How Holding On to Unrequited Love Keeps You Alone and Stuck

Woman in car

“Let no one who loves be unhappy, even love unreturned has its rainbow.” ~James M. Barrie

My first experience with unrequited love took place when I was a little kid at swimming lessons.

I developed a huge crush on one of the instructors. I don’t remember his name, but I remember the excruciating feeling of absolutely adoring someone who didn’t even know I existed. I wish I could say that this was a one-time experience, but it wasn’t.

Sadly, this pattern continued for many years. I seemed to have a radar device installed in my heart that would automatically fixate on the man least likely to return my affections and bam, I had to have him. Only it never worked out.

I once spent many painful years pining away for a man I’d been crushing on, even after he’d moved across the country and married someone else. I simply could not get him out of my head.

It should be noted that I never had a real relationship with any of these men. I never dated them, kissed them, nothing. I was friends with some of them, but that was it.

Perhaps you can relate. You’ve finally met someone special after what seems like an eternity. It’s like finding an oasis in a desert of nothingness and you are beyond excited. It just has to work out with this person, so you immediately go into obsession mode.

You have an agenda for this relationship. You know exactly how you want it to go and it needs to happen ASAP.

Becoming fixated on someone can be an extremely uncomfortable experience. Insisting on one relationship working out exactly the way you want it to is like trying to put a choke hold on the universe. It simply cannot be done, and trying to do it will only result in frustration.

If this is happening to you, see the situation for what it is, look inside for what’s really going on, and be open to the many amazing possibilities life holds for you.

It’s tempting to think that this person holds the key to your happiness, but that simply isn’t true. He or she is a human being with imperfections, and you don’t know them very well yet.

When you have an intense emotional reaction to someone you don’t know very well, you’re dealing with your own mind, not the other person. When you become infatuated with someone and think that life will be wonderful once you are finally a couple, you place your chances for happiness outside of yourself.

Another person can never hold the key to your happiness, and when you believe that they do, you’re giving away your power.

Of course, it’s possible that you’ve known the person for a while. He or she may be a colleague or a friend that you’ve developed intense feelings for.

Do you infer much more meaning into a simple exchange than is really there out of your own wishful thinking? How much time do you spend analyzing your interactions with this person? Healthy relationships don’t need to be evaluated constantly.

If you’re spending a considerable amount of time obsessing about your chances of being in a relationship with someone, stop and ask yourself what’s really going on. It can help to confide in a friend, therapist or coach to get some outside perspective. If you hesitate to do this, ask yourself why.

When you become fixated on someone, it can feel confining for the other person. There’s a level of unease, a possessive desperation that can come off as needy or even creepy.

You must address the part of you that wants to cling to this person and give it what it needs. That needy part of you has something to teach you, and it’s not about holding on to this relationship. It’s about being at peace with yourself.

You cannot hide this by simply playing it cool or following dating rules about when to call or text. This needy energy will leak out of you and repel the other person. Don’t berate yourself about it; instead, listen to yourself with compassion and love.

What is it that you’re not facing? Do you resist the idea that you’re responsible for your own happiness? Are you hoping that a wonderful romance will take the edge off the pain of a less-than-stellar career or boost your confidence?

What do you hope that this person can give you that you don’t have now? Confidence? Love? The knowledge that you are special?

What can you do to give yourself what you need? Whatever it is, you’ll never be able to get it from another person. Take care of this within yourself and you’ll feel much better.

Trust that there is someone else out there for you and you will meet him or her when the time is right. There are so many people in this world. This is not the last eligible person you will ever encounter. If this relationship does not work out the way you’d like it to, trust that things happen for a reason and move on.

When you’ve gotten stuck on one person, it’s the perfect opportunity to examine what’s happening inside of you. Life has dished you up a generous helping of potential self-discovery, so welcome the lesson as much as possible and learn everything you can. You’ll be so glad you did.

If you dig in and see the situation for what it is, instead of waiting for your would-be lover to come to his or her senses, you stand a much better chance for happiness.

All of my heart-wrenching experiences with unrequited love led me to so much growth and self-discovery. I came to see that my fantasy relationships with these men were my way of protecting my heart.

I was alone, but I was sure that it wasn’t my fault; it was theirs for not wanting me. If only they’d see how great I was, everything would be fine. I was not opening myself to love by insisting that love could only come from one person.

Once I was able to really see that, and to truly love myself, I never had another experience like that again.

Every relationship and circumstance can bring you closer to the love you want if you open up and allow yourself to learn as much as possible. Love can come from so many sources. Don’t close yourself off. Be open to life, to alternatives, to possibilities.

Woman in car image via Shutterstock

About Renée Suzanne

Relationship coach Renée Suzanne helps people all over the world find love. She is the author of “Beloved – How to go from relationship-challenged to relationship-ready” and “Ten things you can do to upgrade your love life”. Sign up for her blog at and receive a free course, “Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life.”

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  • Supriya Rao

    Beautiful article. Thanks!

  • Renée Suzanne

    You’re welcome! I’m so glad you enjoyed it.

