and it doesn’t really matter.

If you need more help in this area, please reach out to a licensed practitioner.

Wishing everyone strong, healthy, loving relationships, and friendships.

Do not settle for anything less. The Ariel Knows Nothing family deserves only the best!




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