Unrequited love: 15 steps to deal with the pain

Unrequited love is the experience of loving someone without them loving you back.

The pain of unrequited or unreciprocated love is almost unbearable.

When it comes to the pain of unrequited love, you’ll probably agree with me when I say:

There’s nothing worse.

I have put together 15 effective steps to deal with unrequited love and move on with your life.

We can’t promise that it will be easy. But many people have been in this situation before you and have ended up finding real love.

Let’s begin.

What is unrequited love?

Unrequited love refers to a love that is one-sided and not returned.

Simply put, it’s Hell.

You spend the majority of your time thinking of this person, dreaming of what life will be like if they can just love you back.

There are two main kinds of unrequited love.

  1. The first kind of unrequited love happens when you have started a relationship with someone, but their interest in you wanes over time.
  2. The second kind of unrequited love occurs when your interest in someone isn’t returned at the outset. You may be confused about the other person’s true feelings or it may already be apparent that this other person simply isn’t interested in you.

Whichever type of unrequited love you are experiencing, the pain can be immense.

Let’s go over the key signs to look out for that you really are experiencing unrequited love. We’ll then explain the 15 key steps to deal with unrequited love.

Signs of unrequited love

Lachlan Brown from Hack Spirit has put together these nine key signs that you are experiencing unrequited love:

  1. You are ignored by the other person.
  2. You give more than they give.
  3. They avoid physical touch.
  4. They flirt with others.
  5. They avoid spending time with you.
  6. Passion is waning.
  7. They don’t want you to use their phone.
  8. They lie.
  9. You feel alone.

You should look out for these signs for both kinds of unrequited love: when you’re already in a relationship and when you are wanting to start a relationship with someone.

How to get over unrequited love: 15 steps

Now that you’ve identified the key signs of unrequited love, it’s important to take steps in dealing with the pain.

Even if you still want a relationship with the person who doesn’t love you back, it’s essential to move through these steps.

These steps in dealing with unrequited love will help you to love yourself more deeply and build your confidence.

This makes you more attractive to others. The outcome will be that you’ll more likely meet someone who is a better fit for you, and in the process, you may even find that the person who doesn’t love you back may start to take more notice in you.

1) Understand why it hurts so badly

It’s important to understand why unrequited love hurts so badly.

We grow up with stories embedded in our minds about romantic love. Often, we don’t realize that the dreams of romantic love become imprinted in our minds, influencing the decisions we make.

Even when we aren’t aware of the power of the myth of romantic love, it’s still having a big impact.

This is why unrequited love hurts so badly. It’s not just the pain of someone not loving you back. Your deeper dreams of love are being shattered by unrequited love.

This is deeply painful. It’s normal that you are struggling with this situation.

2) Deal with the loss of a friendship

You may be in a relationship with this person. They may be a friend.

Either way, you need to deal with the loss of a friendship.

The brutal truth is that this person is drifting away from you. They may even be sensing how needy you are feeling, which in turn is driving them further away.

I have had to deal with the loss of a number of very close friends in recent years. Here are the key steps I have taken:

  • Embrace the good memories you have.
  • Don’t try to replace them with someone else.
  • Wish them well in life (this one is hard but trust me it will be worthwhile if you can do it).
  • Don’t wait for them to realize they’ve made a mistake (just as hard—but just as worthwhile).
  • Grieve the loss.

3) Accept the current situation

Research shows that we feel an emotional wound in the same way as a physical injury. Emotional pain activates the same part of your brain as physical pain.

So when you’re physically injured, what’s the first thing you do?

You acknowledge it and take care of yourself. You’re kind to yourself and you nurture your injured wounds.

However, this doesn’t mean you should just lay in bed all day.

It’s important to go about your life as you normally would, but understand that you’re not going to be at peak performance right away.

By taking action and gradually improving step-by-step, you’ll eventually get back to the way you were.

“Understanding is the first step to acceptance, and only with acceptance can there be recovery.” – J.K Rowland

4) Know that you’re not alone

Research indicates that more than half of Americans have experienced unrequited love at least once in their lives. So it’s a common occurrence that we all experience at some point.

Right now, there’s two things making you feel hurt:

  1. You feel sad and heartbroken.
  2. You feel ashamed, like there’s something wrong with you because the feelings aren’t returned. Self-doubt creeps in.

But what you need to realize is this:

It happens to everybody! Even those people you might consider “perfect”.


Because not everyone is looking for a relationship. People are at different stages in their life.

