We’ve all been faced with the heartbreak and pain that comes with unrequited love, and there’s so much advice out there on how to move on.
But what if you’re the object of someone’s desire and you don’t feel the same way back?
It can be hard to deal with, but there are ways to make both of your lives easier…
Part 1 – When This Person Is Just A Friend
Talk About It
Feelings are hard to talk about at the best of times, but unrequited ones are even worse.
We can’t help how we feel about other people, and we also can’t control how other people feel about us. If there’s someone if your life who’s expressing feelings of love toward you that you don’t reciprocate, it’s time to have a chat.
Talking about how they feel, and how that makes you feel, is so important in this situation.
Harboring and hiding feelings of love and lust just makes things worse and risks ruining the friendship that may already exist between you.
Meet up, one on one, in a neutral place, like a coffee shop or quiet bar. Be careful not to place blame on anyone, but be open and clear about how you feel.
They don’t need to go into loads of detail about why they love you, but it may help to identify certain habits you have that they may find confusing.
It’s important to be honest and avoid giving them false hope; just make sure you’re being too kind.
Once you’ve cleared the air, it’ll be a little bit awkward – acknowledge this and make a joke about it! You’re both adults who are fully aware of the situation, so you may as well try and make light of it.
This is something that will really benefit both of you. You won’t have to feel self-conscious about your actions (Did you hug them for too long? Will they read into it?!) and they’ll know where they stand.
Setting boundaries without completely limiting contact can be a good way to maintain a healthy friendship that you’re both comfortable with.
Suggest seeing each other slightly less than you currently do, or minimize the amount you text and call.
You don’t need to cut them out completely, but it may also help them if you’re not a constant presence in their life.
Some friends have no problems sharing a bed or having conversations about personal issues, but in this case, it might be sensible to keep things as platonic as possible in order to avoid blurring any lines and causing confusion.
Don’t Take Advantage
It’s important to avoid giving false hope! The attention may feel quite nice and flattering, but make sure you’re not accidentally thriving on it.
It can be easy to get used to someone going out of their way for you, but when you know the underlying motive behind it, you need to put a stop to it.
Someone may be more than willing to bring a coffee to your workplace for you, or will go the extra mile to cheer you up. This can be lovely, and it can be easy to get into the habit of assuming they’ll do things to help you.
Make sure you’re not expecting more of them than you do of any other friend, and don’t take advantage of the fact that they’ll do anything for you.
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Watch Your Mouth
It’s worth considering what you talk to this person about, and maybe altering it slightly.
Save your relationship and dating drama for another friend and stick to easy topics when you’re with the person who has feelings for you.
You don’t want to completely change the type of friendship you already have, but be compassionate and kind. As you’ll probably know from your own experience, there’s nothing worse than being madly in love with someone who constantly asks for dating advice!
This is by no means your fault, and is just something that’s a little bit sad and probably quite uncomfortable for both of you.
Your behavior may be suggesting something that you’re not aware of, especially if this kind of thing happens to you quite often. Being affectionate, friendly, and outgoing is fantastic, and you shouldn’t have to compromise your personality for anyone.
That said, monitoring your behavior and seeing if there are patterns that trigger these reactions from others could be worth your time.
If it feels appropriate, you could try asking the individual how you can alter your behavior to make things easier for them.
Being touchy-feely might be okay with some of your friends, but this individual will probably feel a bit uncomfortable with it.
Take what they say on board and be willing to make some compromises so that you can still enjoy each other’s company. Communication and reflection can really go a long way!
If All Else Fails…
This is uncomfortable and upsetting for both of you, and it’s important to be compassionate.
There does come a point, however, when you do need to put your foot down. If you’ve made it clear that you’re not interested and they keep pushing the boundaries, it’s time to rethink things.
We all know how beneficial it is to let go of toxic relationships and friendships, and this is no exception. Don’t feel guilty for this – it’s not your fault that you don’t have feelings for them, and to pretend that you do would be awful for everyone!
If you’ve already gently suggested boundaries and it’s not working, you can give them a few warnings. Limit yourself to three warnings! You want to be fair and give them time to adjust their behavior, but any more and you’re just letting yourself remain in a situation that no longer serves you.
It might be time to call it a day on the friendship, sad as it may be to accept.
It’s much healthier to take a break from it all than both feeling miserable, and the time apart may really help.
Give yourselves some space – they may just need some distance away from you to meet someone else, or simply move on. Hopefully, your time apart will mean that you can spend time together in the future as friends.
Part 2 – When You’re In A Relationship With This Person
You’ve been seeing someone for a little while and you enjoy their company a great deal, but you don’t yet feel those pangs of love.
And then it comes… they tell you that they love you.
You feel conflicted. And awkward.
What do you do? What do you say?
First of all, don’t lie to them. Don’t tell them that you love them too just to avoid any awkwardness afterwards.
Thank them. Tell them how sweet it is and how you feel lucky to be loved by someone as nice as them.
Be honest and tell them how much you like spending time with them and that you want to see how this relationship develops.
Once the dust has settled, you need to think. Ask yourself these things:
Is there a chance that you’ll feel love for them in the near future?
In all seriousness, the answer should probably be yes. Otherwise, why are you still seeing them?
How soon might that be?
Have you been in love before, and if so, how far into the relationship was it before you felt that way?
If the relationship is still in the early days, there’s no need to panic just yet. But if several months have passed and you still don’t feel it, you need to consider the reasons why.
Have you been hurt in the past and now have a wall around your heart?
When you fell head over heels in love in a previous relationship and had your heart broken, did you put up some unconscious defenses to prevent yourself from getting hurt again?
Are these walls now stopping you from falling in love with someone who you could genuinely love?
Do you recognize what love feels like?
Love is hard to put your finger on. It’s not a single feeling, but a collection of them that interact with each other and your thoughts.
Perhaps what you feel for this person is close to your version of love, but you don’t yet realize it because you have been fooled by Hollywood notions of love.
Are you getting love confused with infatuation? Perhaps you don’t feel giddy with excitement at the prospect of seeing them, but you value them at a deeper level. Love is more than butterflies and lust; it’s acceptance of another being for who they are.
And maybe your love for them doesn’t have to look the same as their love for you.
These are things to give serious consideration to.
Whatever you do, don’t try to force it.
You can’t make yourself love someone. That’s a fact. You can give feelings the time to develop naturally, but there are no shortcuts.
Be open to the possibility of love if it comes and try to identify any ways in which you may be blocking genuine affection from blossoming.
For now, be gentle.
That goes for yourself as well as your partner.
Don’t get annoyed at yourself for not loving them just yet, even if you can see how good they are for you on paper.
And don’t freak out at your partner for declaring their love and maybe making you feel awkward. They’ve more than likely wanted to say it for a little while and couldn’t bite their tongue any longer.
It’s a big deal for them, no doubt, and the last thing they would want is to push you away. They might have liked you to say it back, but if their feelings are genuine, they’ll be patient as you figure out whether you love them back.