Woe Is Me! “How Do I Get Over Someone Who Doesn’t Love Me Back?”
Woe Is Me! is a series in which The Swaddle team indulges your pity party with advice you’ll probably ignore.
It’s now been more than a year since I told my best friend I had feelings for him and he didn’t feel the same. Months and months of crying and taking my space later, I’m still left wondering why things just couldn’t work out between us. Rationally, I know I can’t always get an answer and sometimes, I could be the whole package but I’ve arrived at the wrong address. But emotionally, it’s tough to stop my mind from wandering into “Oh but what if?” mode or clinging to small bits of hope that maybe if not now, in the future. I think relationships, where you don’t get to live out the outcome, are worse because you just get stuck with all the potential you pegged it to have. But I do truly want to accept that nothing is wrong with me and make my peace with what happened. How do I get my mind to arrive at this same page and not take little trips of fantasy?
— A heartbreaking reality check
PR: Oh man, this brings back unpleasant memories, I completely understand how nerve-wracking this can get. What I did in my case was to try and create distance between the friend and me. I used to keep feeling the need to compensate for awkwardness and weirdness, which I retrospectively realized was unnecessary and all that was needed to be done was to cut off. If you feel the friendship is really important to keep, the distance I feel would be even more necessary. Maybe meeting in groups is a better way to probably go about it then. And once you feel like it’s alright to be around and the trips of fantasies become about someone else or simply fade away, you should be fine. With all of this, it would help to keep talking about it with other friends of yours so you’re not entirely alone in your thoughts about this.
SS: Here’s something my happily aging brain has learned from years and years of what-if fueled heartbreak: When your heart is broken, you cannot trust your mind. It will lie to you, it will tell you “you will never find another” or “this was the one and now it’s gone.” Do not believe the mind when you’re hurting. Look at it and call it a Liar. Out loud. Do not believe the movies that tell you you cannot move on from people like your best friend. Instead, believe the women who write these movies, who, I promise you, have moved on from many many best friends who didn’t love them back. They went on to make loads of money from writing about these dumb best friends.
Here’s something that helped me rephrase rejection: your best friend doesn’t “not love you back”, you simply do not have his consent. It’s not a reflection on your adequacy, it’s about his relationship with himself. That’s got nothing to do with you or anyone else. And if it’s a fantasy you want, dive your heartbreak into Ursula Le Guin. Her fantastical worlds are designed to engage a hurting heart and a poor, confused, lying brain. Maybe you’ll come out hurting less.
DR: That sucks, and I’m really sorry for this emotional tussle you’ve found yourself in. While one year does seem like a long time, different people grieve differently, and there’s no standard timeline for how long one should take to recover from heartbreak. Having said that, maybe, there are a few things you could do to speed up the process, or at the very least, make it easier to endure. In case he’s still your best friend, and someone you’ve continued to stay in touch with, perhaps, some time off might really help you? Also, I feel that we tend to think about “what could’ve been” as a means to escape reality and dwell in our make-believe world. So, maybe, making this reality a little more bearable, might help address your trips to the “what if” universe. You could consider devoting some time to things you enjoy — it could be art and craft, journaling, cooking, exploring nature, or even exercising — whatever makes you happy really. In fact, I’m told that creative expression can actually help people process their grief, making it easier to move past it. Another way I can think of is, well… a rebound! Swipe away on your phone screen, and maybe — just maybe — you’ll find someone who catches your fancy enough to distract you from your friend. If not, it’ll at least keep you occupied, and give you an insight into other fish in the sea. In any case, I’d also strongly advise therapy, especially given the amount of pain you seem to be in.
PB: Hey, first off, I can empathize with the feeling of being trapped in the past, it leaves you feeling like you’re constantly pulling on a heavy chain. I’d like to help you attempt to sit the chain down, and ask you to have a cup of chai with lots of ginger: Sit at your favorite chill spot and look at the sky, the leaves, the pooping pigeons, or whatever it is that makes you smile. I believe the best way to start dealing with the past is to appreciate the present — the parts of current life that bring you happiness and make you feel content. Someday you’ll imagine a future that is not based fully on the misgivings of your past but on the hopefulness of the present.
The package does get delivered to the wrong address a lot of times, but hey, it does come back home, newly packed to attempt the journey again. Have a cup of chai, and don’t forget — lots of ginger.
AS: I can understand how upsetting this whole thing might be because I’ve gone through something similar in the past. You put your heart out there, but it didn’t work out and that feels quite awful. My question about your current situation is: are you still seeing this friend? If yes, that may be stopping you from getting over them in the real sense. I’m sure that this person and your relationship with them is important to you, but if hanging out with them is affecting your mental/emotional health badly, then you have to weigh your options and pick one or the other — at least until you feel better. Before you head to this stage though, I think it’s okay to allow yourself one last interaction about this — depending on how comfortable your friend is, maybe ask them to talk to you about this and run you through what’s going on in their head. Tell them the extent of your feelings, and let it out for this one last time, so you can force yourself to confront the facts. Maybe with time, you could start making active efforts to move on — join a dating app, or ask another friend to set you up with someone? Of course, none of this is guaranteed to work, because having feelings and being hopeful isn’t a rational thing. But keeping yourself busy and giving yourself time is a good starting point.