Or perhaps you’re just not the right person for them.

Whatever it is, it’s very unlikely that “you weren’t good enough”. Instead, they were just looking for something else.

Once you understand that, you’ll be in a much better place emotionally.

“Everyone at some point in life have faced rejection and failure, it is part of the process to self-realisation.” – Lailah Gifty Akita

5) Talk it out with someone who sees it from your perspective

This isn’t the time for someone to tell you how stupid or naive you were for liking this person.

Right now though, you need someone on your side who will listen to your thoughts and feelings and affirm the positive traits you have.

If you’re feeling alone as though you don’t have someone to talk with, there’s a simple trick…

Talk to yourself. Become your own best friend.

You can do this with journaling.

I created a short video about self-love where I explain a simple approach to journaling. Check out the video below, and when I get to step five see if you can apply it to your feelings of unrequited love. If you can’t watch the video right now, check out the article here.

6) Is this a pattern?

According to psychologist Berit Brogaard, crushes become more “valuable” when they’re unattainable and some people can get lost in this pattern over and over again.

To find out if this is a common occurrence in your life, ask yourself if you’ve ever fallen in love with someone who rejected you before.

You may be subconsciously attracted to rejection, and therefore seek people who are unattainable.

This only serves to reinforce the feeling that nobody wants to be with you.

Ask yourself, are you only in love because of the idea of it? Because if you don’t truly love this person, then it is easier to move on.

But as Dr. Bates-Duford suggests, if you are the anxious in your relationships, then perhaps it’s better to work on your issues before you start dating.

If you feel that this might be a pattern, the most important first step is to become aware of it.

Once you’re able to acknowledge it, you’ll understand why you’re attracted to certain people, and you can start focusing on dating those who are more suitable and won’t cause you a hurtful rejection.

7) Are you happy that you loved this person?

Right now, you probably wish you never loved this person. That’s a natural reaction. The pain is still so fresh.

But in due time, once you’re over it, you realize how powerful and beautiful love is.

Your capacity to love this person is a reflection of you. You have managed to see the best in someone.

This is beautiful. It’s also something you’ll be able to do again, after you’ve managed to get over the heartbreak of unreciprocated love.

8) Give up on the idea of a perfect relationship

This one is going to be the hardest to accept, but it’s crucial that you do.

The reality is that there is no such thing as a perfect relationship.

When couples post their pictures on Instagram, they mostly post about the best things in their lives. They don’t post about the challenge they are going through.

But every relationship has challenges. No relationship is perfect. This realization will help you get on with your life.

9) Create distance between you and them

This will be an incredibly difficult step to take. But it’s very important.

You need to create some distance between you and them.

This distance will give you the space to stop thinking so much about this other person. It will be hard initially. You will want to get in contact with this person, even if only to limit the pain.

But you must give yourself the chance to create some space and move on.

10) Were they really perfect?

I can bet my bottom dollar that you’re telling yourself this:

“I’ll never find someone as perfect”.

The truth is, they weren’t perfect. Nobody is. That’s just the way you’ve built them up in your mind.

When we fall in love, we can’t find anything wrong with that person. All we see is their good sign. It’s like our brain is incapable of recognizing the bad things about them.

If you can’t stop thinking about how great they were, it might be time to write a list of things you didn’t like about them.

What you’ll likely realize is that they weren’t that good after all, and getting rejected may not be the tragedy you think it is.

11) Recognize the mind games

One of the hardest parts of getting over love that is not returned has to do with the mind games you will experience. Your brain is going to play some nasty games with you. It’s going to feel like torture.

You are going to question everything you think you know about yourself: you’ll feel like you aren’t good enough. You’ll feel like you aren’t worthy. You’ll feel like you’ve failed in some way.

The work you do to get over those mind games are the most challenging and important. Once you are able to wrap your mind around all the things you might be telling yourself, you’ll be able to get on with life in a more meaningful way.

Right now, you are probably placing a lot of your value in the hands of someone who has just rejected you, but in time you’ll see that it was just part of the recovery process.

12) What is the reason you wanted a romantic relationship in the first place?

Are you scared of being alone? Do you undervalue yourself?

One of the best ways to get over unrequited love is understanding your reason for wanting a relationship.

Often times, we want to be in a relationship because we don’t value ourselves. Therefore, we look for a relationship because we don’t want to be alone and we’re looking for validation. Or we don’t want to deal with our own issues, so we distract ourselves by having someone else.

