One-Sided Love: What to Do When You Don’t Love Them Back

one sided love

Loving someone who doesn’t love you back is excruciating. But being loved by someone you don’t love can be just as heartbreaking.

It’s been called a lot of things: unrequited love, the friend zone, one-sided love, etc. But it all boils down to one idea: only one person is in love.

It’s a good premise for a romantic comedy, but we all know how it usually ends in real life. So many people fall in love with someone who won’t return their affection, yet they still push on, hoping for a miracle. We’re not saying that it’s impossible; lots of people fall for the people who loved them first. That’s how human emotions work. Give enough love, and it’ll come back soon enough, right?

The problem starts when you don’t feel the same way about the person who loves you. In time, it might change… but the present situation is what it is, and cannot be changed at will.

Why don’t you love the person who loves you?

There are a multitude of reasons why one person might not express the same feelings as their admirer. They might have had a traumatic experience that keeps them from opening up to someone new, for instance.

They might be in love with someone else who doesn’t love them back, as well. Now, isn’t that ironic? They might be dealing with their own insecurities, which, in turn, prevents them from letting other people in.

Perhaps they just don’t like the person who loves them. It can be that simple.

What does it feel like to be loved by someone you don’t love?

You’d think it was a wonderful feeling, knowing that someone is willing to give their heart to you without anything in return. Objectively speaking, most people will sympathize with the love-struck fool, while they crucify the person who was reluctantly placed on a pedestal.

The truth is, most people don’t consider what the other party feels in this sort of situation. They only see the suffering of the one who’s giving all the love. Here’s what’s really going on with the person who can’t seem to fall for someone who’s head over heels for them.

#1 It’s a burden. Being loved is all well and good, but being pressured to love someone back can be emotionally taxing. You’re carrying the weight of their affection, but you’re not enjoying the benefits of it.

#2 It makes you doubt yourself. You second-guess why you’re not developing feelings for a person who loves you. Is there something wrong with you? Are you a bad person? You’re not. You’re just not in love. [Read: How to master positive self-talk and banish negativity]

#3 It makes you guilty. When pushed, you might consider actually agreeing to your admirer’s proposal because it’s the “right” thing to do. Remember, though, that there are no winners in that type of situation.

#4 It pains you to see them like that. Yes, they might be hurting because you don’t love them, but it hurts you, too, knowing that you can’t ease their pain.

#5 You find ways to make them stop loving you. You start fights, become a brat, or treat them like crap. In order to avoid being an asshole by rejecting your admirer outright, you inadvertently become an asshole by pushing them away at all costs.

#6 It’s difficult to push them away. They love you. You can’t change it. Neither can they.

#7 It’s hard to let them go. Their love for you starts to become your security blanket. Their affection starts to make you feel safe and cared for. The only problem is… you’re not willing to do the same for them. [Read: Ways to reject someone and what to expect afterwards]

#8 You think that no one else will love you if you leave them. You start to think that maybe this is your last chance at love. It makes you think that it might not be a good idea to search for something else, when it’s already there.

#9 You feel validated because someone loves you. Your ego has been fed so much that you fail to see that you shouldn’t be dependent on someone else’s affection. You feel needed and wanted, but it’s not by the person you need and want.

#10 You feel like crap because you can’t give them anything in return. Knowing that you can’t return the sentiment makes you feel like the worst person ever. It’s not your fault, but it sure feels a lot like it is, especially when people start trying to guilt trip you into giving your admirer a chance. [Read: 20 signs you’re a people pleaser and you don’t know it]

#11 It feels awkward. You can’t convince yourself to feel any romantic feelings toward this person, so everything you do with them feels like a skit or playacting, leaving you feeling strange and out of sorts.

#12 You’re torn between wanting them in your life and letting them live their own. If you keep them around, it feels like you’re stringing them along. But if you make it clear that you can’t love them the way they love you, you’ll end up breaking their heart, and you’ll still be the bad guy. Lose-lose.

What should you do?

It depends on what your intentions are. Are you staying in contact with your not-to-be lover because you want to see things through? Or are you staying out of a misguided idea that you’re saving them? Is it out of guilt? Are you feeling socially pressured? Any negative feelings associated with the situation should be acknowledged and addressed.

When it’s a bad feeling, you’ll know that you shouldn’t be in the situation. If it feels good to spend time with someone you care about but don’t love, it’s okay; just make sure that you’re very clear and honest about where you stand. They should know that you are not in love and have no idea when or even if you’ll ever fall in love with them.