  • Mike Smith

    Great article, and timely. Thanks for posting this, you don’t know how much it helped

  • Patrick Terry

    This is a beautifully articulated article; thank you for sharing your story and the benefits you have seemed to have reaped. It has taken me many more decades than I care to admit to reach this place in my spirit where the narrative here is very much in my conscious awareness. Looking within for all of the gifts that The Universe offers is the only place I will truly find them.

  • Renée Suzanne

    I’m so very glad! It’s good to know that these experiences can be used to help others.

  • Renée Suzanne

    Thank you! This is so very true. I took a while to learn this myself. 🙂

  • Lindsey

    Wow, this is so honest and really resonated with me. I needed this message today. Thank you!

  • Monika

    Dear Renee! Thank you very much for this article! A life saver! I’m with someone who doesn’t know what he want – hot one day, cold the next, I feel like I am ging crazy, my life has become an insane
    rollercoaster ride. . So thank you so much, this was incredibly helpful !!

  • Justine

    This article came along exactly when I needed it to. Thank you so much for writing it! I feel empowered 🙂

  • Renée Suzanne

    You’re so welcome! I’m really glad you enjoyed it.

  • Renée Suzanne

    I’m so glad you liked it. I have so been there! There’s a lot more on this topic on my website and YouTube channel if you’d like to know more. Good luck!

  • Renée Suzanne

    You are most welcome. I’m glad it helped you.

  • Rachel Cournoyer

    I am just coming out of this as well, so this is very timely. Reading it helps so much! Now, I know I can move forward in a positive way for myself. Being unstuck from another person can be very difficult, but the best thing you can do for yourself. Thank you!

  • Renée Suzanne

    You’re welcome. So glad you’re moving on!

  • vanessa

    Im terrified to let go

  • Renée Suzanne

    I hear you! I’ve been there. I’d like to encourage you to find someone to support you in letting go so that you can move on.

  • Rh

    This completely resonated with me. Great article and it’s so true. When you find your true self and realize where your unresolved needs are coming from these obsessions disappear and all relationships dramatically improve. For me at least, meditation was the key to getting there. And the best part was the point at which I stopped blaming the other person and became thankful for them to opening myself up to a new path.

  • Renée Suzanne

    Yes! I’m so glad you found your way. Meditation is wonderful. I meditate as well and recommend it to everyone.

  • JN

    thank you for this. It is very timely for me. I am currently in that situation where I really want to cling to this person and believe that one day he would finally realise my existence. I know it sounds stupid but I even dream of him every night even though I have never seen him for months now. Reading this article gives me a new perspective, something that I would think about and do it starting from now.

  • Sheila Belo

    This is brilliant and gave me food for thought. Thankfully, I can see that somehow I’ve managed to find part of my way out, however I still find myself adoring him.

    I must say though that my current crushing feels a lot healthier. I don’t think about him much anymore and never again have I analysed our interactions like I used to a year and a half ago.

    There’s this sweet feeling I have for him, but my fingers are crossed that he finds some girl as sweet as he is, though I’ll hurt a little.

    I’m on the prowl to find my own soul mate who will reciprocate my affections, but for now it feels good to care about someone other than me.

    Isn’t that ok? Or should I banish this crushing completely?

  • Renée Suzanne

    It’s totally fine to care about someone. Start with yourself! Crushing on someone unattainable keeps your attention off yourself and keeps you stuck. Treat yourself well by caring about people who care back. xo

  • Renée Suzanne

    Yes. Please start now. Someone you haven’t seen in months is not part of your life, he’s part of your imagination. I’d like to encourage you to get some support around this so that you’ll move forward. It can help a lot to ask a trusted friend, relative or coach to keep you honest around this. Otherwise, things like this can suck up years of your life.

  • Sabina1016

    This article makes a lot of sense when you have lost control of your senses over someone who doesn’t love you back! I lived that scenario for most of my life & it is excruciating. It all started with my distant, unloving father & didn’t end until he died. I then finally let go & started loving myself.

  • svs

    Thank you so much for this! I came across it at a time when I needed to hear this from another person. The situation you described matches exactly with mine and I never thought anyone could express it so clearly and precisely. Even though it’ll take me a while to get over this person, I shall use this as a guide to make it happen.

  • Renée Suzanne

    I’m happy you found it helpful. You can make better things happen for yourself!

  • Renée Suzanne

    I’m glad you were able to see what was happening and make the choice to love yourself. Way to go!

  • N Krishnamurthy

    “Someone you haven’t seen in months is not part of your life, he’s (she’s) part of your imagination.” This sentence helps me contemplate on pain I have been suffering from for sometime now. After reading your article, I believe I can come out of that pain and look at the future with renewed hope. Thanks a lot.

  • liftupideas

    Loved it <3

  • Renée Suzanne

    You’re so welcome! I wish you all the best in the future.

  • Renée Suzanne

    Thank you!

