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Loving Someone You Can’t Have: 15 Ways to Handle the Pain


There are only a few things more agonizing than being in love with someone you can’t have. How can you deal with this kind of pain? Here are 15 ways.

Whether the person you secretly love is your best friend’s fiancée, your boss’s crush, or your close friend who’s clearly in love with someone else, there’s no escaping the pain of being with them and knowing that you can never have them. Whenever they’re around, you get consumed by your efforts to conceal your emotions, hoping that the way you stare at them won’t give away your real feelings. There are times when you ask yourself why you’re subjecting yourself to this kind of torture. And the answer is quite simple: they bring you joy.

How to handle the pain of loving someone you can’t have

Maybe you’ve decided that it’s better to be with someone you really love, even if you can never have them, than not have them in your life in any way. If that’s your decision, then there’s nothing much you can do, except handle the pain that goes with it. Here are some tips on coping with the pain of loving someone you can’t have.

Be cool

If you are still hanging around because you hope that the two of you will be together one day, or you’re still enjoying the happiness the person brings, even with all the pain, here are the things you can do to cope.

#1 Enjoy your time together, but don’t ask for anything more. Condition your mind to only focus on the good times and forget the rest. Don’t demand anything more than what’s given to you, because it’s likely that they’ll say no. If you’re going out to grab some coffee, enjoy those moments. Who cares if they’re going to be with their partner afterward? Not you! Acknowledge the pain, but focus on the good times. [Read: Do you have a big crush or are you experiencing limerence?]

#2 Do not ask questions that could hurt you. Asking questions that run along the lines of “Did you ever love me?” and “Am I not good enough?” will just hurt you, or cause tension in your relationship. The goal is to avoid pain, so it’s counterproductive to seek answers to these questions.

#3 Divert your attention to hobbies. Spending too much time analyzing your feelings? Roll your sleeves up and get a new hobby—right now. Just get out of bed, go to a craft shop—or wherever else you can—and get your hands movin’. Not only will this temporarily help you ease the pain, it will also make you more creative—and creativity is always a good thing. Imagine how many paintings or hats you’d make by the end of the year, if you just use the time you spend on self-pity wisely?

#4 Be a real friend, but protect your feelings. Of course, you want to be their crying shoulder. But when it comes to unrequited love, and you’re on the losing end, don’t give your all. Make sure that you’re comforting them without crushing your heart. It’s okay to listen to them talk about their frustrations with the person they love, but it’s another thing if that’s all you talk about and you’re even helping them plot the perfect surprise party for their beloved. [Read: 11 compelling signs you’re facing unrequited love]

#5 Be surrounded by friends. During times of emotional turmoil, you need the loving arms, sound advice, and truckloads of craziness of your best buds. There’s nothing like pondering and laughing about your situation over a couple of beers. I am sure they’ve all had similar experiences, and would be very much willing to share some tips. Say “cheers” and laugh it off, at least for one night!

#6 Stay away from hurtful situations. If you know that they’re going to be with their partner at a party, don’t show up. Why would you? It’s like committing suicide. Simply decline their invitation and be at peace. Sleeping all day or binge watching your favorite TV show are so much better than seeing the person you love with somebody else.

#7 Learn to compartmentalize. To cope with emotional turmoil, you have to learn how to compartmentalize. When you’re with the person you adore, be with them 100%. But make sure that when you’re working or doing something else, your mind is not wrapped around them. It takes a lot of practice, but it can be done. [Read: 10 signs you’re lovesick and 10 quick ways to get out of it]

#8 Devote 30 minutes every day to sulk. Set a specific time in your day to just be sentimental about your one-sided love affair. Don’t let thoughts about your beloved consume you all the time; when the thought pops in your head, tell yourself that you can only think about it from 6:00-6:30. It sounds like a crazy idea, but it’s effective!

Cool isn’t an option

Perhaps some time has passed, yet you’re still stuck in the same situation. You want things to change, or you’d rather be left alone. Here are some things you can do to eliminate and even totally get rid of the pain.

#9 Stop pretending you’re okay. If you’re really in pain, you don’t have to pretend you’re okay. Not anymore. You’ve been dealing with this for months *or years* and it is exhausting to put on a fake smile all the time.

Tell them you can’t be with them while they shop for their lover’s gift because it hurts you. Don’t laugh or smile if you really don’t feel like doing those things, either. You are entitled to express your real feelings, just like they’re entitled to theirs. [Read: How your self respect affects you and the relationship with your crush]

#10 Limit contact as much as possible. Yes, even if seeing them makes you “happy” on the surface. You must learn to turn away from something that only gives you temporary happiness and be okay with missing out, because here’s something you should know: if it causes you distress, you’re not missing anything! Do yourself a favor and protect your emotions.

#11 Date other people. Why not? Don’t be scared that you’ll lose the tiniest chance of having the person you can’t have. You’re the only one being sentimental about it. Trust me, they’ll even be genuinely happy for you. If they actually like you, but have been too afraid to make a move, this may give them a push to finally do so. [Read: How to kiss a friend accidentally and get away with it]

#12 Hide them from your feeds. You always want to see them and find out what they’re doing—that’s why you added them on Facebook. But then you also see them cuddling with their sweetheart. Ah, those photos can make you bleed! Once and for all, hide them from your timeline. They’re like an addiction. You have to cut them out of your life, by all means.

