What You Can Do When Someone You Love Stops Loving You
It can be hard to let go when it's not your choice.
Posted July 26, 2022 | Reviewed by Abigail Fagan
- When love falls apart, it can shatter your heart, your sense of safety in the world, and even your sense of who you are.
- It can be especially painful when the person you love doesn't want to hear your point of view.
- While it's normal to look for someone to blame, fault-finding can make it harder to reach a healthy outcome.
“We had the perfect romance,” Janie* told me. “He swept me off my feet, said and did all the right things to make me fall madly in love with him, and then, once he’d convinced me he’d be with me forever, he dropped me. I feel like I can’t pick up the pieces of my life. I don’t know how to go on from here.”
“I love Andy*,” Mark* told me. “And I know he loves me too. But he says he doesn’t want to be with me anymore. I don’t get it. He knows this is as good as it gets. But no matter what I say, he won’t budge. He’s leaving.”
Love, as the classic song says, can be “a many-splendored thing.” But when love falls apart, it can shatter your heart, your sense of safety in the world, and even your sense of who you are.
What can you do when all the loving feelings you have for someone are rejected? Whether yours is an unrequited love or one that once was two-sided, these key words can help you cope with your pain and rebuild your life.
Accept: Everyone is entitled to their feelings. Try to listen to what your loved one is telling you, without contradicting them or trying to change their mind. You may have a different perspective, which you should also very definitely accept. But they may not want to hear your side of the story, which can be hard to deal with. But accepting that they are not interested in your feelings can help you move forward. That’s how it worked for Janie*. When she realized that the person she loved wasn’t even curious about how she felt, she also began to feel less loving toward him. “That’s not a relationship,” she said. “I want to be with someone who cares about my feelings, even if he doesn’t share them.”
Take responsibility: After listening carefully to what they are telling you, try to honestly assess what they’re saying. Relationships involve two people, and it’s very possible that you played some kind of a role, even if it was unintentional or unknown to you, in the change in their feelings. It is important to honestly acknowledge that role. Even if you believe that they were more at fault than you, you’ve probably already realized that pointing it out to them doesn’t help win them back. Once you’ve taken responsibility for what you acknowledge was your role, you may have to return to the first step and accept that they are not interested in repairing the relationship, no matter what you say or do. Mark*, for instance, was initially just angry at Andy*. Then he started to blame himself for the problems in their relationship. Finally, when he was able to recognize that they each had played a part in the difficulties they had, he was also able to start to let the relationship go.
Consider what you can, or want, to change about yourself: If you have a sense that there is something you might do to improve things, whether it is to change a habit that you didn’t realize was bothering them or to find a different way to talk to them, consider whether or not this is something you can comfortably work on. Will changing this aspect of yourself make you a better person? Will it harm you in any way? Or is it simply a troublesome habit that, with some work, you can change? Obviously, if you have to do something harmful to yourself in order to keep a connection to someone you love, you might need to do some careful assessment of your attachment. Do you really want to be attached to someone who wants you to do harm to yourself?
It is also important not to take more responsibility than is your fair share, or to martyr yourself to their opinion or judgment of you, just to try to make things work with them. In the end, putting all the blame on one person, whether it’s you or them, will increase the chances that the relationship will fail.
Consider what they can, or want, to change about themselves: Will you love your partner any better if they start closing the kitchen cabinets or emptying the dishwasher? Are they emotionally capable of showing you the love you crave or of spending the amount of time with you that you’d like them to spend? In the same way that you assess your own ability, desire, and willingness to change, try to assess their ability to make the changes you want. Maybe it’s just a problem of whether they can tell you they love you. If they simply cannot put it into words, is that a deal-breaker? Or do they show you that they love you in other ways?
If the person you love is addicted to a substance or a particular behavior, be clear that they may not be able to change the behavior despite loving you. In other words, some behaviors are not a reflection of how much or how little we are loved, but of a person’s emotional and biological makeup. Don’t be fooled into thinking that if they really loved you, they would change.
What I’m describing is part of a mindfulness practice; but there is also a prayer that was originally written by the American theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, and that captures these ideas very simply and beautifully. It was altered for their own use by Alcoholics Anonymous, and goes: “Grant me the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, Courage to change the things which should be changed, and the Wisdom to distinguish the one from the other.”
You don’t need to be either religious or an alcoholic to make use of these ideas. Many of my clients find it helpful to use as a mantra, to remind themselves to try to sort out what they can change from what they can’t. That awareness can strengthen some relationships. It can also help you move away from a relationship that isn’t working any longer.
*Names and identifying information changed to protect privacy