If you’re in love with another person, you should stop leading your admirer on. If you want to see other people, tell them that it’s over and that they should find someone else. It seems easy in the context of a how-to article, but we know that it’s not. When feelings are involved, there’s no easy way to break bad news.

Just know that your honesty is worth more than the effort you put into keeping the peace and placating your guilt.

Will you ever fall in love with this person?

The truth is that we don’t know–no one does. People fall in love when it’s right. No one can quantify or verify whether it’s already happened or not. Just know that loving someone means being able to see past the selfishness and egotism that comes with being liked.

Although it feels good to be adored, it shouldn’t come at the cost of someone else’s well-being. If you ever do fall in love with the person who loves you, just know that they wouldn’t have fallen in love with you if you weren’t worth it.

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Danielle Anne
Danielle Anne
Those who can’t do, teach. I can neither do nor teach as well as others, but I can try. Aside from being a writer, I am also a physical therapist. My dream is...
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4 thoughts on “One-Sided Love: What to Do When You Don’t Love Them Back”

  1. Warlow says:

    I hate telling this story, because it’s still quite fresh and still burns. In my freshman year of high school, I was just getting over a girl who I’d liked since elementary school, who shut me down in the most mean way possible (“you’re a fat, ugly loser who’ll never amount to anything in a few years!” Well, bitch, I’m 17 and already an award winning photographer). Anyways, it was mostly the year where my affections bounced from one girl to another, which was rather unusual for me. That is, until I met her. There was this girl that I knew through my drama class, who was 2 years older than me, and gorgeous. I can’t really describe her. Its not that I can’t thin of the words, its just that I have too many words. Her personality was just amazing, and she was just such a wonderful person to be around. I quickly became friends with her, and I knew I was fond of her, but I didn’t realize how much I longed for her until a few months later. Que the beginning of Sophomore year. Homecoming was coming up quick, and I wanted to actually have a date this year round, so, whilst sitting with my friends in the drama classroom brainstorming a list of girls I can consider, i glance across the room, make eye contact with this girl, and she smiles at me. Just randomly, but that smile melted me. It is definitely one of the most beautiful things about her. It was right then that I knew I had to make her mine. I find this adorable way of asking her to homecoming, and ask her before drama one day, to which she smiles her gorgeous smile, hugs me, and kisses me on the cheek, but says, “I’m sorry! This is my last homecoming, and I wanted to go stag with my friends!”. That one hurt quite a bit, but it was a good reality check/life lesson regarding the cute approach to asking out girls. The one upside was, for the first time, when I girl told me she was only going to go with friends, she didn’t lie to me about it. The experience didn’t spur me from trying to win her, though, in fact, it just rekindled the fire that caused my lust for her. Soon I realized that I must have her in my life, and I admit, my sophomore self became borderline obsessed with her for a very short while, but I soon got reality checked. It was around this time though, that I began to start developing my poetry and song writing skills, so it was useful. I’m not a very emotional person in general, and suddenly having this aching feeling when I didn’t see her in the day was something really new to me, and the only way I could cope with it was writing it out in verse. Nearing the later half of my sophomore year, she began dating someone. A guy I knew, in fact, a guy I looked up to who was 1 year older than her, and 3 older than myself. He never knew of my affections towards her, so I never really blamed him, but I was most definitely crushed by this. I became a little moody, snapping at my friends who were all somehow in happy relationships while I was miserably alone. It was not a fun time, and for a while, I considered it to be the darkest part of my recent life, though now, it seems like sunshine, rainbows and fluffy kittens. A few months later, while we began to drift apart because I felt like I would do something stupid to jeopardize her relationship, or worse, mine with her, she went off to college. I began my Junior year in high school. A few weeks into the school year, one of my friends informs me that she was single again. I began talking to her again, and things were looking up. Soon winter break came up, and I was mostly done with setting aside my feelings for her, which I had been attempting to do since her relationship. But when I just bumped into her outside of a convenience store one night, all the work I had done bottling up all those emotions for her just exploded. All the work I had done to get past her was wasted. Later that night, I just kept thinking to myself, “Hey, maybe if I just tell her how I feel, I can either end up in a relationship with her, or worst case scenario we’ll still be friends and it’ll be off my chest. Kind of like Ted and Robin in the first episode of HIMYM. Unfortunately, neither of us had time to meet, and I most definitely could not wait until summer to proclaim my love for her. So I thought up ways for me to tell her. A phone call would do the job, but what if she’s busy, or with friends? How about an e-mail? Nah, too impersonal, and so is IM. Hmmm, video-chat? Nah, i just don’t like the idea of going through the web. I should write her a letter. That’s perfect! We both LOVE mail, and in fact, we have a monthly mail correspondence! So I pour my heart out onto 3 pages of a handwritten (with a quill on parchment, I may add) letter. Now I don’t exactly remember what I said in the letter, but I know the jist of it, which basically told her how much I loved her, why I love her, and what not. I started to say how if she doesn’t quite feel the same way about me, I understand, and I’d hope we could still be friends, and just forget entirely about this whole letter. The next day, i go to the post office, and as soon as I drop that letter in the bin, I think to myself, “Shit, this was a bad idea…” And oh boy, was I right. Now I knew from past experience that it should only take maybe all of 3 days to get to her. I figured she’d wait on it, write me back, and I’d have my response within 10 days give or take from the date I sent it (which was 2 days after New Years). I never imagined how much waiting for a letter could possibly eat at me for those 10 days. But soon it became 3 weeks, 5 weeks, 2 months, and it began to torture me. What’s worse is that she stopped all communication with me. I knew that letter held a lot to take in, but I didn’t think it would take so long. I began to think that I really screwed the pooch here, I shouldn’t have sent the letter and ruined something great. I started beating myself up because I thought I was an idiot for doing something so stupid. The 2 month mark began the darkest period of my life, which escalated to the point where I was so angry with myself, that I began to just punch walls. Literally punching walls. 3 3/4 months is, I began to drink, when I discovered it took a lot to get me drunk. I started getting pretty self destructive at this point; I burned a bunch of bridges with friends because I was a pretty bitter person. I still hung out with my close circle of friends, but whenever I could, I was never on campus around my peers. I became rather cynical about love, telling myself I will never love a girl again. But take note: I never once blamed her, just myself. My friends began to think that this, in fact, was the most unhealthy thing about this whole ordeal. I apparently placed her upon this pedestal which basically meant she could do no wrong. Instead of being mad at her for not writing back and basically setting me into this pit of despair, I only blamed myself for putting her in such a weird position where a guy 2 years her junior in confessing his love in a letter. That’s all for now.

