Has love got you hung up on someone who doesn’t share the same feelings? Has a crush failed to return your attraction, or has a partner decided that they just want to be friends? Do you find yourself wishing you hadn’t fallen in love with someone, and now you’re wondering how to fall out of love?
Love is a wonderful emotion and is one of the greatest driving forces in human history. Great feats have been made in the name of love. Consider India’s Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world. It was created by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for his wife, Mumtaz Mahal, as a declaration of his everlasting love for her after she died during childbirth. Romantic, right? Yet love has also yielded some tragic tales (think Romeo and Juliet).
When love runs smoothly, it can leave us elated, joyous, and on top of the world. It puts a spring in our step and a smile on our face and makes us want to spread kindness to others. It makes us grateful to be alive and to get to experience the bliss of a heart in love.
However, as amazing as love can feel, and despite its blissful pleasure, it is also one of our greatest sources of emotional pain. Lost or unrequited love has led to a great many broken hearts, rivers of tears, and wishes for things to be different.
It can be hard to know what to do when things don’t go our way with such a powerful emotion. If, for some reason, the person you’ve fallen in love with doesn’t feel the same way about you, or they did once, but now they’ve decided to end things and move on, you might feel a little lost or confused.
Whatever the reasons for the unrequited love, moving on is undeniably a challenge. Sometimes we make ourselves believe that there couldn’t possibly be anyone else out there with whom we could fall in love. We might even idealize the person from whom we must move on and blame ourselves for not being ‘more’ or ‘better’ than we are.
If you’re upset now over a lost love, the good news is that it’s entirely possible to move on. You don’t need to feel guilty for getting on with your life, and you most certainly shouldn’t wait around thinking the person you’re in love with might suddenly turn around and come running into your arms.
You can move on, but it takes a little time and conscious effort. It’s not always fun, but you can fall out of love and move on with your life by following a few simple steps.
Later in this article, we’ll offer some practical tips and advice to help you move on from someone you love. First, let’s look at the nature of love and explore why it can be so difficult to fall out of it.
Why is it so hard to fall out of love?
They say love is a drug. It might as well be, given how much it influences your brain chemicals.
A study published in the Journal of Neurophysiology reports that romantic rejection activates some of the same areas of the brain involved in cocaine addiction. Various researchers and psychologists compare being in love to being addicted to a drug. ‘Romantic love is an addiction,’ claims Helen C. Fisher, author of the study and biological anthropologist at Rutgers University, New Jersey.
According to science, being in love ‘shows addiction characteristics such as the lover’s intensely focused attention on a preferred individual, mood swings, craving, obsession, compulsion, distortion of reality, emotional dependence, personality changes, risk-taking, and loss of self-control.’
Given the similarities between being in love and experiencing an addiction, it makes sense that a loss of love, such as rejection by a romantic partner, causes so much pain. We become attached to those with whom we are in love. According to Fisher and her colleagues, aspects of this attachment include:
- Rearrangement of priorities
- Mood swings
- Sympathetic nervous system responses including sweating and a pounding heart
- Emotional dependence
- Obsessive thinking about him or her
- Craving for emotional union with this preferred individual
- Intense motivation to obtain and retain this particular mating partner
According to the Diagnostics and Statistical Manual Fifth Edition and the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, common symptoms of substance addiction include:
- Prioritization of drug attainment and use over other important areas of life
- Mood swings, emotional dysregulation
- Sweating, rapid heartbeat
- Obsessive thoughts about the drug
- Craving for the drug
- Strong motivation to seek out the drug
Overcoming an addiction, whether that’s an addiction to substances or a strong attachment to a lover, is extremely challenging. In the case of romantic love, partners often share the most intimate aspects of their lives with each other.
They might sleep together, eat together, open up about their deepest and most vulnerable experiences, share goals for the future, and take care of one another when one is sick. All of these moments create a powerful bond that, when broken, can be heart-wrenchingly painful.
Does time heal a broken heart?
Fortunately, as countless broken hearts have learned, the heart heals. It may take longer for some than others to heal from a broken heart, sometimes depending on the length or intensity of the relationship, but it does heal eventually.
In Fisher’s study, she and her colleagues found a bright side for those who have been let down in love. Through fMRI scans and a questionnaire, the researchers observed that participants showed less brain activity in areas involving emotional pain and attachment the longer it had been since the initial breakup. In other words, time heals.
