Unless you’re immune to rejection, we’ve all fallen victim to unrequited love. You know, that soul-crushing, heart-throbbing yearning for someone else who just doesn’t return the feeling. But the truth is, “the chase” is seriously appealing to many and can be difficult to quit.
Take it from me, I’ve had my fair share of unreciprocated feelings in my dating life. I always want what I can’t have. And when something is available, I’m not always interested. Go figure.
Unrequited love can come in many different forms — from an unrealistic crush to an old flame who has since fallen out of love with you. It usually can feel very lonely and be a knock to your self-esteem, causing you to close yourself off to available options. And some may even be more susceptible to unrequited love depending on their dating and attachment style.
But everyone deserves to love and be loved. Which means it may be time to let go of that certain object of your affection who doesn’t return the favor, so that you can get back out there and experience a mutual love. We spoke with dating experts to find out exactly what unrequited love is and the best way for you to kick it to the curb.
What Is Unrequited Love?
Simply put, it’s unreturned feelings. But obviously, there are a lot more layers when it comes to dating and love. “Unrequited love is a love or love interest in someone that can’t be acted upon either because one person doesn’t return the feelings or both parties are with someone else and can’t act upon it,” says matchmaker and CEO of Exclusive Matchmaking Susan Trombetti.
Majorly crushing on someone who doesn’t feel the same, having feelings for someone in a committed relationship or in an inappropriate position of authority (like your boss), or continuing to love an ex after they’ve moved on are all examples listed by Trombetti.
She adds that there are a few telltale signs of unrequited love: the person takes you for granted because they know how you feel, you often catch yourself daydreaming about this person and what a relationship with them would be like, you feel heartbroken or in anguish, and you’re unable to move on to someone new who can give you what you need.
What Causes Unrequited Love?
While there can be many underlying reasons why you love someone who isn’t available, relationship expert and Director of Relationship Science at Hinge Logan Ury says there is one main reason why you may be drawn to someone who doesn’t want you back.
“One of the most common reasons why people obsess over someone who’s not interested in them is because they’re anxiously-attached, and there is a good chance they’re attracted to someone with an avoidant-attachment style,” she tells us, “It’s actually called the ‘anxious-avoidant loop.'”
So what does it mean to be an anxiously-attached dater? Ury says this type of person has a fear of abandonment and must be in constant communication with their partner. On the other hand, an avoidant-attached dater is “afraid of being smothered.”
“They try to minimize the pain of rejection by pretending they don’t actually want to connect,” Ury explains. “They don’t believe they can rely on others to meet their emotional needs, so they avoid getting too close to anyone.”
So the vicious cycle commences: those with anxious-attachment style love the thrill of the chase, prompting them to go after those with avoidant-attachment style. Ironic, right?
And when someone does return the feelings, anxious-attached daters tend to get turned off. So as a result, “anxiously-attached daters are prone to pursuing mixed signals and unrequited love,” according to Ury.
Is Unrequited Love Bad?
No surprise here: Unrequited love is super unhealthy. “It doesn’t feel good to long for someone knowing that you will never have what you want,” Trombetti says. “You aren’t able to find someone that loves you and meets your needs, so you become lonely and stuck in an emotional place.”
Both Trombetti and Ury also believe that a continuous pattern of unrequited love could point to a bigger problem. Trombetti suggests asking yourself “why you put yourself in situations with others that don’t return your feelings and sabotage your happiness.”
Once you figure out the “why” you can start to change your habits and rewrite that pattern, says Ury.
How to Move on From Unrequited Love
The first step in finding a balanced relationship is letting go of the unreciprocated love. It’s much easier said than done, so Trombetti and Ury provided a few strategies.
First things first, mute or block this person on social media and cut off all contact with them. The more you see them or their posts, the more top of mind they are. So remove them from your feed (both literally and figuratively).
Next, Ury suggests doing some soul-searching to figure out what it is about this person that you cannot let go of. Do they actually have qualities you’re attracted to, or are you simply caught up on them because they don’t like you back? If there are characteristics you value in this person, Trombetti says these can be your “road map” to find someone who possesses similar attributes — but also loves you back.
Now, it’s time to end the cycle of unrequited love. That starts by training yourself to seek out a “secure dater,” Ury says. “Find someone who doesn’t have to be convinced to date you,” she advises. “Choose someone who chooses you back.”
If you still find yourself hung up on someone or you’re repeating the pattern in every attachment you form, Trombetti suggests seeking help from a therapist or dating coach, who are trained to help you overcome these obstacles.
The bottom line is everyone deserves to be loved. If you find yourself often attracted to others who don’t feel the same way, there’s a good chance you’re stuck in a cycle of self-sabotage. The good news is you can change your dating habits and start to seek out healthier relationships. It all starts by recognizing that you deserve more — and then looking for a partner who is actually equipped to give it to you.