I think getting over a guy you never actually dated is harder than getting over a breakup. At least with someone you were in a relationship with, you were there. You lived it, you experienced the breakdown of the relationship, the disconnection, the fights, the pain, and whatever else went into you both calling it quits. When it’s a guy you never really had, well all you have are the thoughts of what could have been. And that vision can’t ever come to fruition because he doesn’t want it to.
And you don’t get it. You think he’s great, you like him, and you enjoy spending time with him, how does he not feel the same way? You’re left mourning the loss of the potential of what could have been, and that is almost more painful than mourning a reality that has been.
I’ve lived through this sort of thing many a time, but the most shocking was a guy we’ll call Jack. We “met” through an online dating site and exchanged lengthy messages for about a month. He lived in LA, but like me, he works for himself and has a flexible schedule so the distance wasn’t such an issue.
We finally took it to the next level and spoke on the phone. And our first phone call was six hours! I absolutely despise talking on the phone, I’m that person who is annoyed when someone calls and it isn’t an emergency. I’m that person who is always plotting my escape from a conversation. But not in this case, I genuinely enjoyed talking to him and finding out all about him. He was cool and interesting and just seemed like an all-around awesome guy … now, how often do those come around?
We had another “date” set for a few days later and I was actually excited. I was already picturing a bi-coastal life, spending some time in LA with my new boyfriend and then back to NYC. I was so excited about the possibilities … it felt like something really special was brewing and I just couldn’t wait to see how it would all unfold.
Our next phone conversation also went well, but maybe wasn’t as electric. This time we spoke for about an hour and a half because some of his friends unexpectedly showed up and he had to cut it short. This time I felt like something was a little off, but I brushed it aside.
A few days later while on the phone with a Time Warner guy to fix some cable issues, I saw an email from him pop up on my phone. I immediately clicked it open and here is what it said (This is an actual copy-paste job!):
It’s been great getting to know you and talking the past few days but unfortunately, I don’t think I’m the best match for you, and I think you deserve to have the person who is best for you. You’re an awesome person who I definitely connect with but I think it’s more on a friendship level.
All the best and enjoy Italy!
What. The. Hell. I literally lose the ability to speak. The Time Warner man asks me if the connection finished reloading and I can’t answer, I’m in a fog, I’m in shock. I mean … what????
You like me as a friend?? You don’t think we’re a match?? You haven’t even met me yet! At least meet me and then dump me! This all just seemed so discourteous. Am I so bad that I can’t even get a guy to date me before dumping me? And how did I not see this coming? I was ready to pack my bags and head to the sunshine state … and he was just like nah? None of this makes sense.
Now had he said, “Look, I think the distance complicates things,” then I would have been fine because that makes sense. But what he said made no sense and I just felt devastated … and also really offended, to be honest!
I also felt kind of like an idiot for feeling that way. I didn’t even know this guy. We never met. For all I knew, I was being catfished and he doesn’t even exist. Why was I so upset about this? But I was, and that’s just something you need to admit when you lose a guy you never even had. It’s sad and it hurts and you have to deal with it almost like you would an actual breakup.
I have a theory that dating is much harder for people who never like anyone. I’m the kind of person who is either all in or all out. There is no, “Hmm, this guy is OK. I don’t really know how I feel so I’ll give it more time.” I always know how I feel. For people like us, when that rare gem comes along … that guy who we actually like, who we see potential with, we latch on and don’t let go, we need it to work. And when it doesn’t, it’s doubly depressing because we don’t know when the next worthy candidate will come along.
But enough storytelling. How do we get over these kinds of “relationships”? How do we move on with grace and dignity, rather than feeling insecure and full of self-loathing?
Here is how:
1. Realize potential always looks prettier than reality
Whatever visions you have in your mind are just fantasies. I’m not saying you can’t ever have that kind of relationship, I’m saying you can’t have it with him. Why? Because the kind of guy that can give you the loving relationship you want is not the same guy who will leave you before he even really gets to know you.
The right guy for you is a guy who wants to be with you. He will do whatever it takes. He won’t just give you some flimsy reason as to why he doesn’t want to see you anymore.
You are investing in a fantasy, and you have to see it for what it is. I was imagining this amazing, exciting, bi-coastal life, and in my head this was fun and fabulous, but I don’t know what an actual relationship with this guy would have looked like.
When a guy leaves you before even really getting to know you, feel grateful. I know that’s a tough one, but isn’t it better to know now rather than being strung along for weeks or even years? If he ends it before you’re ready to, it just means he beat you to the punch… the punch being he discovered you’re incompatible first. And that’s a good thing!