  • LovenoLimit

    I feel your pain. Why’s it so hard to let go of someone that’s clearly showing you that the feelings isn’t mutual. All we do is set ourselves up to get strung along and for recurrent heartbreak. I feel sad at the thought of him not being in my life, but I don’t get a comforting feeling when I think of us being together again. I now truly understand the term, “can’t live with them, can’t live without them”. Smh

  • LovenoLimit

    Why’s it so hard to let go of someone that’s clearly showing you that the feelings isn’t mutual. All we do is set ourselves up to get strung along and for recurrent heartbreak. I feel sad at the thought of him not being in my life, but I don’t get a comforting feeling when I think of us being together again. I now truly understand the term, “can’t live with them, can’t live without them”. Smh

  • Kid

    The only thing I don’t agree with you is that we’re special. Nope, in my opinion I don’t think any of us is special, because even if all of us are special being special ends up becoming nothing special at all…

  • Renée Suzanne

    I’m not of the opinion that special-ness is some kind of contest or ranking. I don’t feel that only certain people can be special. We can all be special. It’s not like the entire world casts a vote on ranking all 7+ billion of us. And if they did, you don’t need to care. You can decide that you are special. Or not. It’s up to you.

    In this post, I was referring to the need to be special to a certain person to whom one has decided that it’s important to be special. Picking someone and giving them the power to decide how special you are is a recipe for unhappiness.

  • Renée Suzanne

    You can live without them. Only when you realize this fully will you be able to stop being strung alone.

  • Kid

    That’s right… you nailed it..

  • Renée Suzanne

    You’re already living without him,and this situation is keeping you from moving on so that you can be happy. I’d like to encourage you to seek support in letting this go. No one can string you along unless you let them. Good luck!

  • MT Cupp

    Thank you Renee! Beautiful article. I’m in my late forties, and I’ve had a crush on a female coworker about the same age for the past three years. It was so bad that I was thinking about her all the time. It got to where I thought I was in love with her. We know each other, but we don’t socialize. We’ve interacted several times, but I’ve made a fool of myself almost every time, getting tongue tied, sticking my foot in my mouth, or just making social blunders. So much so, that now I think she’s completely turned off and wants nothing to do with me. That’s what hurt the most. But your article is helping me let go of everything that happened and move on and be happy again.

  • Stephanie Christine

    This article awakened what I’ve been trying so hard to figure out- now to figure out how to love myself when I don’t want to. Thank You. Encouraging. I thought possibly I was psycho or mental illness was causing a lot of my obsessive thoughts but actually I see now it’s really that I do not value myself at all. I appreciate the information!

  • LovenoLimit

    Thank you for the insite and and the support. I Appreciate it

  • neonwonderland

    I just wrote out a list of the things this person will give me that I don’t have now. What I wrote down was eye opening because I realized it’s actually a list of all the things I never received from my parents growing up: the feeling of being desired/wanted, physical affection, validation that what I have to give is valued, someone who cares about my emotional state & needs, being accepted as I am in this moment, the list goes on..

    I’m wondering, then, if we feel these deep needs that have never been met by our caregivers (or anyone else), is it still really true that we can only fulfill these needs ourselves? That they can never be met by another person, as you wrote? Or is it just that since it’s too late to go back to our developmental years, that this is now the only option?

    Thank you for this article. It couldn’t be more relevant to my life at this moment.

  • Taj

    This article was exactly what I needed. I just got out of a 10 year toxic relationship and went to therapy for about year trying to figure out what was wrong with me and while therapy helped tremendously but while I was in therapy I was still focused on getting back into a relationship and because I wasn’t focused solely on me I wasn’t able to truly understand what it meant to date again. I found myself in a new relationship and something didn’t feel right and I realized it was because I wasn’t being myself. But how can I be myself when I didn’t know what I am. I was being who I thought I was suppose to be. I was being what I thought a man wanted in a wife, lover and potential mother but even that didn’t work. I’m 33 years old and don’t have any kids and new been married. I want to get married and than have kids and with every relationship not working out I’m starting to question if I should re-evaluate things. This article made me realize that I definitely need to re-evaluate things but not the way that I thought. I need to focus on finding happiness within myself if I ever want to truly find real love and hopefully, become a mother and wife. I can’t find love without knowing and loving myself and letting go of my fantasy relationships that I have in my head. This website has helped me so much. I’m so grateful and blessed to have found this site. I have some huge questions ahead of me that needs to be answered and for the first time I’m not thinking about a relationship but learning how find my own love and happiness. Thank you to all the writers on this website

  • Ruth

    I needed to read this sentence. Giving someone else the power to decide if you are special is a recipe for unhappiness.
    Oh how clear that has hit my brain, of course I am special, why am I waiting for someone to decide if I am or not to him?
    Thankyou for giving me this clear message and know I know exactly what to do. Ruth.

  • Melanie Pierluigi

    I lost my virginity to the guy I was in love with and of course it was completely unrequited and one-sided. (we were friends for three years leading up to sleeping together) and since he was my first, it makes it THAT much harder, not to mention he’s the first person I’ve ever been in love with. Anyway, it took over 3 years to ‘somewhat’ move on and I still sometimes can’t let go. I never saw him again after that night we slept together yet too! (it was a complete one-time hookup) Yet it still took 3 years and I sent him messages/emails/poems perodically over 3 years. What made it worse is how he’d sometimes reply. Each time he replied or we spoke briefly, it only made things so much worse! So no contact at all is the only real way to move on.