#13 Write about your feelings. Writing about our feelings can give us a clearer view of what we’re going through. This is a well-known therapy technique that won’t cost you a dime. This has the same effect as a prayer. What makes this better is that you can actually re-read what you’ve written, so you can assess yourself better. This serves as a great proof of just how crazy you are being!

#14 Write a letter to yourself. After writing about your feelings, it’s time to write a letter to yourself. Yes, it may sound cheesy, but it’s one effective way to regain your self-esteem and forgive yourself. It can help you reconnect with yourself, so you can face reality, and make new plans for your life. [Read: How to stop a selfish friend from hurting you and using you]

#15 Finally, tell them what you feel without expecting anything. It will relieve you of all the self-inflicted tension you’ve built up over time. Simply inform them that you like them, but know you can’t have them. This will liberate you, as long as you ensure that you’re not doing this to get sympathy or love.

Be advised: if confessing your feelings would put you and your beloved in danger *i.e. if you’re in love with your future sister-in-law*, forget it. It’s not worth the trouble. Just deal with it on your own. [Read: 13 naughty ways to get out of the friend zone in no time]

It’s painful to love someone you can’t have, but don’t let it take over your life. Sure, allow yourself to sulk for a time, but after that, dust off your sorrows and toughen up a little *or a lot*. When all is said and done, you’ll be glad you took care of your heart and sanity using these tips, even when in love, because those are the things that only you can protect.

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7 thoughts on “Loving Someone You Can’t Have: 15 Ways to Handle the Pain”

  1. Sawyer says:

    Wow! This was like reading my autobiography. The writer of this is literally the best person living in this world. Well done, my friend. So, I have been developing certain feelings towards my friend and I can’t find enough bravery to speak with her about it. I think teens nowadays refer to it as “being in a friendzone”. She has a boyfriend and I believe that he’s going to propose any minute. What should I do, guys? I can’t sleep, I can’t eat, I can’t do anything. I just sit in my room and think about my situation. Ugh, this sucks. I will probably try to date someone else, as this article suggested and let us see where that will take me.

  2. Spey says:

    We all love someone we can not have and I was just lucky enough that I have someone that I thought I couldn’t have before. I fell in love with her at the wrong time because I had a girlfriend and we were on the rocks for the longest time. I didn’t know what to do, I just fell in love with her because it’s like when we look into each other’s eyes, I can see who she is and her soul. It was so amazing when I really got to know her because all that I had thought about her when I looked into her eyes, came true when I got to know her. She is really perfect. It’s just that I fell in love with her at the wrong time. I took a risk and although I couldn’t break up with my long term relationship, I started dating her and getting to know her better, the more I got to know her, the more I wanted to quit my old relationship. So, I did, I left my girlfriend, to be with the love of my life. I never really thought that I would fall for her that fast and I thought that my love for her would wear out fast too, but to this day, tears roll down my face every time I think about her being in my life because she is so special to me and I always am thankful that I have her in my life.

  3. Craig says:

    I think we all love someone we can’t have, whether by our choice or theirs. Falling in love isn’t a time tabled event, sometimes it just happens to us and we really can’t help who we do fall for. You have my sympathy but try falling in love with someone who doesn’t believe you when you tell them, now that sucks big time!!!

  4. Grami says:

    So, there’s a man, and he’s married. We first got together when I was 17, and were lovers very casually for about 2 years. We didn’t break up, we just drifted apart. Then we ran into one another one night, when I was about 25, and got back together. It was very intense, and I had never felt anything like it. That time, he broke it off, and devastated me. I still remember the first time he said he loved me – how I cried, how I held him that night, crying while he slept. I knew, I think, that he would disappear, and he did. But I never got over him, really. Fast forward, through decades… One day, driving along, I heard his voice on the radio, in a brief news report. I wanted to be with him, but didn’t reach out. In the meantime, I was married, and miserable, and finally did reach out – ten years later. We’ve been together for years now, and we’re both still married, and I don’t have the financial independence to get out. He broke up with me last week, in part because I am not financially independent. It’s something I’m not proud of, but I don’t know what to do about it. But I also know that it’s not the real problem. I think I’m writing this now just because he hasn’t called me in days, and I miss talking to him. I miss hearing his voice, his laugh. And I miss being held, or at least holding him. It’s all I can do to stop myself calling him. He has to be the one to reach out, though. I suspect he will, but we’ll see what happens.

  5. Play with my toenails says:

    “Loving someone” is a really broad term and I think it encompasses a variety of meanings with different people. Putting aside romantic relationships, I think its possible to continue loving someone that you genuinely care about. I know some people who currently are struggling with drugs and addiction. One of them, in particular, succeeded in doing a lot of pretty messed up things which caused a lot of grief and misery to their immediate family to the point where he was blatantly pushing them away. I’d like to think that their love for him was one reason why they stuck around and convinced him into getting treatment. I was in love with my best friend and just couldn’t help it. I asked her out a total of three times. Well we’re dating now so I guess it isn’t entirely hopeless for you. Don’t wait on him/her though, there’s no telling if they’ll ever love you the way you love them. Explore other options, meet other people, you’ll find someone who reciprocates your love one way or another.

  6. Kiwilime says:

    I am going through this now and it’s very hard for me

  7. Mrs. Soprano says:

    I’ve been with my first boyfriend, as a lover, on and off, for 20+ years. Somewhere around 5 years ago I really began to fall for him again. Things have been so complicated but I just can’t seem to let go. I’m alone, and miss hom everyday I’m not woth hom and I just dont know what’s worse…….being wothout him, or hurting when I’m not with him. Any advise??

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