2. Not everyone is a match.
I know it feels personal. It feels like something must be wrong with you. And maybe you go on a mission to discover what that thing is and try to fix it so that Prince Charming will see the error in his ways and beg to have you back. In my case, my issue was maybe I’m not “sexy” enough on the phone. Maybe I’m a little too “friendly,” maybe I needed to hold back more. All of this is so ridiculous because none of it matters with the right guy. If you have to measure your words and affect so much, then he’s not for you!
I’m sure you’ve had experiences where you dated a guy who was crazy about you, but something just wasn’t clicking for you. Maybe he was lacking in a quality you really need in a partner, maybe he had too much of a quality that you don’t like. Whatever the case, you thought he was a good guy, he just wasn’t the right match for you.
Sometimes you’ll have the clarity, sometimes he will. And in an ideal world, both of you will see it and will part amicably. But unfortunately, love isn’t always so kind or fair. If he doesn’t like you, nothing you say will change his mind. That’s not how love and attraction work.
It sucks to be the one who thinks everything is great only to be blindsided when the guy is like, nah. But you need to trust that all it means is he isn’t right for you. And that’s a good thing! Now you’re free to find someone who is, to find a guy who does appreciate you and more importantly, really wants to be with you!
3. Get distance
It’s really hard to get distance from anyone in this day and age because privacy is dead and we’re all up in each other’s business and social media stories. How are you supposed to forget about anyone when the means of stalking are so endless?
But you must be strong. You need to get both physical and emotional distance. The more you think about him, the worse you’ll feel about yourself. That’s just how it goes. He’s a guy that you want and who doesn’t want you and hence, you are unworthy. Your mind will always go in that sad direction, so don’t let it!
Unfriend him, punish yourself for stalking him (a good one I like is making yourself run a mile every time you look at his profile. This way you discourage yourself, but also can get in shape if you do cave), or just go away for a long weekend, or a full week if you can swing it. Traveling can be incredibly therapeutic.
4. Fill your cup
When we latch onto someone tightly before really knowing them, it’s usually because we have a void and see them as an opportunity to fill it.
Maybe he represents salvation to you- he’s saving you from a life of being single and alone. Maybe he has certain qualities you want- he has it together, he’s cool and confident. Maybe he is triggering your childhood trauma, he may remind you of your relationship with your parents or he may be activating your unmet needs.
Either way, you see him as a source of salvation and this isn’t healthy. So do a deep dive. Look within, look at what you’re missing, look at what need he was fulfilling for you and try to fill yourself up.
5. Look back objectively
I know you think he was so great and so sexy and so funny and so everything, but if he is a human being, then I guarantee there is also a lot wrong with him. So if you must think about him at all, think about that stuff.
Don’t look back with rose-colored glasses. Look back with objective lenses and look at all the reasons and all the ways this wouldn’t have worked out, there must be some because if he was the perfect guy for you then he would be with you!
And if you catch yourself idealizing him and feeling bad that he didn’t choose you, say this to yourself: “I am worth more than wanting someone who doesn’t want me.”
6. You never know where this will lead…
As you saw in the copy-pasted email, I had a trip to Italy coming up a few weeks after I was blindsided. The trip couldn’t have been better timing (see step #3). I went to Italy for two weeks and had the time of my life. When I got back, my high school ex-boyfriend who I ran into earlier that summer reached out to me and we decided to meet up. And we’ve been married for 7 years now!
The bad things in life usually set us on a path for the good, but only if we help steer ourselves in that direction. Wallowing and moping won’t serve you. I do think it’s important to embrace your negative emotions and also not beat yourself up for feeling sad about this. But you also need to try and stay as positive as you can. Adopting an attitude of, “All men suck. Nothing ever works out for me, my life is hopeless,” will not get you the love you want. It will only make you miserable and suck all the joy out of your life.
When you have a thought like this, notice the thought. Look at it. Then ask yourself: Does this thought serve me well? Is it taking me where I want to go?
If it’s bringing up feelings of fear, doubt, insecurity, shame and all those other negative emotions, then the answer is no. So shift your focus in a more positive direction. Think about something that makes you happy or gets you excited or hopeful.
Don’t punish yourself for someone else’s decisions or mistakes or stupidity. All his rejection means is he’s not the right guy for you. Maybe it’s because you aren’t the type of woman he imagines himself with, maybe it’s because he’s a damage case and is incapable of liking anyone past a certain point, the reasons don’t matter. The facts do. (See my article on Damage Cases for more on that!)
7. Feel good
Finally, the antidote for feeling bad is to do things that make you feel good — a genius concept, I know! So do what makes you happy. Exercise, spend time with friends, travel, take up a new hobby. Focus on being your best self, rather than wallowing, which will only make you your worst self.