Breakups are hard. And it makes sense that a breakup would be difficult. You’ve built a life with someone, whether you live together or not, and you have a lot of memories with them. Future plans that will change dramatically or never come to fruition at all.
But what about the breakup that isn’t actually a breakup? What do you do when you wanted to date someone, had a whole fantasy about what it would be like, only to have that fantasy dashed against the rocks of reality?
Maybe you found out they’re already in a relationship. Maybe you asked them out only to be shot down. Maybe you found out they’re gay/straight (depending on your own orientation). Or maybe you learned they’re looking for a completely different future than what you want.
However it came about, getting over someone you never actually dated can feel as if it’s just as hard as getting over someone you did date. And it feels silly because you never had anything real with this person.
The problem here is that when we like someone, we build a whole fantasy about them in our heads. We think we know them, or we fill in everything we don’t know with what we’d like, and create a whole relationship. So when we learn that we’re never going to date this person, it ends up being more than just a bummer. It ends up feeling like an actual breakup because it’s shattering the illusion we had in our heads.
There are a few things you can do to get over it, however.
Accept the feelings of disappointment and rejection
When you find out that your fantasy partner isn’t ever going to be your partner in reality, you’re going to feel disappointed. You might feel rejected even if they never knew about your feelings. As silly as they might seem, they’re actually pretty normal.
Even though there was never an actual relationship, you imagined one. And that created thoughts and emotions that felt very real to you. So of course when you learn that the fantasy will never come true, you’re going to feel the same things you might feel if it was a real breakup.
If you fight those feelings, telling yourself they’re silly and you shouldn’t feel them or don’t feel them, you’ll just be pushing them down and making it harder to deal with them later.
Instead, accept the feelings of disappointment and rejection. If you need to cry a bit, go ahead. Just don’t wallow. Remind yourself that while these feelings might be normal, it wasn’t an actual relationship. You don’t need to linger in the feelings forever.
Understand and acknowledge what you’re really mourning
Like a real breakup, what you feel right now is a form of mourning. In a breakup, you’re mourning the future you thought you had with this person. You’re mourning the loss of an important relationship in your life.
But what about this situation? What are you mourning here?
You’re not mourning the future you thought you had or an important relationship in your life. You’re mourning the fantasy. You’re mourning what you imagined a relationship with this person would be like. You’re grieving who you imagined they might be and how you imagined it might be to be with them.
When you can understand and admit to yourself that you’re not mourning a real relationship, it makes it easier to get past it. When you remember that your feelings are based on things that may or may not be true, it’s easier to let them go.
Remind yourself that most of what you “know” about this person and the relationship you could have had is stuff that you made up because you didn’t actually know the truth. Admit that it’s possible the things you imagined would be so great about this person would actually be the worst things about them. It will help put things in perspective.
Use what you thought they might be to find what you really want
Though there might have been a lot of details about this person that you made up, it doesn’t make that stuff useless. You can use that information to your advantage.
All those details you imagined? Those are qualities you want in a partner — that’s why you imagined them! So use that information to evaluate potential partners and find someone who can truly make you happy in real life rather than just in your fantasies.
It’s not just details about the person, either. Consider other aspects of that imagined relationship. Maybe you imagined yourself living at the beach or in the mountains with them? Maybe you saw yourself with a certain job or some other little detail? Think about what else you might be able to learn about yourself, relationships, and what you want in a partner from the relationship you imagined and use that information to create a real relationship that can be just as good as you dreamed.
Open yourself up to others by getting back out there
As painful as it can be to learn someone you’re crushing on doesn’t return the feeling, it’s not a breakup. So it’s important that you not sit home and wallow. Instead, open yourself up to others by getting back into the dating world.
If you stopped dating while waiting to see if things might develop with your crush, get online and check out some dating sites or ask a friend to set you up.
If you’ve been dating all along, take a look and decide if you might need to invest more of yourself into your dating. Maybe you’ve been going on dates out of habit or to keep busy but not bothering to really get to know your dates or let them get to know you.
Get out there and really be open to the people you meet. Allow each date to be unique and fun and just see where it goes without expectation. Don’t get ahead of yourself. Take your time and see what develops.
It can be painful to learn someone you like doesn’t feel the same, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Mourn a little, feel the pain, then pick yourself up and get on with life.
Wendy Miller is a Certified Happiness Coach, freelance writer & meditation teacher. After years of settling for abusive and otherwise toxic relationships, she got fed up. Using meditation and other tools, she got to work on healing herself, setting boundaries, and only engaging in relationships (romantic and otherwise) that bring her joy. She wants to help other single parents find the love & happiness they seek, including and going beyond romantic love. She lives in Florida with her two sons, where she homeschools while solo parenting, while surrounded by what feels like a zooful of animals.
You might also enjoy:
Let’s Get Serious: 14 Questions to Ask Before You Define the Relationship
You might think “What are we?” is the most important question for defining your relationship. But is it?
Green Flags for a Conscious Relationship
If you want a conscious, healthy relationship, start with these seven green flags.