Researchers also observed that key brain areas involved in emotional regulation, reward, and evaluation of gains and losses were still active when participants, all of whom had been rejected by a romantic partner, viewed a picture of their rejecter.
Their observation suggests that when facing the reality of our situation in the context of lost love, the brain works toward helping us cope and effectively deal with our loss.
The significance of these active brain areas is that it suggests that those who have gone through a breakup or been rejected are more likely to benefit from talking about it and facing their situation rather than wallowing excessively or suppressing their true feelings.
Tips to help you fall out of love
Falling out of love is never easy, but it is possible. As a researcher at Rutgers University, Helen C. Fisher explained, time is a proven healer for romantic rejection.
Still, though time is a healer, we have to live each moment between now and the day when we finally feel better. We can’t just sit around and wait to feel better. Life goes on, and we must continue to engage with it for our own benefit and that of those we love.
While you’re waiting for your heart to heal, there are some practical steps you can take to make the whole process a little easier. If you want to know our top tips on falling out of love with someone, try the following:
Understand your attachment style
The severity of your heartbreak and emotional pain depends on how intensely involved you were in the relationship. We all have our own attachment style stemming from how we learned to relate to others, based on our earliest relationship with our primary caregiver (usually our mother). The quality and dynamic of this highly formative relationship influence how we fall in and out of love in our adult romantic relationships.
When you understand your attachment style, you can begin to understand why some instances of rejection hurt so much. You can gain insight into how you view your relationships, the expectations you have on your partner, and what’s going on in your brain when you’re faced with a breakup or rejection.
You can learn about your personal attachment style with this quiz. Bear in mind that attachment is a somewhat complex and broad area of psychology, so it’s best to take what you read online with a pinch of salt. If you believe your attachment style is having a negative impact on your adult relationships, you may benefit from speaking to a licensed therapist.
Attachment styles are a deep, intrinsic part of who we are, and they can define our relationships, but with self-awareness and mindfulness in our relationships, they don’t have to. Though you are not responsible for the quality and dynamic of your primary relationship, you are responsible for and have the power to change your behavior today. It all begins with self-awareness.
Allow your feelings
No matter how much pain or distress you feel, it’s important to give yourself space to feel all of your emotions. When we go through a breakup or get rejected by someone we love, many of us tend to suppress our feelings or criticize ourselves for being so emotional and try to force ourselves to ‘just get over it.’ Suppression is never a healthy approach to recovering from heartbreak.
If you’re hurt, let yourself feel hurt; if you feel betrayed, let yourself feel betrayed. It’s better that you process these feelings now rather than suppress them and have to deal with them weeks, months, or even years later. By facing reality and courageously accepting your feelings, you take responsibility for your life and speed up the healing process.
Avoid their social media
In the days, weeks, or months after a breakup, you may be tempted to check up on your former partner or unrequited love. With such easy access to everyone we know through social media, cyberstalking has never been so straightforward.
However, as you probably already know, checking up on someone’s social media will not make you feel better. It might even make you feel worse. You might see a picture of them with someone else and wonder if they’re already dating, or you might discover that they’re moving to the city, starting a new degree, or going through another big life change, which might tempt you to message them.
It’s best to avoid their social media altogether, at least until enough time has passed for you to have genuinely moved on and gotten over the attachment you had for the person.
Speak to friends and family
Sometimes the loss of a relationship or an instance of rejection can make us want to isolate ourselves from others. We might feel sad and depressed and want to avoid any interaction with the outside world. However, isolation is a surefire way to create more loneliness, which will make it all the more difficult to fall out of love.
One of the best ways to fall out of love and move on from the past is to speak to your friends and family about what you’re going through. They will be able to offer a compassionate ear to which you can vent your worries, concerns, and feelings of sadness or regret. If they’re wise enough, they’ll let you wallow for a little bit but also encourage you to move on. Wallowing may make us feel better for a little while, but it’s ultimately unproductive.
Friends and family can offer some outside perspective on the relationship and can remind you that life is here to be lived with the people who want to be with us, not to be spent pining over a lost love.
Nobody wants to have to fall out of love, but sometimes it’s a process we must go through to secure and maintain our mental and emotional health and well-being.
Though it’s never easy, it becomes a lot easier when we accept our situation for what it is. Choose to explore your feelings and gain insight into how you approach love in the first place, give yourself time away from thinking about the other person, and reach out to those you love for support and encouragement.