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12 Necessary Steps To Stop Liking Someone You Can't Have

September 28, 2022

Having a crush is a multifaceted experience. On the one hand, it’s exhilarating to like someone and experience the rush, the sparks, and the butterflies that come with that effervescent feeling. On the other hand, it can be excruciating when you know those feelings can never be acted upon or reciprocated.

Whatever the reason may be, there are times when it becomes necessary to try to figure out how to stop liking someone so much. While we can’t control the way we feel, below are some steps you can take to help quiet the intensity of your feelings and start the process of letting go and moving on:

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1.

Actually commit to the process.

First things first, and this is perhaps the most important: You need to actually want to stop liking this person for it to ever actually happen. If you're secretly holding on to hope that circumstances will change or want to keep believing there's some chance of having your feelings reciprocated, you're not going to successfully be able to move on. None of the actions below will work unless you put your full chest behind them and really do the work of limiting your contact with this person and curbing your thoughts about them.

2.

Keep your distance.

In order to stop liking someone, you need to get some space. As much as it might sadden you to stop seeing this person, spending constant or regular time with them is going to make it much harder to get over them. The constant stimuli and new experiences with them will just keep reminding you of why you like this person so much or even bolster your feelings, and it'll give you more "moments" to replay in your head.

Cut the fuel at the source. As much as possible, try to spend less time with this person. If you can't fully avoid them (for example, if they're a co-worker, classmate, or part of a friend group you see often), keep your distance during any time you're sharing space. You don't need to be rude or completely ignore them, of course, but keep conversation to a minimum and try to avoid any one-on-one time together.

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3.

Take a break from the friendship.

If you don't want to avoid this person just because it would make you sad to not have them in your life, try to at least temporarily reduce the amount of time you spend together. You don't need to cut this person out of your life permanently, but give yourself the time that you need to let your feelings cool off before trying to be friends with them again. Most friendships ebb and flow over time anyway, with some periods where you see each other less often. Let yourself move into one of those periods of low interaction, and trust that you'll be able to rebuild the friendship when you're ready.

4.

Maintain emotional distance.

Set some boundaries for yourself and stick to them. Even if you can't fully avoid this person, you should avoid getting yourself into deep or personal conversations with them, as those are the type of interactions that tend to breed intimacy—things like swapping life updates, sharing feelings, providing emotional support with each other, or flirting. Keep it polite and generic, at least for the time being. Talk to them the way you'd talk to an acquaintance at the gym or the checkout person at the grocery store: cordial but at an arm's length apart, metaphorically speaking.

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5.

Unfollow them on social media.

In addition to limiting physical contact with them, avoid them online as well. Stop texting them if that's currently a thing, and stop checking their social media—which, again, will just give you more fuel for your feelings. (All those cute smiling selfies or worse—gulp—thirst traps? Don't expect yourself to resist!) Unfollow or mute them on social media so you stop seeing their posts appearing on your feed, too.

6.

Avoid triggers.

Another key to stop thinking about someone is to avoid things that trigger thoughts about them, says psychotherapist and relationship expert Ken Page, LCSW. "If you're trying to let go of someone, you need to watch out for the people, places, and things that trigger your craving for that person." From certain songs to certain restaurants, cut whatever those triggers are out of your life for the time being to help you cut off the fuel for the nonstop thoughts on this person.

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7.

Acknowledge all the reasons it realistically wouldn't work.

It can help to really sit and think through (or discuss with a trusted friend) all the reasons why a relationship with this person truly wouldn't work out anyway—whether that's because of lifestyle differences, how it would affect your other relationships, red flags that you've been ignoring, or even past experiences with this person that have been less than ideal. "Most often, we idealize the people we miss," sex and relationship therapist Stephen Snyder, M.D., previously told mbg. "And we overlook the fact that the meanings we attached to the relationship weren't always gratified as much as we would have liked."

8.

Focus your energy elsewhere. 

Try to avoid having too much idle time sitting around with your thoughts. Instead, focus your energy on diving into other projects, hobbies, or parts of your life with more gusto. Start hitting the gym more often, learn to meditate or roller skate, or get more engaged at work. Keep yourself occupied and fill your life with other things to take up real estate in your mind.

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9.

Meet new people.

Sometimes the best way to get over someone is to meet someone new. Whether it's spending time with a new friend group, taking a class full of a bunch of unique new personalities, or getting yourself on a dating app, injecting some fresh new energy into your life will help remind you that there are plenty of other interesting people in the world around you—and maybe even give you a new person to crush on.

10.

Avoid rabbit holes of fantasy and yearning.

Ruminating can keep us tethered to ideas, thoughts, and feelings. Notice when you find yourself going down a mental rabbit hole of replaying moments with this person in your head, thinking about things you like about them or hope to happen, or otherwise daydreaming about your crush. When this happens, gently catch yourself and move your thoughts on to something else. Spending time in our own fantasies is akin to spending time staring at their social media pages, and it'll make it all the harder to stop liking this person.

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11.

Give it time.

At the end of the day, you can't really rush these things. It takes time to get over someone, so cut yourself some slack and trust the process. "It can be hard to imagine, in the moment, that your feelings will ever fade," Snyder says. "You might even not want them to fade. But feelings do change over time. That's just the nature of things. You'll change over the months and years, and so will the person you have feelings for. None of us stay the same.”

12.

Remember that it's OK to like someone and not do anything about it.

Last but not least, consider the fact that it's OK to like someone and not do anything about it. There's an old quote by the German poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe that goes, "If I love you, what business is it of yours?"

There's nothing wrong with liking someone and not actualizing it. As long as it's not affecting your ability to get through your day-to-day life and meet your own needs and you're not negatively affecting this person and their ability to navigate their life as they want to, you can like someone quietly and privately without taking action. See if you can make peace with the idea of liking someone without needing to "have" them. Romantic feelings don't need to be reciprocated for them to be cherished and valuable, and we can still enjoy someone's company immensely while still respecting their boundaries.

Kelly Gonsalves
Kelly Gonsalves
Contributing Sex & Relationships Editor

Kelly Gonsalves is a multi-certified sex educator and relationship coach helping people figure out how to create dating and sex lives that actually feel good — more open, more optimistic, and more pleasurable. In addition to working with individuals in her private practice, Kelly serves as the Sex & Relationships Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a degree in journalism from Northwestern University, and she’s been trained and certified by leading sex and relationship institutions such as The Gottman Institute and Everyone Deserves Sex Ed, among others. Her work has been featured at The Cut, Vice, Teen Vogue, Cosmopolitan, and elsewhere.

With her warm, playful approach to coaching and facilitation, Kelly creates refreshingly candid spaces for processing and healing challenges around dating, sexuality, identity, body image, and relationships. She’s particularly enthusiastic about helping softhearted women get re-energized around the dating experience and find joy in the process of connecting with others. She believes relationships should be easy—and that, with room for self-reflection and the right toolkit, they can be.

You can stay in the loop about her latest programs, gatherings, and other projects through her newsletter: kellygonsalves.com/newsletter