We created a free masterclass with the shaman Rudá Iandê on love and intimacy. It goes for about 60 minutes and plays in your local timezone. The masterclass helps you to identify the real reason you want a relationship in the first place. Thousands have taken the masterclass and let us know that it’s changed their lives. Check it out here.

13) Appreciate yourself

Now is the perfect time to get to know yourself again.

I’m sure you’re experiencing self-doubt and you’re questioning your self-worth. That’s what rejection does.

You might think that this is lame but what will really help you is sitting down with yourself and writing down on a piece of paper your greatest strengths.

Understanding what your strengths are will make you believe in yourself and everything you have to offer.

Anyone that gets a chance to date you is lucky.

You also might want to write a list of things you’re grateful for, especially if you’re feeling down.

14) Consume to heal

A lot of people will shut the world out when love is unrequited, but if you really want to do some soul healing, spend some time with the people who do love and appreciate you and show you that love.

Surround yourself with people’s good vibes, listen to music that makes you happy, read a powerful story, write, draw, paint, or share your thoughts with the world on your blog.

But take time to bring good things in your life in addition to whatever good vibes you put out. When you give and take like that, it helps you to see that you have value to add to the world and you can let go of the notion that all of your worthy was tied up in a potential relationship.

15) Get out of your comfort zone

Once you feel like you’ve processed the pain of rejection and you’re ready to move on, it’s time to try some new things.

After all, it’s hard to grow when you stay in your comfort zone.

Discovery is an important aspect of life. It allows you to find which things you like or don’t like. You can’t discover your passions, meet amazing people, and have meaningful life experiences if you continue to stay in your secure little bubble.

How to move on from unrequited love

The steps above help you to deal with the experience of unrequited love. As you move through these steps, you’ll start to feel an urge to move on.

For a number of years, I’ve been studying the work of the shaman Rudá Iandê. He has much insight to share about relationships and life in general.

He taught me that we often try to find our sense of fulfillment from relationships, as opposed to finding fulfillment deeply within ourselves.

It’s the same with love. When you’re experiencing unrequited love, at a deeper level, you are trying to experience the emotion of love with someone else.

But you have the capacity to generate these same emotions deeply within yourself.

When you start to love yourself deeply, these emotions emerge spontaneously. Importantly, you aren’t reliant on the preferences of someone else to experience love.

I asked Rudá Iandê to share his key teachings on love and intimacy in our free masterclass. You can access the masterclass here. I highly recommend the masterclass, especially if you’re experiencing unrequited love.

Can unrequited love ever become requited?

Unrequited love can be returned back to you. People fall in and out of love. It’s possible that the object of your affection will change their mind in time and start to love you back.

Having said this, it’s important to move through the 15 steps above and learn to truly love yourself first. The experience of unrequited and unreciprocated love is an opportunity to change something deep within yourself.

When you can let go of your attachment to this other person, you’ll start to live a more fulfilled life. You’ll be happier and you’ll also meet new and interesting people.

Treasure these experiences. When you become less needy, you become more attractive.

By the time your unreciprocated love starts to fall in love with you, it may be that you have already moved on and found someone who is a better fit. If so, all power to you.

What does love feel like?

Finally, an article on unreciprocated or unrequited love wouldn’t be complete without explaining what love feels like.

I have left this section until the end for a simple reason.

Love is a unique feeling and can’t be explained. It’s can be a roller coaster of emotions. It can be thrilling. Love can also be a deep feeling of security and contentment.

How you experience love is unique to you. It will be based on your values and emotional needs.

But there is one key idea I want to leave with you, especially considering the fact that you’re reading this article after going through the steps to take when going through unrequited love.

Have you considered the idea that love should be based on actions, not just feelings?

Your feelings can easily manipulate you. You may believe you deeply love someone. But if your actions based on love aren’t being reciprocated by the other person, is this really love?

Learn to love yourself and get your feelings of love and fulfillment from within. After you are living this way, then start to reflect on the actions of people around you. Are these actions based on love? Are you actions based on love?

I believe these deeper reflections and ways of relating to love will help you to deal with the pain of unreciprocated love. They will also help you to create a foundation of fulfillment deep within.

For some further inspiration, I suggest checking out our free article on love and intimacy.


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Justin Brown

Justin Brown

I'm Justin Brown, the founder of Ideapod. I've overseen the evolution of Ideapod from a social network for ideas into a publishing and education platform with millions of monthly readers and multiple products helping people to think critically, see issues clearly and engage with the world responsibly.



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