  2. Micky N. says:

    Being in a relationship has its doubts. I work as a lawyer and started dating this judge. We’ve known for a couple of years, but lately she’s become so hot like damn. So, we are dating still, but I’m not so sure in my love toward her. She’s super nice to me and I know that she loves me, however I feel like I don’t. Every day when I see my face in the mirror before shaving, this question lingers: Will I start loving her? I have never been in a situation like this – she’s super nice and I’m afraid to break up with her. What if I love her and I don’t know it yet? Maybe I’ll realize it when I dump her, but who knows? God please help me, I’m getting crazy!

  3. jhg says:

    I just met this beautiful 19 year old girl. She is absolutely the most cutest thing. Amazing brunette hair, skinny, amazing white skin. Really a 10/10. There is nothing that can come close to her. Probably you guessed I’m totally in this girl. Anyway, I met this girl two days ago. I was flirting with her. Telling stories. She returned the favor. I asked her number and got it. Today I messaged her how she was doing. She said she was doing good and she asked how I was doing and what I have been up to. We chatted a little bit. And then I asked her where she lives. She didn’t give an answer. I fear that we this might only be a one sided love sort of thing and I’ve been down that road.

  4. magical dick says:

    Men who have had this situation occur more than once, they typically know when these women have feelings for them. I had a friend who had this happen to him a lot and he knew typically within a few days. I’ve had to do it a few times, and every time I knew the confession was coming. If you’ve been infatuated with a guy for five years, the odds that he didn’t know are incredibly low. So why didn’t he say anything? Well, because many men are of the opinion that if they ignore the problem, it will just go away. They’ll assume a woman will get over them and find someone new, or that they’ll take the hint of not being asked out and focus their energies elsewhere. It’s preferable to them than playing the “bad guy” and having to tell someone that it’s unequivocally not going to happen. What do they feel when they do have to say that? Probably some measure of sadness, pity, relief, frustration, and self deprecation. Sadness because it sucks having to make someone else sad. Pity because we hoped they would just figure it out on their own. Relief because we don’t have to deal with it anymore. Frustration because how did they not understand? And self-deprecation, because we feel stupid things like “if only I could have made myself like her.”

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