1. You have to delete their number.
Unfriend them on Facebook, stop following them on Instagram and Twitter, remove them from Snapchat, do whatever it is you have to do to detangle them from your life. (And yes, this includes removing your text message thread, too.) Stop going to the parties and bars where you know they’re going to be, and if they ask you to hang out, decline. I know it hurts — and it’s awkward if you have mutual friends or are in the same group — but sometimes you have to distance yourself. Unrequited love is really good at latching out onto any reciprocated attention, and torturing yourself with their presence is only going to wind up hurting you and breeding resentment. (And in the worst-case scenario, they know, and want to string along your heart so that they feel loved without doing any of the work themselves. And nobody deserves to be used in such a manner.)
2. Trust me, your friends are tired of hearing about them.
Because chances are, they’ve been listening to you overanalyze every microscopic detail of every moment you’ve spent together for weeks or months, and while they’ve known for a good long while that you’re in over your head and being taken advantage of, well. They’re your friends and they love you, and don’t want to hurt an already fragile heart. But asking third parties over and over again why someone won’t love you isn’t going to get to the bottom of the issue, and you’re going to wind up exhausting both their patience and understanding. We’ve all had unrequited crushes. We’ve all been there. That does not give you a free pass to go on about what could have been if it never was. Find one friend, spill your guts out over the course of a few bottles of wine, and then — much like you deleted all their contact info — shove everything out of your mind. (Easier said than done, I know, but at least try it.)
3. You’re not going to feel like it, but see who else might actually return your affection.
Go on other dates, even if they’re nothing like the person you’re trying to get over. Download an app and just flirt — you don’t have to actually meet anyone, but it’s a good practice round for seeing who else is around, and maybe even looking for a relationship. It might even feel a little weird at first to have people flirt back, like you’re getting punk’d or something, but that’s normal after living so long in the land of the unrequited. First dates don’t demand a second date, so just go and see. Hang out at bars with your friends, talk to cute strangers; in sum, go through the motions of putting your heart out on the market for someone else. Even if it’s not actually available yet, and you’re still wrenching yourself out of the heartbreak that is being rejected, sometimes faking it until you make it is a coping strategy that can actually, y’know, work.
4. Repeat after me: what. you. had. was. not. a. relationship.
This is often the hardest thing to come to terms with. Because you’re going to be hung up on the fact that it could have been, if only you had the chance, if they had just gotten to know you, if you weren’t so busy or they were single or anything else in between. We create millions of parallel universes in our own minds, filled with scenarios of “could have”s and “if only”s. Catch yourself the next time you take a mile where you were given an inch, whether that was a smile they gave you because people smile (but you ran with it and took it to mean they finally loved you back) or when they invited you to their birthday party (with, you know, the rest of their 985 Facebook friends). See how many times you fabricate “something more” being there, and remind yourself that all of that is you. It’s not them doing anything. It sucks knowing that you are just as much to blame for your own heartbreak as someone else, but it’s true. And the minute you can understand that just because you handed a hammer to someone and held your heart down so that they could smash it, the sooner you can realize what you need to do to pick up the pieces yourself.
5. … But that doesn’t mean you don’t have any less right to grieve.
At the end of the day, unrequited love was still love. A little one-sided, maybe, and you were probably just as much in love with the idea of a person and the idea of you two being together as you were in love with their reality. That doesn’t mean you felt less, though, or that you weren’t entitled to feel what you felt. There is nothing wrong with liking another person, even if they wound up not liking you back. Because you put yourself out there. You risked your emotions, you became vulnerable, and by investing your happiness in a completely different person outside yourself, you took a huge leap of faith. Sometimes we fall from those, and sometimes those falls hurt. A lot. That’s okay, though; that’s how we learn. So pick up a pint of Double Fudge Chunk, let yourself wallow over the following playlist for 48 hours maximum, and then remind yourself this: getting over someone who didn’t love you back doesn’t only create space in your heart for someone who will love you, but that someone might even be yourself.